On a Friday evening in 2007, Tom Starita was supposed to be heading out with some friends for a night on the town. His friends were single and loving it; but Starita had recently broken off his engagement and was unsure of his next move. Looking back, he says he should have known there’d be a girl.
“There’s always a girl,” he said. “Anytime you do something creative, there’s always a girl.”
Starita had met her five months before breaking off his engagement, although she had nothing to do with the breakup. He ran into her again just before he was supposed to go out that night. The uncertainty of where his life was going was frustrating and depressing, but in her, he found inspiration.
“I was in the shower and I realized, ‘Oh my God, it’s all about choices,’” he said. “My decisions are my own, and they can lead me in any direction.”
“I still wanted to write. I just needed to find a story that I was passionate about.” – Tom Starita
The novel tells the story of Chris Marcum, a man who seemingly has everything. Chris is deeply religious, but refuses to believe that his faith in God has anything to do with his personal success. So when he is visited by an angel who challenges him to test his theory by re-living his entire life, he accepts.
“It’s essentially a story about hope and faith,” said Starita. “I wanted to create a story that showed one man’s chosen path and what happens when he’s given a chance to experience another path. Would he have the same belief in his faith?”
Long, slow process
Starita originally hails from Staten Island, where he enrolled at St. John’s University as a communications major, having always been interested in writing. Still, by the end of his sophomore year, he was not convinced that communications was for him. He was always, and still is, religious, so he became a theology major and graduated as the only one in his class.
After graduation, he taught religion for seven years at Staten Island’s St. Peter’s High School for Girls and later at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey.
“I still wanted to write, though,” he said. “I just needed to find a story that I was passionate about.”
After his shower revelation, Starita spent five years crafting the story of Chris Marcum and his angel, never losing sight of where the story was going or how Chris’ journey was going to end.
“I read interviews with a lot of authors that say their books turned out different than they thought they would, like ‘Oh, I didn’t see the character going in that direction,’ or ‘I didn’t think it’d end that way,’” he said. “I always thought that was a bit ridiculous.”
Still, Starita underestimated the sheer will power it would take to finish his book.
“Writing it was the easy part; it flowed,” he said. “But I’m happy I was so ignorant about the commitment it took to write a book. If I’d known how much it work was going to be, I might never have done it.”
As is usually the case, however, Starita found that publishing his book was the hard part. He sent it to nearly 100 agents, and was denied by all of them. “Two Ways to Sunday” didn’t lack quality, they said, it just wasn’t their thing. So he started sending it to small publishing houses. Their responses were more encouraging, said Starita.
“They basically told me that what the book could be was bigger than what they were capable of doing with it,” he said.
Starita found himself considering self-publishing, but he said he was aware of some of the baggage that could go along with that.
“I didn’t want to be that author that has 100 boxes of books in his living room and gives them out as Christmas presents,” he said. “But finally, I just decided to go for it. Again, life’s about decisions. I just decided to go for it and see what happened.”
The response to the book has been positive, Starita said. He’s already started work on his next novel, which is approximately a quarter of the way complete.
Religion not a prerequisite
While the book does address religion, Starita said it is not meant to be geared towards religious people.
“Obviously, there’s the God angle, and I think churchgoers and people of faith will really enjoy it,” he said. “But it’s more for people who are frustrated, or have lost hope in what their life is.”
Everyone can turn their life around, Starita said.
“I know this book won’t change the world,” he said. “That’s not what I’m looking to do. But if can help even one person who’s lost get their life back on track, then it’s worth it.”
“Two Ways to Sunday” by Tom Starita is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org