Brendan Noble ’18 has always been down for a challenge.
As a first semester freshman in an intermediate-level economics class — a class which Assistant Professor of Economics Michael Clark said “many juniors who take it fear” — Noble walked away with one of the best grades in the class.
“When I warned him to potentially reconsider taking the class he just accepted the challenge as an intellectual adventure,” Clark said.
His latest adventure, since graduating in May, is to self-publish a young adult dystopian novel, set in a socialist, futuristic America.
Noble, who graduated last May with a major in economics and a minor in German, was known to spend a lot of his spare time studying and discussing politics. After working on several campaigns in the past years, including Justin Amash for Congress in 2018, Noble currently works as a data consultant for Amash. He decided to write the book in his spare time last November, and has not looked back.
When asked if his experience in American politics helped in the writing of the dystopian novel, Noble laughed.
“I knew you were going to ask that question,” he said. “I’ve worked in politics for at least 10 years now. You can talk to anybody who knew me at Hillsdale, politics is my hobby … But the main driving point is the relationship between the two main characters: The political system is more of the background for that.”
“The Fractured Prism” is a story about a young man in a futuristic America, 99 years after a fictional third American civil war, in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. The man works with operators who try to overthrow the government, and winds up becoming allies with a former princess.
“In northern Mississippi, you have socialists who are revolting against the monarchists,” Noble said, explaining the book’s complex political system which he designed to be unique from any other system he has studied. “There’s a Prism system which splits people into color-classes based on their loyalty and their usefulness.”
Though fiction-writing seems unlikely for an economics major, Noble said he had had the ideas for this story for a while.
“I’d always wanted to write a book,” he added. “So I decided, I have the time, I’m out in Grand Rapids working on the campaign, and I thought, why not just write it? Then my fiancee Andrea told me about this thing called National Novel Writing Month.”
National Novel Writing Month, an online competition also known as “NaNoWriMo,” has gained a lot of recognition with up-and-coming writers since its beginning in 1999, and boasted 394,507 participants from 646 different regions in 2017. The challenge: Write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November, or just under 2,000 words every day.
Noble wrote the first full draft of “The Fractured Prism” in November of 2018 for NaNoWriMo. After the challenge ended, he immediately transitioned to editing, and within three months, with the addition of some massive changes and with a final manuscript of some 77,000 words, will be releasing the book through Amazon self-publishing on Feb. 15, as both a softcover and an ebook.
“I don’t have a ton of money to put into the book; lots of people hire editors, but almost all the editing has been done by me,” Noble said. “I’ve probably read the book 50 to 75 times at this point.”
This willingness to try anything is consistent with how Noble’s professors described him.
“Brendan’s never been afraid to admit what he does not know and then seek answers to those gaps on his own,” Clark said. “Even more impressive, he’s always been willing to stay humble and retain some gaps.”
Those who knew him from Hillsdale said they had no idea Noble was writing a book, but most were not surprised. Noble always pursued a wide variety of hobbies outside of his major, and outside of political jobs, including doing lighting and production design for the theatre department, and becoming a member of the theatre honorary, Alpha Si Omega.
Michael Beyer, Lighting Designer and Production Manager for Theatre Department, who employed Noble for three of his years on campus, said he did not hear about the book until a couple of weeks ago.
“It is something that I’m sure he would do, though,” Beyer said. “He liked to talk about smart things, and I’m sure he had plenty of conspiracy theories up in his little brain that he wanted to put on paper, so it doesn’t surprise me at all, in that sense, but I had no clue he was doing it. I guess he’s modest and humble about it. He probably thinks it’s no big deal.”
In addition to his own work on the book, Noble’s fiancee Andrea Wallace ’18, as well as several of his family members, have lent their eyes and opinions to the various drafts. Noble said he also uses a lot of online resources as he learns how to navigate the process of self-publishing, and to weigh his options.
“What’s actually been extremely helpful is a group I found on Reddit,” he said. “They share instructions on how to self-publish, or the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.”
He added that after reading many articles on both the traditional publishing process and the self-publishing process, he quickly decided he didn’t want to go the traditional route, “because it’s putting your work in someone else’s hands, and that’s just not who I am,” he said. “Self-publishing is all you, which is challenging, but now everything that comes into this book, I can say, ‘I did that.’”
Going back and revising has been difficult, but the reward was finally holding a proof copy for the first time.
“I thought, ‘Holy crap, I wrote this,’” he said.