Calera Middle School teacher publishes book with Penguin

Published 8:32 pm Monday, November 4, 2013


CALERA – When Calera Middle School teacher John Mantooth was 30 years old, he set a goal for himself – to publish a novel by the time he reached age 40.

“I was 41 when it came out, so I didn’t quite reach my 10-year goal, but it was still really cool,” Mantooth said of his newest book and first novel. “In a way, I did believe that I could do it, but it floored me when it happened.”

Mantooth’s “The Year of the Storm,” a mystery novel with supernatural elements, was published by Penguin in June.

Mantooth, a teacher at Calera Middle School who teaches seventh and eighth grade language arts and social studies, will sign copies at the Roy Downs Memorial Library in Calera Nov. 15 at 6 p.m., and he said he has “always written.”

About 10 years ago, he tried a couple of novels that he says “didn’t go too well,” so he shifted his focus to short stories. After publishing several short stories in magazines over the years, he published his first collection in 2012. Only after re-learning how to tell a story did he dive back into novel writing, he said.

“The Year of the Storm,” his first novel, is about a year of storms, both figuratively and literally, he said.

“The main character, Danny, has a turbulent year, not just with real storms but with things that he’s dealing with,” Mantooth said. “There are a lot of storms in the book, and there’s a big tornado towards the end, which I think people living in Alabama can probably identify with.”

The book’s focus is on Danny’s mother and sister, who disappeared in a violent storm when Danny was 14 years old.

“I’m fascinated by people that disappear and the police can’t find them. I took that idea and started writing from there,” Mantooth said.

The hardest part for Mantooth was finding an agent that believed in his book. Although he finished the first draft in 2011, it wasn’t submitted for publishers to consider until 2012.

“I found an agent probably after about 75 rejections,” he said. “I had just about given up when I found an agent with a New York agency. She liked the book, and we worked on the book some more after that. I took her suggestions and made a few changes. Then, in 2012, she submitted it to some of the major publishers, and I heard back eventually from Penguin.

“I was lucky enough to find an agent who believed in the book. That was key for me.”

Currently, Mantooth is working on a mystery crime novel set in the Black Warrior River area of Alabama. It’s working title is “Tuscaloosa,” and Mantooth hopes to have a draft finished by the first of the year.

“The Year of the Storm” can be purchased from most major retailers and will be available for purchase at the book signing.