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Sandy Journal

Fantasy fiction novel by local teen hits the big bookshelves

Jun 04, 2019 03:45PM ● By Amy Green

15-year-old Ken Mears does a chapter reading for excited fans to launch his book at the Chocolate dessert shop. (Amy Green/City Journals)

By Amy Green | [email protected]

Ken Mears of Midvale was not born a natural writer. He struggled to want to write anything as a pre-teen. But he worked hard at something he didn’t originally like. Ken practiced, and kept going. His ideas grew and eventually turned into some interesting characters and a substantial storyline. At 15 years old, Ken went so far as getting his book published. “Stones of the Middle Lands: The Castaway Hero” is now available in paperback or e-book through and Barnes & Noble. 

Ken will be turning 16 around the time this news circulates to mailboxes. Many might agree that’s a big accomplishment to make even before getting a driver’s license. His book is planned as a series. “The Castaway Hero” is book one. A continuation of the fantasy tale is in the works.

Deanna Mears, his mother, describes Ken when he was younger (around 9 years old). “He hated writing. I would ask him to write a two or three sentence paragraph, and there were tears, crying and arguing,” she recalled. Deanna saw that situation as a call to action with her son. “I came across a curriculum called ‘Brave Writer,’ which is a very gentle approach to writing. Part of that was a project where he had to create his own continent or island chain; and that’s where the Middle Lands was born.” 

Ken held a book launch gathering at The Chocolate dessert shop in West Jordan (9120 South Redwood Road) on April 26. Visitors came to eat delectable treats and hear the young author read a chapter. Bookworms of all ages came to pick up a copy and enjoy a sample of what’s beyond the cover. 

The novel has a simple yet dramatic cover, showing a boy collapsed over the bow of a washed-up wooden boat, where rocky land finally meets sea. The illustrations done by Ryan Kessler and Stephen Kenny could easily draw a reader in to find out who the weary ocean voyager might be.

An additional book signing was held at the Printed Garden bookstore (9445 South Union Square) in Sandy on May 2. Ken put in some serious focus and dedicated stick-to-it-ness to see his story get to print. 

Ken explained how his method was put to action. “When I wrote the original draft it was a long and laborious process, because I was flying by the seat of my pants. I didn’t completely love writing as much as I do now.” His mom would sit down with him and they’d talk about what was going on in the story, and brainstorm over what things could or needed to happen. “I ended up doing two chapters a week over the course of half the school year,” he said.

His parents, Spencer and Deanna Mears, encouraged him and guided him through the frustration when writing seemed like an impossible chore. They supported Ken’s efforts by using that creative module, and eventually found a publisher. 

Kenny B. Smith is owner-operator of Teapots Away Media. She does all the acquisitions editing for Teapots Away Press, a nonprofit based in Utah, which essentially works with authors who would not necessarily get picked up by a traditional publisher. She helps authors publish their books and learn how to self-publish.

Smith explained the target audience for Mears’s story. “Ken’s book is a middle grade novel. It’s (meant for) right around the ages of 9–14. But we’re finding that a lot of adults like the simplicity of his action and straightforward style. It’s an excellent read to do with your kids at night because the chapters aren’t super long. If you do a 10-minute read with your kids, it’s the perfect length,” Smith said. “It’s an engaging story, and a lot of fun.”

Ken is proof that when reaching a coming-of-age birthday or planning a sweet 16 bucket list, “publish a book” could actually be an item to check off. Before Facebook invites, pizza, tunes, some totally yum cake and, well, whatever else teenagers do nowadays, a novel hitting the bookstore shelves could actually happen too. The point is, teens can accomplish some pretty incredible things.