Springfield, Ohio — Despite the unorthodox origins of its creation, Eric Shonkwiler, Wittenberg class of 2006, has found tremendous success with the release of his first novel Long Way Home, which was one of 500 quarterfinalists out of 10,000 international participants in Amazon.com's 2009 Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.
The contest is designed to discover "emerging fictional novelists" around the world. Shonkwiler's novel, which can be downloaded for free on Amazon.com, has garnered praise from readers, including 13 five-star reviews through mid-July.
The roots of the book stem from Shonkwiler's days at Wittenberg as a double major in English and East Asian Studies. Originally conceptualized during a senior seminar class taught by Professor of English Kent Dixon, Shonkwiler continued the story through a recreational webcomic. Now, it is a novel that finished in the top five percent of Amazon.com's annual contest.
"I was constantly ahead of my assigned work for my webcomic that I came up with side projects to keep myself entertained," Shonkwiler said. "The book stemmed from that, and I furthered my work on it for my novella requirement for Professor Dixon's class."
Perhaps the most interesting idea for the book came from a music video. Shonkwiler needed a way to fill in the gap from the present state of the comic to the distant future, and he found it while watching television.
"I was watching a My Chemical Romance video on TV one night in which the group members were on a beach fighting in war. That was kind of the spark I needed for the rest; I'd write about kids fighting in a war," said Shonkwiler.
Long Way Home is about two friends, David and Red, who decide to drop out of high school to serve their country and join the army. The boys are split up during the war when they are assigned different positions and duties. When David rejoins Red's unit later in the war, he discovers Red has become an unparalleled soldier, but at the expense of his humanity, which ultimately puts their friendship in jeopardy. The story continues with David being shipped home due to an injury, but is later contacted by Red, who needs help.
Since Long Way Home, Shonkwiler has completed a second novel titled A City at Peace and is working on a third novel, both of which are loosely connected to his first. Shonkwiler also plans to continue his graduate education and writing career at University of California-Riverside, where he will focus mainly on fictional writing. Shonkwiler continues to be appreciative for what Wittenberg has done for his career.
"When you couple the rich relationships you have with professors and the comfort of the infamous Wittenberg Bubble, you get an environment that is conducive to learning," he said. "I can't imagine a better college experience than what I had."
Written by: Trent Brunic '10