Although author and high school teacher Robert L. Slater left for college after graduating from Hoquiam High School in 1985, the library still has a special place in his heart.
“My father was a teacher at Hoquiam High so I would go over to the the Hoquiam Library or the YMCA that was right across the street at the time to wait until he could pick me up,” he said. “I spent many hours either reading or playing Foosball.”
This Saturday, Slater is returning to the library to talk about his new science fiction novel from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The book, titled “All Is Silence,” follows the story of Lizzie, a teenage girl living in Bellingham during an apocalypse started by an incurable illness.
After reading “Lord of the Flies” nearly 20 years ago, Slater said he felt unsatisfied by the hopelessness of the ending. He began writing a short story in response but put it away once he realized it was turning into a novel. He didn’t pick it back up again until his experience teaching at Windward High School in Ferndale led him to realize a need in young adult books.
“I’ve been teaching at an alternative high school for most of the previous 10 years and just had the idea that there weren’t enough female protagonists that students could identify with. These kids, they had different life experiences,” he said. “Once I got that idea, the character created herself. Her DNA is made of 30 to 40 people I’ve met through teaching.”
Students also helped him edit several of the story drafts. This allowed him to run the story past his target audience and get help finding errors.
“As an English teacher, it had an embarrassing amount of copy edits, you know all that red all over the paper. It’s better for it though,” he said.
This is only the first of three novels following Lizzie that Slater has in mind. He also has an idea in the works for 15 years in the future of the beginning of Lizzie’s story, about a woman who is raised in the forest near Lake Quinault.
The current book is being printed by an indie press, meaning he hired the editors and outer cover designer himself. Both the e-book and interior of the cover were produced by Slater. The final novel is then sent to a printer in New York for wide distribution.
“My goal was that when people picked it up that it wouldn’t be able to tell it’s self-published …,” he said. “I’ve had compliments by professional publishers who think it looks great. That’s been my goal and I think I made it most of the way there.”