Merrick is out of this world — officially. That hamlet within Hempstead is now the namesake of the planet Merokia (“mehr-OH-kee-uh”) in the official “Star Wars” canon, courtesy of Kevin Shinick — the Rockville Centre-born, Merrick-raised author of the new young-adult novel “Force Collector.” And when the Los Angeles-based writer, home for the holidays, does book signings Friday to coincide with the release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” he’ll be doing it on what Nassau County is proclaiming Force Collector Day.
“I’m still friends with people who are now working for Nassau County, and so they said, ‘Let’s see if we can make this official,’ “ explains the 50-year-old TV writer, who shared an Emmy Award for 2010s Outstanding Short-Form Animated Program, “Robot Chicken.” A police officer pal got in touch with a county legislator whose office contacted that of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran “and it really came together,” Shinick says.
“I was so overwhelmed by the support of the community,"Shinick adds. "You know, I have a friend who has a bakery,” childhood buddy Brian Fishman of Plainview’s Sweet Karma Desserts, “and he’s baking a cake with the cover of the book on it” for one of the signings.
Set shortly before the events of the movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), the book follows restless teen Karr Nuq Sin as he sets offs from Merokia — making him a Merokian, as the real-life townspeople are called — to find an answer to his mysterious headaches. His grandmother, who spins tales of the fabled Jedi, suspects Karr has a connection to the Force, that all-encompassing spirit of the universe.
“He’s trying to discover how the Jedi work, so it’s almost like in ‘Citizen Kane,’ where they’re searching for what ‘Rosebud’ means,” says Shinick, a 1987 Sanford H. Calhoun High School and 1991 Hofstra University graduate, who has a daughter, Maisy, with producer wife Eileen Myers. “But on top of that, every time he touches certain objects we flash back to a great or overlooked moment from one of the movies or animated series or comics. I tried to craft a story that would work on a number of levels depending on your point of entry to ‘Star Wars.’ “
Shinick’s own point of entry, professionally, began with the Cartoon Network Adult Swim specials “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II” (2008) and “Robot Chicken: Star Wars III” (2010). In-between, he became a writer for “Robot Chicken” and for Comedy Central’s animated “Ugly Americans,” then worked on more animated series including Lucasfilm’s projected “Star Wars: Detours.” Along the way, he got tapped to write the “Star Wars” children’s book “Chewie and the Porgs” (2017).
While promoting that at San Diego Comic-Con, he asked his publisher to consider him for other kinds of “Star Wars” novels. “And he gave me some parameters, some good ideas about the world they were looking to do,” Shinick says. “I got on the train back to Los Angeles — it’s a three-hour ride — and by the time I got there I had emailed him this almost complete outline” for what became “Force Collector.” They spoke further, and about a year later the project was a go.
A voice actor as well as a writer — he’s the current Bruce Banner in various Marvel animated series — Shinick is the son of Louise Shinick, retired from Nassau County’s museums division, and businessman and Adelphi University adjunct Tom Shinick. “Between the two of them, I had the creative side and the put-your-nose-to-the-grindstone side” — which clearly helped steer him to the Light Side of the Force.
Thursday, Dec. 19
7 p.m.,Barnes & Noble, 91 Old Country Road, Carle Place
Friday, Dec. 20
Noon, Sanford H. Calhoun High School, 1786 State Sttreet, Merrick
3 p.m.,North Merrick Public Library, 1691 Meadowbrook Road, North Merrick
5:30 p.m., Merrick Cinemas, 15 Fisher Ave., Merrick