By Kalli Damschen Lariat Reporter
They say that inspiration hits you when you least expect it. For Dr. Michael Thomas, this came about 25 years ago in a vision of a fighter plane soaring across the western Mediterranean sky while listening to praise music. As of earlier this month, the professor finally saw the manifestation of this vision in his fictional debut, “Pax Romana: The Rise of Seren.”
Thomas is a professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese. He has written a number of academic papers and articles. Thomas also wrote “Coming of Age in Franco’s Spain,” a nonfiction book about the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, but “Pax Romana” is his first work of fiction.
“I’ve studied novels my entire career and never wrote one,” Thomas said. “It’s weird, I always considered myself to be a novelist. Don’t ask me why.”
“Pax Romana: The Rise of Seren,” which was published by LifeRich Publishing on Jan. 6, tells the story of Captain Mark Knutson, a pilot who lives in a futuristic Rome. After breaking up with his girlfriend Angela, Mark meets a beautiful French woman named Dominique Lécuyer. As Mark and Dominique grow closer, Angela becomes involved with the mysterious Seren, who performs miracles and appears to be growing in power.
Jenks, Okla., senior Cole Moore has taken some of Thomas’s Great Texts classes and is working with Thomas on his honors thesis. Moore read “Pax Romana” last summer.
“It was interesting,” Moore said. “It’s science fiction, written in the not -too- distant future, but far enough away that he’s got some technology he can play with in there.”
“I was lying there and I thought, well that’s interesting. What is that about?” Thomas said. “So I went to my computer and I started typing. I cranked out the first two chapters in 1989, close to what they are now.”
It was a couple decades before Thomas returned to the story that would become “Pax Romana: The Rise of Seren.” It was only after Thomas finished writing “Coming of Age in Franco’s Spain” that he decided to sit down and dedicate time to finishing his first novel.
For Thomas, the experience of writing a work of fiction was very different from academic writing, which he said relies more on ideas and analysis.”
“As a writer, you go by images,” Thomas said. “You don’t think ideas. You don’t think philosophy. You don’t think politics.”
Thomas said examining his own writing is different from the way one might examine literature. He mentioned that he often discussed “Pax Romana” with Dr. Roberto Pesce, an Italian lecturer and the general director of the Baylor in Tuscany Summer Study Program. Pesce would comment on aspects of the novel that Thomas himself had never considered.
“I can’t look at it analytically or critically,” Thomas said. “It was something from my heart. It was something from my imagination.”
As a reader, Pesce said he was able to look at the novel from a more analytical perspective, so after finishing it, he had a lot of questions he wanted to discuss with Thomas.
“Most of the time when you read a novel, you just follow the author’s point of view,” Pesce said. “He tells you what he wants you to see. But this novel was different, because the reader was challenged by understanding.”
Pesce said the novel raised a lot of questions about reality, making the reader questions what was and wasn’t real.
“That was, I think, the best part. It makes you think, and it’s a very nice futuristic novel, with several twists you don’t expect,” Pesce said.
Cranston, RI., senior Prashant Appikatla has taken some of Thomas’s Great Texts classes.
“I think it will be a great novel because he said he’s combining a lot of the literary themes that he taught from late 400 B.C.s, all the way up to including some of the themes of ‘Don Quixote’,” said Appikatla.
After making his debut as a creative writer, Thomas offered some advice for other aspiring novelists.
“Learn by doing,” Thomas said. “You have to have passion burning in your heart for something, something you feel really strongly about. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, you have to believe in this. Love it, and that will come through.”
Before Thomas’s book was published by LifeRich, he self-published it on Amazon CreateSpace.
“I think it’s a great way to start out,” Thomas said. “Get your work out there, get people to read it and tell you what’s right or wrong with it.”
After he received feedback from reviews online, Thomas then incorporated some of that feedback in his revisions before the book was published by LifeRich.
Thomas is currently working on a sequel, “Pax Romana II: Escape from Babylon.” He hopes to finish it this summer.
“Pax Romana: The Rise of Seren” is available from both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. To learn more about the book and stay up-to-date about its sequel, like the “Pax Romana” Facebook page or visit the book’s official blog.