‘Don’t wait. Just start writing.’

Aspiring author hits milestone, offers encouragement to others wanting to pursue their literary dreams

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

‘Don’t wait. Just start writing.’While writers are famously regarded, as a profession, among the worst procrastinators in existence, for Casey Sutton it took facing his own mortality to prompt him to begin.

“The good news is, everything is okay now. But for about a week I was hospitalized in intensive care in South Africa. I had nothing but time on my hands. So I did a lot of reading. And thinking. I came to the realization that I wanted to write a book — that really I had wanted to for a long time.”

But he made excuses, put it off, and his pursuit never made it out of conception.

“There is nothing like having a brush with death to help you realize you have to move in the present. The future is not guaranteed. So I started writing while I was in my hospital bed.”

That was in December 2018. Within a year, he had finished his first draft. Months later he has finished his second. Today, he is working with an editor of one of the largest publishing houses in the world (some details have been withheld for print) in hopes of having it published.

As Casey shared his news with his loved ones, his friends reminded him that he spoke of writing even in high school. His parents said it started even earlier than that. “They reminded me that I’ve been talking about it since I was 5 or 6 years old.”

A Navy brat, he spent his childhood moving frequently and devouring fantasy and science fiction. He moved to Ridgecrest in high school, when he formed close friendships with those who helped him forge his storytelling tendencies.

“We would congregate together for safety and play Dungeons & Dragons,” he recalled.

Sutton became the go-to Dungeon Master — for the uninitiated, the one responsible for world building, non-playing character development, outlining the quest and navigating the conflicts and conquests in the role-playing game.

After high school graduation he joined the military, went to college, and wound up living in Parkersburg, West Va., working as a project manager at the Bureau of Fiscal Service, a division of the Department of the Treasury.

He was traveling to his girlfriend’s home country of South Africa when his life shifted, and “Charlie Prince” (the title of his book as well as its protagonist) was born.

The story follows a 12-year-old boy who suffers an accident (one of a few parallels between Casey and his literary creation).

Charlie wakes up in a parallel world with a medieval level of technology and anthropomorphic animals. Each race of creatures has distinctive clothing, weapons and magic. Charlie discovers a world at war, and that he has a role to play in delivering the inhabitants from the villainous Rat King.

Along the way, he makes friends and allies on his journey to discover and fulfill his purpose. Charlie also re-enters his home world, on occasion, and must find a way to get back to complete his quest.

Sutton noted that in addition to some of the influences in his personal life, he drew on inspiration from some of his favorite authors — C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, R. A. Salvatore, Richard Adams and Dostoyevski.

His work also incorporates elements of Joseph Campbell’s archetypical hero — whose self discovery and actualization is as important as his quest.

When Sutton completed his first draft, it weighed in at 250,000 words (only half a Dostoyevski, but about two Austens).

“I knew I needed to take a long hard look at it,” he said. So he found a point where the main character’s storyline, as well as some of the supporting character’s developments, had reached a cliff-hanger.

He sent the first section out to a few people for feedback.

“So now the first novel is about 120,000. In addition to working on my third draft of the first book, I’m also working on the second draft of the follow-up.”

Sutton found his editor on an industry website that helps connect agents, editors, writers, illustrators and other literary professionals.”

“There is no guarantee that ‘Charlie Prince’ will be published, but I’m excited about this next step.” He will find out more in May, when his editor comes back with initial notes and a plan forward.

His advice to others? “Don’t wait. Just start writing.

“I had so many excuses for not writing. I was busy in the military, I was busy in school, I was busy with my job. I felt like I was not good enough. I felt like I still had to learn how to be a writer,” said Sutton. “I think having a near-death experience was a wakeup call — I didn’t have to be perfect, I just needed to start.”

Don’t even start at the beginning — start writing down scenes, ideas or character studies that interest you. Take a monologue from a movie you like and build a story around it.

“Pretty soon, your story will develop a momentum of its own.”

Pictured: Casey Sutton — serious, pipe-smoking writer.

Story First Published: 2020-04-24