HOPEDALE — When Jason Hunt was learning to read as a kid, his father challenged him to write his own story.
So Hunt sat down and wrote “The Three Little Fishermen” using the handful of words he knew at the time.
“My dad was so excited he paid me a quarter,” Hunt said with a chuckle. “So I started writing these little stories for my dad, and he’d give me a quarter for them.”
And Hunt, a Hopedale resident, hasn’t stopped writing stories since.
Hunt, 50, will soon release his first published book, “A Midsummer Night’s Gunfight,” a Western tale of a gunfighter on a mission to avenge the murder of his family at the end of the Civil War. His quest brings him to Shakespeare, N.M., where he meets an infamous gunfighter who joins him.
A 1985 graduate of Cornell University, Hunt studied creative writing with William Kennedy, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, “Ironweed.”
“I had him as a fiction writing teacher, and I learned a ton from him,” Hunt said. “I was a semester away from finishing my English degree, but at the last minute I decided I needed to make some money, so I ended up with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, and besides a little bartending, I’ve never used it.”
A communications manager at a biotechnology company, Hunt went on to receive his master’s in English with a focus on Renaissance English poetry from the University of Connecticut.
“That’s why Shakespeare, New Mexico, was a good place to pick, and the title of the book plays off of it,” Hunt said.
After college, Hunt moved down to Nashville to try songwriting. He met many great musicians, and bought his first pair of cowboy boots from Garth Brooks before he was famous.
While Hunt didn’t make a career out of songwriting, his time in Nashville inspired him to write two detective stories, which were never published.
“They’re set in Nashville, and are about an ex-song writer,” Hunt said. “They say to write about what you know.”
Hunt submitted his detective stories to Oak Tree Press in Illinois, but the publishers didn’t think the genre had a large enough fan base. They liked Hunt’s style, though, and asked if he’d be interested in trying something a little different.
“Their acquisitions editor called me and said ’we’re starting a new line for Westerns, and I bet your style would be a good fit,’” Hunt said. “I grew up watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, so at her recommendation I tried writing it.”
Hunt worked on “A Midsummer Night’s Gunfight” each day during the hour-long train ride to and from his job in Boston, and it was accepted for publication.
Hunt expects the book to be available on Amazon within the next week or so.