Writing books and living in a castle may seem like a literary fanatic's fairy tale, but for Angela Lauria, this fantasy is her reality. As the CEO of the Author Incubator, Lauria and her team provide aspiring authors with guidance on how to write and publish their own books -- whether that's through self-publishing or through her company. But it wasn't a straight shot to the throne of this castle (which is actually a 16,000-square-foot mansion in Northern Virginia). Lauria tried several careers and needed to overcome a personal struggle with weight gain before getting there. --As told to Anna Meyer

Ten years ago, I was ghost writing computer and tech manuals, I was dissatisfied with being overweight, and I was stressed about everything happening in my life, right down to what kind of car I drove. Today, I live in the castle of my dreams, run a multimillion-dollar company, and give guidance to aspiring authors (usually, coaches or experts) who write with a purpose to help others improve their lives.

Right after I finished my undergrad degree, I assisted writers with writing books, but I had my ambitions set on someday becoming an investigative reporter. After seven years of hoping that I'd someday meet the right person who would help me become one, I found that crossing my fingers wasn't enough and I hadn't landed a job as a reporter yet. So I switched gears and went back to school for philosophy, and I then became a film professor at my alma mater, George Washington University. I soon realized that teaching wasn't for me and I decided to go back to books as a ghost writer.

Jumping from career to career didn't help me in finding stability, confidence, or happiness, and I struggled to make peace with my life at the time. I was in an unhappy marriage, I had a colicky baby, and I blamed my weight--over 300 pounds--for a lot of my problems. That's when I turned to a great source of comfort in my life: books. I read If I'm So Smart, Why Can't I Lose Weight? by Brooke Castillo and loved it so much that I decided to spend $1,200 to go to a retreat hosted by the author.

At the retreat, we did an exercise where we held interviews with the version of ourselves we saw in 10 years. During this exercise, when asked what I did for my future living, I replied, "I work with life coaches, like Castillo." I wanted to help change lives, like mine had been, through the power of self-help books and life coaches. After the retreat, I hired Castillo as a personal life coach, and I got started on creating my new business.

I ended up creating the Author Incubator's business model to resemble the retreat I went on. Here's how it works: I run Facebook ads that invite coaches and experts to try a free training session on how to write a book that would get clients interested in working with them. After the free training, I invite people to apply for a writing program during which they finish their book in nine weeks. We get about 5,000 applicants a year to write, and we end up inviting about 20 percent of those applicants to work with us. From there, if the writers like the program, they are invited to join our year-long marketing program to learn how to make the most of their book and coaching program.

Our company grew fast, and since starting, we've helped our clients reach about $16 million in revenue. As we grew, I bought a castle through a seven-year lease-to-purchase deal. It's for my family to live in and for writers to use as a creative space to work on their manuscripts. I hired a full-time staff of 24 talented writers, assistants, and the like, and then have about 16 part-time freelancers and designers on top of that.

My life was turned around through the help of a life coach and ultimately the launch of my company. I feel lucky and happy. Although it doesn't hurt that I live in my own Shakespeare Suite, I really just care that behind every dollar earned, the lives of people are being changed, as mine once was.