Staff Writer

Nicholas Montemarano, associate professor of English and chair of the English department, recently had his new novel, The Book of Why published by Little, Brown. It was released on Jan. 8.

Montemarano’s work is billed as “a novel that asks if love ever really has to die.”

“It’s about a bestselling self-help author and inspirational speaker who believes that you can create the life you want by having the right thoughts,” Montemarano said. “His belief system, which includes being able to cure disease through positive thinking, is tested when his wife becomes seriously ill. The novel explores his childhood — how he came to his beliefs — and his marriage, and what happens to him years after he loses his wife, when he has renounced his former beliefs.”

Montemarano began writing the book in 2007, and spent about three years in total working on it, with two years spent finishing the draft and another full year to revise the work. He was inspired to write such a book due to his interest in questions of faith and doubt, and a self-proclaimed secret as a self-help book reader.

During the course of creating the book he had more problems than he would have expected, making the writing process less fluid than it had been for previous novels.

“Well, in a book much about faith, one of my greatest struggles was with faith — that I’d be able to pull it off, that it would work in the end,” Montemarano said. “Technically speaking, the structure of the novel — its order — was the aspect that frustrated me the most.”

Montemarano’s editor, John Parsley ’01, decided to work with The Book of Why because it resonated so much with him.

“I followed Nicholas Montemarano’s work for years but knew instantly that I wanted to publish The Book of Why — it’s a deeply moving novel, brimming with curiosity about the meanings of life and love.” Parsley said.

Montemarano’s publisher, Carolyn O’Keefe, continues to do much to promote the novel.

“We created galleys that were given away at [Book Expo America] and I mailed galleys to newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs, and websites, and we emailed and called to follow up with those journalists and critics,”

O’Keefe said. “I set up some events for Nick — he went to Boston and he’ll also go to a store in Virginia, a suburb of Washington DC. We did a special promotion through NetGalley in which we gave away digital galleys to bloggers and librarians and booksellers. Nick also had an awesome video made on YouTube.”

This is not the first work that Montemarano has had published; his first novel was A Fine Place (2002) and his second book was a collection of short stories entitled If The Sky Falls(2005).

He has also published stories in many magazines, such as Esquire,Tin House , and Zoetrope.

Although he lacked interest in writing before college, Montemarano became a writer because of some deeply moving books and motivation from his classmates.

“I was inspired to become a writer due to two things: reading a few great books that made me feel things I might not have felt so deeply otherwise,” Montemarano said. “The novel Sophie’s Choice by William Styron was probably the first book I read that made me want to be a writer. The second thing was actually writing something for a college class and having my classmates tell me that the story moved them. That was a thrill — to connect with other human beings intimately through writing.”

Now, he finds he enjoys the process of writing both because of its technical aspects and its interpersonal effects.

“When I write, I enjoy writing sentences, playing with sound and rhythm, the music of prose. I like playing with language when I revise,” Montemarano said. “But as much as that, I enjoy working through the things that pull on me the most — questions, fears, joys — by turning them over to fictional characters and seeing what happens.”

Montemarano is now working on another novel for publication.

“I’m working on a new novel now called The Senator’s Children. I’m a little over a year and 250 pages into a first draft,” Montemarano said. “It’s about a former senator and Presidential candidate whose career and life were brought down by scandal. His three children, who are the narrators of the novel, are telling the story to him years later.”

Montemarano will be discussing The Book of Why at a book-reading event on Tuesday at 7:30 in the Green Room Theatre. The event includes a reading and a book signing.

Questions? Email Shira at

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