Parkville author thrills readers with book series

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Take one daring damsel, mix in a swashbuckling hero and put them on a pirate ship in colonial times and you have the recipe for a grand historical romance novel penned by this week's Fox 4 Young Achiever. This Parkville, Mo. teenager has accomplished what untold numbers of adult authors have tried and failed to do -- get their first novel put out by a publisher and into the hands of eager readers.

Her fingers race across the keyboard and it all seems so effortless for Heather Manning as she crafts the story line and dialogue of a novel.

"I'm calling it Tossed Together," said Heather. "It's Inspirational Historical Romance. It means it has an element of Christianity in it. And it's set in a historical period. And it has a love story throughout it. And I just love a good love story."

It's Heather's favorite literature genre, the kind of novel this 17-year-old reads all the time. She's deep into writing the opening chapters of the first draft now.

"I'm aiming for about 30 chapters," said Heather. "And it's going to be probably 80,000 words."

Heather is very confident that she's going to get Tossed Together into book form and published and then out there for sale for all of us to buy and read. And why wouldn't she be confident? She's already done it with a novel called Swept to Sea.

"It's about a young lady who stows away on a pirate ship to escape her abusive fiancé'," Heather explained. "And she falls in love with the captain of that ship."

Heather got most of Swept to Sea written when she was an eighth grader and got it out as a book a year ago. Not self-published, either. It was put out by a real publishing house. She says it's been selling well and readers are posting good comments about it.

"It means a lot to me," said Heather. "I get all these reviews from people I don't even know and they give me four and five-star reviews. And it's really cool to know that my work, my things that I've worked on for so long has gone to other people and they've read it and they've enjoyed it."

Heather planned all along for Swept to Sea to be the first of a trilogy of novels. Tossed Together will be the third one. And she has the second novel, Carried Home, pretty much done and almost ready to send to her publisher.

"First of all, look at her research," said Linda Barber, Heather's English teacher and yearbook advisor at Accelerated Schools of Overland Park.

Barber says research is one of Heather's many great strengths as a writer. Heather is in her third year as yearbook editor-in-chief there and directed production of the school's first two yearbooks.

"Heather is very mature for her age," said Barber. "She's very self-directed. She's someone you can really count on. Obviously that's why she's my yearbook editor. And she always follows through with what she's planning to do."

It's the kind of follow-through that enables an 8th grader to start out writing a novel -- and get it published -- and get two more underway and ready before she's out of high school.

"I want to definitely be a writer for the rest of my life," says Heather. "It's what I love doing. And I want to keep doing it."

Heather is also a busy and talented actress in local community theater and hopes one day to be a professional actress as well as a writer. And maybe one day, she says, she may write a play or movie script and act in the productions of them, as well.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.