On a cold and rainy night in the downtown streets of Dallas, a young Baylor student found himself being mugged by thugs and right when he thinks he is about to die, a small blue dragon crawls out of his front pocket to save him. Or so was the dream that led School of Education freshman Alex Patterson to write his award-winning fantasy novel, Choices. Patterson always had a passion for reading and mythology and began wondering what it would be like to fight dragons, live like a king and venture into magical realms.
From that dream, Patterson had his first character, Aiden, a dragon meant to help the protagonist of the story, Richard Örlander find his way while waging war and dealing with temperamental Nordic gods. Set in the Germanic Iron Age around 1000 B.C., Patterson’s novel is all about the choices Örlander makes: good vs. evil, right vs. wrong and war vs. peace.
“Books are alive. The connection between reader and book is evident in our empathy with its characters. I see the characters as living, breathing, figments of my imagination,” Patterson wrote in his blog.
With such a passionate love for books it wasn’t that hard to spend over 500 hours writing, editing, and rewriting Choices during his junior and senior years in high school.
Patterson also took inspiration from his Norwegian heritage, some ideas from Beowulf and Fahrenheit 451. Although Patterson’s main character makes both good and bad choices, he believes readers should form their own ideas of Örlander’s character.
“In the book Fahrenheit 451, we view it as a story about government censorship but he (Ray Bradbury) wanted it to be about media and TV,” Patterson said. “So it is with Choices. The main message is that the ends do not justify the means, but if people come up with a different meaning it’s ok. It’s art. What you get out of it is your own personal experience.”
Choices went on sale on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble in December 2015 still, Alex said the process of getting Choices published was a challenge. Patterson received a lot of rejection letters and a few acceptance letters. However, those publishers wanted Patterson to change the moral dilemma of the main character.
“Eventually I decided I write for my own amusement and I don’t want to be a writer as a full time career,” he said.
But publishing wasn’t the biggest challenge. Patterson said the idea of not hating what he already had written was a problem. He had read his novel 12-13 times before the story was eventually accepted as publishable. He said he liked his characters, the themes, and the plot, but he was scared of making grammatical mistakes.
Although writing is his favorite hobby, Patterson wants to focus in on his career as a teacher. As a University Scholars freshman, Patterson is concentrating in secondary education social studies, creative writing, and religion. Currently tutoring at Cesar Chavez Middle School, he would like to be a religion or history teacher at a small private school after he graduates. Alex wants to teach because of the support he received inside and outside the classroom from his teachers in high school.
One message he hopes to convey to students is this: “If you find something you enjoy, you should do it.”
So can we expect another book from this driven freshman? Patterson said that even though he doesn’t want to be a full-time writer, he is currently 20,000 words deep into a new book about the Alaskan gold mining era, a story that explores Russian and American business conflicts.
“It (Choices) is maybe going to pay for a few cups of coffee at Common Grounds down the line, but I’m not going to retire off of this,” he said. “I’m still going to be a teacher.”
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