Former Evans resident Deron Hicks admits that there might be an element of trickery in Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave, his debut novel.
It is, after all, educational.
Because the story – which focuses on a young girl’s globe-trotting treasure hunt – was written for young readers, Hicks said he felt obligated to slip in a few facts under the radar.
“It’s true,” he said with a laugh. “They’ll finish knowing where Shakespeare was born and where he was buried. They’ll know there is a curse on his tomb. And if you think this one is sneaky, wait ’til the next one.”
Hicks, who in his day job is the inspector general for the state of Georgia, signed a two-book deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. His second book, Tower of the Five Orders, is expected in Fall 2013.
Hicks said he felt it was important to place his heroine, the bookish Colophon Letterford, in real settings. He said it offers both his readers and himself, as a writer, a foundation of believability that anchors the book’s intellectual puzzles and broad comedy. Part of that meant basing specific scenes in and around Manchester and Warm Springs, Ga., and in historical locations in England. He came up with the idea while traveling in Wales with his father.
“We stopped at a castle in Wales and I was sitting in this narrow window built for archers,” he said. “And I started thinking about how someone had looked out that same window hundreds of years before.
‘‘It connected me.”
He said that theme of history and connection is an important element in his Letterford mysteries.
He admitted that much of what is important to Colophon comes from lessons instilled in him by his own parents. His father, Ray Hicks, is a retired principal of Evans High School and former Columbia County school board member, and Hicks said many of his early memories are academic in nature.
“My whole life was lived at that high school,” he said. “I spent every weekend in that library, as geeky as that may sound. Education was a very big part of my life. My mother was involved. My father was involved. It’s the way I grew up.”
Educated as a painter and later a lawyer, Hicks never had literary aspirations. He said he made a New Year’s resolution in January 2010 to send his novel to publishers. It took him until December that year to do it.
“It was scary,” he admitted. “And now, having it published, it’s surreal. This is something I had no expectations for and now, well, now it’s real.”
Hicks said he hopes the books are successful enough to fund the occasional trip back to England.
“For research,” he said.