By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Tom Prior, a 2014 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, admires the university’s patron saint and has a passion for writing novels. He combined the two interests by publishing his first action adventure novel titled Skyfire and contributing a portion of sale proceeds from the $20 book to charities. He’s sold 135 books in his first run, far exceeding his goal of 50 books.
“I knew I wanted to donate some of the money, but I didn’t know where,” the 22-year-old Bloomington, Ill., native said. “So I thought about it for a bit. I decided to give $5 of every book to Catholic Charities and also $5 to the St. Ambrose University Dance Marathon, which gives its money to the Children’s Miracle Network.
“Being Catholic, I’d always heard of Catholic Charities. I wanted to give to an organization I was familiar with. And I knew (Catholic Charities) helped a lot in the community with the homeless, the poor people, the financially deprived,” Prior said. “My senior thesis was on how Saint Ambrose of Milan used philanthropic work to help the Church grow and to provide for the poor of the Church because in the early centuries the Church was the Church of the poor.”
Kent Ferris, director of Social Action and of Catholic Charities for the Davenport Diocese, said Prior “provided us with a significant contribution for Catholic Charities. I am very impressed with his commitment to living his faith; I hope we can stay connected.”
Prior began writing Skyfire while in high school and completed it while in college. Despite a demanding academic schedule (three majors, one minor, student newspaper editor responsibilities) and holding a part-time job, he finished editing the book late last year.
“I always loved writing when I was growing up. I’d write short stories and give them to my parents to read. I loved to read, Harry Potter, for example. I thought, ‘If I’m going to keep writing, I’m going to come up with my own series.’”
Skyfire’s main character, Jack Singe, flees with his friend from their homeland in a world on the brink of war and nuclear crisis. They fly to the United States, which has become a fortress against the power-obsessed army of the Federation. Jack’s father and an older brother live in the U.S., but Jack hasn’t seen them in years.
Jack is “embarking on a search to find his family, forge friendships while trying to understand humanity. There’s so much pain and death going on in his life. He’s trying to find the love in others. He’s trying to grow. He’s 17; when I started writing, I wanted him to be my age,” Prior said.
In the story, Jack becomes a military pilot, fighting for the Free World. “I loved the movie ‘Top Gun.’ I always collected airplanes as a kid … I wanted my character to be a pilot. That was my dream, to be on board.”
Prior’s parents didn’t know he was writing a book until he plopped down a 260-page Microsoft Word document, single-spaced, in front of them. “They were very surprised. They knew I loved writing since I was a young kid. But they thought I had given that up. Writing can be so personal … I was very nervous to put it in front of people to read because I’ve put so much time and effort into these past five years. I just hoped others would enjoy it as much as I did.”
His parents loved the book, he said, and promoted it to friends in the Bloomington-Normal area. Prior also contacted teachers he’d had in elementary and high school and asked them to spread the word about Skyfire. “I am a product of what I’ve learned from all of these other teachers in my life. So, in a sense, this book is an example of the work they’ve done in my life.”
The young author created a Facebook page for Skyfire, and on his personal Facebook page he posted: “I said my dream has always been to write a novel and I’m proud to say I finally have and my title is Skyfire.” You can also obtain copies of the book by e-mailing Prior at prior
Now it’s on to the next novel in a five-book series. Prior will work on that novel while studying for a Master of Organizational Leadership and working as a campus ministry grad assistant at St. Ambrose.