Utah writer’s Kickstarter novel gets fully funded – and then some – in first 2 days

Scott Whitehead searches for coins with his children, Oxford, England, date not specified | Photo from Kickstarter, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Hoping to inspire others with a sense of purpose, Utah writer Scott Whitehead started a Kickstarter campaign to publish a book originally written for his children, and in less than two days exceeded the goal amount needed to turn his dream into a reality.

While Whitehead has lived in many places around the world for work and is currently studying in England, he grew up in Salt Lake City and spent many of his childhood summers in St. George.

“The Whiteheads are from St. George, and it’s where my grandpa grew up. … So I spent a lot of my summers down there,” Whitehead said.

He began work on his book, “The Light Beyond the Garden Wall,” five years ago. With the stress of being a new father who had recently moved to New York City, working long hours in a job that he didn’t want to be in and going through serious health issues, he experienced a time of debilitating anxiety and depression.

“It was just a really tough time. … And for whatever reason, I just felt compelled to write a novel for my kids,” Whitehead said.

While his children, 6-year-old Shirley Whitehead and 4-year-old Winston Whitehead, are still young, the book was written for adults and young adults. Whitehead hopes the book will teach his children life lessons and allow them to take away different meanings at different phases in their lives.

“It’s like an intimate thing that I did for my children, and it’s for my children, and then with the encouragement of friends and people that I ended up sharing it with I decided to share it with everyone,” Whitehead said. “My hope is that people can just feel inspired or feel more loved or feel like their life is more important, or just something that makes them feel better and makes their life a little bit better.”

The illustrated pages of “The Light Beyond the Garden Wall” written by Scott Whitehead and illustrated by Erin Meads | Photo from Kickstarter, St. George News

Being so busy, he had no idea how he would find time to write a book. He was so compelled to write it, however, that he started writing on an iPad during his daily commute on the New York subway.

After the first chapter was complete, he sent it to a friend to read and was surprised when he told him, “You have to finish this book, don’t do anything else just finish this book.”

The writing process provided him with a creative outlet to express himself and help him through his anxiety and depression.

“For me, it was very healing and helped me just gain a different perspective of my life and feel inspired to find happiness,” Whitehead said.  

After spending three years writing it and two years working with editors to prepare it for publishing, he put the finishing touches on it just over six months ago. Finding an agent and a publisher to print and sell the book proved to be difficult, however.

After being rejected by Deseret Book, Whitehead began to wonder what his next move was. A friend suggested that he try a Kickstarter campaign. Hesitant at first, he decided to start a campaign on March 5 and was surprised when he met his $5,400 goal in the first 24 hours. Supporters continued to donate and at the end of the month-long campaign 184 backers had pledged a total of $7,002.

“I decided to put myself out there and go for it, and I felt astonished and very humbled by the amount of people that came out and supported,” he said.

Whitehead worked with award-winning artist Erin Meads to illustrate and design the book cover. The illustrations were drawn using pen and ink, and the cover was designed to have an old-world feel stamped in black and gold foil.

Scott Whitehead riding a horse, date and location not specified | Photo from Kickstarter, St. George News

Now that it is funded, backers can expect to receive a copy of the 176-page book by June.

Whitehead is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the book has strong religious themes throughout. His hope, however, is that people of all faiths, or no faith, can draw inspiration from it.

“My hope is that after someone sets it down, it just makes them think about how important and unique and critical they are in this life and that they have such a purpose that no one else has. I hope that it’s just very inspiring and gives them a new perspective.”

The book is a fictional story about the prophet Isaiah as a boy in the Middle East around 700 B.C. The story has a mixture of fictional and historical characters and events, such as the queen of Saudi Arabia and people who lived in Jerusalem at the time.

In the story, Isaiah was happy in his life until one day he woke up and almost everything he loved had been taken away from him. It describes his experience in going down a path of painful and difficult circumstances, and how it made him stronger in the end.

“It’s about how those things in his life are what help him become who he’s supposed to be and the role that he’s supposed to fulfill and his unique purposes,” Whitehead said.

Having been going through tough times of his own while writing the book, Whitehead found himself relating to Isaiah. After writing certain chapters of the book in which Isaiah goes through a great difficulty, he would find himself in a similar situation shortly after and felt inspired to press on.

“Writing the book just helped me get the perspective that it’s about just getting through those times and just continuing forward,” Whitehead said. “It’s not always even about having perspective through them, it’s just knowing that you’re going to get through it, to the other end, and life is going to continue and things will get better.”

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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