‘The Bug Light Room’ is debut novel for Peterborough author

  • The Bug Light Room by Gregg McManus. Courtesy photo—

  • Peterborough resident Gregg McManus wondered what would happen if someone actually killed an alien. So he wrote a book ‘The Bug Light Room’ that examines that very question. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Gregg McManus Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/31/2021 5:18:48 PM

Ever since Gregg McManus saw a program about alien abductions more than a quarter-century ago, it left him with two questions.

“What would happen if someone actually killed aliens?” McManus said. “And who in Washington would take that call?”

And it was those questions that put in motion a more than two-decade dive into his debut novel. “The Bug Light Room” was released in November, but the plot and characters were constantly a topic of thought in McManus’s mind. He spent years refining what his approach would be, how the story would unfold and “how would the aliens react?” McManus said.

McManus, who moved to RiverMead in Peterborough a year and a half ago, is of the baby boomer generation where space, UFOs and science fiction were all the rage.

“Space travel didn’t seem so far fetched and that stayed with me,” McManus said.

“The Bug Light Room” is based in southern Indiana, where he was born and spent most of his life, along with Washington, D.C. where he got his Master’s Degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. While in Washington, McManus served as an assistant to U.S. Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana during the Watergate era and upon his return to Indiana worked more than 26 years as a manager, director or vice president of government & public affairs at Vectren Corporation and its predecessor companies where he worked with and lobbied federal, state and local officials on a wide variety of public policy issues.

It was during a business trip to the Indiana General Assembly where he saw that program on aliens while flipping through channels in his hotel room.

“That aroused my skepticism,” he said. “That sparked my imagination because what if someone actually landed a punch?”

“The Bug Light Room” begins with a violent confrontation between the two main protagonists, Jimmy Hatter and Brian Spangle, and some visiting extra terrestrials. Hatter and Spangle destroy an alien spacecraft and the race is on to see what happens to the Indiana natives. There are pursuers who are trying to keep the story under wraps and the aliens are out for revenge, as the story bounces between the two locations that McManus is the most familiar with.

For many years, McManus was a history teacher, first in Rutland, Vermont at the high school level after earning his degree from Butler University and then later in his life at the University of Evansville and University of Southern Indiana.

“And you really have to be a storyteller to get them interested in history,” he said. He had always been a writer, but more in the field of politics in the form of letters to the editor and correspondence with government officials. But McManus always knew he wanted to write a good novel. “I always thought of myself as a storyteller.”

With a story idea that he just couldn’t get out of his head, and the framework for the plot and characters, McManus eventually got around to writing. The process really started when he was teaching at the college level, but picked up steam when the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything about daily life.

“When the pandemic hit, there was no way around not finishing this,” McManus said.

He had spent years writing and rewriting and when it was finally finished he turned it over to a development editor at AuthorHouse Publishing is where the final product took shape. It was then that he had to do some more revising to his chapter endings and cutting an estimated 30 to 40 pages from his novel. The back and forth took quite a while.

“I wanted it to be a page turner,” McManus said. “I didn’t want it to be a vanity project. I wanted it to be thought provoking and I knew I needed some additional help to get it all the way there. You really have a sense of obligation to your readers.”

He used his real world experience in both government and personal life to shape the story, and having seen the inner workings of government on many levels, McManus questioned how an alien situation might be dealt with.

“If we can’t handle social security, what would we do about aliens,” he said.

“The Bug Light Room” was published on Nov. 22 and is available online at https://www.thebuglightroom.com/ and the Toadstool Bookshops. McManus is currently working on his second book, which continues the story.

“I left room open several different areas in the book,” he said.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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