Writing a 22,000-word book is impressive at any age, but Theron Bowman barely needs two hands to count his.
The precocious 7-year-old, about to enter third grade at St. Mary’s Academy, recently finished dictating a book to his mother, Katy Bowman.
Titled “Neverwinter Nights 4,” it is based in the fantasy genre, “and follows the standard quest storyline, as a group of adventurers attempt to recruit members with needed skills to their party, while discovering shards of a silver sword that will defeat the ultimate bad guy,” Katy explained.
The title of the book, in fact, is borrowed from a fantasy video game, Neverwinter Nights. “We didn’t write this with any thought of publication, so there was no concern as to whether we could use the existing name,” Katy said.
Theron already has two chapters written of Neverwinter Nights 4’s prequel and has the chapter headings mapped out for the third installment in what will be a series of books. Indeed, he’s thought so far ahead that one character, Dorne, who is seemingly a good guy in the first book, is already headed for a dark revelation three or four books from now.
Asked to describe his work, Theron begins thoughtfully, “Well, it’s about this little lady called Ashlyn who is 12 years old when the book starts, and she’s 13 years old when the book ends.
“It’s basically a whole year of adventuring, kind of, and the need to find six magical crystals to reforge the silver sword of Gith.”
“The first sign of magic in Neverwinter Nights 4 is when the kobolds attack, because kobolds are mythical creatures,” he said.
Further details pour out of him fast and furious. It was clearly a good thing that Katy types 90 words per minute, since she needed all of that typing speed to capture his story verbatim.
The story has 15 characters altogether. “If you want to include the animals, then there are three cats and one owl,” Theron added.
The main characters include Grianite, a dwarf, and Dara, a human sorceress, he said. “And Smagol is a snake skeleton creature made out of stone,” Theron said. “This is a bad guy, he is a red-eyed creature. All he wants is the sword shards, and he’ll take them to the Dark Master for the prideful glory.”
The whole enterprise began March 24, when Theron said, “Let’s write a book,” Katy recounted. “I opened up the computer, and he just dictated it from beginning to end.”
They finished July 12, working mostly on weekends, when Katy had time.
“It was about 20 separate hours of dictation in that period, during which he wore a path in the carpet walking between the window to the couch and back while the words poured out,” she said.
The finished product is 50 pages, and 22,645 words.
It’s currently in a blue three-ring binder, printed double-sided, and all of it is printed in yellow block, with different colors for each chapter heading. Theron picked the colors for the final product.
Theron read the finished book, and, pink hi-lighter in hand, marked his mother’s typographical errors.
Though she’s an administrative assistant at Google, Katy’s background is in copyediting and proofreading in the fantasy genre.
“So to have your son go through and highlight your own errors is quite humbling,” she said.
Theron was diagnosed with autism at age 4, partially because of the large discrepancy between his off-the-charts cognitive ability — he skipped kindergarten — and his ability to physically communicate. He was largely silent until age 2½, though had amassed almost 150 ASL signs by that age.
“We have always known that there is much going on inside his head that he doesn’t necessarily verbalize, and are incredibly grateful to the speech therapists at Early Intervention who were able to ‘unlock’ his verbal speech ability,” Katy said.
“One of the advantages of autism is that children hyper-focus on a particular topic, which perhaps can be seen here, with the fascination with the fantasy realm and the desire to incorporate it into his creations across media,” she said.
Theron also loves Legos, and he begins his creative process by fashioning each chapter of his planned book in a Lego presentation. He chooses the costumes and weapons for each character.
Displayed on the dining room table are several Lego scenes. “This is a nighttime raid on Harbor Village and is the basis of chapter one,” Katy said.
Next to it is “the piece de resistance,” she said. “This is a castle called the Fortress of Light in the city of Anduril.” The city’s name is borrowed from the name of a sword in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. “A little adaptive license there,” she said.
As well as the “Lord of the Rings,” the Bowman family have also gotten through five books of Harry Potter, several volumes of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and six books of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House series.” Next followed ten of Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” series about clans of feral cats, and now they’re reading an Enid Blyton series about boarding schools.
“As his parents and having introduced him to all these works of fiction, it’s interesting to see what filters through,” she said.
The Lord of the Rings, published in 1954 by a professor at Oxford University, J.R.R. Tolkien, was the first major work of its type and is the benchmark for modern fantasy fiction, she said.
But “it wasn’t really until the 1970s when Dungeons and Dragons started in someone’s basement in Wisconsin, that it really took off,” she said of the fantasy genre.
Theron’s dad, Aaron Bowman, is a longtime fan of Dungeons and Dragons, and Katy worked freelance for Wizards of the Coast, a major publishing house of fantasy fiction.
“He didn’t really have much of a chance, did he?” Katy said of Theron. “He was always going to be a geek kid. As a matter of fact, if he came home and said he wanted to play soccer, we’d probably be pretty devastated.”
Katy has also typed dictated books from Aaron, and said Theron clearly gets his imagination from his dad. Katy said the wholly formed books that come tumbling out of her husband and son are almost a pressure that needs release.
“You almost have to get the ideas out of your head so you can think about other things.”
She relishes her own role in the process.
“I like the fact that I can be the one that takes their words down, and gives structure and form to their imagination.”
One sentence from Theron’s book she particularly enjoyed. A friend asked her to post it on Facebook, so she did. It reads: “The ship tossed the thing into the air and it fell down into the lava — down to the bottom of the sea; down to where the colors blend into sound; down past the nine hells; down to where the thing met its death.”
Katy recounted, “I thought, ‘Hmm, I don’t know what that means, but it sounds pretty cool.’”
Theron is not only working on fantasy stories; he’s also composing books describing his own life.
“‘Theron’s Life’ is a whole other canon that he is developing,” she said.
“Cannon?” Theron asked excitedly.
“Not a cannon like, ‘Boom! Boom!” his mom explained, “but rather a body of work; a world for your stories.”
She asks what Theron’s next chapter will be in his own life story.
“Fighting Satan,” he responds. As he has a birthday in September, Katy quipped, “That hasn’t happened yet. Apparently year 8 is going to be pretty interesting.”