Sheriff ‘evolves’ in newest book of series by local author

By : 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY
SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE

In book nine of the Zeb Hanks series, “Native Trouble,” “Zeb has changed tremendously,” shared Spring Valley native and author Mark Reps, telling about the next installment in his book series about Hanks, a sheriff who encounters struggles both professionally and personally as he carries out his job of upholding the law. 

“He has grown into a bigger and better man,” said reps about Hanks, the main character in his latest book. “He has tragically lost one wife and found another.  His new wife is a unique person with a unique job in the keeping of Indian traditions and Native American history.  With her help and personal changes, he is dealing in a healthy way with his own inner demons as he ages.  Beneath it all, he is a good man who is constantly being tried.  In ‘Native Trouble,’ he is actually being plotted against, but he is blind to the enemy — ‘Native Trouble’ occurs during election season, and someone or some group is out to see that Zeb is not re-elected.” 

The author has made an effort to keep his readers busy with a new book in hand as soon as they’ve put down the last book, but that means that he’s continuously developing characters, be they Hanks or his new wife and the agitators that rise up to cause him problems. 

“I finish one book and then start the next almost immediately. I believe readers would much prefer two books a year, and I would like to be able to do that,” Reps said. “I love to develop characters.  There are new characters in every book, but in this book, they are all quite memorable.  They are funny, serious, empathetic types of characters whom the reader can relate to in many ways.  And to continue with a series allows for character growth and development over time.  The characters are real in the sense that they change and become something new in each book.  As with everyone, time changes everything.  The series grows into a life of its own after a while, and I, as the author, and you as the readers, want more and more from the character.  The series allows the readers to become involved with the main character and many of the minor characters.”   

Hanks has evolved since Reps first introduced him, and it’s that evolution that keeps Reps at his keyboard.  The sheriff has matured, finding the love of his life in Echo Skysong, he noted.  She also, because of his position as sheriff, is in danger. 

“From the very beginning, when Zeb makes an announcement, everything changes.  He is under great duress that continues throughout the story,” said the author. “Echo is bestowed with becoming the ‘knowledge keeper’ for all Indian people.  She becomes much more integral to the plot as it moves forward.  This novel is faster paced with greater conflict situations than the other novels.  I use more humor in this book as well.  I think the readers will enjoy a character named ‘Swig,’ and also, I use this book to lead directly into the next book.”    

“Native Trouble’ gave Reps a chance to push Hanks into a new space and way of thinking, according to Reps. He added that he really like the storyline, which required a different kind of research in terms of Native American beliefs. 

“It also required a deeper psychological look at Zeb, Echo and their relationship,” he said. “It is always exciting to write a new Zeb Hanks book because when I begin, I never really know where the book will take me.  A new novel, even with the same main character, is always somewhat like exploring uncharted territory.  I know Zeb well enough now to know what he thinks.  That is helpful.  As a writer, I actually feel like one of Zeb’s friends.” 

Reps observed that he also loves writing the new characters.  Through them, he was able to humanely address Alzheimer’s disease, aging in general, new life, middle-aged people and other themes. 

“Essentially, I was happy to write about people of all different ages.  Each point in life has its special circumstances, and I tried to address some of that,” he said. “I hope that the readers find the characters humorous, that they find compassion for them and generally enjoy being exposed to them.”     

While ideas come to him throughout his workday, he noted that he’s not always available to drop everything to write and research what he’d like to get in pixels or on paper since seeing patients in his chiropractic clinic always presents somewhat of a challenge.  If he has only the book to concentrate on, from start to finish, including writes, re-writes, edits and re-edits, he estimates he can complete a book in four to six months.  However, as he continue to work a couple days a week for half the year as a doctor of chiropractic and as an acupuncturist, it takes him about nine to 10 months. 

This year, though, he was able to write two books, “Native Roots,” a free novella available on Amazon, as well as “Native Trouble,” in the last 12 months. 

“Ideas flowed fairly easily this year.  I would like to put out a 10th book this year — ‘Native Fate’ will be book 10,” he said. “I know where I am going with that book, I think.  I have a brief outline and a good idea.  That is a good starting point.  I look forward to writing it.”  

He’s learned more about himself while getting better acquainted with Hanks.  He said he enjoyed writing a faster paced novel that was written with the intent of the reader thinking “I can’t put this down.  I have to find out what happens next.” His pre-readers he enlists all read it in a day or two because they couldn’t put it down, he noted. 

Book nine sweeps right into book 10, but when he writes book 10 he said he will have to decide about carrying on with the series or starting a new series, as he has written two books of a new series that he has not yet published. 

“But ‘Native Trouble’ is new, it’s exciting, it’s fast-paced, it’s a fun, enjoyable read that can be read by anyone who likes mysteries,” he said.    

“Native Trouble” is available online at Amazon in both e-book or paperback.  People can also get autographed paperbacks directly from Reps by contacting him at the website www.markreps.com.  Books one through four are available as audio books through the Amazon website or at Tantor Media at www.tantor.com.  He hopes that within the next year, all of them will be available in audio book format that has been professionally produced with the narration done by a professional actor who has won awards for his audio books.  Tantor Media is one of the largest audio book companies in the world, and the audio books should also be available in any local library across the country, he noted. 

“Please read it.  Please review it.  Amazon looks favorably upon reviews.  You only have to say a word or two, nothing elaborate.  The more five-star ratings on Amazon, the more they will advertise the book,” Reps said.  “Tell your friends.  Give it as a gift.  For those who don’t like to read books, get or give a copy of the audio version of books one through four.  I want to thank all the loyal readers of the ‘Zeb Hanks: Small Town Sheriff, Big Time Trouble’ series.”