Kid Talk Tuesday: Inviting Kids (And Adults) To Take a Reading Journey

Our celebration of the release of the Be Your Own Duck Commander™ series continues this week with a special guest post from Travis Thrasher, the writer who collaborated with John Luke Robertson on the series. For more information on these awesome books and the authors, visit www.beyourownduckcommander.com. Stay tuned next week for details on how you can enter to win your own copies of the Be Your Own Duck Commander™ series.

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There are lots of great books out there right now on the Robertson family. Most of them tell their family story of how they almost lost everything to how faith kept them strong. Many of the wild characters on their show—Willie, Phil, Uncle Si—have stories told about their lives. But John Luke Robertson, Willie and Korie’s eldest son, wanted to do something different: he wanted to write fiction.

For six months I’d been looking for a way to work with the Robertsons. I’ve been collaborating with lots of different people on book projects and have really enjoyed doing so. I was fortunate to work on a memoir with Mac and Mary Owen, who happen to be best friends with Phil and Kay. After that, I kept thinking how could I do a book with someone from Duck Dynasty?

That’s why when Tyndale House Publishers called about this project, I wondered if I’d told them about my desire. I hadn’t. They just naturally thought I’d be a good fit for writing a book with John Luke Robertson (or that I have the maturity level of a seventeen-year-old). Well, it turns out they were right.

There were lots of ideas thrown around, but the one that kept coming back to us was this idea of doing a modern day Choose Your Own Adventure style story. The kind where readers get to pick and choose which decisions get made. Instead of setting the stories in West Monroe (like the show does), we were able to do crazy things like having Willie go back in time or sending Uncle Si off to space.

It did feel a bit strange writing fiction with real-life characters, but then again, the Robertsons are characters on their show. They each have a persona on Duck Dynasty. And while they act like themselves, they still are very much like characters in a story. So we just made the stories wilder and more creative.

The first question was could we make them outlandish? For instance, could we introduce time travel and ghosts and werewolves and space travel into these books? Once we got everybody’s approval on the ideas, the sky was the limit (pun intended).

But there was a reason John Luke and I wanted to do it this way. It’s because readers out there have lots of distractions. Lots of distractions. They have movies and sports and apps on their tablets and Candy Crush on their phones. There are too many ways to spend your time and not enough hours in the day. So reading can sometimes get pushed aside. Especially if you’re a kid in middle school. Or if you just happen to be a male.

So we wanted these books to be fun and entertaining like the show. But to allow them to do what the show couldn’t—to imagine anything.

We also wanted the books to appeal to both younger readers and their parents. I always imagined a forty-five year old guy who never reads picking up one of these books and laughing his way through it. There are lots of pop culture references that people who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s will get. Like a Pixar movie or the recent Lego Movie, we tried to have lots of jokes parents will get and laugh at.

Writing these four books was like some grand writing experiment. First step: take a Duck Commander. Second step: set him on a wild journey. Third step: ask a hundred what ifs. Fourth step: try and keep track of all the storylines.
The fourth step was often the trickiest step. We’re very thankful for the great editing staff at Tyndale House. They had their work cut out for them!

Working with John Luke Robertson and his family was great. I spent several days in West Monroe working with and brainstorming with John Luke. I still remember the moment where I could see the sparks coming from his brain after we’d been discussing all the different storylines. He finally truly understood the concept and then he went a step further to suggest linking the books together. He’s a really smart kid, unlike the silly persona on the show. (Though I can say he is a crazy driver and that he almost wrecked my small rental car!)

At the end of the day, John Luke and his family want people to know about their values and their faith. Each of our books ends with a positive message much like the end of their show. The journey can be funny and wacky but at the end of the day, you give thanks to God and realize He’s in control. No matter what choices you’ve made.

Our hope is that these books are enjoyed by many and get readers to ask What If in their own lives. Those two words can be very powerful if they’re given over to God. Just ask John Luke’s amazing family. They’re a pretty amazing example of What If.

Adam Sabados

Adam Sabados

Adam is the Digital Media Coordinator at Tyndale. He gets to have fun running social media campaigns, and online advertising. Adam is a graduate of Malone University in Canton, Ohio where he majored in communication arts and was highly involved in the theatre department. He currently lives in Wheaton, IL with his wife Meghan, his son Luke, and their Cavalier pup Banksy. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSab where you can learn all about his latest improv comedy shows around Chicago, hear about the woes of Ohio sports teams, or catch an insightful blog post or two.