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Conspiracies, mystery, murder and literacy continue to inspire teen author

This Following Up feature picks up the plot three years later with teenage murder-mystery author Zachary Collins

Teenage author Zachary Collins continues to develop and master his craft and he is moving his writing career forward by taking his readers back in time.

“I have always been interested in the 50s and 60s,” said Collins. “I feel it is a simpler time period to write about.”

When GuelphToday last spoke to Collins at the end of December 2016 he was 13 years old and had just published his first murder mystery novel Murders in Maine.

“Since then I have written three books,” he said. “Two of them I have finished and one I am still in the process of writing.”

Collins started writing when he was eight years old and began taking the process seriously at the ripe old age of 10 after attending a We Day presentation hosted by Canadian teenage activist Mark Kielburger.

The experience inspired Collins to donate the profits from his books to Free the Children and by the time we caught up with him at the end of 2016 he had raised more than $10,000 for the charity through donations and sales from his three published books, Medieval Mystery, George & Madeline & the Chinese Dragon vs the Pirates and Murders in Maine.

“I think we have raised another $2,000 since then,” said Collins. “We did a little book tour for Murders in Maine of North Eastern US in 2017. We went from New York to Boston to Maine and the response was great. They liked it a lot.”

The first of Collins’ new books, Conspiracies in California, is a sequel to Murders in Maine and catches up with the two main characters.

“Basically, after the boys were proven not guilty of the murders they moved off to California to get a fresh start but it seems their troubles followed them into a whole new adventure over there,” said Collins. “It’s probably twice as long as the last one.”

The second book North Eastern Massacres is set in the 1950s and follows a young sheriff investigating a murder spree in a sleepy little New Hampshire town.

“I was reading a Stephen King book at the time and I kind of wanted to combine both Stephen King’s murder-mystery idea and my love for the 50s and 60s,” said Collins. “We are near the end of the editing process and I am hoping to get both books out by late August or September.”

Collins mother Meghan Kirwin has seen a clear evolution in Collins’ writing style and process.

“Every year we go to Florida with his grandparents and that’s where he started his last book,” she said. “He reads to us every night as he is developing his book and you can hear it in the tone how his writing has really evolved.”

She said Collins is drawing from the life experiences of his grandfather William Chandler Kirwin who is a published author as well.

“He is spending more time researching what was actually occurring in the 50s and 60s through interviewing with my dad who was an art historian at the University of Guelph,” said Kirwin. “He is one of Zach’s inspirations and a key editor and a huge part of his process.”

Collins is dedicating the first two books to his grandfather and is actually writing him into the third, yet untitled book.

“The book I am writing right now he is actually the central character,” said Collins. “The character is a 17-year-old boy and it takes place in 1966. It is with four of his friends and one of the friends’ brother is murdered and there is speculation that there is something to do with the mafia.”

Collins will turn 16 in October with six published books to his name but right now he is taking a short pause from writing to study for his final exams.

“I’m in Grade 10 at GCVI and going into Grade 11 next year,” he said. “I’m not quite sure yet but I think university would be my ideal route to study creative writing or something like that.”

He is already formulating the plot for the next chapter in his life story.

“Ten years from now I hope to have four or five more books published,” he said. “I hope to raise, at least, another $10,000 for Free the Children and build one or two more schools by continuing to write books and publishing them. I will definitely always write throughout my life. Hopefully, I can make enough money to make a living off of it.”

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