English Instructor Brock Adams Publishes First Novel, ‘Ember’

August 29, 2017 at 11:04 am

Brock Adams

Brock Adams’ first novel begins “with one little bit of magic,” and goes from there.

Adams, a senior instructor of English and creative writing at the University of South Carolina Upstate, where he is also director of the Writing Center, recently had that novel, “Ember,” published by Spartanburg’s Hub City Press. “Ember” also captured the 2016 South Carolina First Novel Prize.

A launch party for “Ember” will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 at Hub City Bookshop in downtown Spartanburg. A campus launch party is planned for 4 p.m. Sept. 12, 2017 in the J M Smith Board Room.

His promotional book tour kicked off with a reading at M. Judson Bookstore in Greenville on Aug. 21, the day of the total solar eclipse.

“It’s a great day to be doing a reading of ‘Ember’ because ‘Ember’ ultimately has to do with a celestial event,” Adams said at the reading.

At the novel’s start, the sun is dying, bringing on colder and colder weather and forcing husband and wife Guy and Lisa to focus on survival.

“It brings out the best in some of them and it brings out the worst in others,” Adams said. “Ultimately, ‘Ember’ ends up being the story of how do you deal with the things that life throws at you and how far are you willing to go to survive?”

When the power goes off — and stays off — Guy and Lisa soon realize their Upstate South Carolina town is no longer safe.

“I think that I just started off writing what I know,” Adams said, of his decision to set his science-fiction novel in the Upstate. “I’ve never lived in a city larger than Spartanburg.”

He grew up in Panama City, Florida, and went to school in Gainesville, Florida. He earned an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Florida and studied creative writing at the University of Central Florida’s graduate school program. After that, Adams joined the USC Upstate faculty.

Writing wasn’t Adams’ first career choice; in fact, it was his last. As an undergrad, he studied psychology, criminology and even pre-med, but realized he wasn’t interested in those courses.

“The only class I actually liked was a poetry class,” he said. “I said, ‘Well, here I am taking all these science and math classes and hating them, loving my poetry class. Maybe I’m doing the wrong thing.’”

Adams switched to creative writing, and “by the time I got done with undergraduate school I knew I was good at it,” he said.

In 2007, he published his first story in Eureka literary magazine.

“I must have sent a dozen stories to 50 different magazines and gotten so many rejection letters,” Adams said. “So finally getting the very first publication was a huge deal. 2007 was the first day I could call myself a published writer.”

Adams said Hub City Executive Director Betsy Teter encouraged him to enter “Ember” in the First Novel Contest.

“I was surprised and thrilled and relieved to win it because I’d been trying to get ‘Ember’ published for some time and to finally have it make it was a big deal,” he said. “It was the biggest moment of my life so far as a writer.”

“Ember” presents a world at once familiar and new as Adams takes his reader through once-booming, now desolate towns and cities, and a local landmark that is being used for purposes very different than the ones envisioned by its creators.

Adams said his favorite book is “Music of the Swamp” by Lewis Nordan, an author who could be called a magical realist.

“He leans much more on the realism side than the magical realism,” he said. “It’s very much set in the real world. It’s set in the South. It’s focused on language. It’s literary fiction but there’s still interesting things happening. I like the little touch of magic to the real world.”

Adams said the “Ember” story might not be over.

“It ends in kind of an open-ended way,” he explained. “It could be the end of the book if I was to never write another one, but there’s room for future books.”

Sequels could open up the story and take a wider look at the changed world.

“I picture looking farther into the future,” Adams said. “We really see how this world is changing as result of the sun becoming an ember and things getting colder and colder.”