The Final Crossing by Vince Santoro – Q&A and Giveaway

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What drives your story forward in your books the most, the characters or the plot, or do you feel they are intertwined?

My story, The Final Crossing, is both character-driven and plot-driven. The blend approach relates to my writing style, an attempt to write a rich and satisfying story.

A plot-driven story focuses on action while a character-driven story focuses on the portrayal of a character or characters. Many believe, the publishing market included, that a plot-driven story is better. And so, we hear of stories being a “page turner”, one filled with “tension” or “conflict”, concepts usually attributed to a plot-driven story. Think of The Da Vinci Code and Jurassic Park as examples of plot-driven stories.

Character-driven stories, such as The Catcher in the Rye and most recently Where the Crawdads Sing, are heavy on emotions and what the character is thinking. There must be a change to the character, the character arc.

Most writers tend to lean to one style. I sought to balance the two. The main character, Nenshi, starts at point A, then something happens, not by accident, but because of the choices he makes influenced by his inner world. This plot-driven approach continues throughout the story whereby the events are laden with tension, conflict, snap decisions, etc. The character-driven approach comes into play as we see Nenshi grow and change ultimately ending up at point B.

Regardless of the approach a writer chooses, I believe the story must have both character and plot.

If you were a character in one of your books, which would you be? The hero/heroine, mentor, villain, love interest, etc.?

All my characters are made up of parts of me. So, I look at it differently. Not which character from my story would I be, but which character would I like to be.

You might think it would the protagonist Nenshi or his best friend Hordekef. Not so. I would like to be Soreb, Nenshi’s sagacious tutor, whom we never see because he has long been dead. But his presence through his teachings, words of wisdom, and guidance are often remembered. They anchor Nenshi on his journey as he redefines who he is.

Do people you know end up as characters in your book? Be honest…

The people I know, per se, don’t end up in my book as characters. But their personality, temperament, integrity or lack of, strengths or weaknesses, etc. do become part of the essential qualities of the characters I have created.

For example, there are people that I have met in life who are deceitful and selfish. Some of the characters in my story certainly exhibit such qualities. I have also met people with high moral standards, are kind and generous. These qualities are also embedded into some of my characters.

If you could meet a literary character, who would you most like to meet?

I would like to meet Atticus Finch, from the story To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Atticus is a widowed father and middle-aged lawyer who lives with dignity, humility, courage, and honesty.

He is consistent with his beliefs and true to his conscience, exemplified when he decides to defend Tom Robinson, an African American accused of raping a white woman. When his young daughter asks him why he supports Tom, Atticus replies, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

So, what makes this man tick? What was his childhood like that shaped his character, traits of compassion, thoughtfulness, honesty, and morality? What influenced him to become a strong advocate of equality regardless of people’s background and skin color? These are just some of the questions that would help me to get me to know Atticus more, a literary character I would most like to meet.

Was there something in your first edit that didn’t make it in the final copy?

Before I had sent my draft to an editor, I had made numerous changes. The beginning had changed, the middle as well, and the ending had changed – several times. Chapters were added, some deleted. All that is normal for a writer.

I do recall one scene that remained throughout my revisions until the final copy. It’s a scene when the protagonist, Nenshi, is among desert Bedouins. In the scene, during a festive meal, a dancer lures Nenshi away. I think you can imagine what happens next.

But my editor suggested I delete the scene. As he put it, it didn’t move the story forward. I thought long and hard about, objectively. He was right. I deleted the scene.

How much research went into your last book?

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.

Can you tell us what prompted you to write your latest release?

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.

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’s next for you? What are you working on now?

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 dual 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.

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 Knight and “Love Always”

Enjoy an Excerpt

Nenshi and Hordekef meandered through the passages, some narrow, some wide enough to parade animals for sale. There was a different mood among the merchants. Nenshi noticed the acrid atmosphere. An unsettled sensation lingered, like a haunting image from a nightmare. The acrimony spread like the annual flooding of the River Iteru – the sorrowful tears of Isis for her dead husband Osiris.

But Nenshi could not let things go unsaid. At the very least to make sure Hordekef was aware of it all.

“Something is very different today,” Nenshi said.

Hordekef surveyed the surroundings. “All I see is the same greedy merchants selling the same worthless merchandise to the same rude buyers.” He grinned and then pushed a short man aside who stood in his way. The man turned and raised his hand to strike but realized the difference in size and strength. He casually submitted to the titan and moved aside.

“Look around,” Nenshi said. “Tehuti may be right, the heqa khasewet may be closer than we think.”

Hordekef laughed. “You are obsessed with this notion of invaders.” He refused to let Nenshi’s preoccupation ruin his day. “If they’re as close as you suggest, the marketplace would be empty.”

“Don’t you see there aren’t as many merchants.”

“That doesn’t mean an attack is imminent.”

Even though there were fewer merchants, the market was still busy. A sea of sellers and buyers overflowed the narrow paths. Merchandise of every kind, from near and far, strewn on tables, hung on ropes, were on display to attract customers. Merchants added their own special calling, chanted or yelled, to solicit a sale.

Nonetheless, Nenshi remained vigilant. Unlike raids, common in small towns, he knew attacks in Thebes were never anticipated. And like many others, he had been lulled in the belief that the Walls of the Prince, there to protect the people, were impenetrable.

“This is the perfect stage for an attack,” he said. “A large unsuspecting crowd is fodder for mayhem.” But he was hardly heard, drowned by squealing flutes, competing with thunderous drumbeats.

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.

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  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. sherry1969 says

    This sounds like a good read and I love the cover.

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