Growing up, Utah author Chad Morris didn’t always write novels — at one time, he didn’t even like to read.

“I remember telling my mom I hated reading,” Morris said in an interview. “I loved basketball, being with friends. … Then I read one of Lloyd Alexander’s books and got pulled in.”

Reading changed his life, and now that he has published his own books, an intermediate series called Cragbridge Hall, one of his hopes as an author is to be that connection for someone else. The third book in the trilogy, "The Impossible Race" (Shadow Mountain, $18.99, ages 9-12), is scheduled to be released on Tuesday, March 3.

Morris often tells the story of how he learned to love reading to parents and children when he’s on tour, visiting schools around the country and holding events where he signs his books. He finds joy and satisfaction whenever someone tells him, “He (a child) doesn’t really like to read, but he’s really excited about this one!”

Morris was born and raised in Davis County, and his journey to become an author began in high school when he started writing a book at age 17. A few years later, after serving in Brazil as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he got involved in the Divine Comedy group at Brigham Young University. There he became good friends with Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven books.

“When I saw Brandon get published, I thought, ‘Maybe I can, too,’” Morris recalled. He wrote a manuscript and sent it to Shadow Mountain Publishing in Salt Lake City. “(It was a story) before Cragbridge, good enough to get attention but not good enough to get published. … Shadow Mountain was interested in it and brought me in to talk about it. I rewrote it a couple of times, but I just couldn’t get it to work. They said they liked my writing style and would be interested if I wrote more.”

Although his first manuscript was never published, Morris learned a lot from the experience. One of the things he learned was the importance of outlining a story and knowing how he wanted the story to end before he began writing it. By the time he started fleshing out “The Inventor’s Secret,” the first book in the Cragbridge Hall series, he already knew how he wanted the final book in the series to end.

Love for family is an important theme in the last book of the Cragbridge Hall series, "The Impossible Race," as the evil businessman Charles Muns sets out the ultimate plan for revenge on the Cragbridge twins, Abby and Derick. It's time for Cragbridge Hall's annual Race, a school tournament involving five challenges that will test their skills to the limit, but this year it's not just innocent fun: It's the key to Muns' plan.

“The Impossible Race” provides a thrilling, satisfying conclusion to the mysteries and dangers presented in the first two books. The 425-page book is a clean read without any swearing or graphic violence. It's easy to laugh and gasp along the way as Abby and Derick discover the last of Cragbridge Hall's secrets — and search for a way to stop Muns for good.

Some parts of "The Impossible Race" may be confusing to readers who have not finished the first two books.

When Morris writes, he said, he draws heavily on personal experience. Many of the main characters in the Cragbridge Hall books share certain personality traits with people he has known. For example, as he explains in the author acknowledgements of the first book, “I based Carol (Abby's friend) on an exaggerated version of what I think my wife might have been like in junior high. Yeah, she’s that fun.” He also said he personally identifies with Abby’s feelings of being very average, and Derick resembles a good friend that “always succeeded at everything.”

“The way I write is like the way some people take a road trip,” Morris said. “I outline (using) A's, B's and C's, and play in between.”

Although he stays busy between his day job writing curriculum for the LDS Church Educational System and his budding writing career, for Morris, family is more important than either.

"I'm married with five kids," Morris said. "Four of the five are kind of my target audience. I often read what I'm writing to my kids at night. … They love it. When I was reading 'The Avatar Battle' (the second book in the series) and got to a big reveal in the story, there was just a silence and then one of them said, 'That was awesome!' and I couldn't get them to sleep for another hour and a half. It was one of those moments where you say 'Go to bed,' but inside you're happy they liked it."

Morris' commitment to his family got public attention in February 2013 when doctors removed a tumor from his daughter's brain just weeks before his first book hit shelves. On March 5 that year, instead of beginning his book tour as scheduled, Morris was sitting in a hospital room with his family — and, according to him, that was exactly where he was supposed to be.

"I learned a great lesson (from that): People are amazing," he said, recalling the hundreds of people who posted Facebook photos of themselves wearing mustaches because Fox News reported that mustaches make his daughter laugh. His daughter recovered from the surgery and is now doing very well.

If you go ...

What: Chad Morris book signing

When: Friday, March 6, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Barnes and Noble, Layton Market Center, 1780 N. Woodland Park Drive, Layton


Also ...

What: Davis Reads — Family Literacy Night with multiple authors, including Chad Morris, Brandon Mull, Richard Paul Evans, Jennifer Nielsen and Tyler Whitesides

View Comments

When: Tuesday, March 10, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Viewmont High School, 120 W. 1000 North, Bountiful


Twitter: jmhenrie

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