The Book That Wouldn't Die

My Latest Novel Hits the Shelves in Two Weeks, But It Took Much Longer to Come to Life

I’m suggesting that, to be successful,

the artist in any field has to be in the right place at the right time.

The right time is in the lap of the gods,

but any mother’s son or daughter

can work their way to the right place and wait.

—Stephen King/Danse Macabre

My latest novel, Gods of Rome, will be released Tuesday, May 18th (you can pre-order the Kindle edition on Amazon). I took 30-plus years to write Gods of Rome, and did almost as many rewrites. It started in 1989 as a proverbial first novel, uh, given that it was the first novel I wrote. I was three years out of grad school, married to Pam, with one baby and another on the way. Gods hit me out of nowhere after a particularly irresistible dream in which I relived my Rome semester in a kind of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Roman Adventure. This lark would be the antithesis of the Great American, Roman, or Assisian Novel—two idiots (both aspects of myself) larking it in Rome in a way I wasn’t equipped to when I’d been there myself.

Writing changes everything. The most striking thing about writing the first draft was that it turned out nothing like the labors I once thought a great novelist goes through (grad school’ll give ya delusions of grandeur). It was fun.

Too fun. This lark begged for life—lived experience my twenties couldn’t supply. A collection of anecdotes desperately seeking a punchline. I returned to it a few years (and one more child and career change) later, but it, like me, still posed and postured. I knew Gian, Greg, and Kersti were real, but my workshop featured only cardboard cutouts that no amount of varnish and cobbled pedestals could make stand as the genuine souls they are. So, I shelved it. In the intervening years, I lived and wrote, wrestling with myself to let characters and people, including me, be who they are.

My eternal return to Gods either: (1) was a sore I couldn’t leave unpicked, no matter what scar tissue I left; or (2) demanded I revisit it when I could bring to it a self worthy of the reunion. The coda I couldn’t add to Number (2) till three decades later was that Gods had no more to do with worth than I did. I had to let myself (and Gods) be.

Gods of Rome at last is, which makes me want to apologize for and glow in pride at the kiddo I squeezed out. I don’t know whether it's grown up to be a psycho killer or a well-heeled citizen—that is for readers to decide. Fortunately, you, dear reader, get to be who you are without parental harangues about brushing your teeth, doing your homework, and not scaling the Vatican Walls on your Roman holiday. Gods (and what you the reader make it) get to be yourselves, without revision from yours truly. This baby, for better or worse, is spanked, diapered, weighed, nursed, and ready for Sambuca.

You can’t imagine how hard (and satisfying) it’s been to get to that point.

I can't wait till you read it!

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