Nicholas C. Prata
A Rising Star Feature
by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, a friend presented me with the book, Dream of Fire, asking me to review it for her website. At the time, I wasnít sure what to expect from the novel which contained quite a few religious references. I hadnít read a great many Christian fiction novels at the time and wasnít sure how I would feel about the experience. When I found myself a quarter of the way through the novel in only two hours of reading time, I knew that I had found something special - a writer who could captivate his reader with his writing style, enchanting story and intriguing characters. That writer was Nicholas C. Prata. I had a chance to speak with Mr. Prata recently and hereís what he had to say:
What inspired you to write?
It was my love of dinosaurs! I started cranking out books about T Rex when I was in first or second grade. They probably weren't very good (actually, they were terrible) but I had a lot of fun with them. My parents were very supportive and encouraged me to keep writing. My mom did a lot of theater/dance and my dad went to art school, so I pretty much had carte blanche. They even put up with me extending my college career because I was writing so much at night that I had to carry a smaller workload. You know, I never really considered that before--that my "hobby" cost them extra money. Don't I feel terrible... Thanks for all the support, mom and dad!
How long have you known that you wanted a career in writing?
I was writing a lot in college, just trying to get something into print, when I fell into what would become one of my most important and enduring friendships. Perhaps you've heard of Mark Rogers, the author/illustrator of Blood of the Lamb and Zorachus fame? Well, his wife, Kate, is a philosophy professor at my alma mater and I was taking her classes while reading some of Mark's earlier works. Kate would frequently refer to her "husband Mark" and I just had to know if he was the same gent whose books I'd been enjoying. I approached her after class one day and found that, indeed, her Mark and the author were one in the same. The next day Kate brought an unpublished manuscript in and told me: "Mark said you can read this before it goes to the publisher." Soon after that I was a regular fixture at the Rogers house, enjoying all-night bull sessions with the college profs and local think tank. One day after listening to me blather about "my work", Mark challenged me to complete a full length novel. So I did. To be honest, it wasn't very good. (It was called Centurion and took place during the year of four emperors.) Mark was gracious and insightful. After telling me what needed to be cleaned up he said: "But all the right stuff is in there and I think you could be a professional." We've been reading each other's manuscripts ever since.
What subjects are you most interested in writing about?
I like best those things I get to create from whole cloth, the fantasy stuff--but they've not sold very well. Kerebos is my favorite publication (and my best) but it has failed to catch on, which I don't understand. Then there are all the ones that never got published. I've done a lot of fantasy pieces, and a science fiction, that never found homes. It's sad, if you think too long about it--but at least I can keep working on them as they're not in print.
I do very much like writing battle scenes, which dovetails nicely with my historical novels. Not coincidentally, the history stuff is what I'm primarily known for. Angels in Iron is an early work, a retelling of the 1565 Great Siege of Malta. I started writing it about 20 years ago, so I could definitely do better now--if it goes to another printing--but this (true) story is utterly amazing. If you don't know about the Knights of Malta, or even if you do, you might want to pick up this book.
I'd like to get your feelings about the three novels you have written - what inspired you to write them, how well you feel they turned out, if there is anything you would change about them.
My first publication, Angels in Iron was written as a thank you to the Knights of Malta. These guys may have saved Western Civilization but nobody knows who they are. Also, I was taking a lot of history in college and got really, really sick of hearing about how the Europeans "started the Crusades". My professors seemed blissfully unaware of the three centuries which proceeded the Crusades. I stumbled across a book on Malta and decided to do a novelized version. What a story it is, too! How is this not a movie??
Dream of Fire came to mind when I was watching The Godfather III. I kind of reverse engineered it from the Michael Corleone confession scene (which I shamelessly rip off). I have always been very interested in sin/suffering/redemption and wanted to tell such a story from a full-blooded, sword and sandals, heroic fantasy point of view. I'm not the monster that the main character, Kerebos Ikar, is--but at that time in my life I felt as though I had a lot for which to atone. Ultimately, maybe that's why I wrote Dream? It's also an homage of sorts to all the stuff I liked reading as a kid (Tolkein, Howard, Rogers). I do try to present a moral point of view in all my stuff and take seriously my obligation to make sure my characters end up pointed the right way.
Kerebos is the companion piece to Dream of Fire and is my very favorite. That said, my largest regret as a writer is that I allowed so much of Kerebos to be revised. I feel that a number of the best scenes ended up being altered/deleted, which is depressing. I probably wouldn't allow the alterations to take place, if I had it to do over again--which would prevent it from getting published.
What projects are you looking forward to working on in the future?
I am currently writing a novel about Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours. This is a command performance (from those folks who love Angels) but I've really been enjoying it. There's so little actually known about the people and the events of 732 AD that I have a lot of creative latitude. At some point I'd like to revisit an unfinished work called Island of iTaga. This is a Howardesque work that I started 20 years ago but stopped when it became clear I'd never get it published. Maybe its time has finally come?
Having read both Dream of Fire and the prequel, Kerebos, I canít wait to get my hands on Angels in Iron. I just know that Iíll find myself just as captivated by the storyline and characters in that novel as I was with the first two Nicholas Prata books I read. His writing style, attention to detail, and his ability to create intriguing characters and creative and captivating storylines make Nicholas C. Prata a Rising Star.
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