Detroit Lakes man publishes first novel
Though Bill Mohn first started writing the beginnings of his debut novel, "Inter Active," back in 2001, it wasn't until January of this year that the finished manuscript finally found its way onto book shelves.
Though Bill Mohn first started writing the beginnings of his debut novel, “Inter Active,” back in 2001, it wasn’t until January of this year that the finished manuscript finally found its way onto book shelves.
In between, the aspiring Detroit Lakes author found himself switching careers a couple of times, from teacher to stay-at-home-dad and back to teacher - before he and his wife, music teacher Kendra Mohn, decided to take their family overseas to Kiev, Ukraine, and spend a year teaching at Kiev Christian Academy, in 2012-13.
It is that year abroad that is the subject of Mohn’s second book, a non-fiction account of his family’s experiences that he hopes to publish sometime in the near future.
“It’s in its second revision right now,” he admits a little ruefully.
But for his first book, Mohn delved into the world of fantasy fiction - inspired by C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia,” a dramatized version of which he and his wife used to listen to on the radio back in the Twin Cities, while he was teaching there.
“It (the radio series) was super well done,” he said. “It kind of captured my imagination, and I thought it would be fun to try writing a more modern version of that.”
So Mohn came up with the idea of having a modern teenage boy being inexplicably drawn into the world of his favorite video game, where he becomes embroiled in a real conflict that is nothing like a game.
At first, Mohn said, “It was just a lark - something fun to do to blow off steam,” he said, adding that he was a “creative sort who’s always liked doing creative things.”
His first attempt at writing ended in failure; in fact, a few chapters into the plot, when he tried to move the action forward, he went back to review what he’d written and found it “really bad.”
A second attempt was even more embarrassing - “so I basically went back to my life.”
But over the next few years, he found himself going back to the plot of that novel and “figured out what I wanted to happen.”
So when he found himself working as a stay-at-home dad a couple of years later, in 2004, he asked his wife Kendra if she would mind him doing some writing while their son was sleeping.
“I was needing a creative outlet,” he admitted.
Fortunately, Kendra was agreeable, so Bill “spent the next three or four years pounding out the story. It was super fun - I had a blast!” he admitted.
He even asked his mother-in-law, a former copy editor, to go over the script and check for things like grammatical and spelling errors.
“It needed a few revisions,” he said.
Then Mohn decided to start looking into getting his manuscript published, and did some research on publishers that specialized in young adult fiction.
“I found three publishers that accepted unsolicited manuscripts of young adult novels,” he said.
He proceeded to send out letters to all three publishers - “and got back three rejections - so I moved on with my life.”
That was back in 2005. Though he didn’t completely abandon the novel, re-reading it a time or two and finding things he wanted to fix, it wasn’t until he and his family moved to Kiev that he seriously decided to try his hand at a complete revision.
“Over the year we lived there (in Kiev), I went back to the thing and basically re-wrote it,” he said.
“I tried to ‘de-cheesify’ it, take out the parts I thought were especially cheesy.”
When the family returned to Detroit Lakes in the spring of 2013, Mohn began to look into self-publishing.
“I thought, ‘Do I want to put the effort into getting this published the traditional way?’” he said.
Ultimately, he decided to go the self-publishing route, and chose Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.
He went to a couple of friends who had published books of their own, MSUM professor Steven Hoffbeck (“The Haymakers”) and children’s author Brook Berg (“What Happened to Marion’s Book?”) to provide input, and endorsements that he could put on the book’s cover.
“Steve Hoffbeck was a professor of mine,” he said.
“He was really excited, and had some good suggestions for me. Brook also had some great input. They were both very positive and enthusiastic.”
Mohn finished the book and sent it to the publishers in the fall of 2013, and by January, the book was on shelves.
Currently, he said, he’s working on the Kiev book, and after that, he has “a ton of ideas” for venturing back into the world of fiction.
Hopefully, the next one will go a little more quickly, he noted ruefully.
Mohn’s book is currently available online via Amazon.com .
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes .