Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Lifestyles

June 5, 2014

Novel honors common man

Ashland native to read, sign books during First Friday

ASHLAND — The role of the common man in society has held fascination for Ricky Simpson, whose debut novel, “Willow,” was released in March by Tate Publishing.

The Ashland native who now lives in Lexington is putting his natural talents to use.

“Writing was something that was always in me and I always wrote,” he said, noting becoming a writer was never a formal decision. “I just feel like, if it’s in you, it’s almost like a swelling entity in you that you have to get out. If you don’t get it out, it’s just going to be misery inside of you.”

Simpson’s book is historical fiction set 1865 during the final two weeks of the Civil War.

“It’s the story of a Confederate soldier returning home and getting into a forbidden romance with a young girl,” he said. “It’s written in the style of older American literature, like Steinbeck or Melville.”

The author was in the local National Guard until from 2001 to 2006.

“The military is driven by the common man, especially during that time,” he saidl “The most important moments in American hstory were fought for and won by common people — barrel makers, wood workers, blacksmiths. They weren’t career soldiers; they were men who had to come off their farms. I really admire that American spirit.”

He said many of the themes of the book are similar to those in older American literature, too.

“The book is kind of an homage to the American spirit and common Americans and what they’ve done to make America what it is and what they’ve accomplished in their lives,” he said. ‘The story of the two people is just a skeleton to build the rest of the story on. The meaning of the story is the history and the tales of the common people.”

Simpson, 31, graduated from Paul G. Blazer High School in 2001 and from the University of Kentucky in 2010 with a degree in English and history. He said getting his first novel written was difficult: he spent three years researching, writing and editing. He said he enjoyed the research the most.

Even getting published was a grueling process.

He said he wanted to avoid self publishing.

“It was never my goal to self publish,” he said. “I really wanted someone to approve of what I’ve done and foot the bill for it also.”

He said the first step was getting an agent.

“There are a lot of steps (to getting published) and it takes a long time. You have to find an agent who agrees with what you’re writing and understands it and they have to find a publisher who feels the same way.”

After that, he said negotiating a deal is time consuming, too.

“It takes a year to get it out there,” he said. “You have to be patient. ...It’s a work of passion and that’s the truth of it. ... It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme.”

Having support has been helpful from the start, he said, noting his parents, sister, grandparents and English teacher at Charles Russell Elementary School, Mrs. Clanton, all supported him and encouraged his creativity.

“When growing up, if no one tells you you can’t do something, you always believe that you can,” he said.

Simpson said he’s working on his second novel, which will be set in the 1960s against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

Simpson was published by Tate Publishing in Oklahoma. “Willow” is available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and at the website readwillow.com.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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