Originally published on Quora.
As I prepare The Incumbent Coroner, my second novel in the Fenway Stevenson Mysteries, for publication on September 25, a fellow Quora user asked about the first novel I ever wrote.
It was a book I wrote in fifth grade called The Gadget Club Goes to Europe. The Gadget Club was a group of crime-fighting preteens with special remote controlled “gadgets”—a mini fighter jet, a mini helicopter, a mini car that could turn into a plane or a submarine. Rick and Donna were the co-leaders (who made googly eyes at each other but something was always keeping them apart, naturally). There was the brainy one, the bratty one, the jock, the cheerleader, the too-cool-for-school one… twelve kids (oy! too many characters!) fighting an international crime syndicate that stole the French state jewels and hid them in a ranch house in Normandy. (Rick's dad was the French ambassador, because of course he was.)
My father was an early adopter of the personal computer, and I typed it out on an Osborne 2 (with a 4″ monochrome screen!) using WordStar, and printed it on a daisywheel DTC printer (which was pretty much just an automated typewriter). I hand-designed all the covers on cardstock, using rub-on letters, and stapled them together using my school’s commercial-grade stapler. I remember carefully writing the title and my last name on the “spine”—just the edges of all of the pages next to the staples. I think I made about five copies of the book in total.
My friend and I planned The Gadget Club as a series that we would co-write, alternating authorship. (Looking back, it was probably barely novelette-length—probably about 10,000 words.) Each of us wrote a book and then stopped.