MATTHEWS – There’s one thing Michael Ham has learned from publishing his first novel: never give up on a dream.
The 69-year-old Matthews resident recently published “The Poet: A Scrapbook in 4/4 Time,” a novel that was 35 years in the making. Ham self-published the book through Outskirts Press under the name “M. Logan Ham.”
“The Poet: A Scrapbook in 4/4 Time” follows the story of a Keith Neal, focusing on his journey to self-discovery from 1966 to 1972 – something Keith accomplishes through his poetry.
Readers also follow Keith’s physical journey from Thailand to Denver, Chicago and, ultimately, California – the “inspirational place … where he has to face up to himself and to what he expects or hopes to get out of life,” Ham said.
Ham started writing the novel more than three decades ago, when he was living in Malibu, Calif. He had written about two-thirds of the book by hand when he abruptly stopped, not knowing where the story should go or what should happen to the main character. Ham found his handwritten manuscript in a box several years ago and decided to give it another go.
“I pulled (the book) out, and it sort of finished itself,” Ham said, adding it took about six months to type up the handwritten manuscript, write the last third of the novel and mold it all together.
The most difficult part of the whole process, Ham said, also was the part that made him abandon the book for years – not knowing how the story should end or what should happen to the character.
“I always had the title for this thing, but I didn’t have the product. I didn’t have the poetry,” he said. “The poetry I was writing 35 years ago would not have fit with this character or with the story of where he goes.”
Ham said the book contains about 40 poems, all of which are supposed to be written by the main character and reflect where he is at a given point in his life. “Those poems were not available to me 35 years ago,” he said. “Part of what I had to do in the meantime was develop the poetic style that would fit this character.”
Like many authors, Ham drew from some of his own life experiences and formed a story that, to some extent, reflects his own personal journey.
“I did go through a period myself in life where I just kind of felt lost … The main character goes through this,” Ham said.
But “The Poet” isn’t a fictionalized autobiography. Ham also incorporated others’ personalities and experiences into the story and the main character, as well.
“The main character experiences much more than I did or any of these people (I know), but the disappointments, arguments, knowledge and experience combine into what I hope will be an interesting character,” he said.
Ham said “The Poet” will likely appeal to those who lived through the Vietnam War era – the late 1960s and early 1970s. But others of a younger generation – especially those who’ve experienced or followed the war in Iraq – will likely be able to relate to the story and appreciate the book’s social commentary on character growth, society, politics, “the world around them” and more.
The most important piece of advice Ham wants to give other aspiring writers is “write for yourself first,” as he says the best part of authoring a novel was holding the published copy in his hands and giving it to his close friends and family.
“Publishing is nice, but it’s not the end game,” Ham said. “The end game is getting your thoughts out to share … The purpose is to (have something) to pass on. Now my book is there for my son and generations to follow.”
Ham has written more than 200 poems and hopes to publish some poetry, short stories or essays in the future.
Officially released in late 2012, the novel is available for sale at www.BarnesAndNoble.com, www.Amazon.com and Park Road Books, at 4139 Park Road in south Charlotte. Barnes and Noble’s website and Park Road Books both have paperback copies of the book, and Amazon.com is selling the digital edition for Kindle.