Merrick native Kevin Shinick visited his alma mater, Sanford H. Calhoun High School, on Dec. 20 to promote his new novel set in the “Star Wars” universe.
Titled “Star Wars: The Force Collector,” Shinick’s visit, and the book’s release, coincided with the premiere of the “Star Wars” franchise’s newest installment, “The Rise of Skywalker.” Some students donned costumes of fan favorite characters, such as Han Solo and Rey, to show their enthusiasm.
Set before the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” film, Shinick’s young-adult novel follows Karr Nuq Sin as he uncovers his unique connection to the mysterious Force — years after the ancient, Force-wielding Jedi are forgotten by time. “I wanted to capture the excitement of not knowing what ‘Star Wars’ is all about,” the 50-year-old Shinick said, recounting the first time he saw a trailer for “Star Wars” when he was 7.
The journey takes Karr to unfamiliar territories, far removed from his simple farming life on his home planet — the name of which is a reference to Merrick residents’ and Shinick’s own hometown. The planet is Merokia, making Karr a Merokian from a galaxy far, far away.
“When it came time to name [Karr’s] planet, I was thinking where I was when I was his age — and I was in Merrick,” Shinick said. “But Merrick may be too on-the-nose to name a planet, especially North Merrick,” he added with a laugh.
In Calhoun’s auditorium, Shinick spoke to sophomores, juniors and seniors in drama classes taught by Sal Salerno, who supervised Shinick as a student in the school’s On Tour company — giving him a foundation in theater. Shinick continued to pursue his passion at Hofstra University, where he earned a degree in theater and communication.
He offered students insight into his success as a writer and actor. “You can’t determine what people are going to like and dislike. I can find 10 people who love this book and 10 people who hate this book — it doesn’t matter,” he said to the audience. “I set out to do something and I feel like I did the best I could do. That’s the objective: find your passion and stick with it.”
Shinick also encouraged students to pursue careers in whatever engages them. Whether they’re fans of “Star Wars,” comic books, superheroes or video games, those passions can turn into professions, he said.
“The things I love, I turned into a career,” Shinick said.
Shinick’s résumé exemplifies that, too — “Star Wars” isn’t the only universe in which he found success. Shinick is also known for his work on Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken,” for which he received an Emmy Award; Cartoon Network’s “MAD TV,” based on the humor magazine; and Disney XD’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” through which Shinick met Stan Lee, the comic character’s creator.
Shinick also reflected on his own time on Calhoun’s stage as a student, including starring alongside fellow Merrick celebrity Debbie Gibson in “Fiddler on the Roof.” While Gibson was out of the country during his visit home, “so many of my friends from high school came out and supported me” at various book signings, he said.
That day, Shinick also made appearances at the North Merrick Library and the Merrick Cinemas — he worked there as a teenager — where fans also caught the premiere of “The Rise of Skywalker.”
Merrick’s inclusion in the “Star Wars” universe garnered local government attention for “The Force Collector.” At Calhoun, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran gave Shinick an official proclamation, declaring the day “Force Collector Day.”