Covington resident Joe Tompkins, who serves as the technology specialist at General Ray Davis Middle School in Rockdale County, said he knew he was moving in the right direction with his first novel based strictly on the feedback he received from a very particular critic.
The author of "Sleeping Beauty Overslept," which was published by Roswell-based Autumn Harbor Press and released in January, is a modern-day extension of the well-loved tale of Sleeping Beauty. Tompkins said he formulated the idea for the book more than five years ago but didn't totally commit to the project until he began reading chapters to his daughter Michelle, a third-grade student at Lorraine Elementary School, as a bedtime story.
"In December 2006, I had written the first three chapters of the book on a whim," said Tompkins, who has worked in the Rockdale County school system for 15 years. "I read the chapters to my oldest daughter, who was 7 at the time, and she was enthralled. And when I saw her reaction, I was hooked. It made me want to write more."
Within three months, Tompkins (who was egged on by Michelle's admonitions to "read more" of the story) had completed a first draft of "Sleeping Beauty Overslept," much to the delight of his daughter.
"She was very happy because she knew how it ended," laughed Tompkins. "She gasped at all the right places. Of course, now that I look back on it, it probably wasn't a very good bedtime story for her because she kept getting excited about it. But I've always enjoyed her reaction to the story."
The 284-page book, which Tompkins said is geared for middle school students and younger teenagers, is now available in stores and on Amazon.com, and he'll host a book signing event from 12-2 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, at Tattersall's Books in the Honey Creek Shopping Center.
Readers can take a sneak peek at one of the book's chapters on Tompkins' Web site (www.gepetosoftware.com).
Although Tompkins, who with his wife Lisa (a foreign language teacher at Davis Middle School) has two daughters - Michelle and 2-year-old Victoria - has been writing educational software for a number of years, he said he had only dabbled in fiction since he was a young man.
"I've been writing since I was a kid - you know, the kind of embarrassing stuff kids write," he said. "But I did get the discipline to write from an early age. I just considered it a hobby and never really did much with my little stories."
The Decatur native grew up in Rockdale County and lived in New York for several years before returning home, where he attended Heritage High School and graduated in 1989. He earned a degree in English from the University of Georgia in 1993, and in 2002 received his master's degree in adult education from UGA. His first foray into publishing came during his undergrad years, when his comic "Gepeto" was published in the Red & Black student newspaper.
His idea for "Sleeping Beauty Overslept" came when he wondered what would happen if, unlike the fairy tale classic, the lovely protagonist wasn't awakened until just recently. Of course, the nasty witch who put the original spell on the young woman also returns for Tompkins' story.
"I thought about what it would be like if Sleeping Beauty woke up in the modern world," said Tompkins, who has also written several other unpublished novels. "After the idea popped into my head, I'd work on it in my spare time, until my daughter got wind of it."
Although the book has only been out a short time, Tompkins said he's already received some nice feedback from readers.
"The teachers and students here at school have been very excited about the book," he said. "It feels kind of strange to be asked to sign the book for people. Everything I've heard and read so far has been positive, especially the online comments."
Now that he's published his first book, Tompkins said another story may not be too far behind.
"A year after I finished 'Sleeping Beauty Overslept,' I started working on another book, because my daughter just kept pushing and pushing me for another story," he said. "I've finished the first draft of a second book, which doesn't have a title yet but will be a sequel to 'Sleeping Beauty Overslept.'"
Autumn Harbor Publishing specializes in science fiction and fantasy stories, and Tompkins was asked if he felt that realm of fiction was his niche.
"I have no idea," he quipped. "I'm just excited to get a book published. All I know is I enjoyed the instant feedback I got from my daughter. But I can definitely see myself writing books aimed at kids and teenagers as Michelle gets older."