Adventure continues for children's book author - 2007

WALLA WALLA – The setting of Patrick Carman’s life and its main characters haven’t changed much in the last few years.

But the plot has taken a fantastic turn.

The 41-year-old father of two from Walla Walla has morphed from a business owner to a best-selling author signed by publishing powerhouses Scholastic and Little, Brown and Co.

His latest book for young adults, the science fiction Atherton: The House of Power, is due in stores in April.

“People always ask me, ‘How has your life changed?’ ” Carman said recently, sitting in his home office that’s packed with books, Atherton artifacts and photos of his kids. “(But) I think I always had this sort of lifestyle.”

Creativity certainly has been a major theme of his life.

After graduating from Willamette University in Salem, Carman operated his own advertising agency for 10 years. Then came stints developing board games and running an Internet company.

Along the way, he got married and had two daughters, Sierra, 11, and Reece, 9.

The girls often are among their dad’s first readers. Reece, a fourth-grader, even helped him come up with the idea for a series of chapter books for young children that he’s working on now.

It was his popular Land of Elyon trilogy that made Carman a name in the publishing world. He’s toured the country and visited hundreds of schools – more than 100,000 school children – talking about his stories of Alexa, a girl who grew up inside a walled city but wants to see the enchanted land beyond.

The series started with The Dark Hills Divide.

“We had a lot of kids come in looking for the book. They thought it was really great,” said Tammie Ross, owner of The Bookworm bookstores in Richland and Kennewick. “They dragged their parents in. They all looked forward to the second one and the third one.”

Now there’s another tale for kids to be excited about.

Carman came up with the idea for Atherton while he was on tour for the Elyon books. In the Frankenstein-inspired story, a doctor has created a three-level world that begins to change in ways people living there don’t expect. One of them is Edgar, an orphan and the book’s young hero, who’s on an important quest.

Atherton has themes of class struggles and caring for the Earth. It also includes plenty of interactive features for readers to check out online.

“One of the things kids seemed to enjoy (about Elyon) is things weren’t always as they seemed. There were surprises,” Carman said. “This is no different.”

Michelle Price, community relations manager for Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Kennewick, predicts Atherton will be just as popular as Carman’s other titles. He always draws a crowd of kids when he stops at the store for book-signings, she said.

“Every time he’s been at our store, that’s the way it’s been,” Price said. “He’s got a lot of fans.”

He does his writing in the office behind his home in Walla Walla, usually in the morning. He gets his kids off to school, checks his e-mail and maybe tries a crossword puzzle, then gets to work.

The small space is neat and uncluttered. There’s sleek black furniture but also a bright Spider Man stool. A 4-foot model of the Atherton world sits in a corner near his computers.

When Carman says his life hasn’t changed that much, he means his work schedule long has been flexible. But his life story’s plot twist has brought a new kind of creative fulfillment.

“Writing fits really perfectly for me,” he said.

A Land of Elyon prequel, Into the Mist, is due in stores later this year.

Patrick Carman