Will Ferrell is drawn to North Carolina history, not Hollywood

June 26, 2013
By Chris Saunders
Book jacket for The Secrets of Sterling Shearin.

Book jacket for The Secrets of Sterling Shearin.

The first question one asks anybody named Will Ferrell is: Do you have any connection with your more familiar namesake? Writer and NC State alum Will Ferrell, who released his first book in February this year, says he actually does. He and comedian Will Ferrell are first cousins.

“I kid the actor Will Ferrell’s dad that his son has ruined my brand,” says Ferrell.

Ferrell says his first book The Secrets of Sterling Shearin: The Noblest Cause, fills a void in the historical depiction of North Carolina and its role and contribution to the establishment of the Constitution. The book is a fictional take on North Carolina’s history and people during the 1790s and follows the perspective of a young man named Sterling Shearin.

A 1971 NC State CHASS graduate who went on to pursue dentistry at UNC-Chapel Hill, Ferrell is a dentist with an interest in history and literature. He began research on his book nearly two decades ago, most of it centered around trying to discover the role the state and its leaders played during the American Revolution and the years immediately following it.

“There are so many interesting things about the Revolution from the North Carolinian perspective. It was really interesting to delve into the 1790s. I tried to tell history through a very entertaining story,” says Ferrell.

Will Ferrell.

Will Ferrell.

The story begins as North Carolina considers ratifying the Constitution in 1787, and the political story is exposed through the various experiences of a young man who is trying to establish himself during the time. Ferrell compares his approach to that used in a famous approach in a novel about the Civil War. “Have you read the Cold Mountain? It shows beautifully how a guy would see the world in 1864,” he says. “I have tried to do that for the 1790s.”

The book is structured like a diary and weaves in a story of romance, mystery and political intrigue involving North Carolina leaders such as former Gov. William R. Davie, who is credited as being the father of the University of North Carolina.

“It’s an entertaining story of a young man finding love, his pitfalls, forbidden liaisons and horse racing, and among all these things it tells you so much about the issues facing our country at that time and how people then were thinking about the Constitution,” says Ferrell.

 –Devika Banerji


2 Responses to “Will Ferrell is drawn to North Carolina history, not Hollywood”

  1. Anna Lyon says:

    For a history major and a native North Carolinian, this book sounds irresistible! Can’t wait to buy a copy!

  2. Alan Pate says:

    Bought it, read it (inhaled it), enjoyed it. GREAT book. As a 1974 State grad, I’m proud of Mr. Ferrell. I look forward to his future novels.

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