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PA graduate Craig Labuskes publishes first novel

December 12, 2016 Author: Dr. Brennan Thomas Tags: Academics , School of Arts and Letters , School of Health Sciences

Craig Labuskes, a graduate of Saint Francis University’s Physician Assistant Science program, published his first novel, The Best Seat in the House, earlier this year.  Aimed toward middle school readers, the story centers on two brothers separated by age and distance who, in the wake of a family tragedy, attempt to reconnect through the game of baseball.

Craig Labuskes spotlightCraig began working on his manuscript in November 2013, completing the majority of it during his didactic year from June 2014 to May 2015; he also submitted his finished manuscript for his Senior Honors Thesis. Upon earning his Bachelor of Science in 2015, Craig began revising his novel for possible publication. After completing his clinical rotations and receiving his Master of Physician Assistant Science in 2016, Craig meticulously edited and reformatted the manuscript, eventually self-publishing it through Lulu.com in October. The book’s visually stunning cover was created by Craig’s cousin, Stephanie Labuskes, a graphic designer residing in Charlotte, North Carolina.

An Interview with Craig Labuskes

In a recent interview about his novel’s publication, Craig describes his writing process, the inspiration for his novel, his favorite characters, and his message for other aspiring writers.

Thomas and Labuskes

Why did you decide to write a full-length book for your Senior Honors Thesis?

In the project’s brainstorming phase, I struggled mightily to come up with a suitable topic. I wanted to explore something outside of my major, but even with relatable subjects like film and sports, nothing good was coming to mind. But then I thought of students ahead of me who had taken a more creative route, whether in the form of artwork or literature. Since my artistic side is pretty much limited to color by number, I figured that authoring a book was my best choice. Creative writing was largely foreign to me, but I wanted to embrace the challenge of a new style. Granted, the end product may not win a Newbery Medal, but I’m still pretty thrilled with how it turned out. Looking back, the Honors Thesis as a whole was a tremendous opportunity. In the end, I’m just glad I could capitalize on it.


How did you first conceive of the idea for your story?

The idea for the story was actually inspired by my family vacations. Since 2005, our annual getaways have centered around visits to different Major League Baseball stadiums (as you can tell, we’re not exactly “beach people”). I’ve seen 11 parks thus far and been equally fascinated by each one. So naturally, I was drawn to the premise of a stadium tour. From there, the story just evolved as this core idea began to shape my characters and their behavior. That whole progression was actually kind of amazing.

Why did you gear this book toward middle school students?

I wasn’t exactly an avid reader in middle school. In fact, the only novels I read were those assigned to me by English teachers. But some time in eighth grade, I discovered an author named Mike Lupica, who wrote a lot of sports fiction for young adults. With relatable characters and entertaining plots, his books just really appealed to me as a middle schooler. More importantly, they helped to foster my interest in reading that would’ve otherwise faded during those years. So to answer the question, my book targets this age group because I’d like it to do the same thing. If it can spur an interest in even one kid, I consider that a win. Reading is such a vital skill and it often takes a backseat to other activities. For the kid who’d rather be out on the field than in with a book, perhaps this’ll show that the latter isn’t so bad. All you need is the right genre.

What was the easiest part of writing your book? What was the hardest part?

Throughout this process, I’d say that plot development came pretty easily to me. With so many real-life experiences to draw upon, I rarely struggled to come up with content for each chapter. Granted, I didn’t want the characters’ adventures to mirror those of my own, but I’d be lying if I said that some weren’t at least inspired by actual events. On the flip side, I found the hardest part of this project to be the writing itself. I knew what I wanted to say, but actually conveying that to readers—especially younger readers—proved to be quite challenging at times. In my early days of drafting, Dr. Thomas [my thesis mentor] gave me a great piece of advice: to “show” the story rather than “tell” it. For example, if I wanted to portray Ryan as being upset about something, it would’ve sounded pretty listless to just write, “Ryan was upset about it.” In that scenario, it was far more effective to depict him with his arms crossed as he quietly stared out the window on a rainy day. This “showing” technique is clearly more effective, but it was also more difficult to practice—especially for 19 chapters.

 
Who is your favorite character, and why?

My favorite character is easily Terra. I don’t want to give too much away here, but I just found her presence in the book to be a breath of fresh air. She’s spunky, charismatic, and incredibly loyal—really just the kind of person you’d want as your friend. Not to mention, she plays a pivotal role in resolving the story’s main conflict. So in short, she’s awesome. My only regret is that I can’t meet her in real life!


Since completing your thesis and graduating from SFU in 2015, what have you been doing?

After earning my Bachelor’s degree in 2015, I spent the next 12 months completing my clinical rotations for the PA program. I then earned my Master’s degree in May and passed my certification exam in early June. The ensuing summer consisted of job applications, weddings, a trip to Kennywood Park, and of course, prepping the story for publication. Next on my to-do list is move out to the Harrisburg-Hershey region and begin my new job.

At what point did you realize that you could--and probably should--publish your book?

I knew from Day 1 that if the story came to fruition, I was absolutely going to publish it. After all the time and energy that I had invested in the composition, it seemed pointless to not go that extra mile. Plus, my brother refused to read it until it was printed and bound. Would’ve been a shame for him to miss out.

Do you have any ideas for other projects?

I haven’t given much thought to additional projects. Right now, my focus is solely on medicine as I begin my new career as a PA. That obviously has to come first. Besides, I never set out to become a healthcare provider and an author. But hey, who knows? I don’t imagine Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did either…

What words of encouragement would you offer to other students interested in writing books for fun or to satisfy their Senior Honors Thesis requirements?

In either scenario, I would encourage students to first determine the end goal for their main characters. If you, the author, are sending them on a journey full of struggle and conflict, then their destination had better be worth it. Once you establish where they’re ultimately going, it becomes a whole lot easier to actually get them there. Second, I would encourage students to truly invest in their characters and develop a genuine concern for them. They may be fictional, but you can’t afford to think that way as an author. Without that personal connection, writing turns into a chore and the end product becomes much more artificial, in my opinion. If both of these goals are met, I would lastly advise students to just be patient. The hours may be long, the revisions may be countless, and the bouts of writer’s block may tempt you to quit. But if the story’s really worth telling, none of that should stop you from producing something great. It’s quite a feat to write a book. If you have the opportunity, take it and run with it.

Craig Labuskes has accepted a Physician Assistant position with PinnacleHealth Express in the Harrisburg-Hershey region. The Best Seat in the House is available for purchase via Lulu.com and Amazon.