Daydreamer pens first book

Brian Mais, 17, a senior at East Stroudsburg South, has published his first book, a novel called ‘Nebula.’

MARSHALLS CREEK — It's safe to say that Presidents Day will always be a happy day for Brian Mais.

On that day in 2006, the East Stroudsburg High School-South student picked up his purple, 70-page, spiral-bound notebook and started writing.

"I was home," Mais, now 17 and a senior, recalled of that day. "I was kind of bored."

Mais, who describes himself as something of a habitual daydreamer, had long been nurturing an idea. It had elements of science fiction movies, history channel documentaries and video games.

"Even before I wrote it, I had the concept in there," he said. "That day in February, it just popped."

He followed up that flash of inspiration with discipline. Mais wrote in long-hand for four hours every day after school, rendering his story in steady hand in black ink. He stapled another 20 pages to the back of his notebook and kept writing.

After the first draft was complete, he did the second and third on his word processor. After eight months, he declared the project — a science fiction novel called "Nebula" — finished. "I knew I was done when I was pleased and satisfied," he said.

Mais is one of more than 33,000 school-age children who live in Monroe County, many of whom find an avenue in which to excel. The Pocono Record occasionally profiles these students as a way of giving readers a view of the lives of students, who account for about one-quarter of the area's population, according to 2006 Census figures.

Mais, who moved to the Poconos in fifth grade from Queens, N.Y., had never taken a writing class before. "I kind of taught myself by reading a lot of books," he said. "I think writing's fun. It's not too difficult."

The influences that brought "Nebula" into existence are eclectic. They include the apocalyptic Christian book series, "Left Behind," by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as R.L. Stine's young adult horror novels and, especially, the "Star Wars" saga.

The other source of inspiration was history. Mais was sparked by a 10th grade social studies lesson on Aztec culture; he was intrigued by the story of Quetzalcoatl, and how the Aztecs thought that the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, was the reincarnation of that plumed serpent God.

"Nebula" takes place in the 26th century, after humanity has colonized the solar system and is moving beyond it to take over the galaxy. A human expedition lands on the planet Darwin and they align with a rebellion there against domineering aliens, named the Goolags (thus named in a nod to the gulags Mais learned about in Russian history class).

"It's kind of like 'Independence Day,' but in reverse," he said. "The question of whether life could be out there is the big question that drove it."

Once Mais was finished with his book, a daunting challenge lay ahead of him — getting published.

He started researching publishing companies at the library, to see how others before him had done it. He weathered three rejections, most of them self-financed publishing concerns. "I was kind of crushed and all," he said. "I think age was the only barrier I had."

But he kept at it, refusing to let his age keep him back. "That little flame said I was going to do this."

Tate Publishing, an Oklahoma-based Christian publishing company, accepted the manuscript, provided he had parental permission and was willing to remove the profanity in his draft. With his family's support, the publisher took on the project. In addition to the book, the company also produced a nearly 10-hour audiobook and an e-book as well.

The 300-page novel was published on Feb. 12, almost two years to the day that he first picked up his pen. Mais is now working on a screenplay adaptation.

Name: Brian Mais Age: 17 Lives in: Marshalls Creek Attends: East Stroudsburg High School-South Family: Icilda Mais, mother; Zaria Latimore, 10, sister; James Latimore, stepfather Plans: To attend college, likely at Northampton Community College at first, then on to a four-year university, study screenwriting, (he's working on a draft of "Nebula") and eventually direct movies and make video games. Advice: "You can do anything if you put your mind to it and don't give up in the face of rejection."