Trumansburg’s Gordon Bonnet can still remember the precise moment when he knew writing was in his future. He was all of 6 years old, assigned to read the story he had penned about a bird that had fallen out of a tree and bent its beak.
“I read it to the class,” the 52-year-old said, “and everybody was laughing along. I thought ‘This is what I want to do.’”
And, over the years, he’s stuck to his childhood aspirations, making time to hone his craft while pursing a career in teaching and tending to the manifold responsibilities of parenthood.
To date, the Trumansburg High School biology teacher has e-published 11 works – novellas, essays and short stories, continues to maintain his daily blog of ruminations called Skeptophilia. Bonnet recently entered into a contract with a Arkansas printing house to publish seven of his novels.
Bonnet is the first of six local authors set to participate in a weekly summer speakers series – “Escape the Ordinary” – held each Thursday at the Ulysses Philomathic Library. Bonnet’s talk begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 2, at the library and will include a reading from his latest novel, Kill Switch. Rebecca Barry, Richard Figiel, Cly Boehs, Jen Meyers and Michael Turback round out the series slate, which runs through August 6.
Released in April, Kill Switch is Bonnet’s first novel published through Oghma Creative Media, which will release six more of Bonnet’s novels over the next few years.
In Kill Switch, a 50-something teacher comes home from his final class of the school year to discover FBI agents at his doorstep. They tell him five people have been murdered in the past month, the common thread being that the victims were all once in the same college class together. The main character was also in that same class, and the FBI believes he’ll be the next victim.
“He has no idea why he’s being hunted,” Bonnet said of his main character. “I wanted to get in the head of a person in mortal danger. What would you do if people were trying to kill you and you didn’t know why?”
Bonnet’s creative path from a writer hobbyist to published novelist in “speculative fiction” required far fewer physical miles than his route that ultimately led to Trumansburg.
A native of Louisiana, Bonnet – by then a recent college graduate – had moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington in the research science field. But he found he wasn’t invested in it. An aptitude test pointed him toward a career in teaching, so he got certified and taught in Seattle for five years.
“I’m a small-town boy and Seattle, as lovely as it is, teaching in a big city is a whole other animal,” he said. “I started casting for jobs elsewhere.”
Preferring to live near a college town with options for outdoor recreation, Bonnet narrowed his geographic search to about five locations nationwide. He made calls, mailed out applications and discovered that a small school district in Central New York needed a science teacher. Bonnet and his two young sons were Trumansburg bound. That was 23 years ago.
His writing life became a daily discipline during those years since 1993, as his kids began to get a little older and more independent. Suddenly, Dad had more time to dedicate to writing. Since then, Bonnet has risen each day before dawn, put on coffee and pounded out words for a couple of hours before the first morning bell at Charles O. Dickerson High School. His blog, Skeptophilia, comes first, his ideas drawn from online items of interest. Then, his focus turns to his novels.
During the school year, Bonnet will oftentimes return to his home desk for a couple of hours after the work day is through. This daily regimen has blossomed into a side career as a writer. Skeptophilia has drawn more than 1.4 million views in its five years, and after Oghma Creative selected Kill Switch, they also agreed to published three other novels Bonnet had previously written and self-published.
“I’ve had people say, ‘Oh my God, you’re a machine,’ but I don’t feel that,” he said. “If I don’t get to write, that bothers me. When I get up, that’s what I want to be doing. I don’t feel like I’m driven. It’s just this is the pace I like to work at.”
Intrigued by the paranormal, Bonnet classifies his work as “speculative fiction”, which he describes as taking “a piece of reality and tweaking it a little bit to see what happens.” He cites Haruki Murakami as one of the genre’s masters.
The ideas for his novels, Bonnet said, often derive from one or two powerful images, then the story begins to take shape as he begins working out on explanation of those mental images. Meanwhile, he attends to the vital voices of his characters, the main vehicles for delivering the story.
“It’s all about world-building,” he said. “You’re creating an alternate reality. It’s, for me, a way of exploring: What would it be like if it was true?”
Kill Switch is available at Ithaca’s Buffalo Street Books, Barnes and Nobel, and via Amazon. Read more about Bonnet’s work at www.gordonbonnet.com.