Author with local roots publishes book based in Liberty Hill
By Christine Bolaños
A teenage boy is abandoned by his mother and forced to fend for himself. After a heroic action, he becomes a deputy and dedicates himself to serving the best interest of Liberty Hill folks. Then a small-time criminal appears on his radar setting them both up for life-changing experiences and a fast-paced collision course.
This is the story of The Train Robber, written by Michael Kelly, and set in early 1900s Liberty Hill.
“The only message I have for readers that book may convey to readers is that you don’t have to be a special person to be a hero,” Kelly said. “Just do what’s in front of you. Whatever you do, don’t break the law, no matter what.”
The novel, available for purchase at Amazon.com, follows the story of protagonist Timothy and antagonist Rex. Timothy, according to the book’s back cover, “carries a gun that’s older than he is” but his bravery lands him a spot as town deputy. Rex is a small-time criminal “who gets wind of what could be the biggest score of his criminal career.”
Though the entire piece is fiction, Kelly got his inspiration for the book from his wife, Claudia Seward, her historical roots in Liberty Hill and his love of the early 1900s time period.
Claudia’s great-great-grandfather, William Roberson Seward, is the namesake of Seward Junction. He purchased the land where Seward Junction is now in 1860, and according to the couple, sold the property at $2 an acre, donating a portion of it to the state for construction of State Highway 29.
The Sewards’ history at the Liberty Hill Cemetery was of particular interest to Kelly.
Claudia Seward’s great-uncle, W.K. Seward, was a caretaker at Liberty Hill Cemetery. The couple said his son now looks after the cemetery.
“What inspired this whole book business was that W.K. worked at the cemetery and I thought that’d be a great setting for a vampire book,” Kelly said.
The book does not center on vampires, but was a concept for another project Kelly started. That project was set aside when Kelly came up with the idea for The Train Robber. The book is Kelly’s first novel but his third idea for a book. The Seward family has a long history in the Liberty Hill area, and Kelly lived with Claudia Seward near Seward Junction, for about 10-11 years, over a span of about two decades.
“I needed to get some characters from Austin to Liberty Hill; I had to get them out there,” Kelly said. “So I decided to use the railroad. There’s railroad tracks in Liberty Hill. I activated the railroad tracks (in the novel) and I had some characters from Austin up to Liberty Hill, bring some stuff to the cemetery.
“That’s pretty much where it came from,” Kelly said. “There are no immortals or anything like that. It’s about a no-do-well criminal and a young man that works for the sheriff’s department.”
Kelly and his wife still visit Liberty Hill often. They have resided in Corpus Christi for several years, but visit the Liberty Hill Cemetery annually on the anniversary of Claudia Seward’s mother’s death. Her entire family is buried there so the couple will always have a strong connection to Liberty Hill.
The author’s destiny as a writer came later in life as Kelly worked for 35 years as an industrial air conditioning and compressor technician. He attended the then-named Edison Community College in Fort Myers, Florida, where he attained an associate’s degree of arts.
“I went to community college because I had broken a bone in my wrist and I didn’t think I was going to be able to continue my job as an industrial air conditioning and compressor technician,” Kelly explained. “So I went to community college to get the education I needed to possibly look for some other kind of work. My wrist healed up okay and was able to stay in my trade.”
Kelly eventually retired and realized he had the time to build upon his writing craft.
“It’s fun and he likes doing it,” said Claudia Seward. “He comes up with all kinds of ideas and somehow or another he manages to get them all together. I’m encouraging him to work on another book.”
Seward said one reader told them he could not put the book down and read it entirely in one night.
“I think readers can actually picture what he’s writing about because of the way he writes and tells a story,” she said. “It’s very easy for you to visualize it.”
An excerpt Kelly sent to The Independent shows an example of this descriptive writing:
“A noise in the back part of the house startled Adele to consciousness. She heard another knocking noise. Her eyes wide open now. In the semi-dark, she laid very still, waiting for what was to follow. She gently rolled from her side to her back and pulled the covers up above her mouth and nose, leaving only her eyes and the top of her head exposed. She heard a familiar voice say, ‘Mrs. Miller.’ She sighed silently. She heard another voice. This one was louder. Timothy, she thought as she held her breath. The feeling she was experiencing was her heart rate speeding up a little at the sound of the young man’s voice. She liked Timothy.”
Seward described her longtime husband as a wonderful man who she loves very much.
“Claudia is right,” Kelly said. “Writing really does make me feel good. It makes me happy. I would suggest to your readers if they feel like doing it to just do it because it’ll make them feel happy.”