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Shooting, passing the word

Sat., June 30, 2007

When team “Leepike Ridge” takes to the courts in the elite men’s division at Hoopfest this weekend, they hope to sink more than basketballs.

They’re looking to score a few readers, too.

The team’s moniker is also the title of a young adult novel written by N.D. Wilson, of Moscow. Along with Wilson, the four-man squad competing in Spokane’s three-on-three basketball tournament includes his childhood friend Joe Casebolt, literary agent Aaron Rench, and Rench’s friend Pete Robertstad.

“I’ve played in Hoopfest before, but I thought it would be fun to actually connect it to my book this year,” Wilson said.

“Leepike Ridge” is Wilson’s first book and was published in May by Random House, of New York.

The adventure tells the tale of 11-year-old Tom Hammond, who finds himself trapped underground in a system of rivers and caves. The boy falls asleep while floating downriver on a piece Styrofoam packaging, and wakes up just in time to be sucked under the mountain upon which his home is perched.

Wilson’s inspiration came from his experiences growing up in Idaho, and also from other literary works, including “Robinson Crusoe,” “Kim Solomon’s Mines,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and “The Odyssey.”

“It’s really a great conglomeration of old stories that he’s taken and combined in his own way, and retold them in a truly American setting,” said Rench, owner of Leaptide Literary Group in Moscow. “It is really unique and fun.”

The book was recently named as a “New Original Voice” by Borders Books, which notes works of distinction by debut authors, Rench said.

It’s the voice in the story that caught the attention of publishers, the agent said.

“One of the things I’ve enjoyed is making everything alive; there is a lot of personification,” Wilson said. Even the willow trees in the story are described with personality.

It took Wilson just 3 ½ weeks to write the first draft, the 28-year-old father of four said. The writing came naturally to Wilson, who is a professor at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, a small Christian college founded by his father, Doug Wilson.

“In sixth grade it’s something I realized that I already assumed I would do,” Wilson said. “The opening line came to me while I was brushing my teeth. That turned into the opening page which turned into the opening chapter; the whole process was very quick.”

Shortly after submitting the story to Random House, three other major publishers, including the publisher of the famed “Harry Potter” series came knocking. He signed a four-book deal with Random House. His next three books will be a young-adult fantasy collection.

“It’s such a fight to get published for so many people. I’m very blessed to have it come all of a sudden,” Wilson said.

This weekend, his team’s jerseys will have his first book’s cover printed on the back, as well as the Random House logo. Random House agreed to be a sponsor of the team.

“I think it was a little strange for them to think of this (Hoopfest) as a book publicity opportunity,” Wilson said. “I explained it’s kind of one of the bigger things we do here in the summers in this region and I was going to be playing anyway.”

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