Nashville author and former Hobart resident Shaun Erny held a book signing on Thursday for his first publication, The Adventures of a Suburban Daredevil: Surviving the Seventies in Style. The book is a collection of stories and memoirs from his life growing up in Hobart and around Northwest Indiana, taking the reader from when he was five to when he reached the age of 19, and a little later. Appropriately enough, this book about small town life had its signing not at a major book store, but at a backyard cookout in Valparaiso.
"It was my editor's idea," said Erny. "We were originally going to do a bookstore book signing, but you can't just walk into a bookstore and do that since those are scheduled a few months ahead of time. This way, though, it gives me a better chance to expose the book to people who graduated from Hobart High School or my class, so it'll be a chance to catch up on all kinds of stuff from the last 30 years."
This local approach to the book is emblematic of Erny's life and love of stories. Friends and family have often requested that he put his stories into a book, and with the rich and vibrant communities of writers both in Northwest Indiana and in Nashville, Tennessee, the creation of the book may have been inevitable.
“We started working together at Amazon in safety, and he mentioned that he had a blog,” said Robert Koger, the friend that Erny credits with inspiring the book.
“He hadn’t written anything in probably a year. So I read his blog, and after the first couple of entries I say ‘Oh, man, there’s got to be more,’ and ever since then I’ve been saying ‘you’ve gotta put this in’ or ‘you’ve gotta tell your story.’ It was really intriguing to read it. I basically pestered him for a year until he decided to write the book. So, it all started with a blog.”
"This is the first book that he's authored," said Erin Erwin, Shaun's sister. "It's a memory of his childhood growing up. We grew up in Hobart, and it's set there and in Northwest Indiana. He's always been very funny, and he's very quick with his humor, so he thought it would be ideal to write his ideas down while he was growing up. Everyone encouraged him to put it into book form and that's what he did."
This encouragement demonstrates much of what else may be seen in his book, as a lot of the stories focus on the strength and importance of family. During the writing process of stories about his father in particular, Erny realized that a lot of his father came through in the writing as he was putting the stories to paper.
"One of my favorite stories in the book is in regards to a hat that my father owned," said Erny. "It was an orange hunting hat, and it was a horrible hunting hat, and we taunted him and begged him not to wear the hat. The more we teased him about the hat, the more dedicated he was to the hat. The only time he wore it was when he went deer hunting. One year he pulls his favorite hat out, and a mouse had shredded it into almost nothing, it was just threads. It launched my father into a prehunting tirade. When we got down to my grandfather's farm in central Indiana, my uncle started asking him about it, but my father didn't want to talk about it. During the weekend I learned that it hadn't been eaten by a mouse, but that my uncle had taken it to a field and shot it with a shotgun. The rest of the chapter is about my father's reaction to that. So it's several stories about me growing up and how I related to my father, and how he related to me growing up... I started telling stories, but I realized when I was done how much of my father came through in the book. We were a very close family, and we were fortunate in that regard. We were a very nuclear family. My entire time growing up the family was always there, and the extended family was always a big deal. I speak a lot about family in the book, because of the family situation I grew up in."
That connection to family may have helped in the publication process. A challenge for any first time author, finding an appropriate editor or agent can be a challenge. Sharing his work in progress with his daughter, however, helped to speed that process along.
"It's been a fascinating process, and a very enjoyable process," said Erny. "Someone just asked me a little while ago how I sat down and wrote a book, but that was the easy part. I wrote it relatively quickly, and I had the advantage of putting on paper stories I'd already been telling. I was fortunate enough during the process that my daughter met an editor at a business lunch, and she gave him a few chapters and he loved it. So by the time I got done writing, it was pretty much edited. They handled all of that for me, and then I self published. Our goal was to get it out and on the street into bookstores that way, to seek out a publishing contract later. We're doing pretty well on it. We're on Amazon and in book stores, and I'm actually doing a couple of television talkshows in Nashville in a couple weeks. One of the interesting things I learned when looking for that kind of publicity is that a lot of the shows aren't interested in authors, so there's a hill to climb there for a new author."
With an already promising start for the first book, Erny is already looking into options for the second.
"I think that he has a second one in the works," Erin said. "I don't believe that this'll be his first and only. He's got some other things already in process. It's been a little bit of a journey, but he's persevered and pushed through some things. He's done a good job."