Derek Catron News-Journal Managing Editor and author of the book Trail Angel, Thurs., Sept. 8, 2016. News-Journal/NIGEL COOK


“You should write a book,” my wife told me.

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“If I write a book, you’ll leave me.” I delivered this like a punchline, but with a day job as a newspaper editor, I could see how the early morning and weekend hours the task demanded might leave Lori feeling like a book widow. Conjuring scenes of roiling conflict is one of the things that won her faith in me.

“At least you’ll have a book.” A smile reassured me she was joking, so long as I did what she’d asked. Smart husbands know to identify these smiles.

The rest, I like to say, is historical fiction—and modern thrillers, suspense stories, and anything else I can dream up.

Some years and books later, I still write with the regularity of sleeping and eating. Being an author has defined me, the way marriage and parenthood change your identity forever. Like those roles, being a storyteller is its own reward. Writing historical fiction, my thoughts subsumed into another time and place, is the closest I’ve come to realizing a childhood dream of time travel. And inhabiting a character’s point of view can feel like cheating death by living as many lives as you can imagine.

The search for inspiration and the need to research settings provides another perk if you enjoy travel. Lori and I were married in Italy. Rather than pay to mail the wedding garb back to our home in Florida, we sported tux and dress on a villa patio overlooking the Bay of Naples, in a horse carriage in Florence, and a gondola in Venice. The site of the legal ceremony remains a closely guarded family secret.

Book trips are rarely so glamorous. They generally entail long hikes offset by longer visits to the local history sections of public libraries. A thousand-mile journey along the Oregon and Bozeman trails included a night of camping in a wilderness area where we were warned to stay on the trails to avoid rattlesnakes. To repay Lori for that one, I’ve promised to set a future book in the Greek islands.

Camping out after the covered wagon ride in western Nebraska.

Writing’s greatest reward, though, is reader feedback. You swell with a parent's pride when the likes of Booklist and Kirkus describe your creation as "a timeless tale of love and adventure" or "dramatically gripping" and a "page-turner."

Even better is hearing from new readers. It feels like the connection you make after pouring your soul out to a new acquaintance, risking ridicule or apathy only to find you’ve bonded in a way that could produce a lifelong friendship.

Books do that in a way other art forms can’t match. Our stories are journeys of discovery to which you’ve been invited: to join the hero in piecing together clues, squirm at the scary parts, cheer for the triumphs, or give witness to budding love.

I hope you’ll join me in one of my adventures. And let me know what you think.

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