We are connected to our history. Vince Santoro explores this in his historical fiction The Final Crossing. Today he takes us into his book’s world with an excerpt and a Q&A about writing this one. Ask more questions in the comments section! Be sure to follow the tour for more. Best of luck entering the giveaway!
In this tale of self-discovery and adventure, we are connected with a history we’ve come to know as the cradle of civilization.
Nenshi, an Egyptian house servant, raised in nobility, is well-schooled, a master huntsman and hungers to be free. His master agrees to grant his freedom but while the petition is set to be heard, Nenshi’s indiscretion gets in the way. He is caught in a secret love affair with a woman above his social status.
As punishment, he is exiled to labour in the Nubian gold mines. His life turns upside down as he is thrust into a world for which he had been ill prepared. He escapes from the mines and vows to return to Thebes, but his attempts push him farther and farther away on a journey that redefines him – a journey mired with cruelty, bloodshed, and the discovery of a new deity.
In the end Nenshi learns his freedom has been granted and must decide whether to return to his homeland or start a new life.
“I greatly enjoyed this well written story by Vince Santoro. He takes us across the Ancient World through the protagonist, Nenshi, an exiled Egyptian servant who struggles with class structure, both around and within himself. Santoro weaves a story of ideas – a sense of belonging, monotheism, and the human soul – told through Nenshi’s rite of passage through to his final crossing. The setting is visually evocative of “spirit of place” as the novelist and travel writer Lawrence Durrell called it. It’s a story worth reading.” – Terry Stanfill
Award winning historical fiction author of The Gift from Fortuny, Realms of Gold, The Blood Remembers and other works.
“Vince Santoro is a gifted storyteller. I found The Final Crossing difficult to put down because it is well written. As an historian and author of non-fiction books, I am impressed with the amount of research that Santoro has done to prepare this story of adventure and romance set in the ancient Middle East. The customs, the beliefs and even the character names are all authentic to that region and era. With so many plot twists and turns, Santoro will keep you guessing about what might happen next to the protagonist until the very end!” – John Charles Corrigan
Author of The Red Night and “Love Always”
Read an excerpt:
Twilight was fast approaching, and they returned to the trail. From a distance they saw an abundance of trees and vegetation that sprung from the hard soil. Moments later, they heard rushing water. A twisting river murmured. It called out and invited them to consume its wealth. Nenshi and Aziza went to explore it. Aziza stopped and kneeled to examine small flowers in bloom. On the river’s edge Nenshi bent over and splashed water on his face. He cupped his hands and drank its cool refreshing offering. Rocks jutted out from the shallow water. He heard footsteps and threw a glance behind him. Aziza, ran towards him, as free as the wind blew, eager to jump into the river. Nenshi screamed from the top of his lungs to warn her. “Aziza ... Aziza ... be careful, the water is shallow! There are rocks!” Her excitement muffled his warning. Nenshi then stood, flapped his arms to get her attention. She pushed her legs hard against the water to run faster until it was just deep enough to jump in. “Aziza …. Aziza … stop …” Nenshi cried. Aziza took another step but this time slipped and almost fell. She tried to regain balance and continued moving forward. Nenshi gasped hoping she realized the danger and would stop. But she didn’t and it was too late. She slipped again, fell and hit a rock. Nenshi immediately ran to her, stepping and slipping on rocks that almost caused him to lose balance. Babak who had heard Nenshi’s cries dashed to the river. Nenshi crouched over the wet and motionless body. “Help me get her out,” Nenshi cried out as he lifted her, propped her head and shoulders in his arms. Blood, washed by the water, dripped from her head.
(affiliate links included)
PURCHASE LINKS – The Final Crossing
Describe your book in one sentence or fewer than 25 words.
The Final Crossing is a story of self-discovery and adventure with spiritual overtones and musical wordplay about an Egyptian servant who struggles with class structure.
What was the inspiration behind this book?
I have always had a fascination, a curiosity, for ancient civilizations. After graduating with a degree in History and a minor in Behavioural Sciences it occurred to me that the two were interconnected.
Behavioural Science deals with several disciplines: sociology, social and cultural anthropology, psychology, etc. History is the study of the past; the events that have changed over time.
Historically, what has caused man to change and why? What has caused man not to change? Events related to their history are influenced by the conditions of the time – socially, culturally, etc.
And so, I chose one of the most well-known ancient civilizations and its surrounding lands to tell a story about what I believe have been man’s quest since time immemorial: freedom, love, and the guiding hand of a god.
My story is not an historical account per se. It takes us back to what has become known as “the cradle of civilization” and connects us with the religious, cultural and social beliefs of the era and its surrounding lands.
The story is told through the protagonist Nenshi and his quest for freedom, love and religion. The travails of his journey redefine who he is. He sheds the traditional religious beliefs of his country; he overcomes man’s cruel behaviour of injustice and violence; he finds love among a simple nomadic tribe.
