In 1991, I served in Operation Desert Storm—an experience that proved to be a brutal one for me on all fronts. I remember making myself a promise in the desert, “If I make it home, I’m going to chase my dream of becoming an author.” And I did.
After returning home from the war, I worked as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole—corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?”
Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue (under the pen name, Steven Herberts) on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
Fast forward 24 years and I’ve written a dozen and a half books, with four of them (The Rockin’ Chair, Twelve Months, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island) becoming #1 national bestsellers.
In the spring of 2014, I met with my publisher (as well as mentor and friend), Lou Aronica in Connecticut to discuss my next project—an emotional, highly-relatable novel for young and old, as well as male and female. After a two hour lunch, I drove home story boarding The Changing Season in my head.
I decided I wanted to write a coming-of-age story that addresses the time frame between high school and college (which two of my children have recently experienced, while a third is on his way). I’d set the story in New England and create an endearing tale between a boy (Billy) and his loyal dog (Jimmy), as they experience a summer of firsts: first love, first job and the first time the weight of responsibility is felt. Amidst the twists and turns, I’d make Billy (with Jimmy by his side each step) learn how one wrong decision can change the outcome of a lifetime and how the right decision can bring as much pain as it does joy.
After several months of research, I started the writing to discover that the greatest challenge for me would be time. First and foremost, I am a dad and my children come first. After that, there are other responsibilities that need my attention. To overcome the obstacle of time, I made writing a priority over watching TV and sometimes even sleeping. Once my family is taken care of and the world closes its eyes, I’m up for a few more hours each day—creating Billy and Jimmy’s world on paper.
In the end, The Changing Season took me eight months to complete. It is, by far, one of my favorite novels to date—as I truly believe it is a tale that most people can relate to and feel deeply.