Upon leaving the world of corporate communications, Michael J. Roueche decided to brush up on his history.
Living in Virginia at the time, Roueche was particularly interested in the Civil War, and resided within a two-hour drive of infamous battle sites like Antietam, Gettysburg and Manassas. He spent a few years traveling, learning and researching, but it wasn’t until a “mystical” experience on the way back from apple-picking in Manassas that he decided to write his first novel, “Beyond the Wood.”
Roueche and his wife, Susan, who now have lived in Parker for five years, came across a man in an old pickup. The truck had a Virginia insignia on the door and was towing a trailer loaded with cut wood. It was sitting in the middle of the road and Roueche stopped to see if he could help. The man, who was missing a leg, much like a famous Confederate general at the nearby battlefield, said he was out of gas and had a flat tire on the trailer.
Roueche thought it was odd that the truck incurred two issues simultaneously, but shrugged it off as coincidental misfortune and even saw the flat tire. After helping, Roueche was returning to his car and turned around to find that the man, truck and trailer had disappeared.
“We drove down the street and couldn’t find him,” Roueche said. “There was another way he could have gone, but it was a really risky way.”
The 57-year-old was further inspired after attending a Civil War re-enactment in Michigan and reading Michael Shaara’s epic novel, “The Killer Angels,” which a friend had loaned to him. He had never attempted to write a novel, but the story poured from his fingers and onto his computer screen.
“Every morning, I got up with a huge desire to write,” he said.
Roueche spent four to five hours per day, six days a week for six months penning “Beyond the Wood,” a 514-page Civil War adventure and romance novel that takes place within the context of historical events.
Roueche began the process with an outline in his head of a modern short story, with a novel inside of that short story. He says it “ranks as one of my most enjoyable and memorable labors.”
After being picked up by Vesta House Publishing and getting into the right hands, the book was met with praise. It won, among other honors, the John Esten Cooke Award, a distinction given annually by the Military Order of the Stars and Bars to writers of fiction who accurately portray characters and events in Southern history.
“Your book, ‘Beyond the Wood,’ was one of our finest winners of the John Esten Cooke Award that I have been privileged to review during my long tenure as chairman of the literary committee,” said Charles H. Smith, who presented the award to Roueche. He later said “remember my parting words to you, ‘Go write me another great book.’”
The Rowley Downs resident was so invigorated by the positive feedback that he has already followed Smith’s advice. He recently began self-editing the sequel to “Beyond the Wood,” but admits that he has a list of 50 possible names for the book from which he must choose.
Roueche, a father of five adult children, is relishing his newfound career and has no plans to stop anytime soon.
“I think it will have to be a trilogy,” he says. “We’re not far enough along in the war (to stop now).”
“Beyond the Wood” is available in trade paperback and for Kindle (via Amazon) and Nook (via Barnes and Noble).