From book to big screen

H-F maintenance worker writes a novel that is adapted into a movie


Faith Lee, Feature Editor

H-F maintenance worker Rikk Dunlap authored a soon-to-be published novel “The Christmas Tree Lot” that was adapted into a Hallmark movie, “Christmas Under the Stars”.
Dunlap has been working in maintenance at H-F for the past nine months, but has been writing for much longer. He began writing about 28 years ago when he faced difficulty in his life, but he didn’t let his situation get the best of him.
Before he began writing the novel, Dunlap worked downtown for 37 years, but was laid off. He was unsure of what to do since he’d worked in his profession for so long. He took this unfortunate situation and turned it into an opportunity to focus on his craft of writing.
“I enjoy creating things and the creative aspects, like coming up with different ideas and characters. I love when I get into a zone where all of a sudden, everything is taking shape and my writing takes dictation,” Dunlap said.
The “Christmas Tree Lot” novel is inspired by an annual tree lighting that Dunlap attends in Richton Park. Originally, he began to write a short story, but it eventually evolved into an entire novel.
The story is of an egotistical, materialistic man that loses his prestigious job right before Christmas. He meets an older man that owns a Christmas tree lot and he learns how to care for others. Along the way, he meets a young woman and the two make an instant romantic connection.
“I like happy stories and I like stories that have good endings,” Dunlap said. “Creating different characters and making up places, and when all the characters are interacting is a great feeling.”
Once he completed the novel, he found an agent to help him publish the book. After a period of presenting the manuscript to different publishing houses, his agent submitted it to Hallmark and they liked the story adapted it into a movie.
“I was completely humble. I felt so honored that something I wrote and created is going to make people happy. So many people are excited and talking about it and it’s not even out yet,” Dunlap said. “It’s neat because it’s not about me, but what I created.”
Dunlap has received a lot of support from just about everybody that surrounds him. Many staff members from H-F are in support of Dunlap, specifically English teacher and EDDA Art and Literary Magazine sponsor, Sahar Mustafah. Mustafah is a published author herself and is inspired by Dunlap.
“I’m humbled by individuals like Mr. Dunlap who pursue another talent while maintaining a full-time job,” Mustafah said. “It certainly requires self-discipline and the accolades might not be immediate. Ultimately, if you’re like Mr. Dunlap or a high school teacher like me, you can’t suppress that creativity. It’s a gift. You’re even more fortunate if you have a supportive community like H-F behind you.”
Dunlap hopes that by following his dreams, he will be an example for H-F students.
“There’s so much talent at this school. [everyone] has so much life ahead of them,” Dunlap said. “Just keep dreaming and be true to yourself. Be yourself and do whatever you want to do. Follow your dreams.”