Forget images of a drunken Hemingway landing a sailfish from his captain’s chair, or Thoreau, living deliberately in the woods. Gulfport novelist Jon Kile resembles neither of these men. The 41-year-old father of two curly-haired children spends his days selling oil, a traveling salesman who uses his economics degree to support his family. At night, after he and his wife Monica tuck the kids into bed, he opens his laptop and writes.
Last week, he published his first book, “The Grandfather Clock.” It took him three months of writing during naps and after bedtimes.
Six years ago, he read a book about National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), called “No Plot No Problem,” but it wasn’t until last November, when he met locals in the Skyway NaNo group at the now-shuttered Small Adventures Bookstore, that he took the leap and began to write his novel.
National Novel Writing Month challenges writers to write 50,000 words in November of every year. The free program, which takes place across the globe via the Internet, takes physical form with local writing groups that meet and write.
While Kile didn’t “win” NaNo in 2013, falling short of the 50,000 words by 13,000, he picked the manuscript up again in January of this year and finished it this spring.
His based his book loosely around some of his own story. Like the protagonist, he has a grandfather clock that came from across the country after his grandmother died. Also like his protagonist, his family owns a gun from the Napoleonic era.
“I thought it would be a cool road trip story,” Kile says of bringing the clock from California to Florida. “I wanted to use historical things without it being a historical fiction book. I was reading about this conspiracy theory that Adolf Hitler escaped and died of old age in Argentina. It’s one of those fantastic theories… the gun just popped into my head and tied it all together.”
Kile chose to self-publish “The Grandfather Clock” through Amazon. He hired an editor and paid a professional to design the book cover. The day he handed the book to the editor, he began working on the sequel. He plans to write two books in 2015, all related to the characters in “The Grandfather Clock.”
“The stigma of self-publishing is gone,” he says, saying he didn’t attempt to shop the book with conventional publishing houses. With self-publishing, he says, “You can control your destiny.” He doesn’t rule out conventional book publishing, but says publishing houses seek more established novelists, ones who have a following.
“If I am ever so successful that someone approached me, I would listen, but I’m not going to pursue it. It can take years and years shopping a book; I’d rather get it in front of readers.”
Because he has a full time job and two small kids, Kile budgets his writing time. On the road, he listens to podcasts about self-publishing or jots down short notes about his story. He says the narrow window he leaves himself for writing helps him focus.
“When you’re writing at night and the kids are in bed, you don’t have that half hour to get fired up. You open the laptop and start writing,” Kile says. His process, he says, is simple.
“Honestly, you just sit down,” he adds, “and write.”