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East County Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 2 years ago

Lakewood Ranch author pens Christmas novel

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Former presidential speech writer tries to inspire giving with new book.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Doug MacKinnon and his wife, Leela, were traveling through a snowstorm in Massachusetts two years ago. As Leela drove, Doug read the newspaper.

Every headline was depressing.

“I looked out the window at a bank of snow and I thought of the North Pole,” said the 62-year-old MacKinnon, a resident of the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch. “Then, I thought, what if someone built a real Santa’s workshop? You’d need a lot of money.”

The scene is what inspired MacKinnon’s newest novel, “The North Pole Project.” In it, multi-billionaire Christian Nicholas has everything and yet has nothing for which to live. That’s when his brother, Paul, reminds him what brought him joy as a child — honoring Jesus’ birth and becoming a self-proclaimed Santa Claus.

With that thought in mind, Christian begins what he calls the North Pole project — the re-creation of Santa’s workshop in the North Pole.

“It’s a fun, simple story,” said MacKinnon, who moved to Lakewood Ranch in 2007. “The point is whether you have $15 billion or $15, life can be tough. Whether you help those in need or those in pain, there’s no greater gift you can receive (than helping others).”

MacKinnon, a longtime political consultant and commentator who once worked as a speechwriter for presidents George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, now writes novels for fun and inserts snippets of his own life and others he knows into his stories. For example, in the second paragraph of “The North Pole Project,” a 2-inch-tall plastic Nativity scene is inspired by one MacKinnon received as a 5-year-old living in poverty in Massachusetts. He remembered being found hiding in a closet, clutching a similar Nativity, when his family was being evicted from their home. MacKinnon’s parents were alcoholics.

Normally, the publishing process takes one to two years, but MacKinnon sent the first third of his book to his publisher, Simon & Schuster, in April. They liked it so much they wanted it done in time for this Christmas holiday. Surprised, MacKinnon spent much of his 14-day cruise to Scotland in May finishing the project.

“I didn’t get much sleep. I was up until 3 and 4 a.m. and having nonstop coffee,” MacKinnon said.

Proceeds from “The North Pole Project” will benefit MacKinnon’s favorite charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

MacKinnon said the Hallmark Channel is considering the book for a movie.

He hopes the story will inspire others to give selflessly.

“I hope it brings a little joy, a little hope, a little faith,” he said.

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