SALT LAKE CITY — When Richard Paul Evans started out over 20 years ago, he had no idea he’d later be releasing a seventh book in a New York Times best-selling series.
He was merely picking up a hobby to fill his time.
“I was working in political marketing and I had run for state legislature and lost by about 100 votes.” Evans said. “I had all this time on my hands and had always wanted to write a book. Christmas was coming up so I decided to write a Christmas story as a gift to my family. From there it spread. People would read it and they’d give it to other family and friends. A few weeks after I gave out those 20 copies, it had been read 160 times.”
After making the decision to self-publish “The Christmas Box” in 1993, it soon reached No. 2 on the New York Times best-sellers list and he found himself at the start of a new career.
Now, “The Final Spark” is the seventh installment of the highly successful Michael Vey series. After many releases for children and adults, Evans’ books are still personal. He wrote the Michael Vey books for his son.
Evans said of the series, “It wasn’t so much as inspired by him, but I wanted to inspire people with books about Tourette’s and make it easier for him. If people understood Tourette’s syndrome, then they’d be much more likely to treat him normally.”
According to Evans, it not only worked for his son, but for other readers with Tourette’s syndrome around the country. From a woman whose son was just diagnosed with the syndrome and was afraid to go to a party, to a young woman at Comic Con who hugged him and thanked him for making Tourette’s syndrome something people love about Michael Vey. She told him that thanks to the popularity of his books, kids had stopped teasing her.
While Evans didn’t know the reach the Michael Vey series would have, he did know from the beginning how many books the series would consist of.
“I knew it would be seven books,” remembered Evans, “but I didn’t know how. The end of book six was the first time I knew how it was going to end.”
In “The Final Spark,” Michael Vey is missing and the remaining members of the Electroclan are divided in how to go about finding him. The enemy is disabled, but more dedicated than ever to stopping the resistance and getting rid of the Electroclan for good.
Characters and storylines from the last six books all come together to figure out if everything the Resistance has fought for will work out or if it was a lost cause from the beginning.
Writing a series for children was both enjoyable and a challenge for Evans.
“The launch parties are fun. They have the feeling of you’re not like a rock star —you are a rock star.” Evans said. “They want you to sign their arms and foreheads and they get so excited and say the funniest things. They make me laugh.”
But writing for children took some focused thinking. Evans recalled, “The biggest difference is, you’re writing in a different language. Michael Vey books are actually more complex than my adult novels. You have to write in a different vocabulary, dialogue for kids is more difficult for me. Also, Michael Vey has so many more characters, so being true to those characters was tough.”
Writing multiple characters and taking them through this journey made this last story a difficult one to write — not technically, but emotionally.
“I feel sad about this being the last book,” Evans shared. “I read the last two pages to my assistant and I looked over and she was crying and I thought: this has been a big part of my life for seven years. It’s like a kid going off to school. Even a year ago, I realized it was winding up, and it’s just emotional.”
The goal all along for Evans was to make this book the best book he’s ever written and leave the rest up to the reader.
“Years ago, when I started out, Mary Higgins Clark gave me this advice: she said, ‘every book I write is my best book I’ve ever written.’ So from that day forward, when I sit down to write a book I go in with that mentality that this book is going to be better than the last and it’s going to be the best book I can write.”
With that idea in mind, it may give one closure when ending a series they’ve been writing for a better part of a decade. But Evans says he may not need closure, just some time off.
“I would like to come back and visit Michael Vey in some way in the future. Right now, the first path is completed; we’ve come to a new place. It’ll be fun to see where they go after this revolution and maybe different characters. But right now, it’s like asking someone who just finished a marathon to go run an extra mile.”
So this may not mean goodbye for Michael Vey readers — Evans is leaving the door open.
“If I still love it in a year as much as I do now, I’ll come back and write another."
Note: Richard Paul Evans will be at the 2017 Salt Lake Comic Con, Booth 537 at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center, Sept. 21-23. For more information go to: saltlakecomiccon.com