Before Richard Barnes retired a decade ago, he never would have guessed he could have his fill of golf. But once he did, Barnes needed something else to fill his time -- which he more than found in writing.
"The interesting thing about writing is, the story almost takes you along with it," said Barnes, 73, of River Hills. "Between the research and the drafts, it fills your time."
After 14 months of work, Barnes recently released his first self-published book, "The Faircloth Reaction." A long-time employee in international chemical sales and marketing, Barnes tells the story of a former athlete and Army officer who, while finishing up a chemical engineering degree, finds himself presented with a potentially world-changing new process for synthesizing petroleum.
The Faircloth Reaction dives into the protagonist's struggle against international powers hoping to keep the oil refining process as it is.
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"You try to write about things you know," Barnes said. "I figured I know a little about chemistry. It's the first one I've gotten published, and the reason is it's topical and timely. It deals with oil prices and the war going on. I wanted to get it out there before it goes out of date."
Barnes also has another manuscript he hopes to publish in the fall, and a third still in the works. The fall release is more of a "history lesson" from stories told to Barnes about World War II-era Naval adventures.
"It's all about the liberty ships, the ships that were transporting mass supplies to England before the U.S. entered the war, and then later on were being used to send supplies to our own troops," he said.
Barnes lives with wife Margaret and has three grown children in the area. The couple called River Hills home 29 years ago after living six years in Gastonia, N.C. A long list of community involvement for Barnes includes productions with the now defunct Lake Wylie Community Theater group, tutoring in correctional facilities and literary groups, and volunteering at a local men's shelter. Yet it was the decision to take a short story writing class at Winthrop University that led Barnes to his latest passion.
Now that the writing of "The Faircloth Reaction" is complete, the hard work comes for Barnes. The book -- available at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and at richardwhittenbarnes.com -- needs marketing and for a first time, self-published author, that effort can be difficult.
"The best my publisher can do is tell everybody what a great guy I am on the back cover," said Barnes, citing a lack of other titles. "I don't expect to recoup my expenses on this book, but I hope to learn enough on this one to make the second one that much better."
Barnes even took copies of the book to Lake Wylie Public Library recently with questionnaires asking readers what they thought, receiving a better response than he anticipated, he said. He hopes those reactions help him moving forward.
"Particularly in fiction, getting published is almost impossible," Barnes said. "It's only a couple hundred pages. It's an easy read. I thought I'd cut my teeth in publishing on something small."
The best responses so far are ones saying Barnes made his story, billed as a "world where academia and high-stakes oil collide," both technically believable and literate to readers without advanced science degrees.
"This is like an economic lesson, and it's got a lot of chemistry," Barnes said. "I tried to make it where you don't have to be a chemist to understand it. I explain things as I go."
Who is Richard Barnes?
Richard Whitten Barnes was born in Minnesota but grew up on the north side of Chicago. A band scholarship took him to Michigan State University, where he majored in chemistry. He is now retired from a long career in international chemical sales and marketing, which has taken him all over the world. Barnes is a veteran in the Army 82nd Airborne Division and an avid sailor. He lives in Lake Wylie, but spends summers with his wife Margaret at their cottage on St. Joseph Island, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron. Barnes is currently preparing to publish a World War II novel set in the Pacific Theater and working on a book about the homeless. For more information, visit richardwhittenbarnes.com.