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Major publisher picks up novel by newspaper reporter

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William Thornton (Dixon Hayes/WBRC) William Thornton (Dixon Hayes/WBRC)
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

A newspaper reporter apparently didn't stop writing when he clocked out from work.

William Thornton wrote a novel that's been published and picked up for national distribution. In fact, it even won a national award before it was published.

Thornton named his novel Set Your Fields on Fire after an old, fire-and brimstone hymn. As dramatic as that sounds, the book about "mystery worshipers" who work as church consultants, is actually a comedy.

"The church is made up of people. People are funny. And if I, if I go to a church and I don't hear people laughing, I wonder if everything's all right," Thornton said.

WBRC caught up with Thornton recently when he held a book signing and reading at Gadsden's Walnut Gallery, which is itself a former church sanctuary.

Thornton was inspired by a Wall Street Journal article about "mystery worshipers" who worked the same way as "mystery shoppers" in department stores and "mystery diners" who visit restaurants, to anonymous take notes on what works and what doesn't.

Despite his time as a Sunday School teacher in his Etowah County hometown of Southside, Thornton said he did not base it on personal experience, except maybe for "the texture of things."

He said he's been surprised at reader reaction.

"Some people have said that it has caused them to think about their own worship experience. It is, as one of the characters in the book says, 'It's the most important thing in our lives, whether we treat it that way or not,'" Thornton said.

The book was first released only last month, but already won an award even before then. Thornton submitted the manuscript.

"Westbow Press, which is a division of Thomas Nelson, does a contest called 'The Aspiring Writers Contest.' And this book won the grand prize, through that publishing company," Thornton explained.

Thornton has written two other self-published novels. But Harper Collins picked this one up for distribution after the book won the award.

"Everybody, I think, has some idea of some book that they want to write," Thornton said. "But actually getting it just this far, has just been real, has been a blessing."

Set Your Fields on Fire is available on the websites of Amazon, Books-a-Million and Barnes and Noble, and in Christian bookstores in 14 states.

You can read the first chapter of the novel by going here: http://brilliantdisguises.blogspot.com/2015/12/read-first-chapter-of-set-your-fields.html

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