This might be the biggest news ever broken on my blog:
I’ve just published a novel.
The title is Passport, and it explores what it sometimes costs — and how much we can grow up — when we learn to sacrifice ourselves for the good of those who need and depend on us. The quick overview is:
Passport is an engaging coming-of-age story about a young man’s discovery of self-sacrificial love. It is told through the eyes of Stan Eigenbauer, who is living a generally upright — but comfortable and self-satisfied — bachelor’s life with his dog and hobby cars. When a lapse in judgment brings consequences he hadn’t anticipated, Stan must make a series of agonizing decisions about how to move forward. He struggles to rearrange his life, and finds himself increasingly attuned to the needs of others. As Stan grows more faithful to his commitments, and more committed to his faith, he discovers a depth of joy and happiness far beyond what he or we could have expected.
It took over five years of writing, revising, and working with the editor(s), but it is at last in print and available to the public. Some of my blog readers have been involved in reading and commenting on previous drafts, and to them I want to give a big THANK YOU.
The idea for the story came to me in early 2003, while spending a week on a workshop at a conference center. I had time to think about some of the more remarkable turns that life can take, and was reflecting on how sometimes a single key decision, that seems very small at the time, can alter the future in a very big way. In particular, I found myself thinking back to one particular day in 1993, when two options presented themselves. As it turns out, I chose correctly—and I can honestly say I have no regrets. But I could see now that had I chosen just a little differently, my ensuing life would have been entirely changed — and not for the better. In the novel, Stan Eigenbauer is presented with the same options I faced…but he doesn’t choose the same way. The rest of the story follows Stan as he struggles to address the unexpected impacts of that choice.
I should note that although the story is narrated in the first person, and Stan shares some of the same attitudes I had when I was single, the Stan character is very different from me. In other words, the story doesn’t attempt to be an “alternative history” of my life the way that, say, the Confederate States of America documentary is an alternative history of the USA. There is a “yeoman farmer” character who is a closer approximation of the real me, but even there most of the details of that character’s life are different from those of my own.
Once the story concept was firmly in mind, I stayed up very late that night mapping it all out. When I got home from the conference, I began typing furiously; I could “see” the whole story inside me, and I needed to get it out. Often, I’d wake up at 3am with an idea for solving a particular detail of the plot, and rush upstairs to my computer. I began devoting the bulk of my free time to putting the story together, and I had a complete draft in just three months.
Those who read the draft liked the concept, but the details needed a lot of work. I spent the next few years chipping away at these details, but the quality of the story didn’t make a quantum leap until I hired a professional editor. She pointed out some very big problems with the characters and the plot, and made excellent suggestions for improving them. I spent the next couple of years making those changes and refining them further. (I’ll say more about this process in future posts.)
The biggest challenge was finding a publisher (or even an agent) who would take it on. The story’s central conflict is too “Catholic” for any secular or Protestant publishing house; they told me quite frankly that they wouldn’t know how to sell it. The Catholic publishers were not much help, either; only one of them does much adult fiction at all, and as a result they get 600+ submissions per year. The solution, many experts in the field told me, was to start my own publishing company and invest all the resources that any other publishing company would invest: hiring the professional editor, hiring a professional cover designer, putting a website together, setting up the production and distribution channels, and so forth.
And so…Pelican Crossing Press was born. The site is still under construction, but all the essential elements are in place. At present, Passport is our only publication. But I’m very much enjoying the learning process, and envision publishing other works of Catholic-themed fiction in the future.
I should add that Passport is not simply a “Catholic” story. It’s really a story about life, and the choices we make, and what we sometimes must do to remain faithful to a larger ideal. In this case, the details of those ideal happen to stem from the central character’s Catholic faith. Catholics are obviously the target audience, but some of the story’s biggest fans have been committed Protestants, who have enjoyed the novel on its own terms. The key, I discovered, is not to preach. Let Stan get himself tangled up, and let him find his way out…but don’t try to tell the reader that there is some moral “message” that must be drawn from it.
So, where can you get yourself a copy? The Pelican Crossing Press site has links to various online ordering options. Amazon has it, of course. Barnes & Noble also does, and they’ve been selling it at a discount. (Both retailers have the same “free shipping when you spend $25” deal, by the way.) It’s not yet on the shelves at bricks-and-mortar bookstores, but it can be special ordered through any of the big book retailers like Borders or Barnes & Noble. Simply give them my name and the title, or the ISBN number 978-0976659662.