Former UND president emerges as fiction author
In 2010, Charles Kupchella began imagining an alien planet inhabited by beings that had been tweaking and controlling life on Earth. The former longtime president of UND started writing his ideas down and later published his first work of (mostly...
In 2010, Charles Kupchella began imagining an alien planet inhabited by beings that had been tweaking and controlling life on Earth.
The former longtime president of UND started writing his ideas down and later published his first work of (mostly) fiction, "The Tree Shack: A Story About the Foundations of Morality and Origins of Humankind."
Although the book is billed as "fiction, science fiction and speculative nonfiction," and is written in the first person about a character with many similarities inspired by Kupchella himself, including the name Chuck, he's quick to note that no, he has never had an alien encounter in real life.
"The alien thing is all kind of based on the current interest in aliens you see in programs on the Discovery Channel, and I thought it would be a way to capture that kind of interest, but it is an important 'What if?' to me," he said. "People could have mistook something for something else back in history. How would somebody really know the difference?"
Morality and the purpose of life are themes throughout the book, which ask why humans have always felt the need to believe in a higher power.
"I'm taking the position that some or maybe all of it comes from the fact that we're human beings and we should know how to relate to one another without having to depend on Ten Commandments," he said.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks gave Kupchella reason to write a piece addressing religious beliefs and their effect on morality. He was also influenced by his upbringing within a Catholic school, and the main character in the book faces issues of faith and what to think of the Christian God.
"I saw some of the very negative effects of religious extremism, so I wanted to shake people and ask 'Why are you so sure in what you believe when in fact we don't have any facts to back up the supposition that if you kill somebody by blowing yourself up you'll go to paradise?'" Kupchella said.
Publishing and what's next
After finishing a first draft, Kupchella began working with Amazon's independent publishing platform CreateSpace that developed some marketing tools, the book's cover design and editing.
Kupchella has published several other scholarly works, including "Sights and Sounds: the Very Special Senses" in 1976 and "Dimensions of Cancer" in 1987. He said the publishing process for "The Tree Shack," while different than what he was used to, went well.
"I thought, 'Boy, it would be fun to write a book where I didn't have to look up references,'" Kupchella said.
He doesn't know how many copies of the book have been sold or viewed electronically through subscription services like Kindle, but Kupchella's family has been supportive, and he's gotten feedback from friends and readers that has made for some interesting conversation, he said.
And he's not done yet; along with working part time for an academic headhunting agency, he's currently writing another work of fiction about World War II, including tidbits from a trip he took to Lithuania with his son and some family history.
"This work will be based loosely on my grandparents on one side," Kupchella said.
"The Tree Shack" is available for purchase online at amazon.com, and more information and reviews are available at thetreeshack.com.