“My Problem with Doors” will pull young readers in with adventures, teach them about life, love
You wake up with a scream, frantically scanning your surroundings, looking for proof that the world you just narrowly escaped was only a figment of your vivid subconscious. How many times have you emerged from a life-like nightmare only to realize that it would be great fodder for a book? Lansing-based author Scott D. Southard’s new novel “My Problem with Doors” began forming in his mind when he experienced a unique and horrifying dream: “I was at home and walked through a door and ended up in another’s house in another time. I remember that fear of the realization and the shock and depression of knowing that I couldn’t go back to the life I had left behind.” Southard saw his vision through to create a big and entertaining story.
The novel’s protagonist, Jacob, has composed a plea for help, hoping that his potential readers would be able to find a way to solve his problem, even though he himself has had no luck with it at all. “I loved the idea of picking up a book that seemed to talk directly to me,” the author muses, “like a secret only I could hear.”
It all began when our hero was quite young, just barely old enough to reach the knob of his nursery’s door. He stood on tip-toe and clumsily pushed it open, only to find himself transported to late 19th century British-occupied Cape Town, where he was brought up by a kindly lieutenant before being transported once again some years later. Of course, there are certain exceptions to his condition. Not every door will transport Jacob to a new time and place. In fact, only about 1 in 20 offers passage of this kind; it’s all in the luck of the draw.
Many adventures await Jacob on his quest; he truly needs to be prepared for anything when he crosses through: pirates, gladiators, samurais, the desolate future of humanity, love, a place to belong Jacob even comes across some well-known historical figures, like Percy and Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Jack the Ripper. When asked to neatly sum up the story’s complex tapestry of plot, characters and settings within a single sentence, Southard described “My Problem with Doors” as “the story of Jacob who is lost in time; these are his adventures, struggles, battles, loves and trials in trying to find a way back home.”
The author set out to create a work of fiction that could not be neatly categorized as a single genre or for a single audience. “I felt if I created something that fit many modes, not only would it have something for everyone, but it also will be that much more unpredictable and surprising,” says Southard. He hopes that the book’s crossover into sci-fi, action-adventure, historical fiction, martial arts and romance will offer something for most readers.
Reading through it, I have become convinced that “My Problem with Doors” lends itself very well to young male readers—an often under-approached readership. Adolescent and young adult boys will love living vicariously through Jacob as he uses his wit and battle skills to conquer foes, commandeer a pirate ship and even fall in love. Through a yearning for adventure, these readers will also learn a bit of history and be compelled to contemplate the deeper meaning that exists within the story’s action-packed pages.
Jacob is a “man looking for meaning in his plea, he is calling to a maker for guidance”, Southard explains; “the voice and the hope in it changes, it begins as a plea, it turns into a confessional and, by the end, it is almost a journal or philosophical introspection for Jacob.” Though he did not set out to write a humanist work, the end product’s themes resonate in this way with the author, who cites Joseph Campbell, Kurt Vonnegut and Joss Whedon as influences.
Melissa LR Handa is the founder and organizer for the Ann Arbor Classics Book Group and the Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. Her goal is to make classic literature more accessible to the everyday reader.