It’s been an exciting year for Hiram alumnus Scott Starkey. In January, Simon & Schuster published his new novel, How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying. Geared to middle grade readers, this humorous “boy meets bully” tale has enjoyed strong appeal with parents and kids alike. But for Starkey, one of the year’s highlights will come on Saturday, August 4, when he returns to Ohio for a special book signing and reading at The Village Bookstore on Main Street.
What makes the upcoming event particularly notable is that Starkey’s How to Beat the Bully takes place in Garrettsville.
[pulledquote] “I can’t wait to read at The Village Bookstore in front of people who actually know what a Freddy Burger is [..]”[/pulledquote]“Besides my family and a couple of college buddies, everyone I know thinks Garrettsville, Ohio is a town I made up for the book,” jokes Starkey, who graduated from Hiram in 1993 before returning to Long Island in New York, where he has since married, raised a family, and spent the past 16 years teaching the fifth grade. “I can’t wait to read at The Village Bookstore in front of people who actually know what a Freddy Burger is, which I’m proud to say made it into the book.”
How did Starkey come to choose his setting? “The main character is a boy named Rodney Rathbone, who moves to Garrettsville from Queens, in New York City,” he explains. “Rodney is a self-admitted chicken and not exactly looking forward to the first day of school — especially when he learns that the school bully hates new kids. I wanted to pick a location completely alien to Rodney, someplace far outside his comfort zone, and I realized that Garrettsville is about as far from Queens as you can get. Of course, he winds up loving the town, but that’s all I’ll give away.”
Unlike the Rodney character, Starkey says his attraction to Garrettsville was immediate. “I was a freshman away at school for the first time. We headed over to Garrettsville from the Hiram dorms and it was like stepping into this very welcoming place that was also different enough from home that it felt exciting to an 18-year-old. It was the backdrop to my college years and now it’s the backdrop to my fiction. I’m just finishing up the third book in the Bully series and readers can look forward to plenty of more Garrettsville… even if they’re not sure it really exists.”
How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying is a fast-paced, fun read that pre-teens can’t put down, and that’s just what Starkey intended. “Today’s children have grown up with computers, TV, video games, and smart phones,” he concludes. “If a book is going to engage a young person, especially a boy, it better be able to stand up to the competition.”
More information on Scott Starkey’s 1 pm book event on August 4 is available by calling The Village Bookstore at 330-527-3010. For information on How to Beat the Bully, please visit www.simonandschuster.com.