Joe Barnes has published his first novel: “Lost Ones.”

MARYVILLE, Mo. — Joe Barnes has had a pet project throughout his Northwest Missouri State football career and even during his days at Liberty High School. He has kept it very quiet, only talking about it with family and close friends, but now the Bearcat safety is ready to unveil his work.

The redshirt sophomore has published his first novel. The 309-page coming-of-age take is titled “Lost Ones.”

“I first got started on it as a senior in high school so I was 17 years old,” Barnes said. “The inspiration just really came from just years of loving to write.”

Barnes discovered his passion for writing at a very young age.

“When I was in second grade, I remember that we had this assignment where we had to write a short story and ever since then I’ve just had a passion for writing,” Barnes said. “In middle school, I tried to write stuff but it never really came through until I matured and finally found something that I gravitated toward.”

Since that discovery, Barnes says he can thank a lot of people for the encouragement to reach this stage.

“It is just the collective (support) from all the people in my life from teachers to even coaches to my parents to friends,” Barnes said. “I couldn’t single out just one person.”

The story is focused on 21 year old college student and his quest to find out what he is doing with his life.

“It is really just a book about growing up,” Barnes said. “... It is about going through love and loss, and how teenagers and people in college deal with that.”

While the story revolves around the stresses and things people in Barnes’ age group deal with, he says the book isn’t based on anyone particluar in his life, rather a collection of many experiences he has see or been apart of.

Barnes says one of his favorite books is “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, who also wrote “The Kite Runner.”

He took a lot of inspiration from the way Hosseini structures his books.

“I just really like the style that he writes with,” Barnes said. “He goes back and forth between characters, and in the book as you read it, it kind of changes characters — not as much as his do though.”

Barnes says his teammates were surprised when he first told them about the project, but theybeen very supportive.

“A lot of them were pretty excited about it,” Barnes said. “I had told some of them about it at the beginning of this year, and Zach Howard and a couple of the other guys would always ask me when I’m publishing it.”

His teammates also are some of the book’s first reviewers. Barnes doesn’t think anyone has had the chance to read it all yet, but he has an early fan in kicker Parker Sampson.

“He texted me and said ‘I just read the first page, you have talent,’” Barnes said. “That made my heart jump a little bit. It was good to hear.

“There have been a lot of good reactions. … I’m anxious for someone to read it who doesn’t personally know me to give me an honest review of it.”

“Lost Ones” is available in paperback on Amazon for $9.99.

Barnes said he already has ideas for three different stories for his next book and is in the process of deciding which he is going to write next.

“There is definitely a lot more to come,” Barnes said.