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A Desperate Gamble and a Deadly Pact Loom Large in Maynard Teacher’s New Novel

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A couple summer’s ago, Fowler teacher Sean Conway wrote the entire first draft of his latest novel in a three-month tornadic whirlwind of inspiration and energy. “It wasn’t by design,” Conway says. “The story just came spilling out.”


Often, a first draft of a novel can take Conway two years to write. “Sometimes it will take me three months to write a short story,” the author adds. “I try to get my students to slow down with their own writing, to not rush, but with this project I didn’t listen to my own advice. I couldn’t help myself.”


The new novel, Sky Rocketson’s Flight, about two brothers who return to their childhood home

to steal something back that had been long-ago left behind—with devastating, even deadly,

results—was fueled by his rekindled passion for the kind of plot-driven paperback novels he’d

first fell in love with back in the 1970s. “I’d ride my bike to the flea market on Sundays with a

pocketful of loose change, and spend a couple hours digging through cardboard boxes of all

these old mass-market paperbacks. Usually they’d be a quarter each, or five for a buck. I’d buy

as many as I could carry in one arm and then steer the bike home with the other.”


Recently, Conway revisited some of those old novels—the kind of stories that made him fall in

love with reading in the first place. He’d read Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel Jaws countless

times, it’s one of his all-time favorites, but he’d never read Benchley’s ocean-set follow-ups, The Deep and The Island, so he bought used hardcover copies on Amazon, their pages yellowed by time and covers torn and deteriorating, and started with those.


                                                              After, he returned to Stephen King. Cujo had been the first book he’d ever bought with

                                                              his own money, so he decided to re-read it, some forty years later. Then he went even                                                                further back and read all of King’s 1970s novels, from Carrie to The Shining and The                                                                Stand. Some he’d read as a teen and some he read for the first time.


                                                              Somewhere along the line, an idea began forming for a new novel. “Actually,”                                                                           Conway explains, “Before I really even had much of an idea of what the story would                                                                 be, I knew that I wanted it to feel like these old novels—the pacing, the propulsion of                                                                 plot, even the short chapters. I wanted it to feel like a 70s paperback, the very kind I’d                                                               bought at those flea markets all those years ago.


                                                             Now in his twentieth year of teaching, Conway knows that getting students to                                                                             appreciate books, to love novels, can be an uphill battle. “I remember being their age                                                                 and dreading some of the assigned books in English class—I won’t name names—so I’m conscious of that when I have my students read. I’m deliberate in my choices: what novels do I know they’ll love? What are the stories that might make them want to keep reading? Like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, for instance. It’s the one book that I’ve never taken out of the rotation in all these years. Students just fall in love with that book. And nothing makes me happier than seeing that happen.”


Sky Rocketson’s Flight is available on Amazon or through the author’s website at

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