By Nate Fleming
Nate Fleming’s debut novel Thimblerig’s Ark is a middle grade novel inspired by the writings of C.S. Lewis, the book of Genesis, and an Irish pub song about why the unicorn missed out on Noah’s Ark. During its two free promotional days on Amazon in March, Thimblerig’s Ark reached the top ten of free Kindle books in the Children’s Fantasy and Magic genre, and the top thirty in the Children’s Literature & Fiction genre.
Nathan Fleming still remembers the day the idea for Thimblerig’s Ark came to him. He was sitting in Tommy Condon’s Irish Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, when the band started singing a song about the unicorns missing out on Noah’s Ark because of their foolishness. “I had a hard time reconciling this idea of unicorns getting left off the ark because they were acting too silly to be bothered,” Fleming explains. “I’d always imagined unicorns to be noble and somewhat dangerous. Then the idea came to me that I could try and tell a more serious version of the animal’s story.”
Fleming began the novel in 1999 when he moved to his wife’s native country of Kazakhstan. Over the next several years, he’d work on the story when he had the time, also being busy founding and directing the Kazakhstan English Language Theater, the first English language theater in Central Asia. As the story went through various incarnations, the characters and situations changed, but the unicorns remained the anchor to the tale.
Most surprising to Fleming was the hero, who turned out to be extremely unlikely – a con-artist groundhog named Thimblerig. In the novel, the groundhog is not only in danger of being washed away by the flood, but he’s also in danger of losing his soul because of his lack of concern for the animals of the forest. “The story is really Thimblerig’s story,” Fleming says. “He starts out trying to run the ultimate con on the forest’s suckers, but he is finally confronted by how destructive his own selfishness can be, and he’s forced to change or lose it all.”
The decision to complete the story came fifteen years later when Fleming and his wife, Koolyash, found out they were pregnant with their third child. “I’d been trying to write the story for so long, and realized that it was easier to start something it than to finish it. When we found out we would be having another child, I was convicted to complete it so that my children would have something that they could one day read to their own children.” Fleming set the goal to finish the novel by the time the new baby was born, and when baby Noah came into the world, the manuscript was complete.
Fleming currently lives in Chengdu, China, with his wife and three children. Besides being a writer, he also works at an international school where he teaches reading, language arts, and drama. “Living overseas for fifteen years has given me a unique perspective on the world, and, I hope, the experience makes my writing more accessible to readers from all over the world.”
Nate Fleming’s middle grade fantasy, Thimblerig’s Ark, is available exclusively for Amazon’s Kindle.