By Nickey Siegerman
Inspired by many tragedies around the country and in Kutztown that have happened while writing this novel, the story pulls from catastrophes such as the Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech shootings. The main event that inspired this novel was the unfortunate murder of a student in Kutztown from 2007.
“Kings Row” takes place in a small fictional college town in Pennsylvania, where a student is randomly sought out and beaten to death. The book explores elements of racism and classism as they exist today, particularly in small communities, and the fear and outrage people experience as rapid changes in demographics and social norms threaten their way of life.
It’s a book about loss, hope and the tragic events that inevitably unfold when people are driven by anger, fear and resentment, a topic that is even more relevant today than when he first started writing it.
The novel took ten years to finish, but he spent only six of those years writing it. “I wasn’t able to work on it continuously,” Voccola said. “I wrote much of it over the summer and winter breaks, but the writing always came to a halt once the semester started. I have a hard time writing fiction unless I’m able to write daily, following the same routine. Teaching doesn’t always allow for that, so there were periods where the book would sit. I was able to finish the book during my sabbatical leave.”
Most writing majors end up in at least one of Voccola’s classes in their time at KU, many of them for creative writing or copy and line editing. If you spend an hour with him, you quickly learn how charismatic and kind he is, as well as his passion for the written word. Graduate school was where he found his love for writing and teaching.
“I took some graduate fiction writing workshops after getting my undergraduate degree and loved the form. I knew I wanted to write fiction and I pursued that, but I also enjoyed the workshop atmosphere and saw an opportunity to teach after receiving my MFA. I started teaching at Grub Street Writers in Boston, which offers fiction workshops for adults,” said Voccola.
“At the same time, I taught as an adjunct professor at Newbury College, all while working full-time at Bedford/St. Martin’s Publishing. I quickly realized I enjoyed being in the classroom and eventually took a position at KU.”
Voccola attributed his writing growing strongest through his workshops, claiming that they help the most. “The conversations focus on the craft of fiction writing, and students always have interesting perspectives on the process. I often get ideas from those discussions and from students themselves.”
His favorite genre is realistic fiction, explaining how he loved seeing genuine, complex characters work through real-life situations. Having written many short stories in the past, this was his first completed novel. “I’ve written and scrapped countless stories. I’ve always started many stories over the years that were never finished,” Voccola remarked. His example of passion and dedication to the ten years he took to get his story finished and published is something to inspire writers everywhere who face the same issue of being unable to complete their own pieces.
When asked if he planned to write more novels in the future, Voccola responded, “I hope to. I’ve been focusing on short stories and essays lately, but I’d like the start another novel within the year.”
“Kings Row” comes out next fall to Amazon and other online booksellers. It will be in select bookstores, both local and outside of Pennsylvania, and of course, in the KU Bookstore. Be sure to check out a copy and read this story for yourself.