When I left Ghana, I spent eight months traveling the world before returning to New York, where I decided to start a new novel about a young man having adventures in Africa. I wrote hundreds of pages, entertaining myself along the way, but I got stuck for an ending.
I began writing for magazines, and that soon became a full-time job. I interviewed Barbra Streisand, Luciano Pavarotti, Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, and Al Pacino, to name a few. Some of these interviews turned into books. It was heady stuff to see and hold these books. But they were all nonfiction. My dream was to write fiction.
During these years, I learned about the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship for fiction. I dusted off the first chapter of the African novel I never finished and sent it to them. Eight months later, I received a letter of congratulations and a check for $12,000. I celebrated by buying an expensive pipe made by W.O. Larsen, purveyors to the Royal Danish Court, and made a vow not to smoke it until I published a novel.
I decided to write a novel about a middle-aged actor who had once reached the height of his profession only to fall mightily. He had two failed marriages, but he had kids from both whom he loved and wanted to stay connected with. I titled it Catch a Fallen Star.
In 2007, I was invited to serve on the jury for the Plus Camerimage film festival in Lodz, Poland. Since a few of my nonfiction books had been published in Poland, I met with two of the publishers in Warsaw. In one of them, Marta Szelichowska of Axis Mundi, I found a publisher with whom I could talk, share ideas, and expand on dreams. She asked me what I was working on, and I mentioned that I had finished a novel but needed to rewrite it. She asked if she might see it.
When I returned from Poland and finished revising it, I sent it to Szelichowska, merely looking for her feedback. She surprised me when she wrote, saying she would like to publish it.
My own agent wouldnt read my book because he knew he would have a hard time finding a publisher. I can sell your nonfiction, he told me, but novels are tough, especially these days. Now here was someone who wanted to publish it my first novel, my lifes dream but in a language I couldnt understand.