By Abby Johnson
David Sears’s niece wasn’t interested in “Flying Naked.” To the young girl, it’s simply a boring adult book about piloting.
“You should write about an adventure,” she told him. “Something that has horses, trains and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry…oh, and American history — but only the interesting parts.”
Sears, a Beverly/Morgan Park native and St. Ignatius College Prep graduate, is in the Air Force stationed at the Pentagon. He’s a former airline pilot and the author of “The Untimely Journey of Veronica T. Boone,” a young adult trilogy that explores friendship and Chicago history while featuring exotic travel, dramatic chases, tornados, presidents of the United States, millionaires, gangsters, bootleggers, monsters, and one helpful but ornery African dwarf mongoose.
The trilogy is Sears’s first Middle Grade series, and the disparity between this genre and that of “Flying Naked,” a chronicle of his time as a pilot in South America, may be surprising to those unaware of Sears’s interest in Chicago’s backstory. He’s a self-proclaimed history buff, the result of growing up with a father who worked as school teacher for Chicago Public Schools and always pointed out the historic sites while driving throughout the city.
“There is so much history that flies under the radar,” Sears said. “And when writing these books I was able to explore all of it. That’s why I enjoyed writing them so much.”
While he may know the city’s rich past like the back of his hand, his experience in pre-teen entertainment was previously nonexistent. His research process was a rather hands-on one: He spent several hours talking to his niece and her friends, uncovering hidden interests and curiosities. What came of these conversations was a time-travel, historical fiction adventure about two girls from the present who try to save the country by stopping a crime that happened at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893.
When asked why he chose this particular setting for the story, Sears said Hyde Park is often overlooked as a neighborhood when it comes to historical significance. Everyone thinks of Al Capone or the Sears Tower when they think of Chicago, he said
“I wanted to bring attention to an area that is arguably the most important in Chicago’s history.”
And there are still plenty of other areas whose stories are waiting to be told. Sears knows this, which is why he is already mapping out Veronica T. Boone’s next adventure. He gives up his lunch hours to write these stories. But it’s worth it, he said.
“I never thought I’d be writing these kinds of books, but when the niece gives you a job, you do it, right?” He chuckles. “Seriously, though. I’m glad she did. It’s been good for both of us.”