Author Tills Midlife’s Soil, Takes on Meaning of Life in His First Novel

Just shy of his 50th birthday, Kevin Kuhn’s budding midlife crisis suddenly compelled him to write a book. Previously, Kuhn’s writing had mostly been limited to journaling. “I just started writing,” he says. “I didn’t talk to a publisher or do any research. It was somewhat cathartic.”

The resulting novel, Do You Realize? (February 2017), takes its name from the Flaming Lips’ song, and music is a motif throughout the book. Kuhn’s chapter titles feature song titles, and the book concludes with recommended listening and reading lists. The reading list relates mainly to the book’s theme, which centers around the main character, George, meeting a “sort of mystical but awkward physics professor” named Shiloh on his daily commute. The professor gives George an Apple Watch, allowing him go back to 10 specific days in the past. Kuhn employs the many worlds theory, a quantum mechanics interpretation that has found its way into popular culture and media. The concept embraces the idea that many worlds exist in parallel at the same space and time as our own; think films like Groundhog Day, Sliding Doors or Donnie Darko.

Besides this sci-fi theme, the story follows George through a midlife crisis and a series of tragedies. “I would say that probably my own midlife crisis, at 50, really started me thinking about what’s my own take on the meaning of life,” Kuhn says, recalling that his work as an IT executive was going extremely well, but he was getting burned out in the years leading up to 50. Kuhn wanted a change, but he wasn’t ready to make one. “It wasn’t until I finished the book … I was looking at it and realized I kind of wrote this to tell myself to change,” he says.

Making the realization, Kuhn asked  his company for help. A month later, it came back with an opportunity at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management as an embedded IT executive. “I should have probably done something like this a couple years ago, but it was really writing the novel that convinced me to do it, and it’s really been wonderful,” Kuhn says.

Do You Realize? is published by Beaver’s Pond Press in Edina. Kuhn says he decided to use the local publisher because he could meet and talk with its staff.  “I’m really glad I did that, because I’m an IT guy,” he says.  “I love to read, but I’m not a literary expert or anything by any stretch,” Kuhn says.

Kuhn had half the book written before he showed it to anyone besides his wife, and even then he wasn’t sure he’d publish it. He says a developmental edit highlighted major work that was needed. “What I really loved about the editing process was my editors and publishers teaching me how to get a reader emotionally engaged and make them care about the story—it was fascinating for me.”

Kuhn has started a second book, which he thinks will take place in a Twin Cities bar and deal with additional, heavy topics, and he’s 30,000 words into a sci-fi young adult novel, which he describes as somewhere between Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.