My New Novel — Try to Kiss a Girl

July, 1969 — The Apollo Eleven astronauts are hurtling toward the moon, and somewhere down below,  two eleven-year old boys who meet on vacation launch their own mission — to try to kiss a girl before the week is over.

It’s a hot week in the lusty resort town of Grand Haven, Michigan, where Patrick Cantwell — the juvenile delinquent from Never Hug a Nun – meets a new friend who reveals to him the secret of the ages… where babies come from. GrandHaven_cover-5-11-w-retro-action-layer-LOW-RES

Astonished and ashamed that he has overlooked this hidden activity at work throughout history, an activity which apparently even Abraham Lincoln knew about, Patrick wonders what else he has missed and decides he needs to open his eyes and start living.

Shaking hands with his new friend Rex on a five-dollar bet, Patrick rockets into high orbit to try to be the first to kiss a girl before their vacation is over.

But it’s not that easy.  There’s Mr. Jawthorne, the protective father of the kissable, young Tammy and her ChapStick-loving friend Ginny.  There’s a biker just back from Vietnam on a road trip to no longer be a killer who meets two boys in Grand Haven he’d just love to kill.  And there’s Patrick’s big Catholic family whose puzzle nights, dirty diapers and warnings about sin and death threaten to cost Patrick five bucks.

Try to Kiss a Girl is a Kodak snapshot of the station wagon era, when the simulated wood grain was unfaded, and parents were young and a cooler full of orange soda and WonderBread sandwiches prevented back seat anarchy.  Well, most of the time.

Up ahead — beyond the Burger Chefs, the Sinclair Dinosaurs and Stuckey’s – was a rental cottage with crooked floors and a lake view, a land of relaxed adult supervision and freedom.  A place where an eleven-year old boy could body surf on a red flag day, ignore thoughts of the approaching school year, work on his pinball game at the Khardomah Lodge and try to figure out someway, somehow… to kiss a girl.

Blank Slate Press Publisher Kristina Blank Makansi plans to release the book July 1, 2014.

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Never Hug a Nun Wins Ben Franklin Award

The Independent Book Publishers Association awarded Never Hug a Nun its 2013 silver award in the Humor category.BenFrankSilverEnhanced

“This is the only award I’ve won since high school when I got ‘most improved sophomore,’” said author Kevin Killeen, “and that was due mostly to my poor showing freshman year.”

Killeen noted that he shares the silver, runner up category with the fine humor book Who Peed on My Yoga Mat?

The gold medal went to Uncle John’s 25th Anniversary Fully Loaded Bathroom Reader.

“Obviously, the competition was tough,” Killeen said, “We were up against two books that included a bathroom theme.”250px-BenFranklinStore

Killeen also wondered if the Ben Franklin award judges may have been swayed by the chapter of his comic novel in which the eight-year old boy main character robs a Ben Franklin candy store.

“That may have hurt us, or helped us,” Killeen said, “There’s no telling.”

Killeen is looking forward to the day when a box of silver medallion Ben Franklin stickers arrives that he can put on the copies of the book he gave to his children, so they will know their dad is award winning.

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David Carkeet, Bogart and Me

THE ORIGINAL DRAFT of Never Hug a Nun was boxed in my basement next to some paint buckets, neglected for eighteen years, when Humphrey Bogart and David Carkeet intervened.

David Carkeet working up a joke

David Carkeet working up a joke

Carkeet, my 1990s novel-writing professor from the University of Missouri St. Louis, (author of Double Negative, The Full Catastrophe, The Error of Our Ways and From Away) was retired in Vermont watching TV with his wife — a show about screen writing called “Tales from the Script.”

Humphrey Bogart demonstrates the art of revising a novel in The African Queen

Humphrey Bogart demonstrates the art of revising a novel in The African Queen

Someone being interviewed compared the task of revising to Bogart in The African Queen, getting back in the leech-infested waters to pull the boat.

“Kevin Killeen said that eighteen years ago in my class!” Carkeet said turning to his wife.

“Who the heck is Kevin Killeen?” she said.

Always eager to cause trouble,  Carkeet went to work.  The following Monday he emailed me about the show, prodding me to revise Never Hug a Nun and submit it to this new Indy Publisher, Blank Slate Press.  Then came the lit fuse:

“I did a rash thing,” his email said, “I wrote and told them about your book.  They’ll be expecting to hear from you.”

Kevin Killeen pretending to be hard at work

Kevin Killeen pretending to be hard at work

Reluctantly, I climbed back into the water and started revising, taking half a year or so to hack through the jungle and pull the boat forward.

Eventually, the rains came and despite my efforts, the boat lifted out of the swamp and Never Hug a Nun was published.

So it’s not all my fault.  Some of the blame goes to David Carkeet and Humphrey Bogart, and of course to the rain.

To get your copy of Never Hug a Nun, please go to Amazon.com.

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UPDATE: Women React to Never Hug a Nun

WEBSTER GROVES, MO – With 80 percent of all books in America purchased by women, this vital demographic is weighing in on a novel featuring grade school boys in trouble.

One female reviewer objected to the tale of boys constantly peeing on bushes and running amok while their moms are home baking cookies.

Another reviewer, “Simply Stacie,” reports the story stirred her to root for the main character “like I was his mother.”  She also says she “couldn’t put it down,” anxious to find out how it would end for her young hero.

http://www.simplystacie.net/2012/12/never-hug-nun/

Meanwhile, parish moms in the vicinity where the book takes place have pulled the author aside with their heads shaking to ask, “Did you really do all this stuff?”

It was the 1960s, after all, and there were fewer rules, no cell phones, and boys were only expected to “be home for dinner.”

