Questioned By A Classics Student

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Yesterday’s post opened revolving around my younger nephew. His brother is now age 21 and at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, doing Classics. He was around for the weekend due to his Dad’s “half century” birthday, and we volunteered to drive him back to his Oxford flat – he doesn’t live at St. Hugh’s itself – late Sunday afternoon.

View from the communal rear garden of my nephew's Oxford flat.
View from the communal rear garden of my nephew’s Oxford flat.

He being with us for a couple of nights gave us a chance to chat in person. His thesis topic compares Descartes and Plato. I won’t go into more detail; indeed I’m not sure if I even can at this time on a Monday morning. πŸ˜‰

After he explained, he surprised me when he asked me if I had a copy of my latest novel. (Although we’ve discussed my writing several times before.) Fortunately, I had a paperback “proof” of Distances within easy digging out reach. After I’d found it, as he inspected it, we talked.

“The first chapter,” I pointed out as he had a cursory read, “that was a family funeral, and it happened almost exactly like that. I love writing fiction that way.”

Admiring the cover photos, he asked, “You took these?”

The back and front covers for "Distances" - the print version. [Copyright Β© 2015 by R. J. Nello.]
The back and front covers for “Distances” – the print version. [Copyright Β© 2015 by R. J. Nello.]
Before I could reply, he answered his own question, noticing the “Photos by the Author” credits.

“Are you writing another one like this?” he asked, thumbing deeper into the book – and I think (although he didn’t say) sneakily glancing at the end.

“Eventually, but not right now,” I noted. “You see I dedicated it to my mum and my uncle. It turned out he didn’t mind me fictionalizing him, and he’d seen the first two novels. But before I told him, I was so afraid to. I’d thought he’d be furious. He liked my writing, though, and encouraged me. I think he would have really liked Distances, but never saw it. I’ve decided, while I can, I’m going to give writing all I’ve got.”

“So what is next?” he asked.

“A true historical fiction one,” I said.

I opened my iPad to the working cover for Conventions, and handed it over to him. He’s an obsessive about history. This topic really intrigued him.

“I base it around several not so well-known, historical figures,” I explained. “I’m inventing other characters, and fitting them together in a fictionalized story within history. It’s what your aunt always thought I’d write. I finally decided to go for it. One good thing about it is unlike a thesis, I don’t have to footnote a thing.”

Print working cover for "Conventions." Click to expand.
Print working cover for “Conventions.” Click to expand.

He’s been to our place over in upstate New York, so he knows the area. Reading the “back cover” description, he questioned, “There really were people from the Catskills who did this sort of thing then?”

“Yes,” I said. “There were Americans all over the place there. It’s been a while since I studied the French Revolution. I’ve forgotten a few things, so I’ve had to re-read lots about some aspects.”

And, on that note, it’s Monday. It’s time to get back to work.

Have a good day, wherever you are. πŸ™‚


  1. LOL about the footnotes! I prefer endnotes, myself (and I’m used to APA format; I had to do plenty of that in the 38 years it took me to earn 3 degrees). I’m all for including a bibliography in the end matter of fiction (I think that’s what may have influenced the Library of Congress to keep my deposit copies in their collection, when I registered copyright).

    Your books are on my TBR list. My first novel is a contemporary, but my WIP is β€œa true historical fiction one,” which happens between 1906 – 1936 (a busy, busy time in Ireland and on the Continent). I’m publishing brief reviews of the research materials I’m using, in my second blog site, at

    Best wishes to you and your nephew.

    Liked by 1 person

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