...a couple years ago, I received a gift from my brother-in-law. "Grace," by Richard Paul Evans.
Being a far cry from the genre I'm accustomed to reading, I trusted in my brother-in-law's taste, turned the cover, and entered R.P.E's world of hope. It took less than twenty pages to suck me in.
With a "voice" as subtle as an evening breeze over the Gulf, Evans touched on the subject of child abuse, as dwelt with through the eyes of children themselves. Driven to tears and questioning my own masculinity, I closed the book and went to Google, wanting to find out more on Richard Paul Evans.
That's how I discoverd the entire story behind the writer from Utah.
The story of how an "unknown" from Salt Lake City penned a story named "The Christmas Box," printed a handful of copies at the local Kinkos, and handed them out to immediate family over the Holidays.
That's how the magic began.
He started receiving phone calls from strangers who had somehow gotten ahold of his story. People he'd never spoken to before, spilling tears of thanks over the distance of a threaded phone line.
Richard decided to try his luck at the local Utah publishing houses...and struck out.
Following in the same words of hope he so perfectly described in "The Christmas Box," he self-published 9,000 copies of his story, burning through his family's savings.
Through a local distributing company, he managed to sell 3,000 copies in less than a month.
Orders started coming in to every book store in and around the Salt Lake City area. A short time later, a second printing was needed.
"The Christmas Box" became only the second self-published novel to ever make the New York Times best seller list, debuting at #2.
In less than a year, one of the top literary agents at that time asked for a copy, cried her way through it, and signed him without hesitation.
Soon after, the same publishing companies who wouldn't spare him a moment of their time, were banging down his door for the rights to sell his book.
Following an auction lasting over the span of several days, Simon & Schuster won the rights for the hard back editions with a winning bid of over four million dollars.
Since then, Richard Paul Evans has written 9 books, each one finding it's way to the top of every best seller list.
I recently finished reading "The Sunflower," the true story of an orphanage in Peru. Another tear-jerker. A journey into the dramatic lives of homeless children in the third world nations of South America. Of families sending their own kids into the streets to fend for themselves when the cupboards go empty. Of how the majority of homeless children roaming the streets in Cuzco, Peru are boys, with the girls getting kidnapped for slavery purposes. Of black-market tours for American pediphiles to journey into South America in order to fullfill their fantasies with an overabundance of runaways and high availability of sexual slaves. And of a single American doctor, desperately trying to make a difference.
Peru is a place where an Anaconda as wide as the trunk of a mature willow, can slither with the speed of a grown adult, and the strength to crush anything in it's path. It's where simply dipping one's fingertips into any waterway could result in losing them to a hungry school of piranhas, or an eighteen foot croc. It's a place where, during the printing of "The Sunflower," and exhibition team of scientists were investigating local claims of a spider large enough to have been spotted carrying off several chickens in it's front fangs.
Welcome to Cuzco, Peru, where more than a million orphans under the age of sixteen run in fear of a danger far worse than anything the jungles can throw at them. Us.
Welcome to the world of Richard Paul Evans. An inspired writer who did it his way. And he's got a hundred million fans around the world to vouch for him.