Nenshi’s quest holds true today. As we strive for the same goals, we question our beliefs, we change our behaviours, we hold on to what has served us well, we redefine ourselves and our world for a better life.
What kind of research did you have to do for it?
Writing historical fiction has its challenges. The story may be about a period that some readers know very little about or they may know more than the writer. Regardless, the historical facts of the story need to be researched and then used to help tell the story.
My story is set in the Ancient World – Egypt, the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Persia. There’s plenty of information about these lands and it can be at times overwhelming. My researched
focused on a specific timeline, 1800 BCE. I chose this for a couple of reasons. First, it coincides with the beginning of a declining state of Egypt, which played a big part with the protagonist’s status as a servant and his request to be set free. Secondly the timeline coincides with the historical accounts of the Biblical character, Abraham (Abramu in the story).
I considered the facts that I researched and then utilized all five senses and weaved them into a story that made both facts and senses real. I used historical accounts and based on other lesser-known facts, used them to conceptualize an event or situation. The purpose was to make the story readable, believable, or spark thought-provoking alternatives to traditionally known facts.
It was important for me not to write a history book and I had to be careful that all those interesting pieces of information, unearthed in research, did not end up as “info-dump” in the story but rather became an integral part of the story that kept the momentum moving, that brought characters and settings to life.
Which character was your favorite to write?
Interestingly one of my favourite characters to write was Aziza, a 15-year-old mute. She had been homeless for most of her life and had learned how to survive. She befriended Nenshi, the protagonist, in Damascus, while he was on the run as a fugitive. A strong bond grows between them as they depend on each other for safety and survival. They had learned to communicate with each other through a form of sign language.
Aziza is strong-willed, curious, and resourceful. She is also distrustful of anyone. Yet through her relationship with Nenshi she becomes less skeptical and learns to be more trustful and not let her limitations get in the way of living a good life.
To which character did you relate the most?
Naturally I related to Nenshi the most. Many questions I had about social injustice, religious beliefs, etc. were expressed through Nenshi and his experiences while in exile. Nenshi was never satisfied with the status quo. He was impetuous, which at times caused regrettable actions. But his heart was always in the right place. He needed to learn the lessons in life that redefined him in becoming a better person. It’s a journey that many young people have gone through – challenging the norms, questioning customs and practices, and experiencing heartbreak.
What was one of your favorite scenes?
There’s a scene when Nenshi visits his best friend, Hordekef, who was recovering from an injury. To give a little background, Nenshi had a bad dream. Hordekef convinced him to have it interpreted by a fortune teller. After the reading, on their way back home, while workers were raising blocks during the construction of a house, ropes snapped and caused the rock to crash next to Nenshi and Hordekef. A broken piece struck Hordekef.
Also, prior to this, the petition to set Nenshi free was completed and ready to be submitted. Hordekef had volunteered to deliver it himself to the court’s scribes. But Hordekef decided to hold on to the petition for a while and didn’t tell Nenshi.
The scene in Hordekef’s room is very emotional. Nenshi feels guilty for agreeing to have his dream interpreted. If he had not gone, Hordekef would not be fighting for his life. Hordekef, heavily sedated, was hardly aware his friend in the room. At the end of the visit, as Nenshi was leaving the room, Hordekef held out his hand and pointed to a chest in the corner of the room where in it was the petition to set Nenshi free. Nenshi did not turn around to see the gesture. Will Hordekef survive to deliver the petition, or will his poor judgement keep Nenshi enslaved forever?
Who would be your dream narrator for the audio book version?
There are so many great narrators. Perhaps Morgan Freeman, with his distinctive deep voice. Or the cultural icon William Shatner, whose delivery cadence would keep listeners engaged. Besides, Shatner who has been on his own journey of the universe, would add a different quality to Nenshi’s journey through the Ancient World.
I would be happy with either of the two.
Why should we read your book?
The story takes the reader back to a time when a great power, Egypt, is on the verge of decline. How many times have we seen this in history? The Greeks, the Romans. And perhaps even today, there may be powers on the decline. Some suggest the U.S.
The same holds true for religion. Over time one religion has replaced another. Will the same hold true for Christianity, Islam, Judaism?
Then there’s the question about how man behaves towards his fellow man. The hope that one day the world can live in peace.
These are the common threads that have touched man since the beginning of time. And my story hopefully adds to the conversation.
On what are you currently working?
I’m working on a second book, also historical fiction, which takes place in Italy and North Africa during WWII, titled LETTERS OF REDEMPTION.
The story is told through a shared point of view, from the protagonist Antonio and from the protagonist Maria. It’s a story of Antonio’s search for reconciliation from his transgressions and of Maria’s hunger for independence and apprehension over newfound love.
