Valley High graduate turns to classmate for cover art for debut novel

Opening a chiropractic office right after the covid pandemic started was terrible timing for Erik Beck, but it gave him time to write that book he always wanted to.


“Here at the office, where it was pretty much having hours at a time uninterrupted to think, it ended up being conducive to getting some good thoughts and working consistently on the same project,” he said.

When Beck had his story, “Creating Human,” finished, he turned to longtime friend Kylee Danko for her cover art.

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

Beck and Danko are both 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 is making her living as an artist. She designed the logo — a tree with a spine for its trunk — for his Brackenridge-based practice, One Life Wellness.

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 had tried writing books while at Pitt and Palmer.

“They were never really any good,” he said.

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

“I thought of authors as the coolest job you could have. You got to make up stories, and everyone knew who you were. I thought these people would be the rock stars when I was real little,” he said.

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

Beck started writing “Creating Human” in August 2020 and had a draft done in March 2021.

A young adult fantasy, Beck said the story is about a discredited inventor who is blamed for starting a plague. A con man seeks to take advantage of the man’s ostracized status, and they both end up being arrested. To stay alive, get out of prison and cure the plague, they have to start trusting each other.

The self-published book came out on Amazon in Januarywhere its ratings have been overwhelmingly favorable.

“My favorite part is even if people don’t know who you are, you get to make something which they experience very intimately,” he said. “You get to make 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 a little bit of confidence that readers would experience the book the way I wanted them to.”

Finishing the image took Danko a month or two.

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

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

“This one ended so well. If I keep going, I’m going to mess it up,” he said.

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

Danko does commission work for people, such as pet portraits, and has some of her work on display in a friend’s studio at the Manos Gallery in Tarentum. She will be doing the art for Beck’s next book, too.

She encourages people to read “Creating Human.”

“He spent a lot of time and effort on that,” 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. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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