By Julianne Homola, Marist Italy Staff Member
A lot of work goes into creating a prize winning novel; from the character development to the cover art, each component of a book needs some loving care to ensure that it reaches the audience in the way the author intended. This past week Marist’s very own Thomas (Tommy) Zurhellen presented his novels to the Florentine public with a book reading at the Astoria Hotel. He read a passage from his books Apostle Islands and Nazareth, North Dakota, and gave the audience a sneak peek at his upcoming novel Armageddon, Texas. Professor Zurhellen is working on the third and final book in the Messiah Trilogy which we can’t wait to get our hands on! He was fresh off of his book tour in through the USA, when Professor Tommy Zurhellen joined Marist Italy for the fall semester to teach in Florence, and we couldn’t have been more excited.
Apostle Island is the recipient of the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) Gold Medal for Best Fiction from the U.S. West-Pacific Region. Nazareth, North Dakota is the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) Gold Medal for Best Fiction from the U.S. Midwest Region.
What’s really great about Professor Zurhellen is that he not only teaches English and writing skills to the students with an enthusiasm (which we can safely say is unbridled and unmatched), but his passion for writing goes far beyond just the classroom setting of writing protocols/grammar/editing. When he isn’t exploring Viking Fjords in Norway and finding hidden treasures throughout the Italian countryside, Professor Zurhellen can always be found here at the Marist Italy Program center helping students proofread papers and guiding young and starry eyed freshmen who are seeking to push themselves to a higher standard.
Beyond the classroom setting, Professor Zurhellen’s passion for literature and the creative arts is clearly evident to anyone who reads his novels. His use of tongue in cheek humor paired with theology make the Messiah Trilogy a fun and delightful read. This is not to mention his wonderful narrations – when we reached the portion of the night where Professor Zurhellen began to read sections of his book he used voices that made each character come alive in the front of the room; the entire audience was spell bound. You could hear a the soft rustle of the fabric of the chairs between breaths and all faces were turned to Professor Zurhellen with a rapt attention that I have rarely witnessed. After his reading finished there was a good 30 seconds where the room fell completely still.
Looking from the front you could tell from the eyes of the audience that most people had caught themselves falling into this world of magic and mystery. Slowly the audience disentangled themselves from fiction into reality and the room exploded in applause. A sure sign of a great novelist, although not required, is great narration. Professor Zurhellen had the ability to capture an audience with nothing but his voice and a bit of a story. A local book club which had heard about Professor Zurhellen’s book reading rushed to the front to get firsthand knowledge of his process and discuss his books. There was quite a line around the room to get a chance to speak with him for just a minute.
Although not required, some of his students heard Professor Zurhellen was reading sections from his books and they were the first to arrive. Students across Marist Italy’s many programs joined in to be a part of this great event, afterwards one of whom approached me to say in hushed tones “I bought both books, I know I could get his[Professor Zurhellen] books on my Kindle but tonight I am going to stay up to read this entire novel maybe both!”
The crowd lingered and you could hear the happy tone of contentment over the din of the conversations happening throughout the room. We couldn’t have asked for a better crowd or a more enthralling telling of the Messiah Trilogy.
In addition to excerpts from Professor Zurhellen’s previous books, we heard something about Armageddon, Texas that had us at the edge of our seat. Its so big, so explosive and so exciting…. I just don’t know that it would fit on this page.
You think you are ready for it? Are you sure?
Here there be Dragons.
You can read more about Professor Zurhellen’s books: