Newly established author Tom Kiernan has always been a “kid at heart.” Embracing his youthful mentality, Kiernan made the life-changing decision to leave the corporate world last year to try his luck as a writer.
After more than seven months of writing and editing, Kiernan’s first book, The Mad Dash: Bite My Dust, was self-published through Amazon’s CreateSpace program and released on June 1.
The Mad Dash, a young adult novel geared towards middle schoolers, follows the story of Hank Martin and CJ King, two best friends entering their last year of middle school, when Hank learns he is diagnosed with cancer and has less than a year to live. The two friends find a one of a kind cell phone with an app for time travel. While they search for a cure, the friends are chased by the “suits,” a mysterious governmental group desperate for the technology. The Mad Dash: Bite My Dust, the first installment in The Mad Dash series, takes readers along for the adventure in a 200-plus page book.
For the past year, Kiernan, 49, has taken quite a journey himself, leaving his corporate position as vice president of Global Enablement for American Power Conversion by Schneider Electric in West Kingston to try his hand at writing.
Kiernan grew up in East Greenwich and attended Tufts University in Boston, receiving a degree in political science and history. He would go on to work for Amica Insurance for almost 10 years, living in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. He moved to American Power Conversion in 2000. He and his family, wife Billie and sons Michael and James, now live in Warwick.
Kiernan had always been interested in and enjoyed creative writing and publishing a book. Nearly eight years ago he had tried his hand at writing a screenplay with a friend, one that would go on to influence The Mad Dash, but with the time constraints of life, between family and work, the play never got off the ground.
“After 15 years, I was at a point in my career that if I was ever going to become a writer now would be the time,” Kiernan said. “So I took a leap of faith. It was a scary one, no doubt, but I’m so happy I did it.”
Kiernan explained that there are a lot of challenges that come with writing for a younger audience, especially for the “sweet spot” as children are transitioning from middle to high school. These younger children haven’t always encountered the challenges that come with high school, and he believes as an author you have to “write to their innocence.” These young readers are also looking for characters they can connect with, that have similar perspectives as their own, “speak in their language.”
Kiernan has a keen insight to this age group. With two sons, he was a coach for Warwick Junior Hockey League for several years and was “entrenched” in that age group.
“Connecting with these readers wasn’t really too difficult for me because I’m still connected to that kid inside my head,” Kiernan said.
Throughout his writing process, Kiernan had between 25 and 30 beta readers, offering criticism and advice to make The Mad Dash the best it could be, but his “champion” beta reader was his son, James, 14.
Although Michael is a little older, 18, James is still in the tail end of his middle school years and was a perfect representation of The Mad Dash’s readership.
James read four different versions of the text and was both his father’s “biggest fan and greatest critic,” telling his father when things didn’t make sense or weren’t as funny as expected, giving a key perspective of the book’s targeted audience.
Kiernan said, “I have had immense support from my family, especially my wife, Billie. Without them there is no way this would have happened.”
Kiernan also had a close connection with the subject matter of his book as one of his closest childhood friends was diagnosed with leukemia when they were quite young. The experience has always “stuck” with him and greatly influenced his writing.
Luckily, his friend recovered and he and Kiernan are still close friends today. This friend read the book and was endeared by the story.
For Kiernan, the hardest part of writing his first book was “killing his darlings,” cutting out pieces of his writing that his beta readers disagreed with.
“You become very attached to your writing. You may find something funny or really love a specific paragraph, but your readers may not agree with the overall story or have little relevance,” he said. “Ultimately, the advice is appreciated because it makes your book better for your readers, but it is still hard to get rid of.”
Although The Mad Dash: Bite My Dust has been released for a little less than a month, Kiernan has received a positive reaction from readers. Several middle schools throughout the state have endorsed his book for summer reading and Cole Middle School in East Greenwich highlighted the book for students encouraging them to read it for their “Free Choice” book.
Kiernan has been touring middle schools and 6th grades over the past few weeks promoting his book, trying to “get it in front of as many people as possible.” He has heard from readers and parents alike that children are really enjoying the book.
“People are excited about this book and really taking to the characters, and I believe that is what will make the series successful,” Kiernan said.
Kiernan has also been involved in Hasbro Children’s Hospital Healing Arts Program, which uses creative expression and visiting artist to improve the quality of life for admitted patients, for the past 10 years. The hospital will be hosting a promotional day for the book, passing out free copies of The Mad Dash to patients.
Kiernan is already halfway through completing the sequel and is currently planning to have five installments in The Mad Dash series.
For more information visit the series’ Facebook page “The Mad Dash.” The book is available on Amazon as well as online at Barnes & Noble.