When Adam Shahan let friends and family read his first attempt at a novel, he told them, "Don't just tell me it was great because you know me." Instead, he wanted their honest feedback.
He got it.
And it included such rave reviews as "Shorten up your sentences," "You're too wordy," "I'm getting lost" and "I'm having trouble keeping up."
And no one " repeat: no one " liked the first chapter.
Still, he shored things up and found a publisher in Mustang-based Tate Publishing, which released the book, titled "The Fall of the Four," on May 25. But not before the biggest blow of all.
"They made me cut 14,000 words out of it," said Shahan. "That was harder than writing the book!"
A pastor at Lexington United Methodist Church and first-year graduate student at Oklahoma City University's Saint Paul School of Theology, Shahan began writing the novel because, he said, "I wanted to do something better with my time during the summer than playing video games and watching movies."
Thus, he loaned his distracting electronics to pals and spent seven months drafting the first book in a planned series of four, drawing influences from favorite authors like Stephen King, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
"I really didn't even know I had a story inside me. I sort of realized what was happening almost as I was typing it," he said. "I didn't have an outline of what I was going to say; it just sort of happened."
What happened is described as a science-fiction tale against a religious backdrop, with various entities seeking an ancient artifact surrounded by superstition.
One might not think "religion" and "science fiction" go together like "peanut butter" and "jelly," and Shahan is quick to point out not to draw conclusions.
"The point of the book is not to make a religious statement," he said, even noting his theological beliefs are at opposite ends of the spectrum as his Christian-based publisher. "The main antagonist is driven to who he is because of the religious system he's a part of. He rose in the ranks and realized that a lot of what he had been taught is a lie, and the religion they were practicing wasn't really a religion at all."
Besides, Shahan writes enough about pure religion for his pastoral duties, so he found the notion of tackling fiction to be freeing.
"I definitely wasn't bound by a perceived framework. I didn't have anyone expecting anything out of me," he said. "I just got to set my own terms for the storyline. I got to say whatever I wanted."
He's already at work on the sequel, "The Fall of the Provinces." If it never sees print, so be it.
"I never planned on writing a book, and I never planned on getting it published," he said, "so I've already exceeded my expectations." "Rod Lott