D. Barkley Briggs wrote this novel (and the rest of the upcoming series) for his four sons, which is one of the best reasons I can think of for penning a manuscript. I asked Mr. Briggs about the connections between his family situation and the novel. He says:
“The story is very much rooted in my kids’ lives and the impact of the last few years on our family. The names are even similar to my kids’ real names: Hanson, Hadyn….Evan, Ewan….Gatlin, Garret….Gabe, Gage. I’ve infused the book with aspects of their personality, and the realities of the loss we suffered when my wife lost her battle with cancer at a young age. Our world turned upside down in every way imaginable. It was like being exiled to a foreign country, and all you really want is to go back home. So while the pain you read is real, the point of the story was to find a way to immerse myself and my boys back into the adventure of life.
“I think it’s important for people to realize the magic and thrill of the tale, no strings attached. The average reader will easily lose themselves in the fantasy without feeling the heaviness of what compelled me to write it. For many, it’s just going to be a great read, nothing more—and that’s exactly what I want. But for others, for kids and parents that have been knocked around a bit, they’ll read it with an additional level of empathy. Regardless, I think most teens and preteens will appreciate the honesty with which I’ve tried to present some of the issues they have to face. Hope so, anyway! As it relates to my boys, I simply wanted to find a voice for the hardship that they could feel was their own, that would enable them (and me) to live again.
“In short…the fantasy is entirely my creation, but the journey is very much theirs.”
Knowing the situation does bring a deeper understanding of the story in The Book of Names. Readers not going through a similar grief will still feel the edge of the pain that the characters Hadyn and Ewan (in particular) have gone through, lending depth to the tale.
The main message Mr. Briggs sends his sons–and to those who read the words over his boys’ shoulders is summed up in The Calling:
Don’t give up. Hang in there. Answer the Call.