When Andrew Daly was in fourth grade at Elizabeth Lane Elementary School, his classmates overwhelmingly predicted that he’d grow up to be an author.
At age 15, Daly is already there.
Daly, who will be a junior at Ardrey Kell High School in the fall, recently self published “Portal of Vaal” based on his experience in an online Minecraft community. The book is available on Amazon.com, and he received the first printed copies in early June.
“It felt pretty awesome,” Daly said.
The story follows a young hero who wakes up in a faraway land, called Vaalbara, with no memory. He identifies as “Motorthud” and gathers a group of allies to help him save Vaalbara from the Dark Ones and bring peace to the land.
The book began as a short story that Daly wrote when he was 12. Over three years and with help from his online Minecraft community and the Charlotte Writer’s Club (CWC) scifi/fantasy group, he expanded it into a novel.
“His writing is very good,” Erin Ryan, who has served as the group leader of the CWC scifi/fantasy critique group since 2012, wrote in an email. “He does dialog well, and he knows how to throw in a dash of humor.”
Daly has enjoyed writing since elementary school. He remembers turning in a four-page poem about Boxing Day – that rhymed – and building plot lines around vocabulary lists.
“He was very creative and detailed in his writing,” Andrea Hsu, Daly’s fourth grade teacher at Elizabeth Lane Elementary, wrote in an email. “His stories were unique, different from his peers.”
Daly began playing Minecraft, a game where players explore, gather resources and build in various terrains, after school and during summer months when he was about 11. He soon connected online with fellow players as they worked together to advance in the game.
When he uploaded excerpts from his story to an online Minecraft forum, his fellow players got a kick out of being featured in his writing.
“People would comment,” Daly said. “They said I should keep writing.”
He liked the archetype of a young hero waking up with amnesia, and he named the young man after his Minecraft user name.
Daly said he wrote himself into the character, and Motorthud’s allies are based on his real-life Minecraft friends. The characters are about 19 years old, old enough, Daly said, to wage battle and develop emotionally.
“I felt that Motor was able to understand and connect to what it is to be human,” Daly said.
He worked on the book for three years. He contacted Mojang, Minecraft’s parent company, to make sure he could set the novel in a Minecraft world. Company officials gave him the go-ahead and allowed him to include creepers, iconic Minecraft hostile mobs.
While the book is not an official Minecraft novel, readers who play the game will know where Vaalbara is set. Daly also wrote in a number of “Easter eggs,” or hidden references that Minecraft users will understand.
Daly said that while he’s always enjoyed writing and English classes, he is developing an interest in science and likely will pursue a career in a related field.
For now, though, he’s still writing. He’s laying out the plot to a sequel to “Portal of Vaal” and has a book to market.
Hsu, who taught second grade at Elizabeth Lane Elementary last year, invited Daly to visit her class after his mom, Jana Case, contacted her about it.
“It is a teacher’s dream to hear stories like this,” Hsu wrote in an email.
Some of her students bought the book ahead of his visit and had him autograph it. Elizabeth Lane will promote Daly’s book in its media center, and Hsu hopes to schedule him to visit her new class in the fall.
Hsu wrote in an email, “Many of my students love video games, so the fact that his book is related to Minecraft is perfect.”
Ardrey Kell student debuts science fiction novel
By Courtney Schultz
Fifteen-year-old Andrew Daly, of Charlotte, hopes readers will embark into a new world in his science fiction,fantasy novel “Portal of Vaal.”
The Ardrey Kell High School rising junior recently debuted his first novel this year, inspired by his adventure splaying Minecraft, an “open world”independent video game where players build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world. Andrew has always been interested in writing so trying hishand at a novel based on his hobby seemed only natural.
“I usually liked writing in elementary and later middle school,” he said.Andrew mostly wrote fan fiction about the activities within a Minecraft community server he played on and its characters.
The rising junior continued to write his fan fiction and placed his writings on the server and was encouraged to create a full-length story. He initially wrote“Portal” as a short story in 2011, when he was 12 years old, and ultimately decided to turn it into a novel.
Andrew’s book takes readers to “the far-off land of Vaalbara,” where a young hero awakens with no memory and embodies a new identity, soon learning he must save Vaalbara from the “Dark Ones.” Throughout his journey, he befriends other allies in an effort to destroy his enemies and bring peace to the land.
The 15-year-old said the book took significant research and discussions with copyeditors to complete the final
Over the years of writing the book, Andrew said he experienced “writer’s block,” citing one summer where he couldn’t contribute a single sentence to the book. His commitment to balancing community service and schoolwork also challenged the book’s completion, but despite the obstacles, Andrew didn’t
Andrew also self-published the book, which presented challenges for the author, such as frequently editing the
book and sending the revisions to Amazon.com.
The book is geared toward readers 10 to 16 years old, but Andrew has heard reviews from readers who range from 8
to 40 years old.
Most of the feedback has been positive, he added. He even visited an elementary school for a question-andanswer session and book signing with
Andrew said booklovers could relate to lessons learned through the novel, such as the bonds of friendship and the power of determination over adversity. “Throughout the journey, (the protagonist) has to go through tough challenges … some challenges he can’t overcome on his own even if he wants,”
Throughout the writing and publishing process, the author discovered he’s more creative than he originally thought and plans to continue to writing with the encouragement of the Charlotte Writer’s Club – an organization developed to inspire and support writers of
“Personally, the part I like about writing is the creative aspect,” he said. “You can create your own world and write
your own stories.”
The 15-year-old said readers can expect a direct squeal to “Portal” in the near future, but he said the book is still
in the planning stage.
When the Ardrey Kell student isn’t writing or researching Minecraft, he can be found outdoors running, skiing or kayaking, which he says has helped
“Being in nature opens up creativity in a whole new way, in ways that I can’t explain in words,” he said. The book is available in paperback or for Kindles at Amazon.com. Visit www.amazon.com/Portal-Vaal-Andrew-Thomas-Daly/dp/0692450904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433160582&sr=8-1&keywords=portal+of+vaal for more information.
Author Spotlight: Portal of Vaal by Andrew Daly
Today I’m featuring Andrew Daly, a new author to my blog, and a young one too! I think it’s so awesome when young people write and publish their own work. It’s a lot of work for an adult, so it makes it that much more impressive when they are so driven at a young age to put in the effort it takes. Young authors deserve all the support they can get!
Andrew will be sharing an excerpt from his book, Portal of Vaal, but first let’s hear more about him:
Andrew Daly is a 16-year-old author of middle grade/young adult fantasy stories. Portal of Vaal is based loosely around his adventures within a Minecraft community server, and more specifically, the people inhabiting it. Andrew currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his parents and dog Swiffer. He enjoys writing, reading, playing video games, Netflix binge-watching, and zip lining. He started writing Portal of Vaal at age 12 as a short story that culminated into a novel.