First-time novelist finds inspiration at Pope Lick Creek

Author Mike Bramer shows off his book at Carmichael’s. | Courtesy of Mike Bramer

Fans of the Goatman and the trestle at Pope Lick Creek have a new novel to sink their teeth into called “The House on Pope Lick Road.” On Thursday, the author, first-time novelist Mike Bramer, will stop by Carmichael’s Bookstore to sign copies and meet readers.

In the past, aspiring writers who worked away the weekends hammering out a novel had no way of knowing if their work would ever get the chance to be read. But now, aspiring writers have a huge number of options to interact directly with readers, including the route Bramer took self-publishing through Amazon.

Although “Pope Lick Road” is self-published, it hasn’t kept Carmichael’s from putting it on its shelves, and it hasn’t kept readers from grabbing a copy for themselves.

Bramer spoke with Insider about the book, telling stories to his daughter, relative levels of success and the joy of writing.

“I would not consider myself to be a writer, per se. I love stories, I love movies, I enjoy reading,” he says.

The Louisville native is a Saint X and University of Louisville alum who has spent the last 30 years working at the YMCA of Louisville, not prepping for a writing career. But that whole time, he’s had something stuck in his head.

“Growing up I did the Ghost Runs, and I remember going out toward the trestles, and it always mesmerized me,” says Bramer. “So it’s always been in the back of my mind.”

The specific stories that would turn into “The House on Pope Lick Road” came from spending time with his daughter, Makenzie.

“We’d go on daddy-daughter dates when she was 14, 15, 16, and we’d just talk about the trestles,” he explains. “There was a recent incident, and, of course, there’s this mythical creature, The Goatman. And it intrigued us. The story came from there, and when I sat down to write it, it really wrote itself.”

The first step to putting it on the page might seem prosaic compared to the sorts of epic stories of creation that float around in the publishing world. Bramer didn’t hide in the woods, run off to a foreign country or develop a drinking habit.

“I Googled how many words are in a regular book or fictional story,” says Bramer.

It’s a very down-to-earth approach, which matches Bramer’s conversational tone as he talks about the writing process.

“I would take one Saturday a month, about a four- to six-hour chunk of time. I reread what I had written, and then write one, maybe two chapters,” he says.

The trestle at Pope Lick Creek | Photo by Mike Bramer

The novel that emerged isn’t horror — Bramer views it more as a suspense or mystery. It also doesn’t feature the actual Goatman. But it does feature a mysterious, possibly supernatural figure, and a protagonist — a young teenager named Laura who must try to make sense of what she is seeing.

“You’re never sure whether the creature is real or in the mind of this young woman,” says Bramer.

The plot revolves around the trestle and Laura, as well as the actions of this mysterious creature. That mystery allows Bramer to explore his thematic concerns.

“Where would that kind of character come from, where would that evil come from, does he start off like that?” the author says. “I’ve always been intrigued by that.”

Mike Bramer and his daughter, Makenzie, visit the Pope Lick train trestle. | Courtesy of Mike Bramer

Once the book was finished, Bramer self-published through Amazon and also worked with Louisville’s best-known independent bookstore.

“Carmichael’s has been great,” he says. “It’s been on the shelf there four or five months.”

Carmichael’s has ordered additional copies of the book several times, and there has been great feedback from readers. For Bramer, that’s a big success.

But how do you measure that? So far, he has sold around 150 copies of his work. That’s certainly not a best-seller, but for the YMCA-lifer, selling copies isn’t necessarily the point.

“Of course, this is a side gig for me. It’s not my full-time income,” he says. “I used to play in a band, and the way I think of it is, I used to play all the time, and we were never going to make it big. You just get out there and have fun.”

Similarly, Bramer didn’t expect much from the self-published book, but the response has been good, so he’s wondering if maybe it’s time to shop it around.

Model of the trestle constructed by Bramer | Courtesy of Mike Bramer

He may write a sequel to “The House on Pope Lick Road” and come back to finish what some folks see as a cliffhanger.

“Some people love the ending of the book, but it can leave some people with a feeling of it not being finished — which I think is what life is like,” he adds.

But first, he’s writing a prequel.

You can grab a copy of “The House on Pope Lick Road” and meet Bramer on Thursday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m., at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave.