European travel inspires alum’s penchant for writing

A Linfield alumnus recently published a novel inspired by a post-graduation trek through Western Europe.

Caleb Kearns, class of ‘08, said that he began writing his debut novel, “A Journal Away from Life,” during a four-month backpacking trip.

Kearns described the novel as a mix between a romance and a murder mystery, with elements of travel mixed throughout.

The novel chronicles a father’s journey to Italy to identify his son’s corpse. As he travels, the father reads his son’s journal in an attempt to decode the mystery of his death. The journal tells the father more about how his son lived than about how he died.

Kearns said that his European travels led him to encounter most of the people who inspired the characters in his novel.

“Readers tend to be more uninterested in these characters because they don’t pertain to the murder mystery element of the story,” Kearns said. “But to me they are the most important part because their interactions illustrate the human experience. It’s not about how we died or when we died; it’s about who we were when we died.”

Kearns’ trip also provided him with inspiration for the setting of the novel, which takes place in Cinque Terre, Italy.

The hardest part of Kearns’ writing process, he said, was finding time to devote to composing the novel.

He said he began writing in Italy but found it difficult to continue the process once he returned home to North Carolina. “I needed complete isolation,” he said. “There was this nine-month period that I couldn’t find any length of time to write, so I finally took 12 days off work and stayed in a friend’s cabin in Bend, Ore.”

Kearns said that it was important for him to find a friend who thought differently than he did to edit his work.

“My friend, Matt Hall, was able to edit my work ruthlessly because he wasn’t attached to my style and because it wasn’t material he would ever want to read on his own,” Kearns said. “And if he told me that I nailed a section, I could take it as a genuine compliment.”

Kearns said that “A Journal Away from Life” has been the biggest accomplishment of his life.

“When you finish writing — nobody can take that moment away from you,” he said. “I’ve been on state champion teams, in show productions on a wide scale and in films where I’ve seen the finished product. None of those moments compared with the moment I finished this book.”

Kearns said he discovered his voice in writing while taking creative writing classes at Linfield’ under Professor of English Lex

“Lex told me that if you’re the type of person who imagines new people and things on a daily basis, then you have to find a way to create,” Kearns said. “He’s the reason I switched my major from math to creative writing.”

Kearns said he advises aspiring writers to actively seek their genre and become excited about it.

“If you have a passion for writing, then make time, make it a priority and find the story first,” Kearns said. “You’ll be amazed at how easyit is to write when it electrifies you.”

Joanna Peterson, Culture editor

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