A 72-year-old native of Sayreville is fulfilling his lifelong passion for writing with the publication of his first novel.
“The Off Season” is the debut novel by Stephen Heck, who lived in Sayreville for 52 years.
He currently resides in the Rio Grande section of Cape May County. The novel was published by SeaGrove Press, a publishing house that supports South Jersey authors.
“My wife, Janice, and I both grew up as kids on Forrest Avenue and lived on Cambridge Drive,” Heck said. “We moved to Rio Grande in 2007, just outside of the Wildwoods and Cape May, which are both minutes from our door.”
Heck previously worked for 36 years managing a distribution center for a national parts company. However, he had always been interested in writing.
“My mother, Marie, encouraged me to write and bought me a set of books about writing,” Heck said. “As a high school student and at Seton Hall University, I wrote numerous short stories.”
He said that having a passion for writing assisted him during his distribution management career.
“The ability to correspond with our remote corporate office regarding everything business-related was very helpful in keeping my bosses informed and at bay,” he said.
Now retired from the distribution industry, Heck has been able to turn his passion for writing into a full-length novel.
Heck described “The Off Season” as a beach read and a murder mystery with a supernatural undercurrent.
He said it focuses on David Farmer, an author who is living a reclusive life in a luxury high-rise condominium in Wildwood Crest. After Farmer encounters a fan on the Wildwood boardwalk, the eponymous shadows from his best-seller “Shadows: The Other Side” unexpectedly return.
Set mainly in the Wildwoods and Cape May, with the Amazon River region of Brazil playing a role, the novel also sees Farmer and his seventh floor neighbors become suspects when a serial killer strikes, according to Heck.
“It’s the off-season and the tourists have gone home,” Heck said. “Yes, the season is a bit off.”
In writing “The Off Season,” Heck said he was influenced by the 1956 film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and its concept of an entity attempting to replace people.
“I wanted to change the concept up and wondered about the idea of shadows coming alive,” he said. “While I didn’t follow the plot trajectory of the movie, I knew a variation could be just as scary. Living down here in far South Jersey, there is a rampant belief in the paranormal, with many people certain that ghosts haunt bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants. Ghost hunting and ghost tours are a cottage industry.”
Heck said he spent four years developing the novel’s plot and developing the characters who carry the action.
“Good plots are necessary, but characters have to be real and the reader needs to be invested in them, root for them,” he said. “Without that connection, readers don’t care what happens to them. It is also more effective to show readers what is happening through dialogue, as opposed to just being told by a narrator.”
The author thanked SeaGrove Press founder Ronald Rollet for helping him with “The Off Season”.
“Ronald Rollet guided me through the writing and publishing process,” Heck said. “I’m grateful to him.”
“The Off Season” can be purchased online through Amazon at: https://www.amazon.sg/Off-Season-Stephen-M-Heck/dp/1737373408