I started my first novel when I was eight and ran out of material on page five. Finally, working under the mentoring guidance of the mid-western poet, John Knoepfle, while at Saint Louis University, I finished a novel which thankfully was never published. It now makes me groan to read. Though I have had careers in education, The Marine Corps, and Federal Government, writing has always been what I’ve felt called to do. Publishers and magazines have, however, generally disagreed.
Back in the 70s, I did a collage of rejection slips from the finest journals, magazines, and publishing houses in the world. Courtesy of the government, I’ve had the privilege of living in several foreign countries and have picked up a wealth of material and experiences over the years. As an example, I just finished the draft of a romance that takes place on Crete which combines elements of ancient history, my admiration for this wonderful island, and plenty of “steamy” scenes.
My first published novel was a tongue-in-cheek spy novel I wrote in a pen name. The Chicago Syncopator was started as a short story while at the writers’ program at the University of Illinois in 1975! I rewrote it while living in Vienna, Austria in the late 80s and early 90s. Because of the theme of Czech immigration to Chicago, the manuscript attracted some attention in Prague, but was ultimately not published.
I finally decided to write it again in 2012. Because the book was written in many stages of my life, it has special significance for me. The main character, George Nepras, has become increasingly sympathetic and more heroic as he struggles against so many limitations. I’ve come to admire him. I was born in the Chicago area and my father’s family came from Prague. The story of Czech migration to Chicago has always intrigued me.
In The Chicago Syncopator, I have tried to capture the lives of those early immigrants who found work in the midst of Chicago’s industrialization. Several scenes reflect my own observations of that community as a small child. Czech immigrants were in the middle of significant events in Chicago’s history. Not least among them was the rise of jazz. Jazz captured the imaginations of so many European immigrants despite the fact that it had been virtually an exclusively African-American art form until then.
Now I live within the infamous Beltway of Washington, D.C. which for some is a synonym for Never-Never Land. My wife is Japanese and my two children are bi-lingual Japanese/English. This puts a special slant on raising children through their teen years. My future goal is simple. I want to keep writing because creating in the written word compels me to do so.
Thanks for visiting.
—Philip T. Nemec