For Tim Applegate, the journey of making writing into a career has been a long one, spanning nearly a half-century.
Taking inspiration from the works of William Blake and Bob Dylan as a teenager, Applegate said he's seen successes since then, but also plenty of struggle along the way, such as decades of rejection from publishers and literary magazines.
"All I ever wanted to be was a writer, so I stuck with it through thick and thin," he said in an email. "And trust me, there was a lot of thin."
Applegate, now 64 and living on two acres northwest of Newberg, retired in 2015 from a contracting business to devote himself fully to his writing career, specifically his first published novel, "Fever Tree," released by Amberjack Publishing in August.
Prior to this novel, Applegate said he found most of his success with his poetry, having numerous poems appear in literary journals and three collections of his poems published between 2007 and 2015.
He explained that, while modern American poetry is often abstract and sometimes "incomprehensible," he focuses on narrative poetry, centering his poems on particular experiences that readers can relate to and connect to their own lives, offering up a fishing trip or working on a ship in dry-dock as examples.
His new novel also attempts to engage readers in a unique way, but this time with a suspense story that foregoes the motifs that have become all too familiar to the genre.
"I wanted to write in the suspense genre, but I also wanted the books to be unconventional, to have my own personal stamp on it," Applegate said. "I wasn't interested in writing a formulaic story with a serial killer wreaking havoc or a private eye tying up all the loose ends. I'm trying to do something different than that."
"Fever Tree" tells the story of a young, troubled, fiercely secretive but amicable man that arrives in a small town in the Florida Panhandle in 1978 and how the locals, particularly a woman in town, try to untangle his mysterious past, according to the book's online description.
Applegate said the book is the first in a three-part series, all centering around a group of expatriate misfits who come together in the Yucatan Peninsula in the early 1970s. He said he has finished the second installment, "Farewell Angelina," and is currently revising the draft.
While "Fever Tree" is his first published novel, Applegate pointed out that he previously wrote two novels. Loosely echoing the advice of Oregon poet laureate William Stafford, Applegate said "that if you want to write a good poem you have to write a bunch of bad ones first. I learned to write a decent novel by writing two poor novels first."
"Fever Tree" is available in hardcopy or as an e-book from online retailers Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, with more information available at Applegate's website: timapplegate.net. Locally, Applegate said his novel is available at Powell's, Annie Bloom's Books and Another Read Through, all in Portland, as well as at Chapters in Newberg.