Ken Luber, one of the first American Film Institute fellows, is a writer and director with a long film and television career in Los Angeles.
Since relocating to the Idyllwild area in 2003, Luber has continued to write. He has penned the novel “Match to the Heart,” a book of poetry “Everybody’s Shadow” and a baseball-based musical “I Played the Game” for which he wrote the book and lyrics. Saverio Rapezzi wrote the music. A new novel is in the works — “Falling from the Sky.”
Luber’s newest published novel, “The Sun Jumpers” (Dog Ear Publishing, 2017), won the Dog Ear Publishing Award for Literary Excellence in 2017. It is a young-adult, time-travel story with a twist — how primitive, Stone Age teenagers who are transported by shamanic magic to modern day Los Angeles teach a young, self-absorbed and socially isolated film director how to confront his shallow life and find a more meaningful path.
The Sun Jumpers’ magic (a shell that allows them to translate and learn English), their native courage, and deep wisdom (often more profound than much they encounter in modern-day LA) help the teens learn from the modern world, teach their new friend and discover what they need to know to help their Stone Age tribe survive an increasingly hostile environment.
For Luber, the five-year experience of writing the novel was one of personal discovery. Luber had kept for many years a picture of young primitives as a possible story idea. “The picture may have come from an orange crate label but it was the inspiration for this novel,” he said. “I wanted to know who these people were, what teenagers were like, how they survived 10,000 years ago and how their skills might equip them to deal with the modern world.”
He noted there is likely a universal curiosity shared by young people — a vision quest or impulse for adventure that impels them to seek what is out there, find what’s on the other side and connect with someone who might have better tools or skills? “I don’t know why I was so attracted by this picture and these people. Maybe it was their loneliness and threats to their survival.”
Luber described how, as he wrote the book, the female character began to take over. “Yes, the characters talk and honestly, they lead you as you listen,” he said. “But you can’t let one character take over what had been the other character’s vision quest.” Originally, the female was the girlfriend of one of the boys and not supposed to go on the quest. “But she was the smartest of them all and eventually her boyfriend relented,” he said.
While living in Los Angeles, Luber wrote for the series “Knots Landing” and “Family,” had numerous screenplays optioned, directed for television including “The Tony Randall Show” and Mary Tyler Moore Productions, and acted and directed for theater. His feature film “Howzer” was shown at the USA Film Festival and at the New American Director Series at the Whitney Museum in New York City.
He is a native of Milwaukee, and is a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild and the National Teachers Association. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ripon College in Wisconsin, attended the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop and, as previously mentioned, was one of the first 15 fellows of the prestigious American Film Institute.
“The Sun Jumpers” has garnered critical praise from numerous sources: Midwest Book Review calls it, “A witty yet moving tale of teenage love, the power of friendship, and how bravery and a willing heart can save an entire people. The Sun Jumpers clearly showcases author Ken Luber’s genuine flair for creating a consistently compelling, original, and memorable story populated by deftly crafted characters and replete with unexpected twists and turns.” Kirkus Reviews notes “[Luber] deals with some serious issues including modern-day bigotry, the sometimes-troubled relationships between parents and offspring, and the need to find and follow one’s own truth.” As an extra acknowledgement of the appropriateness of “Sun Jumpers” for teen readers, the Hemet Unified School District bought the book for its school libraries.
At www.kenluber.com, Luber writes, he has “two adult sons who continue to answer his emails, extend his musical awareness and remain uncritical of his stubborn support of often languishing sports teams.” For several years he has taught immigrant adults the English language and they in turn have taught him the glowing spirit of the human race.”