Mary Helen Brown, an Auburn associate professor emerita, started the first chapter of her novel 25 years ago in a Big Chief notebook.
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She returned to the project in 2012 at a dining room table inside Pebble Hill, Auburn University's center for arts and humanities, and finished her new novel, “Headed for Home."
“Headed for Home” tells the story of a boy named Speedy. He lives in a small fictional town called Rowja, Texas, and is investigating the history of his town as a summer school project alongside his sister and friends.
Brown wrote the entire book by hand in a series of notebooks.
“Writing this was a lot like taking dictation from a voice in my head,” Brown said. “It just doesn’t work when I am on a computer. Speedy didn’t have a computer to write on.”
Brown would usually spend her afternoons, around 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., writing her novel. In only 4 months, she finished it.
“I didn’t always write,” Brown said. “One day I was getting confused about where things were so I drew a map, well, Speedy drew the map. One day I was getting confused about the dates, because parts of the book are set in different time periods, so I made a timeline of when everybody was born.”
According to Brown, her biggest lesson was after she finished the book, while trying to get it published, and she said if first you don’t succeed to never quit.
“It took about two years to get it accepted for publication,” Brown said. “Then it took about 6-9 months to get it in print.”
Brown never knew she wanted to write a novel, and she believes there is no magic formula for writing your own novel.
“My best writing teacher was my freshman english teacher in high school,” Brown said. “She was one of the first people I sent it to when I finished. She liked it and that really, for a long time, was enough. I honestly never thought any of this was going to happen.”
Brown wanted people to be able to laugh with the book and she wanted themes of family and tolerance to come through the novel.
“It is really about family of all kinds,” Brown said. “The family you are born with and the family you chose. I was lucky to grow up in this outrageous family. People ask me, 'was it real and what is fiction' but it is all mixed together. If it sounds outrageous it is probably true.”
“Headed for Home” takes place in the hot, east Texas summer. Brown has already begun assembling ideas for the sequel, which will take place during Christmas time in Rowja.
The novel is available for purchase at The News Room in Opelika and also on Amazon.com.
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