Interview with local author on his debut novel

“Ernest is a twelve-year-old boy growing up on Earth in the twenty-second century, an Earth that exists free of poverty, bigotry, famine, or war. The citizens of Earth live in peace, traveling the cosmos as readily as they once navigated country highways…”

So begins the synopsis of “Ernest from Earth,” a novel recently written by St. Ansgar graduate and teacher Luke Nielsen. 

The book, classified as a middle grade to young adult novel, follows the spirited pre-teen protagonists Ernest and Dat, who face struggles of racial tension on a planet unnervingly similar to Earth, except for its red- and blue-skinned inhabitants.

Among the pages of “Ernest from Earth,” readers can find themes of friendship and family, right and wrong, unity and division. It approaches the struggles of being a kid that’s growing up: social challenges, adapting empathy and understanding right from wrong. The author hopes that the readers, especially young people, can connect to the story’s themes in on a personal level. 

Luke Nielsen. Submitted photo.

“Ernest from Earth” is primarily being marketed to schools; Nielsen created a Common Core Literacy curriculum guide to aid the use of the book in classrooms. 

“The idea is to hopefully support literacy skills as well as the social and emotional needs of students,” he said.

While the novel can only be marketed remotely right now because of the pandemic, Nielsen hopes to explore in-person author events as soon as possible. 

“Ernest from Earth” can currently be purchased on Amazon. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Nielsen’s knack for creative expression stemmed from his childhood; he recalled his large family and memories of telling stories and singing songs around the campfire. 

“I come from storytelling people, and that form of communication has always fascinated me,” Nielsen said, remembering how his mother used to read to him and his brothers as kids. “I get caught up in music, movies, comic books, theater, anything that tells a good story.”

However, his approach to reading and books has evolved over the years. Even as a child who appreciated a good story, Nielsen didn’t match the image of a stereotypical bookworm; he could rarely be caught with his nose down in a book for long periods of time. 

“I love a good book, but even now, reading is a time-consuming process,” he explained. “When I was young, I didn’t always put in the time to sit down and read a book.

“I tended to gravitate toward informational texts or articles I could read in one sitting. I still love essays and poems and writing I can take down in one chunk, but my appreciation for longer narratives certainly increased through college and into my adult life.” 

Nielsen recalled the doubts he had on becoming an author, and how the ever-present itch to do something creative pushed him through.

“I thoguht about being an author when I was younger, but it was more of an ideal dream than a genuine pursuit.

“I fell into the trap that keeps a lot of us from chasing something. I told myself I didn’t have enough time. I told myself I’d do it some day. I was afraid I wouldn’t have anything worth saying or I’d use up my only good idea.

“It took a lot of miles and mistakes for me to realize there was no ‘some day,’ and there would never be a ‘perfect time.’ That’s when it became a real endeavor.”

 Nielsen said that it’s been rewarding to see his work through to the end, since the process of writing, editing and publishing oftentimes didn’t move as quickly as he wanted it to.

He reminded himself that time passes whether he uses it or not, and even the smallest of steps in the right direction should be taken.  

“I came into this process knowing it would be long and challenging, so I’ve tried to temper my expectations,” he said. “[…] There is something inherently fulfilling about making something that didn’t exist before.”

Nielsen said that there are many people to give thanks to for helping him in the process. including his brother Landan and friend Randy Mogk, who took the time to read early versions of Nielsen’s manuscript, and his publisher, Dream Big Publications. 

“I’m very lucky to be surrounded by a lot of wonderfully supportive people. I suppose it is my nature to sort of quietly toil away on projects without sharing much, but I have a lot of wonderful friends and family who have supported me.”

The most important of which, Nielsen said, are his two children, Micky and Claire, to whom the book is dedicated. 

“They are a great inspiration to me, and they allow me to still experience the world with the wonder and awe of childhood,” said Nielsen. 

While there isn’t a sequel currently in the works for “Ernest from Earth,” Nielsen has many other irons in the fire, including a blog of short essays and occasional podcast work. His work can be found at lukenielsen.com, or on YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes and Spotify under Luke Nielsen Media. 

In the end, Nielsen said that he hopes his writing has a positive impact, even if only on one person. 

Luke is a graduate of the St. Ansgar School District and Upper Iowa University. He moved to the area at 11 years old  and has remained local outside of going to college and two-year teaching stint in eastern Iowa. He has a master’s degree in sports science, and jumped at the chance to return home and teach/coach for the St. Ansgar District. 

FULL “ERNEST FROM EARTH” SYNOPSIS

Ernest is a twelve-year-old boy growing up on Earth in the twenty-second Century, an Earth that exists free of poverty, bigotry, famine, or war. The citizens of Earth live in peace, traveling the cosmos as readily as they once navigated country highways; but Ernest is separated from his family on one such trip and finds himself on a planet eerily similar to Earth’s past, with the exception of its red- and blue-skinned inhabitants.

Ernest befriends a red boy named Dat, and he is forced to live in a world of racial tension and division the likes of which he has never known. Ernest operates as both an observer and a participant in the struggles around him, all while facing the challenges of growing up. Ernest and his friend Dat face bullies and a sense of isolation. They learn of tragedy and friendship, and they are thrown into a powerful legal battle that continues to shape their understanding of existence and their places in it.

Ernest’s experiences leave him torn between his desire to return to his family and his idyllic life and the kinship he has formed with his adopted family, especially as they struggle through a glaringly unjust world. Ultimately, Ernest begins to question what is really right, and if his own world is as perfect as it seems.

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