A Valley High graduate turns to a classmate for the cover of his debut novel

Opening a chiropractic office right after the start of the COVID pandemic was a terrible time for Eric Beck, but it gave him time to write the book he always wanted.

“Here in the office, where there were almost hours of continuous thinking, it ended up being conducive to getting some good thoughts and working consistently on the same project,” he said.

When Beck finished his story, “Creating Human,” he turned to his longtime friend Kylie Danko for the cover.

“I always knew he was big on writing,” she said. “I’m glad he was able to put together a book and publish it. It’s something he wanted to do and I’m glad he finally got to do it.”

Beck and Danko are 28 and live in their hometown of New Kensington. They met at Valley High School, where they graduated in 2012.

While Beck is early in his career as a chiropractor, Danko makes a living as an artist. She designed the logo — a tree with a spine instead of a trunk — for his Brackenridge-based One Life Wellness practice.

His office is at 700 E. 10th Ave., where chiropractor Joel Burkett previously had his practice.

Beck earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016 and graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Florida in December 2019. He opened his office in July 2020.

Beck said he tried to write books while at Pitt and Palmer.

“They were never really good,” he said.

Beck’s interest in writing dates back to when he was a boy.

“I thought writing was the coolest job you could have. You had to make up stories and everyone knew who you were. I thought these people were going to be the rock stars when I was very young,” he said.

“When I got older, I started reading Harry Potter, Stephen King, people like that. I still loved writing, even though I realized that no one would be able to recognize these people if they saw them on the streets.

Beck began writing Creating Human in August 2020, and a draft was ready in March 2021.

A fantasy for young adults, Beck said the story is about a discredited inventor who is accused of starting a plague. A con artist tries to take advantage of his ostracized status and the two end up being arrested. In order to stay alive, break out of prison, and cure the plague, they must begin to trust each other.

The self-published book was released on Amazon in January, where reviews were overwhelmingly favorable.

“My favorite part is that even if people don’t know who you are, you can make something that they experience very intimately,” he said. “You can do something that resonates with them.”

Danko said Beck sent her a copy of the manuscript and gave her an idea of ​​what he wanted for the cover. She came up with two designs featuring the main character, Pooka.

“I was very surprised,” Beck said. “She drew it almost perfectly from what I would have thought. It gave me some confidence that readers would experience the book the way I wanted it to.”

It took Danko a month or two to complete the image.

“I’m a harsh critic of myself,” she said. “I try to do my best.”

Instead of a sequel to “Creating Human,” Beck is working on a prequel and hopes to have a draft ready by the end of the year.

“This one finished so well. If I go on, I will mess it up,” he said.

“If I can do a good enough backstory for everything that happens in ‘Creating Human,’ that adds depth to it and makes it a fun experience.”

Danko commissions people, such as portraits of pets, and exhibits some of her work in a friend’s studio at the Manos Gallery in Taranto. She will also draw Beck’s next book.

She encourages people to read Creating Human.

“He put a lot of time and effort into it,” she said.

“I’m just glad I was able to be a small part of it.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Brian can be reached at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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