During the war Antonio writes letters on behalf of another soldier, Roberto, to Maria. Roberto had never learned how to write. Maria didn’t know this because she had just met him before he was sent to the front lines of North Africa. The secret is well hidden and even after Roberto’s death in battle, as the war continues, so do the letters. They become Antonio’s own expression of love that ultimately leads to guilt and a search for how to end the dishonesty. In the meantime, Maria has moved from her hometown in Taormina to Rome to find work to help her parents in poverty-stricken and war-torn Sicily. It’s also an opportunity to be independent. And she doesn’t know about Roberto’s death.
As the letters continue to reach Maria in Rome, Antonio’s dishonesty leads to guilt but the relationship he had created and nurtured over time prevents him from telling the truth. He has fallen in love. As the war comes to an end, Antonio must find Maria, plea for forgiveness and declare his love for her. Maria, who has also fallen in love with the man behind the letters, must decide whether to follow her heart or let Antonio go.
What is your writing routine?
A writing routine is so important for authors. Perhaps even more so today, given that authors are heavily involved with the business side of writing in addition to creating stories. For me, I start the morning (after breakfast) with dealing with the business aspects: check and respond to emails and social media; follow-up on marketing initiatives; work on a draft for an upcoming blog for my website; etc. After lunch I work on my story whether it’s planning scenes, researching or actual writing. The mood will generally dictate which way to go.
Of course, there are days that I prefer to golf instead or go out for lunch or visit friends and family. Balance is the key. And I don’t forget the occasional nap, after lunch, to recharge my batteries. It works wonders.
What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.
What is your favorite part about writing?
When writing I like to tap into my imagination. It lets me create the visuals for a scene, explore emotions, build tension, delve into a character’s mind and set up twists and turns to keep the reader engaged.
What are you currently reading? Up next on your TBR?
I’m reading The Book of HOPE by Jane Goodall. It’s a look at how we (the world) can be hopeful in the midst of everything that seems hopeless. In Jane’s words, “Hope is what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so.”
Up next will be, The Falcon’s Eyes by Francesca Stanfill. Described as “a novel of epic proportions” this story is about the life of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and promises to be intriguing and suspenseful. Can’t wait for its July delivery.
What book and/or author changed your life?
There are so many books and authors that have left a lasting influence. From a pure writing perspective, the unique writing style of Ernest Hemingway come to mind: simple and natural language, every sentence or paragraph stripped down to the bare bones.
The other author I gravitated towards was Taylor Caldwell, who often used real historical events or persons in her novels – stories that were intricately plotted, suspenseful, and often depicted family tensions and religious and personal intolerance.
When not writing, what can we find you doing?
I never thought that I would like golf. I always thought it was absurd to stand holding a metal stick in front of a small white ball, elevated a couple of inches on a little thing called a tee, overlooking this expansive grass and treelined terrain, and then hit the ball and try to see where it landed only to look for it, hit again and again and again until you tap it into a little hole in the ground. Needless to say, I came to enjoy the challenge and the relative quietness of a golf course.
I also enjoy the theatre and concerts and dining and spending time with friends and family. And don’t forget the Campari.
What is one skill you wish you had?
I wish I had learned to type. I guess it’s never too late to learn but for now I pick and pluck at the keyboard. It works.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Time travel would be great. Can you imagine meeting all those great people of the past or witnessing the events that changed the world and then come back and write about it? Now that’s a best seller.
If you could meet one person living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would have loved to have met and known Michelangelo Buonarroti, known simply as Michelangelo, the Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the Renaissance. He was the most accomplished artist of his time. His work transcends all others. How did he hone the skills and talents that others found so challenging? What did he think about when he was not working? Or was ever not working? It was his creative mind that was most intriguing.
What is something on your bucket list you have accomplished? Want to accomplish?
Machu Picchu had always been on my bucket list. Located on a mountain ridge, almost 8,000 feet above sea level, the spectacular and most familiar icon of Inca civilization was breathtaking.
What’s next? Having published my debut novel has fueled my desire to write a truly great story that the world could enjoy for years to come.
About the author:
Vince is an Italian-born Canadian who grew up in Toronto, Canada, and now lives in Pickering, a suburb of Toronto.
In his youth, education and sports became a priority. A private boys’ school, St. Michael’s College in Toronto, provided the opportunity for both. He graduated from York University, Toronto, with a degree in history and a minor in behavioural science.
Vince was always up for new challenges. After completing his studies, he set his eyes on Europe and played professional basketball in Italy. When he returned home, he shifted gears and worked in the aerospace industry in several capacities. The most rewarding was managing internal communications for a large aircraft manufacturer. It was during this time he decided to hone his writing skills by studying journalism at Ryerson University, Toronto, and he had several articles published.
His career in communications along with studies in history and journalism prepared him to take on his next challenge: to write a book. His debut novel, The Final Crossing, has been a labour of love, one he worked on for many years. It reflects life experiences, woven into a story that inspires and entertains, and perhaps even show the world in a different way.
CONNECT WITH VINCE SANTORO
FACEBOOK – Vince Santoro | Facebook
TWITTER – Vince Santoro (@vsantoro14) / Twitter
Vince Santoro will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway