Press Room

Georgetown woman writes adventure tale

Kids' book intended as alternative to Harry Potter

Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gavin Goodfellow is a 12-year-old seventh-grader with a learning disability, a demanding father, a bum knee and something evil trying to take over his town. Yet, God has big plans for him.

Thus starts the story of "Gavin Goodfellow: The Lure of Burnt Swamp," a book by Georgetown resident Candy Abbott. In the book, formally released Oct. 6, Goodfellow learns that God has chosen him to stop evil forces from overtaking his hometown. He balks at the mission.

Balking is something the author knows all too well. She didn't want to write a book, certainly not a book aimed at adolescents and certainly not a mystical, magical, spiritual book. She just wanted to be a good grandmother.

It all began in 2000, when her grandson started reading the first "Harry Potter" book. She picked it up, too, to be able to discuss it with him and to see what all the fuss was about.

Halfway through the book, it hit her. Someone needed to write a Christian, youth-oriented book that was as much fun to read. It was then she heard God tell her to do it. She said no, she begged no, but she kept getting the same message that she was to start writing. From there, Gavin was born.

'"I knew I was no J.K. Rowling," she said, referring to people who try to compare her book to the "Harry Potter" series, something she discourages.

Comparisons continue. Both books are fantasy. Both feature witchcraft and other-worldly beings. Both books are classic tales of good versus evil.

There the similarity ends. Gavin is based on a theme of spiritual warfare, specifically the book of 1 Peter in the Bible where it says, "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping."

Also, those who know Sussex County will probably recognize many of the backdrops to the story even if the names are changed. The road numbers are taken straight off a county map.

While Gavin's classmates try to gain power through New Age and witchcraft, Gavin discovers the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. The book was written for a Christian audience, Abbott said, but also to attract non-Christians who just like a good book.

"I am hoping to reach the foes of 'Harry Potter' and the fans," said Abbott, referring to many Christians who rejected the Potter series because of its central theme of witchcraft. "I'm hoping to introduce [non-Christians] to Gavin's God."

"I like that she didn't candy-coat the spiritual stuff," said Dawn Davis, of Dover, who read the book at the urging of a friend and is now reading it again with her adolescent daughters. "It put it on their level, but didn't make it childish."

The book is full of doctrine and scriptural references. A local teacher is creating an educational study guide as she uses the book with her eighth-grade class.

"You can cover a good range of students with it," said Melanie Theofiles, creator of the education guide and an eighth grade English teacher at the Epworth Christian School in Laurel. "The characters are so real because they are going through the same things [the students are]."

Ultimately Abbott wants people to start thinking for themselves about choices and relationships in the world and how important it is to follow God.

She'll be the first to tell you it isn't always easy. After practically dragging her feet through writing the book, she felt she was dragged through the publishing process. One publishing company took her up to the last stage -- editings, meetings with designers, rewrites -- and then decided they did not want to take a chance on a writer with no name recognition.

Abbott decided to take back creative control and published the book through the small publishing company she runs with her husband, Fruitbearer Publishing.

Still, she said, every time she needed help, it practically fell at her feet. Her writing club helped her rewrite, a known author gave her tips about the business and even her Web designer was so taken with the product she ended up baking the cake and mixing punch at the October book launch party.

"The Lure of Burnt Swamp" is the first book in a trilogy. Abbott can't wait to see what God has in store for Gavin with the other two books.

"It's written the way the Lord unfolded it," said Abbott. "I'm walking by faith that the Lord will be faithful to have it bear much fruit."

For more information on Gavin or to order books, go to