NEWBURYPORT — Local writer and educator Bonnar Spring will celebrate the launch of her debut novel Wednesday at Jabberwocky Bookshop alongside journalist and author Hank Phillippi Ryan.
Spring, who called Newburyport her home for 30 years before moving a few miles north to New Hampshire, released "Toward The Light" on Tuesday.
The 336-page thriller follows Luz Concepcion, a young woman living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who returns to her native Guatemala to kill the dictator who destroyed her family. Between the CIA, a relative involved in guerrilla leadership and the people she meets along the way — Concepcion doesn't know who to trust.
Speaking on her inspiration to write the novel, Spring said, "The genesis of the novel has somewhat less to do with the novel that ended up being written and more being sort of a provocative question."
That question, which ate and ate at her, was "a little irritant that became a pearl." It involved dictatorship, terrorism and essentially, the ethical question of "killing really bad people," she explained.
A world traveler, Spring grew up in Texas and frequently visited Central America. At 16, she hitchhiked across Europe and after college, she joined the Peace Corps.
"Guatemala is a lovely country," she said. "A lot of people think it's dangerous, but so is Manhattan. You just have to be smart."
For the past 40 years, Spring has taught English as a second language to community college students — an experience that helped her develop the idea for the novel.
"In teaching ESL, it's not an academic subject in the way that statistics of algebra II is an academic subject," she said. "You get to know people and families. English language, for those who don't speak it, tends to skew to 'I have a doctor's appointment or a meeting with my kid's teacher, what do I say? How do I do things?'"
Though the heroine is a fictional character, Spring felt she could imagine the protagonist's parents as her own students.
"It's her parents who would be my students and Luz who grew up with one foot in each culture — who understands where her parents came from, but experienced life and language in a totally different way."
Spring is grateful for the New England writing community and in particular, Ryan, who will interview her at the event.
Ryan, a well-known investigative reporter for Channel 7 news on WHDH-TV and author of 11 mysteries, has won 36 Emmy Awards and even more journalism honors. On Wednesday, she will be promoting her latest, "The Murder List."
Spring's and Ryan's novels are available in bookstores and online.
The event begins at 7 p.m. at The Tannery Marketplace, 50 Water St. For more information, go to https://bonnarspring.com.
Staff writer Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.