DOWNEY - Twenty-eight year old Nathan Charlton teaches pre-algebra to sixth and seventh graders at Griffiths but since he's also the author of a 357-odd-page novel that came out only last March, he was invited to speak to all English and Special Program classes for all six periods at West Middle in observance of the school's Author's Day Wednesday.The book's title, "Terra Nova: The Search," refers to the search for a new colony far out in deep space for survivors of a "nuclear winter" resulting from the eruption of volcanoes around the globe, similar to the catastrophe millions of years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs. Giving his imagination free rein but careful to avoid dipping into deep science, Nathan talks about gravity, Einstein's theory of space-time, space vehicles, speeds greater than the speed of light, and other fascinating hi-tech stuff, while charting the fates of several characters that figure prominently in the story. "In writing your novel," Nathan said in the Q-and-A period that followed his presentation of the synopsis and a sampling of the novel, "you have to dream up of characters that you care about, and you determine whether you want them to succeed or not, fulfill their dream or not, and otherwise cast about for people that will make your story go." "At first," he said, "at least in my case, you start with an idea. Then you follow the idea where it leads. Once this stage is reached, I usually develop a story plan. I know more or less how it will end, then I fill in the other outline details. In any case, other authors have their own ways of developing a novel." The beauty of all this, he said, is that one is able to create contraptions, situations, and events entirely of one's own making, decide what happens to each character, etc. Nathan, whose wife Stacie likewise teaches at the district (second grade) and has a 2-year old son, said he finished his novel in two years, a project that he figured would take only a few months. But he had a lot of fun writing it, he said: "Parts of this novel were written ay my kitchen table, in bed, at my in-laws, on vacation to Yellowstone, at the car dealership, outside a courtroom while on jury duty and at the library for a good chunk of a whole summer." He also emphasized to the young kids the importance of going to school to learn as much as one can especially about "what really interests you," about what it takes to be really good, even great, at something, about "taking charge of your future." A luncheon in honor of the author hosted by the West Library formed part of the event, as was an after-school Student 'VIP' Party where about 100 students lined up to pick up their pre-ordered and autographed copies of the novel, along with enjoying some refreshments. Coordinator and emcee of the event was West librarian/media teacher Julia Desalernos. "I intend to keep my day job," Nathan said. "There's no money in this now, and at least not in the foreseeable future. But since I find writing fun, and I have two months of summer break, there's no reason why I shouldn't continue writing."
********** Published: December 11, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 33