The Story of YEAR 14

In 2009, I started writing a book that I hoped would be timeless, something that could be read many years from today and still feel relevant and meaningful. Eight years later, that book is now in print. Ironically, early readers are calling it “timely.”

When I completed the first draft of Year 14 in 2009, it was originally called Everybody Sing.  I had been working on another book about Hollywood. One day, for no reason that I can recall, a vision came to me, a grand tableau involving massive crowds dancing and singing together. I could see the entire scene clearly. It was dramatic, cinematic, visceral — and I knew then that this magical moment would be the climax of a grand narrative. I merely had to imagine the story and characters that preceded the vivid end. Breaking a career-long policy of working on only one book at a time, I set aside my unfinished Hollywood novel and dove into this new project. It took me only a few months to complete. Everything came easily, effortlessly: an invented language, a wonderfully weird yet lovable protagonist, a setting that was nowhere in particular and everywhere in general. I found myself laughing out loud as I wrote, and sometimes crying. The story poured forth unimpeded.

When I was finished with the first draft and reviewed what I had written, I knew that my imagination somehow had been fully liberated and something miraculous had happened.

For more than three years, my tenacious literary agent Uwe Stender shared the book you’re reading now with every publisher in New York you’ve ever heard of and some maybe you haven’t. Although I’ve never received such loving and reluctant rejection notes, eventually I lost track of how many houses turned it down. Somewhere around 2014, I started to think Year 14 would remain an unpublished but treasured family heirloom.

So you will please forgive my unchecked meowkaleet if I tell you when contest judge Chief Editor Mike Ingram of Barrelhouse Books picked Year 14 out of all the manuscripts cluttering his desk – well, I was possibly the happiest writer in the world. I love this book. I’ve published more than a dozen, and until now my favorite has been In Search of Burningbush (McGraw-Hill; 2004), which is also dusted with magic not entirely my making. Now Year 14  is my favorite. Nearly a decade on, it still makes me laugh and cry and, strangely, feel better about life every time I read it.

Yes, I love Year 14, and I love the folks at Barrelhouse. They’re a righteous crew. Their fighting literary spirit supports countless writers and small publishers, re-affirming the transforming power of stories. Chief Editor Mike not only has tremendous taste in fiction, he’s a fine, unobtrusive line editor, with an elegant touch. Adam Robinson’s book design and Shanna Compton’s cover design (and original illustration) present the work beautifully, poetically. I’m honored to collaborate with such talented people.

For several bleak years, I feared I wouldn’t get to share my favorite book with the world, that Year 14 would, for reasons I couldn’t explain or understand, remain unpublished. My inspiring and encouraging wife Charmaine Clamor periodically and consistently assured me I was mistaken. How grateful I am that she was right.

And if you’ve gotten this far, if you’ve honored our creation by reading and living it, I thank you for receiving our love.

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4 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Wonderful Michael. I will be reading it but the other great story is perseverance.

  2. Join us for YEAR 14 readings in NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, November 8-12.

  3. Charmaine says:

    You are an inspiration.

  4. Andy says:

    I just started this tonight. Figured I would read some then watch a movie. Yeah, forget the movie. Really into your book!