PITTSBURG — About a decade ago, Janea Speer wrote a short story, but then set it aside. Earlier this year, however, she decided to revisit her earlier work after participating in the entrepreneur program at Possibility Junction in Pittsburg.
Over the last several months, Speer expanded the short story she wrote years ago, then worked with an editor at Archway Publishing to complete her novel, Searching For Fire, which went on sale on Amazon about a month ago. On Sept. 3 at 7 p.m., Speer will participate in a Local Author Night event at Root Coffeehouse, 802 N. Broadway, alongside Pittsburg State University Professor Mark Johnson.
“When I was 13 years old I went on an archaeological dig with the Girl Scouts for two months to the area around Albuquerque and Southern Colorado,” Speer said. “We went to Mesa Verde, we climbed the cliff ruins, we learned how to make arrowheads, throw spears, we dug in the dirt for pottery shards, we did all sorts of fascinating stuff. We made fry bread, learned how to make black pottery, things like that, and a lot of those memories from when I was 13 are kind of in this book,” she said.
“That was an amazing opportunity for me, you know, at 13 years old to be able to do that, and it’s still something that I remember to this day.”
Speer, who works at Finishing Touch custom framing, grew up in Pittsburg before moving away for several years and then moving back in 2008. Searching For Fire also draws on Speer’s memories and experiences, and folklore she learned about from traveling to and living in places including South Carolina, Germany, and here in Southeast Kansas, she said. Her children also had a lot of input on the book before it reached its final published form.
“It’s kind of a fantasy fiction story,” Speer said. “It’s kind of a young adult to adult level, it’s got some scary parts to it, it’s got some villains, so I always tell people young adult.”
Speer said Searching For Fire is the story of a “hero’s journey,” a narrative archetype described in the 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces by comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell.
“An epic battle ensues between two elemental gods, the Fire Spirit, Ahiga, and Wind Spirit, Haseya,” the book’s official description notes. “With the help of an unlikely guardian, a young woman pregnant with Ahiga’s child makes it to safety, along with her family, and survives the rebirth of the world. Ahiga, who broke the Elemental Code, is imprisoned deep within the earth.
“Due to Ahiga’s actions, other creatures have survived as well, shapeshifters decayed by evil. They should never be trusted.
“Many generations later, a young boy named Kokopelli and his sister named Mai rescue a baby from the clutches of the shapeshifter wolf pack, relying on the aid of a wise medicine man named Sani who hides a secret of his own. In order to protect the people of their village hidden among the cliffs, they must undertake a dangerous quest. They journey past the Snake River into forbidden territories and encounter numerous perils. A mysterious figure in the forest will direct their path towards Ahiga. But only time will tell whether they can track down the Fire Spirit in time to save their unsuspecting village community from an impending siege of shapeshifters.”
Copies of Searching For Fire will be available for sale and for signing by Speer at the Sept. 7 Local Author Night event at Root Coffeehouse.
“When I was younger and I tried to write, I wanted to be successful as a writer, and then when I picked this up again and started writing again, the only thing I really wanted was just to entertain somebody, like to tell a good story, you know?” Speer said. “I just hope it’s a decent story that people will enjoy.”