Gary Bush remembers the day he decided he was going to dedicate himself to writing full time. “I’d had it with the corporate world. I always wanted to write and I decided it was time.” In a 15-year writing career begun, therefore, somewhat later in life, Bush has gone on to publish short stories, co-edit (in 2009) a story collection called Once upon a Crime: An Anthology of Murder, Mayhem and Suspense, and that same year release a historically based middle-grade novel, Lost in Space: The Flight of Apollo 13. But eventually a bigger project came to mind, and he just published the first title in that trilogy, Sail into Treachery, centered on fictional teenager Jamie Sharpe, who in 1803 dreams of becoming a ship’s captain like his father.
Bush, who has lived in St. Louis Park for over 30 years and whose father and brother owned a business here, has been reading since he was 3 years old. As a child he loved Mark Twain and stories of adventure as well as historical novels. Later, he read the classics by Dumas, Hugo, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. His eclectic reading list today includes biographies, histories, mysteries, sci-fi and the work of many contemporary writers. “Gary is a prolific reader,” says his long-time friend and current marketing consultant Mike Wilkinson, who has known Bush since their days at the University of Minnesota. “Sail into Treachery is a great classic seafaring adventure.”
Bush conducted extensive research for the book, released last March by 40 Press, a local independent publisher. The idea for the Jamie Sharpe trilogy came to him a few years ago when he and his wife went sailing on a 19th-century schooner in Maine. “I was reading a book about Barbary pirates and was thinking about writing something that was not a mystery,” he recalls. “I wanted a young protagonist who can really grow over the course of the three books.”
In the first book, young Bostonian Jamie’s opportunities for growth begin: On the return trip from his grandfather’s house, where he’s gone in hopes of settling a debt, he is ambushed and taken aboard a slave ship bound for Africa. “I had to research everything,” says Bush, “from nautical instruments to food to medicine.” His own library, the public library and the internet, he says, all came in handy.
“The reason I wrote this book is that I like to read, and I think kids today—boys especially—need to read more,” says Bush. Reading, he says, opens kids’ imaginations, invites them to use their own minds to visualize characters and adventures. In the case of Jamie Sharpe, it also invites thought and discussion about elements of history such as piracy—then and now—and the slave trade. “Jamie is an abolitionist, and Massachusetts was a free state, but that didn’t stop slave ships from stopping for supplies in New England ports. There was a fairly large free African-American population in Boston at the time. One of the characters in the book is a former slave.”
Bush talks about his characters like they’re old friends. He says Jamie and company pretty much told him (and continue to tell him, in the second book) how the story unfolds. “Some writers outline everything down to the smallest detail, but that’s not me,” he says. “I kind of know where I’m going but I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get there.” Rather, it’s day-by-day, even minute-by-minute decisions, guided by his characters, that get Bush’s words on the page.
His writing habit starts with a long morning walk with his dog, followed by breakfast for each. After that, Bush sits down to work until about 2 p.m. Then he and his dog take a second walk, after which Bush writes for another hour or two. Right now, between interviews and publicity engagements for Sail into Treachery, he’s writing the sequel, Slaves of Barbary. He’s hoping it will be out by next spring or summer. In the meantime, you can get started with the first book, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the independent bookstore Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis.
Gary Bush will discuss his book September 22, 3:30-5 p.m., at the St. Louis Park Library, 3240 Library Lane.