Former Madison Courier photographer John Palmer Gregg has recently published his first book and co-founded a publishing company. (Photo courtesy of John Palmer Gregg)
Former Madison Courier photographer John Palmer Gregg has recently published his first book and co-founded a publishing company. (Photo courtesy of John Palmer Gregg)
In a former life, John Palmer Gregg was a photojournalist who worked for local newspapers, including a stint at The Madison Courier.

Today, Gregg is now a novelist and a partner in an independent publishing company called Thistle Bound Press.

His first foray into the literary realm is titled “Some Glow Brightly,” and is written for ‘Tweens and young teens. It tells the story of Red, a 12-year-old whose biggest fear is letting down his friends and family.

After surviving a horrible traffic accident, which leaves his father in a coma and near death, Red realizes that he is able to leave his body and travel into a parallel dimension – a spirit world – at will. During these travels, he meets other extraordinary young people who have their own hardships, but also their own supernatural powers. The group discovers that a great evil is at work that wants to rip through the barrier between the two worlds and control the physical one, too. Red knows that he must find the courage to fight the evil force in an effort to save his father.

The plot of the story is influenced by Gregg’s love for the fantasy genre.

“I’m a big fan of The Inklings,” he said, an informal literary group in Oxford, England, that met during the 1930s and ‘40s and included Gregg’s favorite authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, writer of “The Lord of the Rings”; C.S. Lewis, author of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe”; and, especially, Charles Williams, author of “The Place of the Lion.”

“I was always fascinated with (Williams’) writing,” Gregg said. Williams’ book is filled with imagery, in which eternal “energies” take the form of living creatures – for instance, strength is embodied by a lion, and corruption by a “foul smelling bird.”

“But I wanted to write for a younger audience,” Gregg said.

While this wasn’t his first attempt at writing a novel, Gregg said it is his first time successfully seeing it through from the earliest idea to the finished product.

It was published Dec. 6 and is available for sale online at Thistlebound.com.

“I’ve started half a dozen books in the past that I couldn’t finish,” he said. “I had no direction; I couldn’t follow through.

He said it was two friends in his writers’ group, in particular, who encouraged him to keep going and held him accountable for making progress and, ultimately, finishing the book.

The three of them formed the partnership that is Thistle Bound Press so that the book could be published.

“They felt strongly that it was worth their time, effort and investment,” Gregg said.

While the others also plan to publish their own works, Thistlebound is open to other authors who are looking to publish. “It’s not limited just to us,” he said. “We’re very excited about it.”

Gregg has found the writing process to be a great creative outlet. “I enjoy creating things,” he said. “For me, it’s hard to let my son play with Legos when I want to play with them and create something, too.”

While Red is the impetus, the driving force, behind the story of “Some Glow Brightly,” Gregg admits that he “developed an affection for the character,” but doesn’t have a favorite.

“Every one has problems to face and has made bad decisions,” Gregg said. But throughout the book, those characters learn to rise above. “None of those (mistakes) defines who they are.”

Nor does the book have a specific message. “Hopefully, people will take different things away from it, depending on who they identify with, or how they see the world.”

Gregg is hoping to return to the Courierarea to promote the book.

In the meantime, he continues his work with Christian mission organizations and nonprofit agencies. He has traveled to about 25 countries – mostly in the Third World – writing and photographing the work done by these groups, telling the stories of who they are and the people they serve.

Gregg lives in Johnsonville, Tenn., with his wife, Tina, and their young son, Rohan.