Ignorance might not be bliss, but it can come in handy when striking off into the unknown.
For Greenville writer Steven Tingle, knowing the difficulties he would encounter while writing his debut novel might have discouraged him from making the attempt. Instead, armed with only a loose notion of what might lay in store, he began a nearly five-year adventure that culminates in August with the publication of “Graveyard Fields.”
“Really, I wasn’t serious about it,” Tingle says. “I never thought I’d finish it.”
Having spent the past decade as a successful lifestyle and travel writer for a variety of magazines, he approached writing a novel as a lark when he started the project in 2016. Tingle says he’s always loved detective fiction, especially the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly, and had a few scenes and characters in mind when he started writing.
“I had a character in mind who was a detective, but an apathetic one, not one who actually solves cases,” Tingle says. “I gave him a whole laundry list of problems.”
That character evolved into Davis Reed, the protagonist in “Graveyard Fields.” He’s a former Charleston police officer with an unhealthy fondness for homebrewed beer trying to find a quiet life after retiring to the sleepy town of Cruso, North Carolina. Adjusting to the culture shock of landing in a small mountain town, Reed finds himself caught up in a mystery when he stumbles upon a set of keys along a trail and sets out to find the owner.
The setting was a natural choice for Tingle, who grew up in Cruso, a town in Haywood County west of Asheville. He also loves the Lowcountry and thought Reed’s transition from Charleston to Cruso would help the fish-out-of-water vibe he sought to underpin the story.
Tingle says his desultory approach to the novel shifted to something more serious when he got halfway through.
“It was a lot of fun until I reached the point of no return,” he says. “I basically stopped and saw I had to make a decision — either I stop wasting my time or finish it.”
Thanks to encouragement from friends and the timely advice of an editor who also helped him stay on task, the book was finished in 2017. Unfortunately, the search for an agent and publisher consumed the following two years and led to profound discouragement.
“That was my first rejection and it made me want to crawl under the covers and never write anything again,” Tingle says.
But he persevered and ended up rewriting the book, which he finished in March 2020, right at the beginning of COVID. Later that summer, worldwide protests against police brutality made virtually the entire publishing industry leery of any story featuring a hero with a police background, especially one who might exhibit questionable behavior.
“[I had] impeccable timing, as always,” Tingle says with a wry smile.
An offer from Crooked Lane Books saved the project and led to a contract for a second book, which will follow the same characters and is due out in June 2022.
Tingle says he feels some sense of accomplishment now that he’s a published author.
“You get a little insight into the industry and some doors open,” he says. “You also get a bit of confidence because you’ve done this thing.”
For more information about Tingle’s book and where it can be found, visit steventingle.com.