Is there any place more hopeless than rural Missouri? The state is a series of dead-ends for Clyde Twitty, the down-on-his-luck protagonist of Mike Harvkey’s novel In the Course of Human Events (slated for an April release from Counterpoint’s Soft Skull imprint). That is, until a band of patriotic extremists welcome Twitty into the fold, changing his life.

Harvkey estimates that he started writing the book in 2006. The eight years that followed contained ups, like signing with agent Bill Clegg at William Morris Endeavor, and downs, including cross-country moves and freelance gigs. Through it all, Harvkey, who was deputy reviews editor at PW from 2010 to 2013, punctuated long stints at his desk with a hobby that got him out of his chair. “I’d write for four or five hours a day, maybe take one day off a week. I was also doing karate pretty intensely—that’s around when I got my black belt—which was an excellent counter to sitting. Having to block your head instead of being in your head.”

For Rolph Blythe, publisher of Counterpoint, Harvkey’s bare-knuckle approach to fiction writing—and life—is precisely what made In the Course of Human Events such an attractive acquisition. “Mike lived every aspect of the book,” Rolph says. “He grew up in rural Missouri, one of his best childhood friends ended up in a militia, and he earned a black belt Kyokushin. His experiences inform the book’s vivid cast and compelling world.”

Soft Skull has gotten behind In the Course of Human Events in a major way—it’s releasing the book as a hardcover, despite historically publishing almost exclusively in trade paperback, and it claims to have stretched in terms of its typical advance. Harvkey returns the love: “I have friends with novels at big houses who are jealous of the attention I’m getting,” he says.