‘Echoes from the Hollow’ author Don Roberts to hold 2 book discussions
Don Roberts said it was a breath of fresh air to have found a creative outlet such as writing fiction shortly after retiring.
The Monroeville resident, 76, had a 35-year career in education with Pittsburgh Public Schools. He concurrently taught at the University of Pittsburgh as a history lecturer.
“As a teacher, I had to be factual. But now, it’s nice to make things up,” he said, reclining on a couch in his Monroeville home with a copy of his debut novel resting on a coffee table nearby.
His book, “Echoes from the Hollow,” was published by Virginia-based S&H Publishing on June 27. The 278-page volume takes readers back to a small Western Pennsylvania village in the 1950s, the decade Roberts himself became a teen. The coming-of-age story focuses in on Harry Morgan, whose loyalty brings unforeseen consequences.
Roberts said his inspiration for the novel came from his unique childhood. He grew up in a village in rural Mercer County, population 100. The village, he said, had roughly 30 houses and three churches.
He spent first grade in a one-room school that housed about 40 students of all different ages. The rest of his schooling was in a grade school in town.
Village life back then was predicated upon community closeness, he said.
“And so in some ways it was nice to grow up then,” Roberts said, adding, however that sense of community rarely extended outside of the village. “Things were kept really quiet. In the story, there is a price to pay for that.”
The novel has done well since publishing, Roberts said. It has earned eight 5-star reviews on Amazon, where the paperback can be purchased for $17.95. The e-version can also be purchased for $4.99 on various websites, including Barnes and Noble and Smashedwords.com.
It took him eight years to write, edit and publish the novel. And before that, Roberts said he had just retired and was looking for a hobby.
“So I took some Osher writing classes (at the University of Pittsburgh),” he said. His teacher was David Shifren, a Pittsburgh writer-turned-cop. Roberts then joined Shifren’s writing group, where he was encouraged to write a novel, which eventually turned into “Echoes from the Hollow.”
Part of the reason it took so long for the finished product to appear was the fact it was so long. His original manuscript had 133,000 words in it, or roughly 500 pages.
“Publishers didn’t want to touch it,” he said. Roberts eventually found a publisher undaunted by the book’s length. But even then, the editor recommended he make a significant cut — so he did.
Roberts, who still writes regularly and belongs to a local writers’ group, is working on possibly a prequel or sequel to Echoes. He has a lot of material, since around 50,000 words were cut from the original story. But he is also almost finished with a totally different novel, that one focusing on revenge.
The author will hold a book reading and discussion from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Monroeville Public Library, and another one that starts at 1 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Monroeville Senior Citizens Center.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .