LYNDEN - Jeff Hamstra explains how he stays so busy by saying, "I just can't sit down."
He did, however, sit down long enough to start a novel when he was 13 years old, and he did a lot of sitting thereafter. He recently saw the fifth and final version of his 45,000-word tale of Christian fiction, "A Kingdom in the Hands of the Enemy," published before he turned 16.
Hamstra, a sophomore at Lynden Christian High School, is a defensive lineman on the varsity football team, participates in the basketball and golf programs, plays the trumpet in the pit orchestra, and wins prizes for showing draft horses at county fairs. In his "spare time," he writes.
The son of Scott and Margaret Hamstra, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound athlete fulfilled a dream when WestBow Press, an imprint of the corporate religious publisher Thomas Nelson, published his book in August.
Question: Jeff, did you actually intend to write a novel when you were only 13?
Answer: I have always been a heavy reader; I've read hundreds of books. It was in January (2010), when I was in seventh grade, that I got the idea. I made a plot outline for a trilogy, which I want to complete.
Q: How long did it take you to produce the first draft?
A: I finished that by November (2010) and published it on the Village Books Espresso Book Machine. I published three more drafts, and we sold nearly 100 copies (of the fourth version).
Q: How did you find the large publisher Thomas Nelson and WestBow Press for the larger volume?
A: Since my book is Christian fiction, and I have read a lot of Christian fiction, we looked around on the Internet. WestBow asked to see several chapters. They got back to me and offered to publish the book. We paid a $1,000 fee, and we hope to get that back by selling enough copies. It's available in hardcover, soft cover and e-book versions.
Q: What's the setting of your book?
A: It's set in the Middle Ages in a mountainous area similar to Washington state, but there aren't any dragons or superheroes or anything like that. There are real people and real weapons, castles and knights. Jesus does not appear yet, but the devil and his assistant play prominent roles when they attack the king and a priest.
You can read it as an adventure story, or as a book with a deeper spiritual meaning. I write about fighting through prayer.
Q: How did it feel when you held the WestBow printing for the first time?
A: It was really a great feeling of accomplishment. It felt so good to say, "I'm done." I'm about halfway through my second volume, but I'm busier now than I was when I started writing the first book. I'd like to get the second book finished by the end of next summer.
Q: Which authors have inspired you?
A: I love Frank Peretti's Christian fiction, and Ted Dekker's books. I like books with a fast pace, books that keep moving. I finished the seven books in the "Chronicles of Narnia" series by C.S. Lewis by the time I was in fifth grade. I liked them because they actually have meaning.
Q: Do you realize that very few writers make a full-time living on books?
A: I do. I've thought about becoming involved with mechanics, or maybe becoming a literature teacher. But I feel I have a lot of story ideas. What I'd really love to do is direct movies.
For information on Jeff Hamstra's book, see jeffhamstrabooks.com.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.