Stranger dreams

July 26, 2019

Annville native authors first ‘Stranger Things’ book

By Jen Calhoun

Gwenda BondBefore Gwenda Bond could write, she wrote anyway. “There were always books around, and my parents always read to us,” says Bond, a 42-year-old New York Times bestselling author and former Jackson County resident who has written 12 books, including the first novel based on

Netflix’s popular show “Stranger Things.”

“I just loved stories right from the get-go,” Bond says. “I didn’t even know how people wrote them. But I would make loops on paper while my grandmothers took turns watching us.”

When her parents, local educators Jerry and Betty Bond, returned home from work, they’d read her scribbling with an appreciative eye, she says. “Every now and then, I’d accidentally make a word,” she says with a laugh.

From Screenplays to Novels

While studying journalism at Eastern Kentucky University, Bond fell in love with writing screenplays. “Eventually, I realized that books were my first love, and I actually didn’t really want to move to Los Angeles, which you basically have to do if you write scripts,” she says.

She was practical in other ways, too. She knew she needed a job to support her writing habit. With help from one of her professors, she started working for the press secretary of former Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, which launched a 17-year career in state government. She now lives near Lexington, a little over an hour from McKee, and writes full time.

Throughout her working years, Bond continued writing in her spare time. “The really big thing for me was the young adult novel renaissance,” she says. “When I started reading those books in the mid-2000s — the books that came after “Harry Potter” — I felt this intense sense of recognition. I knew that’s what I wanted to write about.”

Birth of a Novelist

Her first novel, “Blackwood,” came out in 2012 and has since been reimagined as the book “Strange Alchemy.” The fictional tale takes place on present-day Roanoke Island in North Carolina where the legend of the Lost Colony — 114 English colonists vanished from that location in the late 16th century — still persists. In Bond’s novel, however, 114 more people disappear again in modern times. It’s up to two teenagers to find out what happened.

She went on to write several more books, including a series on Lois Lane, the sidekick to Superman and a hero in her own right. Bond also wrote the “Cirque American” series about characters in a unique modern circus. In addition, she has collaborated with her husband, Christopher Rowe, on a children’s series called “The Supernormal Sleuthing Service.”

‘Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds’

Based on that success, a publisher approached Bond about writing the first novel for the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” The science fiction/horror show focuses on a group of children in the 1980s who enter into a supernatural mystery after their friend disappears. The third season of the popular show is set to air this summer.

Bond’s novel “Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds” serves as a prequel to the series. Set in the late 1960s, the novel centers around the mother of one of the show’s main characters, Eleven, and the disturbing research taking place at the fictional Hawkins National Laboratory. “One way I would describe it to people is that it’s kind of a secret history of everything leading up to season 1 of the show,” Bond says.

The offer to write the book came around March 2018, she says. “I had written a trilogy about Lois Lane, which DC Comics and Warner Brothers had approached me for, and I had published a lot of books of my own,” she says. “My name occurred to an editor with Del Rey Books, which was working on a partnership with Netflix to write the first ‘Stranger Things’ book.”

Within months, Bond started writing. While much of the story came from Bond’s own imagination, she also worked with a staff writer from the show to make sure everything fit with the show’s story arc. “It was an unusually smooth process,” she says. “It was a lot more access than I think you usually get with these kinds of books.”

Her Old Kentucky Home

Bond believes most of her inspiration came from her upbringing and her intense love of books. Her parents, both teachers who later became principals in Jackson County schools, encouraged reading and a love of learning. “I was really lucky to have parents who were readers themselves,” Bond says. “There were always books around. Because they were principals, I always had access to the school libraries year-round. I cannot overstate the importance of that.”

Because of this, Bond, a graduate of Jackson County High School, likes to visit students from her old schools and other rural schools in Kentucky. “It’s a special place, and I felt really lucky to grow up where I did and have those roots,” she says. “I feel like we don’t really get to see ourselves represented by the media in a positive way sometimes. So, I think it’s important for somebody to tell you that your voice is important and that people should hear what you want to say. For me, that’s super rewarding when I get to tell kids that.”

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Stranger Dreams magazine article