GENRE: Historical Fiction
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”
The sound of dragging footsteps along the pebbled path grew louder. The morning heat would soon turn into an inferno and drain any enthusiasm from the simplest of pleasures. But it was not enough to hamper a hunting expedition.
“Finally,” Nenshi said as he bent down to grab his bow and arrows nestled between his feet. “Must you always be late?” He looked up to the sky and squinted to get a reading of the sun’s position. “I don’t have all day. Unlike you.”
“Don’t scold me like a child. I keep forgetting,” Hordekef replied and wiped his clammy hands on his shirt.
Nenshi shook his head. “You keep forgetting you’re a free man and I am not?”
Hordekef shrugged his shoulders and turned to look down at his hunting dog. “Precisely,” he replied as he tugged at the leash to nudge the dog to come closer. It refused. “I have known you as a nobleman’s son, not a servant.”
Nenshi frowned, hated to be reminded of his status. Unlike most servants, even raised in nobility had its burdens. Hordekef gave the leash another tug. The dog still refused to budge. “Perhaps one day you will call me to celebrate your freedom rather than go hunting.”
There was silence, save for the sound of the dog’s pant.
The yearning for freedom had grown over time but the longing was not enough to set Nenshi free. Even though it was uncommon for servants to ask for their freedom, if warranted, in time, it would be granted. But Nenshi could not wait to be accorded such benevolence.
“Well … when will you ask your master to grant you your independence?” Hordekef asked. “You have told me, repeatedly, you would.”
Nenshi was reluctant to answer but felt the obligation to provide his friend with an explanation. “I have tried, several times. Something always gets in the way, his work, visits from old friends. I don’t know what else to do. He has been good to me. You know that. I don’t want to disrespect him.”
“Tehuti is aging. After he enters the underworld, you will still respect him. Unfortunately, your status will not have changed.”
Nenshi remained silent. The dead air surrounding him fell on his shoulders and caused him to be still, immobile. The heaviness could only be shaken with distraction. “Let’s go, we’re wasting time,” he said, tipping his head sideways in the direction of the wasteland.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I am an Italian-born Canadian, grew up in Toronto, and now live in Pickering, just outside the Greater Toronto Area.
In my teenage years I recall that my parents wanted to make sure me and my siblings got a good education. But for me basketball was just as important. I ended up going to a private boy’s school, St. Michael’s College High School in Toronto, which was known for its academics. That pleased my parents. As for playing basketball, the caveat was that in order for me to play on the school team I had to maintain an above average grade, or I just didn’t play. I quickly learned that where there’s an incentive, there’s a reward.
I went on to graduate from York University in Toronto where I majored in History and a minor in Behavioural Science. After completing university, I challenged myself to see how far I could go with basketball. I set my eyes on Europe and ended up playing professional basketball for a few years, where else, in Italy.
Eventually I settled down in Toronto and pursued a career in aerospace. While managing internal communications for a large aircraft manufacturer in Toronto, I had the opportunity to go back to school, night school, to hone my writing skills. And with that came another challenge, to write a book.
Raising a family … working on the book … going to work … working on the book … going to school … playing and coaching basketball … working on the book … I never gave up! Eventually, I finished the manuscript and then published my first novel.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
The Final Crossing tells the story of an Egyptian servant, Nenshi, who struggles with class structure, both around and within himself, often pondering what it means to be a free man. It’s a story of self-discovery and adventure, with spiritual overtones.
Nenshi builds up the courage to ask his master to free him. But as fate has it, before the petition is granted, he is caught in a secret love affair with Sia, a beautiful Egyptian freewoman. During one of their trysts, Nenshi commits a crime against Sia’s father and is consequently punished and sent to the Nubian mines to serve his sentence. He escapes and vows to return home, but events take him farther and farther away on a journey in pursuit of freedom and love. A journey that redefines him, a journey mired with cruelty, bloodshed, and the discovery of a new deity.
The story asks some philosophical questions such as what it means to be truly free, what is the human spirit, and what it means to believe in a god? It explores cities and civilizations in the ancient world. It’s a story filled with compelling moments, some clever, some with musical wordplay all told through interesting characters and twists and turns until the very end. It’s a story that entertains and perhaps make the reader see life in a different way.
The idea for the story was seeded, in part, from my fascination for ancient civilizations. It had also occurred to me that the two disciples I had studied, History and Behavioural Sciences, were interconnected.
Behavioural Science deals with several disciplines: sociology, social and cultural anthropology, psychology, etc. History is the study of the past; the events and people that have changed the world over time.
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.
How do you create your characters?
In a way, I don’t create characters. At least I don’t create a “full” character. I create the skeleton of a character with some essential qualities or personality: kind or mean-spirited; devious or direct; emotionally flawed or impetuous, etc.
As the story grows, so does the character. Events, emotions, tension, relationship with other characters, etc., all play a part in the development of a multi-dimensional character. Naturally, I have a role in this by creating situations and then see how the character acts and reacts, keeping in mind that it is all done within the boundaries of moving the plot forward.
