Johnson County lawyer Greg Kincaid
spent many evenings making up bedtime stories and telling them to his two children when they were young.
Then one Christmas, he decided to turn one of those stories into a 10-page book to give them for stocking stuffers.
The story told about a young boy who wanted to adopt a dog during the holiday season.
“His dad, whose name is George, had some experiences with dogs, you know where you love the animal and then it dies, and he says he can’t go through that again; it’s heart-wrenching,” Kincaid said. “The son hears about a program where people can adopt a dog for Christmas; you foster it for a week and if you want to bring it back, that’s perfectly fine.
“After a week, the son says it’s time to take the dog back and the dad has become attached to the dog, so that sets up the conflict between the dad and the son whether the dog should get returned.”
Kincaid, 51, said he originally wrote the book to serve as a lesson to his children.
“And that was that the son had made the commitment to take the dog back,” Kincaid said. “It was sort of a sad ending because the dad falls in love with the dog but he doesn’t know how to let his son out of the deal to take the dog back.
When it came time to take the dog back, the son puts the leash on the dog and the dad is so proud of him. I left the opportunity that maybe they will adopt the dog in the next week or something like that.”
But there was one problem: Kincaid’s children did not like the ending.
“They said, ‘What do you mean he’s going to take the dog back; that’s the worst ending ever; I thought you were a writer. Dad! You have to redo the ending,’” said Kincaid, who lives west of Olathe on a farm that his family originally purchased from the Shawnee Indians. “It was kind of like (the movie) ‘Old Yeller’ where you shoot the dog.”
So Kincaid took his children’s advice and not only re-wrote the ending but also expanded the story into the novel “A Dog Named Christmas,” which was published by Doubleday and debuted this past holiday season.
“I’m not going to give (the new ending) away, but it’s an ending that everyone can live with,” he said.
Doubleday printed 125,000 copies, and the book reached No. 33 on The New York Times Fiction Best Seller list.
“I wrote another book about 15 or 20 years ago,” Kincaid said. “It was a young adult book. But it was from a small regional publisher and once my grandma, my cousins and best friends bought it, that’s about all that was sold.
“This is my first mass market big publisher.”
The experience involved learning about the world of book publishing.
“I’m certainly surprised at how slow things move and what a colossal thing it is to bring a book to market,” Kincaid said. “I thought the writer did 90 percent of the work. But the reality of it is that my role is not as significant. I had a publicist, marketing people, copy editors, line editors; it is such a huge piece of teamwork.
“You see why so many books get turned down because it’s a big investment for publishers. What they pay me in royalties is just a fraction of it.”
Kincaid said he has ideas for other books. He is already working on one called “Tucker,” which is about George’s life growing up with his grandparents in rural Kansas.
The grandfather maintains the county roads and a severe Kansas storm blocks roads and threatens Christmas.
“Random House has it,” Kincaid said. “I don’t know if they’ll take it or not; in one breath I get positive feedback on it and in the next breath they are talking about payoffs right now and they don’t have any money for pencils – my words not theirs. My impression is that it’s hard for them to make decisions right now because of the economy.
“I’ve got all these books that I’ve worked on over the years, great books, I think, but it’s a matter of whether I can convince anyone else in the world of that.”
Kincaid thought once he had a book published, it would be easier to get other books published. Now he is not so sure.
“Finally, after 30 years of banging away and finally have some success, I thought the doors would swing open a little wider than they have,” he said. “I’m way ahead of where I was three years ago, but the phone’s not ringing off the wall with people saying, ‘Greg, we would like to buy more books.’
“That’s not happening.”
Kincaid said he would like to see “A Dog Named Christmas” become a book for the holidays.
“It’s that kind of book that would have a long shelf life for the holidays,” he said. “I would like people to buy it to give as presents.”
Eventually, Kincaid would like to make a living writing books.
“My goal would be to be very busy the next 10 years lawyering by day and writing by night,” he said. “I could retire and write; it would be fun and I wouldn’t have to worry about the financial end of it quite as much.
“But after this experience, I don’t think that is realistic. The number of people who make a living off of writing are not very many.