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A Fool’s Novel Welcomed by a Forgiving Public

WEBSTER GROVES, MO — They filed past the book signing table like well-wishers filing past the casket.

Hundreds of friends, relatives and sympathetic strangers turned out for a series of events marking the release of Never Hug a Nun.

Kind people, many of whom left dishes in the sink, ventured out to get a copy of the novel at Charlie Brennan’s Fontbonne Book of the Month Club taping Nov 27, at the KMOX Holiday Radio Show Dec 3, and at the Webster Groves Book Shop Dec 8.

Many of the men whispered confessions of their own delinquent past as they purchased the book, then hid it under arm and hurried to their car.  Most touching was the procession of parish mothers, some of whom remember the author as a “troubled student,” purchasing two or three copies to impress upon their grand children the dangers of going the wrong way.

At the Webster Groves Book Shop, owner Ann Foy put out a small dish of lightly-salted peanuts for customers to enjoy during this cough and flu season.  Foy awarded the prize to a couple who had driven the farthest — all the way from Belleville, Illinois — a free pencil marked “Webster Groves Book Shop.”

When the day was done, almost a hundred copies of the book had been sold.

“That’s pretty good,” Foy said.

Killeen thanked the management, then walked home in a cold, overcast mist.  Feeling a little queezey from all the attention, and the expired Gatorade he drank,  Killeen watched with interest as a red fire engine with sirens blaring rifled down Main Street.

His first thought was that if life were a novel, he would arrive home to find his own house had burned down from the Christmas tree he left on.   But it turned out to be some distant, unknown calamity affecting someone else.

“God help those who are in trouble,” he mumbled — a prayer the nuns had forced the students to say whenever they heard sirens. NHAN - table top sign - v 3-1

At home he found his family was all gone, except his 15-year old son Jack playing a soldier video game.  The last video game the author played was an Atari space invaders game in the 1970s.  The space invaders always won.

He sat down in a chair listening to the machine gun fire from the TV in the next room, and wondered what all the people who bought the book would think about it after they read it.

Killeen is scheduled to do a reading from the book and sign more copies at the newly-rennovated Central Library on Olive Street in Downtown St. Louis on Tuesday, Dec 11 at 6:30 p.m..

The book is available at the Webster Groves Book Shop, Left Bank Books, Subterranean Books, Amazon.com, and soon at St. Louis area Barnes and Noble locations.  

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UPDATE: Never Hug a Nun Goes to the Printer

AN ALL NEW ARRANGEMENT of words from the English language, Never Hug a Nun will be held together with a good-smelling glue binding. Written in a style reminiscent of the fine print on a box of Chiclets, this debut novel is easy to digest and contains numbered pages and chapter markings so readers can tell where they are.

Departing from routine of so many novels being “too good to put down,” Never Hug a Nun can be put down as fast as three bags of groceries you just carried in with a full bladder.  It’s nourishing pages will refresh readers and prepare them to face life, the way a boy of ten is prepared to dash upstairs when Mom asks for help unloading the dishwasher.

Leafing through the completed manuscript, we find a typical passage showing how the youth of yesterday, uncorrupted by video games and gadgets, learned to make their own fun in a wholesome, constructive way:

“So, they wandered up to the tracks.  They stole tomatoes from the gardens along the tracks and threw them at Bi-State buses.  It was a moment of perfect happiness to watch the tomatoes leave their fingertips, arch off the bridge, and goosh against the bus windows splattering red pulp and seeds down the side.  If they were lucky, the bus would stop and the passengers would climb out and chase them.  But most of the time, the buses just kept going.”

 It was obviously a more moral time, but also a time of when boys knew how to sit still in class and study:

“He looked back at the girl.  Ebby was sitting in the desk next to his, writing her name on a piece of paper – in cursive.  Wow.  He and the other first-graders only knew how to print.  But it was not her penmanship that made him shiver as if he had just swallowed cough syrup.  Maybe it was her black hair streaked with light brown, her smart eyes intent on her cursive letters, her no-good-for-sports stick arms, her plaid jumper and green socks in brown tassel shoes.  Despite the way he always felt like burping around other girls, his mind ran away with her to the golf course.  He was with her on the fairway by the railroad tracks, holding her fingertips, dancing with her in big wide circles.  It was the new thing and it was breathtaking.”

AS READERS WILL RECALL, there was no more powerful feeling than the new thing —  that unprecedented jolt when a warehouse full of never-before-used endorphins  dumped into the bloodstream of a boy or girl on a spring day.

The book also contains some sentences that early reviewers have hinted rise almost to the level of literature:

“Gross, what stinks?” he blurted out.

There may be some other examples, but that’s for the reader to discover.

Now that the book is completely edited and spel-checked, it’s gone to the printer and nothing can stop the presses, except for an unpaid printing deposit. We hope you enjoy fine literature in your home and will give Never Hug a Nun a try.  It’s the kind of book that people will talk about at cocktail parties, and then they’ll laugh and you’ll get a full view of their dental work.

Blank Slate Press is proud to release Never Hug a Nun, a feral cat of a book that has been scratching at the back door all summer, eager to run along the fence line looking for slow mice or strangers who might stoop over and understand it and love it.

If you know anyone like that, please contact the authorities.

Sincerely,

Kevin Killeen

P.S. The book is due out in late November, and can be wadded up to fit in most Christmas stockings.  To find out more and reserve your copy, please click here.

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Johnny Rabbit Interviews Kevin Killeen about Life and Times

Legendary St. Louis broadcaster Johnny Rabbit interviews me about my work, my debut novel and about growing up in St. Louis in the 1960s. This visit includes Johnny Rabbit’s recollections of acting as Master of Ceremonies for a Beatle’s concert, and his day spent hanging out with the Fab Four.

Here is the link to the interview–let me know what you think!

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