By Gary Mitchell
When Mike Eberhardt decides to fulfill a dream, just give him a little space and about a month.
That’s what it took for him to complete his first novel, “Westward Bound,” which was published in February by PublishAmerica, an online publisher based in Baltimore.
“It was sort of a dream I had — to write a book,” said Eberhardt, who serves as associate pastor at Central Baptist Church in Clovis. “I enjoy reading. So when I began to think about it, I began to plot it out. It took several years. But at Christmas of 2000, I told my wife I was going to start writing and just see where it leads. And basically, the book was written in four weeks. I couldn’t type as fast as I was thinking.”
Central Baptist will host a booksigning reception for Eberhardt at 3 p.m. Sunday, and a limited number of “Westward Bound” will be available for sale, church officials said.
The Rev. Joseph Vest, senior pastor of Central Baptist, said he was impressed with his colleague’s feat.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s one thing to write a book, but it’s another thing to get one published. I think it’s awesome. Mike is multitalented. Although I haven’t read it yet, I know the book’s good because Mike doesn’t do anything that’s not good. Everything he does is top quality. He just does things right, and I’m sure the book’s the same way. He’s one of the nicest, best guys I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.”
Eberhardt’s novel tells the story of the Larson family who leaves other family members and wealth in Pennsylvania to face the hardships of a westward trek to try to realize their dream of a cattle ranch in Colorado.
“The fun part is seeing how the characters develop,” Eberhardt said. “They had their own personalities, and letting those personalities develop was an interesting process. I tried to make the characters real — they’re not super heroes. They’re characters people can identify with when they read the book.”
The novel is set at the end of the Civil War and covers a time span of about three years following the war.
Eberhardt said the West for him carries a certain mystique.
“There’s a fascination I’ve had with the West and the settling of the West — the courage and the fortitude of the people — especially with their being able and willing to go into the unknown,” he said. “That’s fascinating to me.”
It’s a dream that drives the characters forward, Eberhardt said.
“There’s a dream that’s overwhelming, that’s greater than what I can see,” he said. “Whether pursuing a dream of what the future could be or escaping from what the past had been, none of them could have imagined the tragedy, death and love that would intertwine their lives. That’s the essence behind the book.”
Although the characters have faith as part of their lives, the book is not what Eberhardt would classify as overtly religious.
“They’re humans,” he said. “It expresses the humanity of people who have faith. To me, that’s more realistic.”
Once Eberhardt finished his novel, it wasn’t so easy to get a publisher interested in it.
“I went online and looked for agents (to market the book),” he said. “I went through probably about 50 agents. The hard part was finding the agent who was willing to take it on and represent me. Getting a book published these days is very difficult.”
Eberhardt said he had at least one fan — his mother.
“My mother enjoyed it,” he said. “I agree with John Grisham who said he didn’t want to write anything his mother couldn’t read, and I’m the same way.”
Eberhardt’s wife, Robin, who is a counselor at Parkview Elementary School, said she enjoyed it as well.
“I did the initial editing on the book,” she said. “It’s something he’s talked about over the years. I got it piecemeal as the book developed. It was amazing to see him write that much in that amount of time. He’s always been a creative person. I’ve always felt that God had given him the gift of communication. He’s always been able to put words together in just the right way.
“The book is an easy read,” she said. “I’m prejudiced, but I think he did a great job.”