John Pesta, winner of the Best Books of Indiana in Fiction, will speak and do a book signing from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Village Lights Bookstore, 110 E. Main St.

Pesta's self-published novel, "Safely Buried," is a mystery that is set in a fictionalized version of Jefferson County. Pesta said that the idea for the book came after a strange event that happened to him as he drove home from work one night.

"I was on my way home, around 10 or 10:30 at night, and I got off I-65 at Jonesville. I was driving down long dark stretch of road and I saw a woman kind of shakily walking down side of road," Pesta said. "I swung wide and she stuck her thumb out to get a ride."

The woman's leg was in a cast and Pesta feared she'd be hurt, so he decided to pick her up. The two couldn't find the house she was trying to get to, so Pesta dropped her off at a nearby bar.

In Pesta's novel, the protagonist - Phil Larrison - and the hitchhiker find the house, and the chance encounter plunges him into a mystery.

"It's what might have happened if we found her friend's house," he said. "It turned into a pretty long, complex novel."

"Safely Buried" is Pesta's first published book. Pesta is the former editor and publisher of the Brownstown Banner, a weekly newspaper in Jackson County. He's had several short stories published in various literary magazines, but never managed to sell a book to a major publishing house.

"For years I tried the traditional way through big time publishers. I finally just gave up. I decided to publish myself."

Pesta said that the gambit has paid off. His award-winning novel has sold more than 5,000 copies.

The judges comments from the Best Books of Indiana contest said "Author John Pesta gracefully balances strong character and plot development with an action-packed storyline." The note continued by saying "Pesta's background in journalism is readily apparent through his immense storytelling ability that rivals that of seasoned mystery writers. While we would recommend this book to mystery enthusiasts, it is also a great book for novices due to its well-developed characters and swift, suspenseful pace."

In his talk on Saturday, Pesta said he'll be discussing self publishing, but also how he wrote this novel in a different way than he usually does.

"Many people have asked if I had it all (the novel's ending) worked out from the start. The answer was 'not really.' I had a general idea, but I wasn't sure I could do it in a believable way. I was afraid it would seem silly."

Pesta said he just let the story resolve itself by allowing the characters in the story and his imagination take over the action.

"What I learned was you don't have to have it all worked out. You can let things go. You can just keep working and let it work itself out," Pesta said. "I'll be talking about that. How I relied on characters and my unconscious brain. One of best developments in the novel came out of nowhere. It feels like a gift when it happens."