At 23, Steve Hanna started his own publishing company and has his first book coming out Tuesday.
And he has a group of ancestors from six generations back to thank for it.
Hanna's book, A Home Called Your Own, is the story about how his ancestor Vaclav Belohlavy came to the United States in the 19th century from Bohemia, now the Czech Republic -- and how Hanna retraced Belohlavy's journey to find his distant family still living in the Eastern European nation.
The story starts more than 125 years ago when members of the Belohlavy family crowded into a ramshackle shed and made what Hanna terms "the Pact."
The already poor family brought everything they owned to that shed and pooled it to send just one person to the United States to start over and have a better life.
"They were some of the poorest folks around, and they made themselves poorer," Hanna told the Herald. "It's a story about a family that sacrifices everything to give one guy a chance."
That person was Vaclav Belohlavy, who left behind a pregnant wife to fulfill the family's dream and make their sacrifice meaningful.
He was supposed to send word back, to tell the family about the new life he made for himself. Circumstances prevented that, and Hanna said Belohlavy died believing he was a failure.
But the theme of Hanna's book is that his ancestor did succeed -- it just took six generations for the ripple effects of his life to reach back to his homeland.
"The story is the significance of one life," Hanna said.
Through the narrative, which primarily encompasses a little more than five months Hanna spent first studying abroad in Spain, then following the trail of the story of the Pact across Europe to the Czech Republic, he tells the story about how he uncovered his ancestor's life and how the story connected him to people he met along the way.
But in the beginning, when Hanna's father asked him to find the family in Europe, Hanna said no.
"The book is the story of a seemingly unconnected series of events that end up leading me to find out about my ancestors," he said. "By the end of the book, I have no option but to go and find them. I never set out to do this. I never set out to write a book."
But the story compelled him, and eventually drew other people in too.
Hanna, who grew up in Baker City, Ore., and now lives in Boise, wrote much of the book at Barracuda Coffee Company in Richland while living in the Tri-Cities and working as an intern for Pasco lawyer Tom Roach.
In some ways, the book was born at a Rotary Club meeting Roach took Hanna to as a guest. That's where Hanna met Harvey Gover, a librarian at Washington State University Tri-Cities, who ended up editing the book.
It's another example of a chance event creating ripple effects, Hanna said.
"I ended up sitting at this table and randomly meeting the person who would edit the book," he said. "We never necessarily know what impact we're having -- in good ways. I don't think Tom would have imagined that by bringing me to a meeting he ever would have set this in motion."
Hanna will sign copies of his book, which costs $15, from 7 to 9 a.m. Thursday at Barracuda Coffee Company, 2171 Van Giesen St., Richland, and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Hastings, 1425 George Washington Way, Richland.
-- Online at www.stevehanna.net
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org