Local Author Explores the Dark

by Nathan Oravec

Move over Agatha Christie. Solve a crossword puzzle, Murder She Wrote. There’s a new word-sleuth in town. Smithsburg, to be precise. Her name is Jenniffer Ringquist and before last year, she had never considered writing a book. Her first foray into such a novel venture is no mystery, however. Sometimes it can be murder finding a good read.

“I like to read a lot,” says the 32-year old author. “Have you ever read a book that’s really, really bad, but you keep reading hoping that eventually it will get better? Well, I read quite a few of those back to back before I finally thought, ‘Hey, I can do better than this.’ So I sat down and began to write.”

Ringquist had put storytelling pen to paper many times before, having a knack for creative writing throughout high school; and being a fan of the mystery/thriller genre she had a general idea for the thematic direction her book would ultimately take - but aside from that, her story was intangible. “I didn’t have anything set in my mind. I never knew what was going to happen until I wrote it.”

What happened was Dark of Mind, the story of Sophie, a 16 year-old girl who comes home one day to find her parents murdered. “She slips into what’s known as a walking coma,” says Ringquist of her heroine. “Six years later she awakens with no memory of what happened.” Sophie must then piece together her past in a desperate effort to discover what role she played in a heinous crime - that of a victim, or of a killer.

While many writers might labor over passion projects for years, for Ringquist, when the muse hit, it hit with astounding speed. Her intricate tale of cat and mouse took six to eight weeks to complete “altogether,” she says. The trial of finding a publisher, however, took a bit longer.

“I tried for a long time to find a publishing house,” she explains, citing the familiar bane of countless writers’: the Catch-22. “It’s really hard without already being an established author or having an agent.” Undeterred, she turned to the realm of self-publishing and to an Internet-based company known as 1st Books (www.1stbooks.com), specializing in print-on-demand and electronic publishing for authors worldwide. “I really liked them,” says Ringquist. “They were able to give me the titles of books that I recognized.”

Discussions with the Internet publisher began and in October of 2003, Ringquist proceeded with a deal for her novel to be published. By the end of December, Dark of Mind was a printed reality.

Opting to do her own promotion for the book, Ringquist is currently in the process of arranging signings and appearances at area bookstores, and hopes to greet the public and potential readers as soon as March or April. The book will soon be made available to retailers on a print-on-demand basis, meaning that orders will be printed as they are placed, assuring that needs for any given title in the 1st Book catalog are always met. Dark of Mind, notes Ringquist, is available for purchase online as either a paperback or an e-book, a version ready to download and enjoy on an individual’s personal computer.

Spurred by the experience of writing the first book, Ringquist has already begun work on a second. Titled The Scar of a Dream, the mystery, she says - being careful not to give anything away - follows a new heroine who, waking from a nightmare, is plagued by an increasingly intense headache, a side-effect that proves more disturbing as time passes. Ringquist hopes to complete and publish her second effort by October of 2004. If her initiative is any clue, a third will most likely follow. This new mystery writer, it seems, has plenty of stories to share.

Her work, Ringquist claims, however, is pure fiction. While some writers might place themselves into a character in one way or another, hers, she notes, are a complete departure. “I’m one of five kids from an army family. Very calm... I just like to stay home and keep an eye on my niece and nephew. This book is nothing like my life.”

For more information on Dark of Mind, visit www.1stbooks.com.