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A Note About My Kids On Father's Day

From the "#1 Top Bookseller In The Universe"

Years ago, when I was writing my first (and never published) manuscript, my infant daughter used to glide next to me in her swing, pacifier in her mouth and wide-eyed, while I punched away at the keyboard early in the morning. When my son came along, I spent middle-of-the-night feeding sessions with him figuring out plots and characters.

Now that they're a little older, they do more than keep me company – they come to my rescue, usually when I'm having a hard time with a manuscript or when I'm behind on a deadline. When I was struggling to finish Don't Believe It, they decorated my office with every bit of marketing paraphernalia my publisher had created. Bookmarks, tour dates, author photos, and early cover flats magically appeared one morning on the walls of my office. On my keyboard was a note: "You can do it, Dad."

When I ran into a snag writing The Girl Who Was Taken, and spiraled into my familiar tunnel of despair and self-doubt about my abilities as a writer, my kids (with my wife's help) littered my desk with encouraging reviews of Summit Lake they pulled from the internet. It was a nice reminder: You've done this before, you can do it again.

Back when Summit Lake was about to be released, I worried whether it would sell a single copy. My daughter had her own idea about how well it would do.

Forget about the USA Today and New York Times bestsellers list. Who needs Publisher's Weekly, IndieBound or the tag of International Bestselling Author? Those titles pale in comparison when your novel is the #1 Top Seller in the Universe.

And as I waited to see the final cover design the art department at my publishing house was creating, my son offered his own version. Summit Lake was originally titled The Stilt House (I still love that title, BTW), and my son had a vision for the cover.

The resemblance to the actual cover is eerie.

Summit Lake, Charlie Donlea

And I count my son's blurb as my first-ever review.

After Summit Lake was published, I was invited to speak at my children's school. This invitation came mostly from my son and daughter constantly mentioning to their teachers that their dad had written a book. I was asked to talk to the students about the writing and publishing process.

I've talked to many groups across the country since publishing my first novel a few years ago, but the discussion I had at my children's school stands as one of the most satisfying of my career. Although, that might be because when I looked out into the audience I saw my children actually listening to me, something that rarely happens at home.

I hope that as they graduate on to high school, and then college, and then to careers of their own, they never forget about their dear old dad and his books. I selfishly want them always to stare wide-eye at what I do for a living, just like my daughter used to do while she rocked next to me as an infant. And I hope they always find time to cheer me over the finish line when a deadline is looming, or sneak a note onto my desk for me to find in the morning. My kids have gotten me this far, and I'll need them again to get me to the next chapter in life.

Writing a novel takes me a year, and can sometimes be a lonely job. I consider myself blessed on this Father's Day to have kids who pull me out of that abyss of creativity, provide me with a sense of purpose, and who will forever act as bright beacons that guide my journey.

—Charlie Donlea

Father's Day, 2018

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