The novel follows the story of Chance Murdoch, a single father of two who falls in love with his daughter’s much-younger high school calculus teacher. Chance must face the problems that come with liking a woman 12 years younger than him and decide if the risk of damaging his relationship with his daughter is worth it, all while dealing with the “ex-wife from hell” who wants to ruin any happiness that may come to Chance.
While the story is loosely based on some of Stuteville’s own divorce experiences, the book is a fiction story. Local readers may recognize the towns mentioned in the book; “Chance of a Lifetime” is set in Spring City, Tenn.
“I try to write about locations I know and that people can relate to,” Stuteville said. Some of his other works are based in his hometown of Etowah.
Stuteville began writing “Chance of a Lifetime” 11 years ago, just four years after going through the divorce that inspired the storyline of the book. He used writing as a way to cope with his divorce in a way that would not negatively affect his two children, ages 9 and 11 at the time.
“The last thing I wanted to do was put their mother down in front of them,” Stuteville said. “I would come home, put the kids to bed, then I would write. It gave me an outlet to put away my frustrations.”
Stuteville wrote 30 to 40 pages each night, and over the course of three months, he completed the first draft of his book. He spent the next year revising and polishing the story before finally taking the chance and sending it to various publishers.
“I got probably 30 to 40 rejection letters,” Stuteville said, explaining that most publishers asked who his agent was.
Stuteville found himself facing what he describes as the “Catch 22” of the publishing business: publishers will not consider you without an agent, and agents will not consider you without having been published previously. So he continued writing, revising and interacting with others in the writing field while he waited on the right opportunity to come.
During that time, he reconnected with an old classmate that he had known since third grade, Kathy, via Classmates.com. Kathy encouraged him to continue in his quest to publish the book and soon went from being just an encouraging friend to becoming his wife. The couple will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in July.
Despite the rejections, Stuteville continued to revise the novel as well as began writing several other stories to develop at a later time. Stuteville estimates the version of the novel that was recently published was probably the 10th revision made to the original script.
Stuteville heard about dMon Publishing from a friend of his who had been signed to publish a book about his experiences in the “Hotter’ n Hell” cycling ride in Wichita Falls, Texas.
The company specializes in publishing new authors and takes a more traditional approach in that it does not also act as a publicist for its authors.
Stuteville worked with dMon Publishing to refine the manuscript even further, then on Jan. 29, 2013, the 216-page novel was released in paperback and e-book format.
“It was probably one of the better feelings of my life,” Stuteville said about the first time he held the finished product. “I guess you could describe it almost like the first time I held my daughter. This is something I created.”
Stuteville has been writing since he was 14 years old, starting with short stories in high school, then later on essays in the style of American writer and humorist Lewis Grizzard, though he never had any of his work published. He never planned to write a novel or get it published until he began writing “Chance of a Lifetime.”
“I just wanted to know that I could write something and touch people’s lives,” Stuteville said. He has received positive feedback from people who have read the book, especially from people who have also gone through divorces and can relate to the main character.
Aside from writing, Stuteville also works full-time as the vice president of operations for J&S Restaurants, a position that he has held for 22 years. Most people, he said, are surprised to find out that he also manages to write on the side and has published his first book.
“When I do write, it’s in bits and pieces,” Stuteville said, adding he takes notes throughout the day and rereads everything he has written before sitting down to resume writing his manuscripts.
He also uses a Dropbox account so that he can write from any location. Currently, Stuteville has started nine different manuscripts and has ideas for more, including a sequel for “Chance of a Lifetime.”
“Even though I have a writing nook upstairs,” Stuteville said, “I usually sit at the kitchen table so I can be close to [Kathy].”
Stuteville said that he relates well to Dean Koontz’ theory of writing: Just sit down and write. Stylistically, he aligns himself with Charles Martin, who is also one of his favorite authors, and Nicholas Sparks.
“When I’m not writing, I read mysteries,” Stuteville said. “When you’re writing, read things like what you’re writing. When you’re not writing, read everything else.”
Stuteville will be publishing his second novel, a suspenseful mystery called “Careless Whispers,” this fall, though a specific release date has not been decided yet.
He is also working on a novel based on the life of his sister to be released in 2014 called “Forever and For Always.” The book tells about the love story of Stuteville’s sister and her husband throughout her battle with cancer and her husband’s life after she was gone. Stuteville remarked that though he started writing “Forever and For Always” two years after his sister’s death, long before “Careless Whispers,” it took longer to write because of how emotional the writing process is.
“It’s a really emotional book to write because it hits so close to home,” Stuteville said. “My sister was my best friend.”
Kathy handles a lot of the publicity for his books and helps to organize autograph signings and advertising. The couple has lived in the Cleveland area for nine years, so she was excited to arrange the book signing at Jittery Joe’s on April 27.
“We’re hoping it’ll be an intimate get-together,” Kathy said.
Stuteville is excited to continue writing and publishing his books in the future and encourages other prospective authors to continue trying to find a way to publish their works.
“Never, ever, ever give up,” Stuteville said. “It is so easy in this business to give up. Thanks to the Internet, you can find a publisher.”
He also encourages up-and-coming writers to write something, whether it be an email or letter or a piece of novel, every day.
“It’s been a long process,” Stuteville said, “but it’s been a good process because it has helped me become a better person.”
The paperback version of “Chance of a Lifetime” is available online from Amazon and Books-A-Million. E-book versions are available through the online stores at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Copies of the book are also available to check out at Cleveland Bradley Public Library, E.G. Fisher Library in Athens and Audrey Pack Library in Spring City.
Copies will also be available for purchase at Jittery Joe’s on April 27 and through Stuteville’s website, www.edstuteville.com.