Deron Hicks and Carroll Taylor have a couple of things in common.
Both live outside Columbus and love to read and write books for young readers. Their heroines in the books also live in rural Georgia. Then the similarities disappear.
Hicks and Taylor recently spoke with the Ledger-Enquirer about their upcoming projects.
Hicks and his wife, Angela, often walk in the early evening at their home between Manchester and Columbus. The couple met while they were attending Mercer Law School. He's now associate general counsel at TSYS. She's a partner at Page Scrantom Sprouse Tucker & Ford,
During their walks, they talk about their day, their children (Meg, 15, and Miles, 12, who attend Brookstone School) and other topics. But unlike other couples, they talk about the future of his books, the Letterford Mysteries, of which "Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave" and "Tower of the Five Orders" are two of the seven-book series he planned.
Of course, they've discussed the possibility that the books may one day become a series of films and argue over who would play which characters.
Hicks, 45, laughs when he says he's got the perfect actor to play one of the characters -- Johnny Depp.
When Hicks was in school, he said he didn't enjoy reading Shakespeare. But as he got older, he started reading biographies about him. That's when he started reading Shakespeare seriously.
He had an idea for a book, and at night and on weekends he started writing.
Once finished, he decided he needed an agent.
So he sent out query letters to five agents. He got nice rejection letters from four of them. The fifth wanted the entire manuscript to read.
"I was elated," Hicks said.
He sent it early that week and by the end of the week, he got a contract.
The agent then sent the manuscript to five book publishers.
They got rejection letters from four of them. The fifth, however, really liked it and offered a two-book deal.
By March 2011, he had a deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Books for Young Readers division. In September 2012, "Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave" was published and last October, "Tower of the Five Orders" was published.
In the books, Colophon Letterford is a little younger than his daughter, but "I'm kind of following my daughter. We see how she grows." The term "colophon," in publishing, is a brief manuscript. That's how she got a name that honors the family business.
To do research for the books, Hicks and his daughter went to London. He said Meg figured out the subway system and was "very comfortable" in England.
He loves the small towns around London and wants to expose his young readers to real places.
Taylor also writes about a young girl.
Except this young girl lives even farther out in the country than Colophon. And she loves reptiles -- snakes, lizards and turtles.
She started writing in the 1970s, when she took a creative writing class at Columbus College, which is now Columbus State University.
"I wrote this little short story," she said. "I'm Southern. I like little quirky stories."
But she put those stories away as she began teaching, got married and became a mother.
"I didn't have the time or the discipline" to write, she admits.
She taught French, creative writing, honors English and was the newspaper adviser at Northside High School. Taylor retired from the Muscogee County School District in 2004, but she hasn't retired from teaching. She teaches English and essay writing part time at CSU.
Her first book, "Chinaberry Summer," is about Sissie Stevenson whose dream of going to Florida comes true.
She's writing a sequel, but she's not sure whether she's going to write a seven-part series like Hicks.
"We'll see how long I live," she jokes. "My first publication was at age 64. But it's never too late."
Married to Hugh, who is a pharmacist at Northside Medical Center (formerly Hughston Hospital), they have one son, Zach, 34. He's now an associate pastor in Washington.
The Taylors live in Cataula, Ga., with two cats and a dog.
"And a world of critters outside," she said. She's seen snakes, scorpions, lizards and turtles right outside her door over the years.
She writes on a laptop in her kitchen, usually between 11:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.
Born in Hamilton, Ga., Taylor grew up in Shiloh, Ga.
And like Sissie, Taylor loves snakes, turtles and lizards. Sitting on her porch, she can observe them in the woods behind her house and then write about them.
Deron Hicks: A Novel Experience in Zebulon, Ga., on Saturday. Next month, he'll be at book signings and readings in Augusta and Atlanta.
Carroll Taylor: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, where she will be reading from her book and discussing the importance of storytelling.