By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Anyone who has worked with Robert Poulin on issues involving independent living knows how dedicated and determined he can be.
As the executive director for the North Country Center for Independence, Poulin has enthusiastically been an advocate for those who need a little guidance in their daily lives.
But Poulin has recently embarked on another interest that he approaches with just as much enthusiasm, a hobby of sorts that he finds time on the weekends to pursue: writing fantasy novels.
“When I was little, I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction,” Poulin said recently as he discussed the process he followed to publish his first book, “Wail of the Banshees.”
“From a young age, I wanted to be a writer, but then I moved on (with career decisions that brought him eventually to advocacy for people with disabilities). I’ve been with NCCI for 13 or 14 years, and that has taken a lot of my time and energy.”
Although the writer’s bug may go dormant at times, it never truly goes away, and Poulin began thinking about his interest in fantasy writing a few years ago.
He began down the path of creating his fantasy world about a young college girl who is murdered in Philadelphia, and then, as a ghost, helps the Philly police department find her killer.
“I started writing this three years ago,” he recalled. “It took about seven months to write it and revise it in my own inexpert way.”
The book turned into much more than a ghost story/mystery, however. Veronika Kane, the central character, quickly learns in afterlife that the ghost world is a wild, crazy fantasy land filled with both good and evil creatures.
It’s her initiation into this world that carries Veronika, and the reader, through a whirlwind of adventure, mystery and suspense.
Upon finishing his work, Poulin began searching publishers through the typical agent-search format but was met with the standard rejection slips over and over again.
“We live in very different times in the publishing world,” he said. “With the demise of Borders, shelf space (on the nation’s bookstores) has been cut literally in half. Publishers are going with the people they already have stock in. They’re rarely taking on new authors.
“I really started to look around at what I could do with self-publishing. It’s not only a viable way to go, but as far as business goes, it makes sense to self-publish.”
But Poulin did not want to move forward with what might be an inferior product and decided to seek additional help in the form of an editor to check his writing and an artist to work on his cover.
“I wanted this to be professionally done,” he said. “I wanted to do everything I could to make this as professional as possible.”
Being legally blind, Poulin was first able to receive small-business grant money for people with disabilities to start up a new business. It was a grueling process, he recalled, but he was successful in taking that step to help procure financial support for editing and artwork.
“I decided that I wanted to make this as local a process as possible,” he said, opting to hire people from the area rather than use professional services available online.
He knew a young artist, Hannah Carr, whom he shared his manuscript with in an effort to convince her to take on the job of cover design.
“When I started to read the book, I knew that it needed an editor,” Carr said of Poulin’s rough draft.
She then introduced Poulin to Jaimee Finnegan, who had recently graduated from college with a degree in English literature.
“When I got the book, I thought I’d give it a little critique, maybe fix some grammatical structures,” Finnegan said of her arrival onto the scene. “But when I started reading, I realized this was going to be something big.”
Finnegan and Poulin then began to collaborate on the manuscript, with Poulin accepting many of the ideas and suggestions his new editor offered.
“When he sent (the revised manuscript) back to me, and I saw what it was becoming, I could see the potential,” Finnegan said. “It was becoming brilliant.”
Carr also worked closely with Poulin to come up with what they thought was the best visual perception of the world Poulin had created from a mixture of real-time Philadelphia and the fantasy world of Philadelphia’s non-living.
Poulin then used the Create Space publishing system operated by Amazon.com, and the book is now available through Amazon, Kindle and other electronic outlets and will soon be available through online book orders at Barnes and Noble.
Poulin has also hired local Web designer Don McBrayer to create a Web page that is as energetic as the novel itself.
The first three chapters of “Wail of the Banshee” are available for review on Poulin’s website, www.ghostwatchpublishing.com.
Poulin has already completed the second volume of his trilogy and has begun the third volume.
Email Jeff Meyers:firstname.lastname@example.org
"Wail of the Banshee" is available for $14.99 for the paperback edition at Amazon or $4.99 for the e-book. For more information, visit www.ghostwatchpublishing.com.