Manchester resident Steve Hobbs didn’t sleep well in 2003; his dad, Harville Hobbs, who was an avid reader, veteran and new grandfather, was very sick, and it was all his son could think about.
So Hobbs’s wife pushed him to write. She’d known he’d always wanted to be an author, having bought him Christmas presents about how to get published years before he’d completed anything. He was always starting stories, never finishing them.
But in 2003, he listened. He began writing every night before bed.
“I began writing one chapter a night. I figured I wouldn’t get that much sleep anyway, but each night after that, I slept a little more,” Hobbs said during an interview at Bridge Cafe in Manchester. “Whatever was going on in my brain, writing kind of relaxed me.”
Soon, it became routine. He’d go to work, go home, take care of his kids, watch TV, and then once everyone was asleep, he’d write. When his dad died later that year, he kept writing. It helped him mourn, and he found the experience therapeutic.
“If I didn’t write, I’d be thinking about my dad again — well, I was thinking about him anyway — but if I didn’t write, it would be worse,” Hobbs said. “It was an escape.”
Shortly after his dad died, he finished a book. It wasn’t good enough to send to a publisher, Hobbs said, but he kept at it. Throughout the next 10 years, he wrote two more books.
One was New Hope, a mystery based in a fictionalized version of the Maine town his father lived in. It follows 17-year-old girl Miri Jones, who discovers mutilated human remains during her morning run. The daughter of the town’s police chief, Miri has always wanted to be a detective, but her father insists that she not be involved. He finds a job for her babysitting a local boy, Christopher, to keep her busy. Little does he know that Miri’s relationship with Christopher, instead of halting her sleuthing, catapults her right into the action of the mystery, which involves a supernatural town secret.
The ideas for his stories are gradual; he’s not sure exactly where they come from, but they often disrupt his everyday life.
“I’d be swimming laps, but I wouldn’t really be swimming laps; I’d really be up on a motorcycle in the woods,” Hobbs said. “At some point, when it’s all connected, that’s when I start putting words down. From that point on, it’s like I’m the reader. I want to see what happens when I get to the end of the story.”
Toward the end of his writing New Hope, he found himself unemployed after a pair of shoulder surgeries and decided to use his new free time to edit the book with his wife’s help.
Difficulty came when he decided to publish.
“It’s really hard to publish anything. It’s really hard even just to get an agent,” Hobbs said. “There are a lot of no’s involved. You’ve got to be tough.”
But he felt passionately about the project, and with his wife’s further encouragement, he went through CreateSpace. He used one of the CreateSpace editors, put together a website and has been marketing New Hope himself. Kirkus Review gave the book a positive review, calling it Salem’s Lot meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and local libraries and indie bookstores have been picking it up.
His only regret about writing New Hope is that his dad never knew.
“I never told him I was writing. I was afraid he wouldn’t like it. Isn’t that crazy?” Hobbs said. “My dad could have filled out a Kindle. We had trouble when he passed getting rid of all the books. … But hopefully he knows now.”
As seen in the December 18, 2014 issue of the Hippo.