James Conroyd Martin

James Conroyd Martin

I started "Fortune's Child" when I lived in Hollywood a couple of decades ago. An agent who was trying to sell an incomplete Push Not the River told me to start working on something else. As it happened, I was taking an Art Appreciation course at a community college. One day we were studying the exquisite mosaics of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora from the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, and the professor pointed to Theodora and said, “I’m not a writer, but if I were, that is the woman I would write about.” Little did he know what he had unloosed. I went down to the Hollywood Public Library and took out at least a dozen books on the period and the reign of Justinian and Theodora. The empress seemed to me like the Eva Peron of the sixth century, and I was hooked. I made a good start on her story, but life threw some curves. I went back to finishing Push Not the River, but when it didn’t sell, other agents came and went. One publisher held on to it for two years. I returned to teaching and the years passed. When St. Martin’s Press picked up Push Not the River in 2003, I figured my Theodora book would follow. Ah~but St. Martin’s wanted a sequel, so that led to other books and more years. Fate goes ever as it must. So~now Theodora is getting her just due. Please give Fortune’s Child a chance. **** Well, this was a surprise! Just a year after winning a Gold Medal IPPY for THE BOY WHO WANTED WINGS, the Independent Publisher Book Awards presented THE POLISH TRILOGY Box Set e-book with their 2018 Gold Medal for the Best Regional E-book, Fiction. How cool is that! So excited! THE BOY WHO WANTED WINGS: LOVE IN THE TIME OF WAR has won a 2017 GOLD MEDAL in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, nicknamed the IPPYs. The organization is the world's largest book awards competition. The novel, which culminates in the September 11-12, 1683, Battle of Vienna, won in the Military/Wartime Fiction category. On another note~ You can't make this stuff up, even if you are a writer~ A FUNNY THING HAPPENED UPON ARRIVING IN HOLLYWOOD Some—as in many—years ago I resigned from a short teaching career, turned my young back on the Midwest, and landed in Hollywood, anxious to learn screenwriting. I landed a job, two actually, and started taking screenwriting classes. All was going according to plan—until I met a young man who insisted I read his translation of his great-great-great-great grandmother’s diary. Out of politeness, I did read the diary of Countess Anna Maria Berezowska, who began her journaling in 1791 when her parents died and she was forced to live with an aunt, uncle, and two nefarious cousins. The diary held me spellbound as I read of her falling in love with neighbor Jan, while being obstructed in her happiness by crude Walter and scheming Zofia. The background to all of this was the nation at war and on the cusp of destruction. Margaret Mitchell could have outlined it. But this didn’t call for a screenplay—that could come later. I would create a novel, yes—a novel. To cut my own serpentine story short, over years, the manuscript could not survive three agents, countless would-be editors, one lying publisher. Even the weight of Bette Davis, who read it with an eye to an eventual screenplay, didn’t seem to matter. Return to the Midwest and to teaching. Keep the telling short, James, I tell myself. OK, one day print-on-demand comes along and I publish the book myself, hoping to catch the eye of one of the big publishers. Fates smiles. St. Martin’s Press purchases Push Not the River. Anna’s story gets told. I pray it’s told well, I whisper to the spirit I’ve felt on my shoulder for so many years. Why, her story is translated back into Polish—full circle—and Nie ponaglaj rzeki becomes a bestseller in Poland. Na zdrowie! Oh, the publisher wants a sequel? Cool. Done—Against a Crimson Sky. I’m flying now, pun intended. Wait—my editor is leaving St. Martin’s? What, without her on board they are declining the final part of the trilogy? Publish it yourself, my agent urges. How do I do that? Oh, yeah—I do know how. And so I do—The Warsaw Conspiracy. Now what is it they call writers like me—those who have been published by the big boys, as well as by their own big bad selves? I always forget. It’s some kind of flower or plant, isn’t it? Hybrids?—yes that’s right. I’m a hybrid author. And do you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. Oh, a screenplay? It’ll happen one day. You just wait. James Conroyd Martin is the award-winning author of PUSH NOT THE RIVER, a novel based on the diary of a countess in 1790s Poland; AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY, which continues the family saga into the Napoleonic era; and The WARSAW CONSPIRACY, detailing the young Polish cadets' rising against the mighty Russia. It is now a best-selling e-book boxed set. HOLOGRAM: A HAUNTING is a Piers Anthony recommended ghost story with a modern twist. The latest: THE BOY WHO WANTED WINGS is a story of love and war as a young man seeks to become a hussar, one of the elite Polish lancers who rode into battle wearing wings of eagle feathers on their backs. The book culminates with the Battle of Vienna, 1683, which occurred on September 11-12, 1683. It was the FIRST 9/11, pitting the Ottoman Empire against Christian Europe. As crucial and consequential as the Battle of Hastings, this battle changed the course of European history.
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