Long-time software developer, musician publishes debut novel ‘Breaking the Spell’
A man walks into a seedy Chicago building, sits down at a table, and agrees to an absurd plan – the woman sitting in front of him, a self-proclaimed witch, will cast a spell to free him from the unwanted attentions of a persistent ex-girlfriend.
“I’m going to put a spell on you to get that woman out of your life forever,” said the witch. “But, I must warn you of the consequences. There are always consequences to witchcraft. Are you ready to accept them all, even those that you may not be able to predict? »
The scene sets the stage for a new novel, titled “Breaking the Spell,” written by Rocky Smolin, a longtime Del Mar and Carlsbad resident who has spent his career writing computer programs and technical books.
Smolin, 73, said he decided to try writing a novel during the COVID-19 lockdown after a conversation with a friend, in which Smolin described how, as a young man, he had been through a similar situation with a witch, a spell, and an annoyingly clingy ex.
In her case, Smolin said, the former lover “disappeared from my life so completely it was as if she had never existed.”
Although he never knew for sure what happened to his former girlfriend, or if the witch’s spell had something to do with her disappearance, Smolin said the incident raised an interesting philosophical question. concerning the intersection of the spiritual and rational worlds.
Like Smolin, the novel’s main character, Roger Coles, grew up in the world of ’60s counterculture, open to all sorts of ideas, including the supernatural. But he was also firmly entrenched in the realm of the rational, making a living as a software developer.
“This is not an autobiographical novel. But it contains autobiographical elements,” Smolin said. “I was inspired by my own experience to create characters and certain events.”
Smolin, like its protagonist, is willing to consider the existence of phenomena that cannot be explained by scientific formulas or lines of computer code. “I like to think that I keep my mind open to all possibilities,” he said.
In addition to its themes of sorcery and the supernatural, the book is also an exploration of the main character’s search for meaning in his life, as his career and family recede. His quest takes him to New Orleans, launching an odyssey that includes stops in Burma, Normandy and Cape Cod before ending up in his hometown of Chicago.
Smolin said he wrote the first chapter quickly, then got stuck and decided to take his character to New Orleans, a place he has personally visited many times, to see what happened. could happen. The trick worked, sparking a plot that carried Roger Coles around the world and helped him sort out his priorities in life.
Smolin said he approached the task of writing the book like work, establishing a routine of sitting down at the keyboard every morning. Some days the sentences and paragraphs were spilling out, while others the words were slowing down. But he made steady progress.
He enjoyed the work. “It was an adventure,” he said. “I call myself the accidental author.”
He has also appreciated the feedback he has received on the novel, whether from his wife of 44 years, Marsha Sutton, a veteran journalist and columnist for that newspaper, or others who credit the book with a shift in thinking about important questions of life. “It’s gratifying,” he said.
Smolin self-published the book, which is available on Amazon. He said his next challenge is to market the novel and let people know about it. His target audience, he said, is anyone in adulthood, perhaps close to retirement, trying to figure out what’s next.
“What should I do, who am I, how can I find my way? ” he said.
When he’s not hard at work on a writing project, Smolin can be found playing stand-up bass with a country music trio or classical string orchestra, or riding 60 to 100 miles each week on his bike along the North County coast.