Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Accidental Novelist

In September of 2012, my first book -- SECRETS OF SHAKESPEARE'S GRAVE -- was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children.  It is a middle-grade mystery novel -- the first in a series.  At the heart of the book is a mystery that involves William Shakespeare.

I could pretend to be sophisticated and claim that I was instantly drawn to the Bard and his works.  I could tell you that as teenager I would sit under a large oak tree for hours and read Shakespeare's sonnets.  I could explain how I begged my mother to take me to performances of Shakespeare’s works.  I could claim to have memorized some obscure monologue from TROILUS AND CRESSIDA by the time I was nine years of age.

But I would be lying.

The truth is that Shakespeare scared me.  I found his works difficult to read and downright impossible to understand.

I vividly remember my ninth grade literature class.  It was my first real exposure to William Shakespeare --  ROMEO AND JULIET, as I recall.  It was extremely painful.  Elizabethan English absolutely confounded me.  From that point forward, I avoided Shakespeare as much as possible.  As far as I was concerned, it was the poison ivy of literature -- if you don’t touch it, it can’t hurt you.

So how the heck did I end up writing a middle-grade mystery novel about Shakespeare?

I blame Bill Bryson.

Several years ago I ran across Bryson’s book SHAKESPEARE: THE WORLD AS STAGE.  I wasn’t looking to read a book about Shakespeare, but I enjoy reading works by Bill Bryson.  He has a way of making any subject interesting.  Maybe he could do the same for Shakespeare.  So I picked up the book and read it.

And that’s when it started.

I became fascinated by Shakespeare and the world in which he lived.  I was still not ready to pick up HENRY VI and read it in my spare time, but it was a start.  I followed with books by James Shapiro (CONTESTED WILL), Frank Kermode (THE AGE OF SHAKESPEARE), Eric Rasmussen (THE SHAKESPEARE THEFTS), and Stephen Greenblatt (WILL IN THE WORLD).  I then, somewhat reluctantly, moved on to actual works by Shakespeare.  Visits to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and Stratford-upon-Avon sealed my fate.

But again, how did all of this lead to a middle-grade mystery novel about Shakespeare?  Simple. The world of Shakespeare, as I quickly learned, was full of mysteries.  One of those mysteries spoke to me in a loud and clear voice.  I could not resist it, and it became the central theme of my novel (and its sequel, TOWER OF THE FIVE ORDERS, which is set for publication in 2013).

So perhaps I am best described as an accidental mystery novelist.  I did not set out to write a book.  I simply became obsessed with a subject full of mystery, nuance and intrigue.  The book just happened.

As I said, I blame Bill Bryson.

Deron Hicks lives in Warm Springs, Georgia with his wife Angela, daughter Meg and son Parker.  His first book - SECRETS OF SHAKESPEARE'S GRAVE -- was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children in September 2012.  The second book in the series -- TOWER OF THE FIVE ORDERS -- is scheduled for publication in October 2013.  You can find Deron at his website or you can follow him on Facebook.


  1. Sounds like an intriguing series; I'm adding SECRETS to my TBR list! It's great to have you on board -- welcome!

  2. Quite a few of us here sort of stumbled into the mystery genre, so I enjoyed your story of how you got here! And I'm a Shakespeare buff (concentrated on Shakespeare for my college senior thesis), so I agree with you that his world is rife with mystery and intrigue. Curious, what made you decide to write it for MG readers, as opposed to YA or adults?

  3. My daughter was just entering middle school as I started writing the book. I really had not planned on trying to get it published, and just wanted to write something she would enjoy.


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