GAINESVILLE — Frank Reddy always dreamed of having a novel published, but he believed it was a “pipe dream.”
“I didn’t think it would ever happen,” said Reddy, an award-winning journalist who grew up in Gainesville and lives in Atlanta with his wife, Joy, and their 2-year-old daughter, Stella. “I’ve always written journalism. I’ve written thousands of newspaper stories and I enjoy it very much, but my passion has always been fiction.”
Now, his passion now will be bound between two covers as his first book, “Eyes on the Island” will be released this week.
“To have found somebody who wants to publish my novel is a dream come true,” said Reddy, a former Forsyth County News staff writer.
Reddy, a 2000 West Hall High School graduate and 2006 University of Georgia graduate, described his book as a psychological thriller.
“It’s about a pastor of a small church in Savannah who kind of hits some really hard luck,” he said. “Some really unfortunate things happen to him. His son dies tragically, his wife divorces him — just some really bad things.”
The main character then takes a job as the
pastor of a barrier island church near Savannah and starts discovering some pretty strange stuff there.
“The people on the island are up to something, but he can’t put his finger on it,” Reddy said. “He’s also cursed by apocalyptic visions and a sort of psychic ability.”
According to the 35-year-old, the story is fast-paced and a quick read. The idea for the book came to him about four years ago.
“I’ve always been sort of fascinated by the concept of islands and wide open water,” he said. “How some coastal islands can be so different culturally than what goes on the mainland. This is one of those that, I hate to be cliche, but it just sort of popped into my head and I started running with it. Once I had a basic plot, I started writing.”
After a few false starts and a lot of rewriting, Reddy eventually got to the point where he wanted to publish it.
At first he thought about self-publishing the novel, but a friend told him to try sending it to publishers and see what they said.
“So lo and behold the first publisher I sent it to, Fiction Advocate in San Francisco, said they wanted it,” Reddy said.
According to its website, Fiction Advocate is a small press and online publication devoted to exceptional fiction.
Hearing a publisher was interested in his work left Reddy feeling shocked and in disbelief — like he had hit the lottery.
“It feels great because to write a novel and have it published was a pipe dream,” he said.
This is Reddy’s first novel that’s been published. He said he’s written several dozen short stories that had all been rejected by publishers, and he once started a book about the history of Lake Lanier but never finished it.
“I’ve written a lot but haven’t been published much in the fiction realm,” he said.
Reddy, however, has found success in journalistic writing. Reddy has worked at various publications across the state including The Gainesville Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Creative Loafing, Atlanta Magazine and Gwinnett Daily Post. During his tenure, he has won multiple awards from The Associated Press and Georgia Press Association for feature writing, business writing and hard news coverage.
But when it comes to writing, fiction is Reddy’s preference as he enjoys the process.
Although he didn’t take any inspiration from real life for the plot of “Eyes on the Island,” Reddy said readers may recognize some of the scenery.
“I think people who read this, people who have visited Savannah or Cumberland Island or any of the barrier islands will recognize a lot of the geographic features, and that may be kind of interesting for them to read,” he said.
After the years of hard work, Reddy’s book will be released on Fiction Advocate’s website Friday, Sept. 2, at http://fictionadvocate.com/eyes-on-the-island/. A hard release date is set for Oct. 11, when it will be available from online retailers.
“I don’t think it will be available in stores just yet, but that will be worked out soon,” Reddy said.
“Eyes on the Island” will also be a part of the AJC Decatur Book Festival this year. Reddy will have a five-minute slot to read an excerpt from his book. Afterward, he will be available to sign copies of the book, which are available for purchase at the festival in the emerging writers’ tent. Reddy’s slot is from 12:10-12:15 p.m. Sunday.
“If you’re an emerging writer, anybody can stand up there and do it,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for an audience who may be interested in this type of fiction to check it out.”
Jim Chapman is one of the few people outside of the publishing company who has gotten a sneak peak at “Eyes on the Island.”
“I was blown away, but I shouldn’t have been, knowing Frank,” Chapman said. “He’s put together kind of a dream weaver of a story here that when you get to the end ... I got goose bumps.”
Chapman and Reddy have known each other about 12 years and met when they both worked at The Times.
“I think he was kind of fresh out of school then,” Chapman said. “You could tell he was a serious writer ... a lot of the young writers come out of school talking, Frank came out listening. He absorbed everything. You could tell the wheels were always turning and he would do great things.”
Chapman compared Reddy’s style of writing to authors of previous generations.
“...You wonder if he maybe had past lives that he draws these great tales from. It seems beyond his age to come up with these profound stories,” he said.
Reddy continues to write and is already working on a couple of other books. He said he’d like to turn this into more than a hobby. Currently, Reddy works as a freelance writer.
“It’s something I truly love doing, and having this debut novel published has already been a dream come true,” he said. “I feel very fortunate.
“I’m extremely grateful to all my friends and family who have been very supportive, and especially my wife who’s had to listen to me talk about this book for four years now.”