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By Terry Dean
Many aspiring adult authors have yet to pen their first book.
At 15, Christopher Calhoun has already published his second, and that book is now being shopped around Hollywood by his publishers as a possible feature film.
Calhoun, a junior at Oak Park and River Forest High School, has been writing since he was 9. He has spiral notebooks filled with complete and incomplete stories. His first published book, Heartland, is a children's story, hitting the bookstores when he was only 11. His second book, Secrets of the Untold Spirits, came out in October, the fictional account of a shy, high school girl's experiences with reincarnation, and how it helps her uncover secrets from her own past.
Calhoun first came up with the idea in seventh grade while attending Brooks Middle School. He finished writing in September 2009. Calhoun and his mom, ChaJuana, submitted the manuscript to their publisher, Xlibris Corp., this past spring.
"It was a pretty fast process, only because, I guess, they could see a lot of what he wrote," she said. "From the time of submission until they were done, I think the longest part was the editing — back and forth, with them sending it back and he's [revising], and you had to do a chapter at a time. There's 22 chapters, so he had to do homework and then go edit."
The publishers told Calhoun they believed the book could be made into a movie — he said he always saw it as a film. But there's no timeframe on when that might happen, they told the family. First, they need to submit a "treatment," a detailed outline of the story, prior to developing an actual screenplay. Once a screenplay is written, it goes into a Hollywood database where producers, directors and studio execs browse for new material. Calhoun would keep the rights to his book.
Secrets is the first in a series, he says. He has an idea of how it will end, but whether that takes three books or 10, he plans to play it by ear. The subtitle is "The Soul Seeker."
Calhoun says he wants his book to be better than Harry Potter, perhaps even another film franchise. It was stories like these, told to him by his mother, that sparked his imagination and he began making up his own. His characters, he said, resemble him and experiences he's gone through.
Of Ginger McFraiddee, the teen protagonist in Secrets, he says, "She's shy with some friends, and then she goes out with the most popular guy in school, who's captain of the football and basketball teams, and who has all of these friends and goes to all of these parties, but then her life changes in a split second.
"The purpose of that is to show that somebody else always influences you to change in a way either good or bad," he said. "You have to try to cope with that. Do you want to change or do you not want to? My life in school, I'm not hanging out with the popular crowd as much. I'm with my own set of friends. And I just go back to that — how would my life be if I just ditched my regular friends and go with these people?"
Calhoun and his mom started their self-publishing company, Rainbows Publishing Inc., when he was 13. He created the logo and the artwork in Heartland.
"The goal of the business is to help others," his mom said, "to motivate and inspire kids the way Chris did. Every book signing he went to, he made a difference to those kids."