Nevada resident and Collins-Maxwell teacher Jeffery Loving has always been a goal-setter.
So, no one should have doubted him when in high school he set a goal for himself of publishing his first novel by age 25. The now 25-year-old writer accomplished it, as his first novel — “The Drink Worth More Than Gold” — was published in March of this year by Beaver’s Pond Press out of Edina, Minn.
“I have been working on this particular novel since November of 2014,” Loving said. “I initially sent in the draft during the summer of 2015, and when I got the edits back in August, I was a bit taken aback that it was not accepted with open arms, but instead needed a lot of work.”
Loving said, that seeing all of the red marks in edited version made his manuscript look more like a highlighted mess than a book. “I really felt bad about myself and thought I was a terrible writer,” he admits. But the process of his first novel, he said, has taught him a lot about patience and determination. It also taught him that he wasn’t a bad writer, but rather a “young” writer with not a lot of experience.
“I took a few months off from the book, worked on a few other projects, short stories and poetry, before I decided — after a conference in Minneapolis, and the inspiration of a fellow author Ruta Sepetys — that I (would) go back to the manuscript again. Only this time, I deleted everything from the first draft, started a blank document page, and produced the draft that was to go on to be published.” He said the final product had no plot or character changes, but instead had a few grammatical errors and sentence structure changes. The end product that is published today, he said, took him seven months to write completely.
The idea for his first novel, he said, has a funny story behind it. “Long story short, a buddy of mine and I were sitting around one evening, drinking wine and chatting about World War II history. We are both WWII history enthusiasts, so it is a common discussion piece between us. I posed the question of what had ever happened to the wine in France during the German occupation, and thus, my search for the truth took off.”
Loving estimates that about 80 percent of the process for writing this book was dedicated to research and history. He said he tried to keep the story as historically accurate as possible, while adding dashes of fiction in as well.
“The title of my novel, ‘The Drink Worth More Than Gold,’ is derived from the main story line of the underground wine network that took place during WWII in the countryside and cellars all over France, in an attempt to preserve the wine from the Germans’ prying hands,” he explained. “The title itself has a deeper meaning that is presented in the book, though if I were to explain the whole meaning, it would ruin the story itself.” Therefore, he advises, readers can take the title literally, meaning the wine itself, or read his book and find out what the real meaning behind the story is.
Loving has been teaching language arts (middle and high school) for three years in the Collins-Maxwell district, but is going to leave that career behind and make writing and public speaking his full-time career. It’s something that he’s known was in him since high school.
“The process of me getting into writing initially started in high school when my creative writing teacher, Mrs. Olsen, suggested that I pursue a career in writing. I didn’t really think about it until I was in college (at Buena Vista University) and my best friend, Zach Lorenzen, challenged me to a writing competition called, NaNoWriMo during the month of November. The challenge was to write 50,000 words in 30 days, and I accomplished it by the skin of my teeth,” Loving said. “The next year, I doubled it, and since 2010, I have competed in the competition (and come out with) seven in-progress manuscripts, one of which inspired this (first) novel.”
Loving said he is already working on two more manuscripts. “My editor and I have decided that it would be a good idea to have a sequel to this particular book (“The Drink Worth More Than Gold”), but it will be a bit of a twist, as the four main characters from this book will instead be minor characters, thus ushering in new characters (familiar faces, but different stories). As for the other story, it is still in development, and kind of hush, hush at the moment. It is a sci-fi western-style (story) however. You will just have to wait for that one to come out.”
The most pleasing part of the whole experience, Loving said, is hearing and seeing people’s reactions to the overall story, how (the book) affects them personally, and “to see that hope reignited in their eyes when they see a young 25-year-old accomplish a lofty dream of his own in hopes to share it with the world.”
Loving continues, “I’d like to thank everyone in my life for supporting, encouraging and believing in this dream as much as I have. Without all of them, I don’t think I would have been able to finish it. The book … is not for me, but instead for the people, that’s what it has always been about.”