The Tale of Caleb Chandler’s First Novel
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Caleb Chandler did not go to college to become a writer, yet now he is a published author before earning his degree.
Chandler’s science fiction novel ‘Dark Ocean: A Memory of Solstice’ was published by Dark Tidings Press, a small publishing house in Oregon.
Chandler was raised in Girdwood through sixth grade. His parents moved to Anchorage for a few years before recently returning back to Girdwood. Today, Chandler has left the nest and is a senior studying at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis.
“At OSU, I study digital communication arts,” Chandler said, “which is an umbrella term for all media, anything between social media to film and TV to writing journalism, preferable more on the digital side. I also have a minor in business.”
During the holiday season of his freshman year, he began developing ideas and a general plot outline to Dark Ocean based on concepts from his imagination. Rather than plan his writing, Chandler put his thoughts into words to see what would happen. Eventually he envisioned the story and constructed a first draft.
“This book is a series,” Chandler said. “It’s not just one book. There was so much in my head. I wanted to write so many characters and plot lines from inspiration all around me from seventh grade until now.” He continued, “When I was younger, I always had a very live imagination where I thought of myself in a fantasy world, which made it a little distracting during school.”
Enrolling in an ‘Introduction to Fiction’ class, Chandler had to write a story with different perspectives intending to teach him different ways to write. In a more advanced writing class, he was assigned to write a 40,000-word novelette.
“I ended up going over 150,000 words because I came in with this giant thing,” Chandler said. “Luckily I had met the teacher before. He helped me through it. That was the writing class that shot me into completing this book.”
Understanding that writing is often gratifying, the experience also taught him patience and how to complete more complex goals in writing.
“Writing this story gave me this special outlet when I was kind of lonely and needed something comforting.” Chandler admitted. “I had this story and all of this imagination that I could write down. I would put on some nice music and make the lighting kind of cool. It put me into this atmosphere of this imaginative world I created with an outlet I really enjoyed.”
He also had to navigate the bad experiences in writing such as the mental fatigue of rereading his own work. Some days he even questioned his writing abilities such as when words would read amazingly one day and then interpret awfully the next.
“When you start to read your own work over hundreds of times, all you see is the bad.” said Chandler. “That’s when you bring more people in to look at it; friends, family, editors, publishers, because they really give you a better insight after yourself.”
Chandler’s skills have improved after he had learned to appreciate and use editors advice about what was working and what was not in his work. While he appreciates positive feedback—it will not improve his writing.
“Constructive criticism taught me the most needed thing,” Chandler said. “You definitely feel personally attacked when somebody tells you, ‘Oh, this is bad’ or ‘This isn’t good.’ You have to improve somehow. I think there was a fine line between arrogance and confidence when I wrote this.”
After Chandler passed a completed draft to his editor, it was returned months later, bleeding heavily with red ink from the overwhelming volume of comments, corrections and criticisms. Chandler had lessons to learn about story construction and the craft of writing overall.
He had never spoken to an author about writing styles until the novel was almost finished. Chandler’s writing had never faced the rigors of a professional editor. His biggest challenge may have been within himself. After he digesting the detailed criticism by the editor who did not like much of what he read, Chandler recognized that he needed to change his method of thinking.
“He hated half the story. He thought the plot was horrible. He corrected so much of my grammar.” Chandler said. “After reading that, I didn’t look at my writing for about two weeks because I didn’t want to see everything he said.”
When Chandler finally moved on and decided to read it again, he changed his thoughts and gave the editor credit saying, “I have to thank him a lot because he fixed almost the entire story. It was true. I had to finally realize that.”
Chandler’s second book is in its second draft and should soon be completed for publishing. Eventually, he plans to write a six-part series if all goes accordingly. However, he envisions writing as a hobby rather than a career. He said he has never really given himself a break from writing because of how fun and fulfilling he finds it. He is proud to have produced something with his imagination while attending college.
Describing Dark Ocean, Chandler calls it modern high-fantasy with super powers and other worlds and races within modern day Earth. It follows six individuals who possess abilities that relate to the six elements: air, earth, fire and wind, with the newly added—life and mind.
“It’s a whole adventure about these people finding out who they really are and play to the imagination of peoples’ minds and creativity.”
The six characters come from an organization called Xelix who discovers a planet called Solstice — similar to Earth but uncharted. The plot reveals the characters realizing many aspects regarding their past and how their powers relate to this new planet. They discover a wide range of conflicts that have been happening for centuries.
Chandler concluded by offering advice to aspiring authors. He said, “If anyone else is interested in writing a book, I won’t say it’s easy. If you really have an idea you want to bring to life, start by writing on a piece of paper and seeing where it goes. The best inspiration comes from the world around you.”