Some characters must be fully created but these are the “supporting cast” of characters in the story. The main character or characters take centre stage, and the reader learns more about them as the story progresses, as the characters grow.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
My writing journey began when I was a teenager, spawned by my older sister’s love of poetry and her natural talent for expressing her thoughts in elegant poetic verse. I experimented with the genre which helped me tap into my imagination. Then when my brother formed a musical band, he let me write lyrics for some of his songs. None saw the light of day, but I had fun writing them.
Then came books. I devoured them. The stories and their authors were teachers, subconsciously whispering into my ear how to craft a story.
The Old Man and The Sea; I, Judas; Gone With the Wind; Atlas Shrugged; The Godfather; The Lord of The Rings; Disgrace – the list is long.
My favourite authors of the time were Ernest Hemingway and Taylor Caldwell. For the longest time Caldwell was presumed to be a man. There was even public annoyance when it was revealed the author was a woman. Imagine that! Yet her emotionally charged historical novels captivated readers around the world.
Some books have held a special place for me. While I lived for a while in Siena, Italy, I vividly remember reading Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, the story of the life of Michelangelo. During one of my several jaunts to Florence, I stopped at the Piazza della Signoria. Sitting at a café, reading the book, while drinking one espresso after another, I knew I was at the very place where the political and social life dominated fourteenth-century Florence. A place where great triumphs were celebrated, and protests occupied the public square. I looked up, across to the Palazzo Vecchio, where next to the entrance stood a replica statue of Michelangelo’s David. I imagined the original – gigantic and impressive. Even from where I sat, I could make out the veins that Michelangelo painstakingly carved to bulge out of David’s right hand.
It was as if time had placed me at this very setting, just at the part in the book about a rebellion against the Medici, where rioters occupied the Palace. The rebels threw furniture from inside to stave off soldiers. A bench tumbled down and struck the left arm of the David breaking it off in three pieces. Good thing the original statue was eventually moved to the Accademia Gallery, to protect it from further damage.
But my experience with reading the story of Michelangelo didn’t end there. Back in Siena, I was fortunate to have met and had tea with Ginevra Bonelli Chigi Zondadari Colonna, also referred to by Irving Stone, in his credits, as a descendant of Vittoria Colonna. While we sipped from fine China cups, sitting across from each other on antique divans in her salon, adorned with Renaissance artifacts and paintings, Ms. Ginevra Collona recounted her meetings with Stone and how she helped him with his research about the Marchesa di Pescara, Vittoria Colonna.
The Marchesa, an Italian noblewoman ranking above a countess and below a princess, developed a close relationship with Michelangelo. The well-educated Vittoria Colonna had become one of the most popular female poets of sixteenth-century Italy. Michelangelo and Colonna were united by poetry. Some of his finest sonnets were about the Marchesa and he made drawings of her too. In turn she gifted him with a manuscript of spiritual poetry. I still hold dear to me Irving Stone’s book, The Agony and the Ecstasy, signed by the Marchesa’s descendant, Ms. Ginevra Collona.
What do you like to read?
I think of myself as a diverse reader. As I mentioned earlier, in my younger days I liked to read stories by Ernest Hemmingway, Taylor Caldwell, Ayn Rand, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austin, Harper Lee and so on. Then came fantasy and adventure such as The Lord of the Rings, Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction stories and sci-fi books by Isaac Asimov. And course there are John le Carré’s spy fiction novels. I also enjoyed reading A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester. In non-fiction I like biographies and autobiographies and books such as Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson and, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Jane Goodall.
And of course, there are book that helped learn about how to write. They are a valuable resource by my side, a plethora of knowledge to guide me. Barbara Kyle’s Page Turner; Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel; Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey; Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages; John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story; Jack Hodgins’ A Passion for Narrative; and, Jane Friedman’s The Business Of Being A Writer are my best friends. As the friendships grow, so do I as an author.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
In honesty, I don’t think I’m able to give aspiring authors advice on writing. Perhaps after having written more books, my advice and perspective may have value.
However, as a debut author there is something I can share based on my journey as a writer. It’s not about how to craft a story. It’s about not giving up on your dream.
The greatest reminder of this came from Jim Valvano, the exuberant coach of North Carolina State University, whose team won the NCAA Basketball Championship in 1983 against the most improbable odds. In 1992 Valvano gave an inspirational speech – a memorable and motivational one about the importance of hope, love and persistence. His key message, in his words, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Sadly, two months later Jim Valvano had succumbed to cancer, diagnosed earlier that year.
And so, my journey continues, with Valvano whispering in my ear, whose words of never giving up are added to those voices teaching me how to craft a story. I venture to unleash the lessons of life experiences, woven into stories to inspire, to inform and to see the world in a different way.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
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
PURCHASE LINKS – The Final Crossing
AMAZON.COM – https://amazon.com/dp/0228871840
AMAZON.CA – https://amazon.ca/dp/0228871840
AMAZON KINDLE – https://amazon.com/dp/B09WJKB96S
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE:
Vince Santoro will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.