MONTROSE – Hans Hollenbeck, who grew up in Montrose and Ridgway, has been writing all his life, and at 31, has just published his first novel, Highpoint.
With 30 short stories under his belt, ideas for 50 more, and more novels in the works, ideas swim in Hollenbeck’s imaginative head. He captured them in Highpoint when he was in his early 20s, but just recently got the book, a thriller, published.
“It took nine months to write and nine years to get published,” he said.
Hollenbeck talked about his book as he signed copies Tuesday night at the Horsefly Brewing Company on Main Street. He said Highpoint begins as autobiographical fiction based on his childhood in this area, but then it diverges and takes on a life of its on.
The book tells the story of Chris Wyer, a man who had it all and lost it all – including the disappearance of his family – and his only clue is a letter written in blood.
Hollenbeck said the book is a quick read that would probably be rated PG-13 or R, but with no sex or violence.
“There’s some profanity, but without conflict,” he said.
As the main character investigates his family’s disappearance, the story moves into “realistic” science fiction, which Hollenbeck said was inspired one night by sitting out in a friend’s backyard watching meteor showers.
“As I watched a meteor fall, I thought about the only thing that is faster than the speed of light is the speed of thought,” he said.
Read the fast-moving novel and you’ll get the idea.
After he wrote Highpoint, the book sat on a shelf for four years, with Hollenbeck occasionally getting it out for touchups or revisions, but that’s all.
Then his aunt in California read the book and loved it and started trying to find a publisher. Her efforts inspired Hollenbeck to try on his own, so he sent manuscripts to 300 publishers, and was mostly rejected. But one literary agent in Phoenix took an interest in Highpoint, and sent it to the vanity publisher Exlibris. Three years later, they contacted Hollenbeck and a deal was struck.
“As a first-time author I don’t get an advance, but I’ll get part of the royalties and a renewable contract,” he said. “And if they sell the first 10,000, it will go to print by demand.”
The book came out in November, but it was just a month ago that the Ingram Book Company took over distribution and since then, Hollenbeck, who lives in Durango, has been going to book signings all over the area.
The next step is to get the book in big chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble, even though it’s already available at barnsandnoble.com. The book is also in area bookstores, including Hastings in Montrose, Hollenbeck said.
And Highpoint is also available from Hollenbeck’s website hanshollenbeck.com and from amazon.com.
One Amazon reader commented:
“This book had me intrigued and on the edge of my seat from the beginning to the end. The story line, concepts and perspectives proposed by the author, H. Hollenbeck, were mentally invigorating. The vantage that the author takes on life and narration is unique and brilliant. The book provides more than just a story; its propositions and insight will keep me thinking and hoping for a long time to come. The riddles and puzzles throughout the book, in addition to the story line, enticed me to keep my nose in the pages. An amazing read that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys intrigue, suspense and innovation. Brilliantly crafted, well articulated, elegantly paced and perfectly executed. I can't wait for the next journey.”
Neither can Hollenbeck, who has ideas for new books and stories constantly swimming in his head.
“I’ve always been fascinated with fiction and I believe imagination is one of our greatest gifts,” he said. “What we create in our mind almost equals reality.”
The next step for the book is to get it in major bookstores nationwide, a task he’s grateful that Ingram has taken on.
“This deal with Ingram is a dream come true,” Hollenbeck said. “People I don’t know come up and say they love my book. It brings me so much joy and touches me pretty deep.”
Besides being a writer, Hollenbeck has tried many ventures, including owning a bar and starting his own clothing line. An accomplished artist, he and girlfriend Pascale Bauman both work as graphic designers.
Hollenbeck credits his creative spirit to his biggest supporter, his dad, Chris Hollenbeck, whose first name he used for his protagonist in Highpoint.
“He wrote poetry and was under the impression that whatever you want to do in this world, do it,” he said. “He gave me guidance and advice, but he didn’t tell me how to live my life.”
Hollenbeck attended high school for a couple of years in Montrose and then went to Ridgway High School, where he graduated in 1998. While growing up here, the learned that good art found in books, music and paintings inspires us and “makes us feel alive.”
And he has one fantasy, inspired by the publication of Highpoint.
“My main goal is to have a complete stranger recommend my own book to me,” he said. “It hasn’t happened yet – but it might.”