At just 14 years old, Marshall County's Ashton Brophy has overcome a major hurdle in the pursuit of fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a published author. But not only did her book, "Unique Eugene," become a tangible product ready for consumption--within three days of hitting the shelves, it landed at number 34 of the Barnes and Noble Top 100 Best Sellers list.

"I literally ran around the house squealing--it was a huge achievement for me," Brophy said, recalling the moment she learned of book's early success. "That was when it became real."

Brophy said she's always loved to read and regularly devours as many books as possible. What she noticed was an uneasy transition between the genres from small children's books to those meant for more mature young adults; what she decided to do was make a contribution.

"Once you get to a certain age you've read all these books, and the books that are still there for you to read are not always good books or appropriate books and I wanted to write a book that was clean and good and helpful to kids," she explained. "If you get a good foundation of good books, once you get to books that are higher reading levels you understand what a book is meant to be and you're not just been consuming junk books--you understand and appreciate the importance of that experience."

After speaking at length with her parents, Brian and Alicia, about her goal, the family decided to transfer Brophy to Christian Fellowship School, which offers a more flexible schedule, allowing her more time to write. Once she settled on her character, Matthew Eugene Smith, who prefers to go by Eugene, and the story she wanted to tell, Brophy and her father worked together to organize the storyline. While staying on course with Brophy's vision, Brian also illustrated the book. She said it took about a year to complete the process.

The book's main character is a red-haired, freckled-faced boy who wears a bowtie and embraces his uniqueness and positive qualities in a world that seems to attempt taming his flare at every turn. But he explores his quirks--such as fishing while using ice cream sandwiches as bait, putting cheese on his peanut butter sandwiches and trading out a teddy bear for a stuffed raccoon--and what it is that really makes him "unique."

"I've always been different, in a good way, but I have never really appreciated anyone else telling me who or what I needed to be and I've always been independent. I have always wanted to be my own person and I've respected people who are unique, even if I don't agree with what their uniqueness is," Brophy said. "The definition of normal is boring, conforming to a standard, not different, and really who is that? There really isn't anyone exactly like you so no one is really 'cookie-cutter.' Cookie-cutter people don't exist."

Now, while she begins working on more adventures for Eugene and the other characters she's currently developing, Brophy is scheduling presentations at local schools and book-signing events. Her first presentation is scheduled for Oct. at Benton Elementary, where she attended and her mother teaches. She will also have autographed books available for sale at BES Family Reading Night next month.

Brophy acknowledged she couldn't have achieved this goal on her own, thanking her friends, family, teachers and mentors for their tremendous support and guidance throughout the process. And the advice she wants to pass along to any other aspiring writers who want to be published: "Sit down and do it."

"Until you take it out of your dream box and make it a goal, it won't become real. And nobody else is ever going to love your dream the way you do," she said. "Even if you have the best people rallying around you, no one else is going to wake up on fire at night for it and feel like this is what they were meant to do; it has to be you and you have to be the one on fire for it and you can't give up when it gets hard."

To book a presentation with Brophy, call Brian at 270-836-3362.

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