Frisco author ready for the release of his second novel, ‘Up a Tree’
For Frisco-based author Richard Brock, 2020 started off with a lot of promise.
Coming off a decent reception to his self-published 2015 novel “Cross Dog Blues,” Brock had managed to secure an agent from the esteemed Writers House literary agency to help sell his newest novel, “Up a Tree,” to potential publishers. He had high hopes that his modern take on “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” would find a receptive audience.
Then the pandemic struck and, like many other industries, book publishers took a hit. Many of them pushed back release dates. Not long after the onset of the pandemic, Brock’s agent decided to drop the attempt to sell his book to would-be publishers.
“It all went perfectly until the pandemic hit and turned everything upside down,” Brock said. “It’s been a weird time in the publishing industry for a while, but especially now.”
Given some of the book’s underlying messages, Brock said the development almost seemed fitting. While the book is meant to be a cross-country, young-adult adventure on the surface, it also provides a frank look at contemporary society, including a view at the dangers of over-concentrating power. It’s something Brock sees as a major issue, not just in today’s heavily conglomerated publishing industry, but in society itself.
The messages have rung through in some of the book’s early reviews. Kirkus Reviews drew the parallel to the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and stated that the novel is able to convince readers “that present-day America — with its extremists, crooks, demagogues and guns — is just as madcap as the 1870s version.”
Brock found presenting a frank vision of contemporary America was made much easier when he looked through the eyes of a younger person: 12-year-old Ruby Finn Heckler, who starts off his adventure in Brock’s old stomping grounds of upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains.
“As a child, you see things much more clearly, and then as an adult, you learn to lie to yourself,” said Brock, who added Heckler is probably his favorite character he’s ever written.
After an accident puts Heckler and his best friend Quinn Hennessey in the potential crosshairs of a local influential family, the two head out on a cross-country trek. In true Twain fashion, it brings the pair across plenty of interesting characters, including a subversive leader named Douglas “Lodgepole” Pine, who Brock said is at least partially modeled on the violent abolitionist John Brown.
“A lot of people will agree with his sentiment, but likely won’t agree with his tactics,” Brock said. “He’s going to do God’s work, and if he’s wrong, he’ll burn in hell for it.”
Brock said the novel actually started as a response to the popular author prompt to “put a character up a tree and then throw rocks at him.” He had about 20,000 words written for the novel in 2013, two years before his first novel was published. He had the first draft of the story done by early 2017 and was able to refine it in early 2020 with the help of his literary agent.
He said losing his agent was a disappointment, but his first novel had given him some good experience and contacts that he expects will help him see additional success with his new book.
Brock said the world of self-publishing has made entry into the literary field easier than ever in some ways, but it also comes with drawbacks.
“It is interesting to watch the industry evolve,” he said. “… It’s also frustrating as hell. Book stores and places like that see ’self-published’ and don’t want anything to do with it.”
While he said supporting himself on his writing alone is an elusive goal (he works as a finish carpenter to pay the bills), he’s always happiest when he’s working on a story.
“I always loved writing and working on short pieces for myself, but about 15 years ago, I knew I wouldn’t be able to put it away, and so I committed to working on myself and really commit to be a professional writer,” Brock said.
Brock also has had plenty of support from local businesses, including Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco, which will have “Up a Tree” available for sale when the book is released Feb. 2.
“They were our first customers in contracting and the first place I did an author signing,” he said, adding that he’ll probably do some sort of outdoor author event at the store once the weather gets warmer.
Karen Berg is the store’s original owner and still works behind the counter. She said she really enjoyed “Cross Dog Blues,” saying Brock is an author “who does excellent things with characters.”
“We’re … really excited to get his book into the hands of people around Summit County …” Berg said. “We love Richard, and we’re all about him and his work.”
Bogie Road Publishing, 2021
321 Pages, $29.95 hardcover, $16.95 paperback
Available for preorder at RichardMBrock.com
On sale at Next Page Books and Nosh starting Feb. 2
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