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Thursday, Nov. 22, 2007

Homegrown Fantasy

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What’s more, it’s set in his hometown and the main characters are his sister, his cousin and his younger self. Titled Pine Woods and released by PublishAmerica, it’s largely inspired by summers he and his cousin spent riding around on their bikes, looking for adventure. They come upon a magical stone that transports them to a real schooner that sank in 1884 off Baileys Harbor, Wis. “I like to include some nucleus, some kernel of history,” Kirsch says. “I think if you can get kids interested in a little slice of history…maybe they’ll discover it’s kind of cool.”

Your book is part memoir, part historical fiction and part science-fiction/fantasy. Why did you choose this approach? I enjoy science fiction when there’s a connection with reality. When it’s so far removed, on another planet, I sort of lose interest. That’s why I thought it would be fun to have a bit of fantasy connected with these other real things going on; the historical perspective and these real places in Sheboygan. I think kids can identify with that. They’ve got fantastic imaginations. They look at a hole in the ground and see a portal to another world or dimension.

You’re a fan of radio stories, and the characters in your book regularly tune into them. What do you think makes the radio story so captivating? The imagination. You can let your own imagination go wild. You’re not captured by preformed images. It’s the equivalent of giving a child a piece of paper and crayons versus a piece of paper with predrawn lines to color in.

Do you think this imaginative cultivation is missing for kids today? I think so. I think too much is cut and dried for them. And that includes instead of reading a book and letting your imagination go crazy, you plop in front of the TV and absorb very passively information coming at you. Not that the old times are always better, but we had to come up with things to entertain ourselves. We didn’t have little leagues with a set of preformed rules. We’d get together and make our own rules. Now everything is regimented.

Your book centers around the characters’ biking adventures. You even have a Web site called “Bicycle Tales.” What does biking represent for your characters? Freedom. Why do 50-year-old guys ride Harleys? It’s about having the wind in your hair. That was our idea of freedom when we were kids: We got on our bikes and went somewhere.

Your book is self-advertised. What’s been the hardest part of the process? Getting the word out … you gotta get known and it’s a process—a long process.

What would be your advice to someone who wants to write a book?

My advice would be to start putting something down on paper, to do it … If they only get their two author copies, they can give those books to their children, they can be proud of what they accomplished … A fringe benefit is being able to sell it and get other people interested in the story.

You can find out more about Pine Woods and author Richard Kirsch at www.bicycletales. com or www.kirschonline.com. Or meet him in person when he appears at Waldenbooks at Southridge Mall on Saturday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m.

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