Chris Negron said writing, like baseball, takes a whole team to be successful.
Negron, a Forsyth County resident, said it took a lot of help to release his first book, “Dan Unmasked,” a story aimed at readers 8-12 about a young boy named Dan and his friends who have a plan to help out Dan’s best friend Nate, who is in a coma after an accident on the baseball field.
“Because he feels responsible,” Negron said of his main character, “he gives himself the task of trying to wake Nate up, and this sort of leads him on a journey with his baseball teammates, because they were in the middle of a tournament that they were still trying to win and Nate was their best player, but it also leads him on a journey with another set of teammates, which are his comic book friends.”
Negron said the story centers on a study done by researchers at Northwestern University, showing that coma patients can hear and respond to the voices of friends and loved ones.
“A doctor actually tells him about that study, and he uses that to do maybe a little bit of magical thinking that you would do when you’re 13 to think that maybe if he writes him a comic book and he is able to write that to him he can wake him up,” Negron said.
The book, which is being published by HarperCollins and released on Tuesday, July 28, has already attracted some buzz, including several positive reviews by those who got advance copies and being named to American Booksellers Association’s Indies Introduce as one of the top 10 books to debut this summer and fall.
Like Dan, Negron said it took a team of agents, editors and other writers to lead to the finished point.
Negron said he had wanted to be a writer since he was a kid but only took a serious stab at it about eight years ago.
Initially, Negron said he wanted to write something more adult and wanted to publish urban fantasy works more akin to Neil Gaiman and had some success with some of those manuscripts.
But after working with local writing groups and doing writing exercises, one of his friends suggested that he had a writing voice for young readers.
“That’s the interesting thing about writing is that, of course, your first inclination is to write what you think you’re the biggest fan of … but I think also there’s a lot more to it than that,” Negron said, “like what your inner voice that maybe you don’t even realize is your inner voice that you have to discover by doing lots of different work, and I think that’s what happened to me.”
Negron said working with other writers has been critical. He first attended a larger group of writers before he and few others split off to form their own group, which Negron pointed out that he was the last one of to get a book published.
Releasing a book during the COVID-19 pandemic has had its ups and down, Negron said. Being a member of Atlanta’s writing scene, he said current rules have meant canceling some of the usual events that go along with a book release.
“Things like that have been sort of been disappointing in some way because I wanted to see my book at those festivals or go speak at those festivals or you visit bookstores and you talk at bookstores,” he said.
But Negron said there have been some advantages to releasing the book now.
“But it’s also been fun because I’m a little bit introverted and doing these virtual events has worked great for me,” he said, “especially doing a book like this that is for kids because even before the book was out… I did quite a few virtual school visits over Zoom and that kind of stuff, and I have a little workshop that I do making a superhero that actually teaches kids how to create characters and why creating characters are important.”
Originally, Negron had planned to release the book at an event at the Cumming Art Center at the Brannon-Heard House in downtown Cumming.
“We’re just going to do it virtual and have some giveaways and good prizes and things and just keep it a fun hour,” Negron said.