by Keith Loria — When he moved to Stratford from Staten Island last year, Tom Starita had quite an interesting résumé. He was a teacher for seven years, including four years spent teaching religion at an all-girls high school; spent some time in sales; became part of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund; and currently helps foreign exchange students find homes in the U.S.
“The one common thread throughout my career is that I’ve had jobs allowing personal experiences with a large cross section of America,” Starita said. “It’s been a very diverse, interesting road.”
Even with all that he’s done, his one dream has always been to become a writer. He dipped into those waters in 2012 with the book Two Ways To Sunday, a story that follows a man who had everything—the perfect wife, job and life, who is visited by an angel with a challenge to prove the depths of his faith by reliving his life with no recollections.
“The rationale behind people’s decisions has always fascinated me, and writing this book allowed me to carry that to the most extreme level,” Starita said.
For his second book, Starita wanted to do something a bit different and less serious. He started writing “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” in 2013 and finished it towards the end of 2016, self-publishing it and selling it on Amazon.
“I was in a low point in my life and I needed something to have fun and wanted to write something I wanted. Basically, it was the weekend before Valentine’s Day and I had the flu. I was living by myself and didn’t have any groceries and a snowstorm was coming down of about 8-9 inches and I couldn’t order out, so I was beyond miserable,” he said. “I hated everything going on in my life and through that I found my main character, Lucas James.”
The story follows James’ journey when his fiancée decides she was done supporting him while he chased his dream of being a rock n’ roll star. Suddenly, he has to figure out how to survive on his own, and that means getting a job, finding an apartment, and growing up.
“What’s funny is that when I started, I had no idea where I was going with the book or what it was really going to be about or how it was going to end. I just wanted to write something to make people laugh,” Starita said. “I just sat down with this character I had created and started to write and I went about it a chapter at a time and eventually I had a book.”
Lucas James is one of those people who don’t really commit the entire way because they’re lazy. He takes a job as a stock boy at a Bed, Bath and Beyond-type store and he soon makes friends and starts to become an important figure in the life of his co-workers, including Ralph, who idolizes him, and Lori who is pulled in by his charm.
“He is charismatic and he is all about using people to help him in his life journey,” the author said. “He starts to look back at his relationships of the past (written through flashbacks) and you start to realize how he became the way he is. It’s primarily a comedy, but it has some seriousness and heart mixed in.”
While Starita noted that his lead character isn’t based on anyone he knows per se, he did pour some of the worst characteristics about himself into Lucas and had some fun with it.
“It’s maybe 20 percent me and 80 percent fiction, although I’ve blown the bad parts way out of proportion,” he said. “Everyone wants to do what they want to do in life, but something you have to compromise. With this character, he never had to compromise, so he needs to learn how to enjoy living the life they want but at the same time, become an adult. The story may be inspirational, but if someone is inspired by this, they may have some problems.”
Once the book was finished, he found a website where he could get help with editing and after numerous revisions, he was ready to publish. At the advice of some in the business, he decided to self-publish this time around, so he created an ebook and is selling it on Amazon.
“It’s only .99 cents because it’s not about making money, it’s about building an audience and getting my story out there,” he said. “The reviews have been positive and I’m hoping it leads to something bigger.”
Starita himself never had dreams of following in the musical footsteps of Eric Clapton or Eddie Vedder like his main character, as he’s been tone deaf for most of his life, but he could relate to Lucas James because he’s always wanted to be a writer and will stop at nothing to get it.
“My only dream in life right now is to write for a living and not have to wake up at 8 each morning and drive an hour and a half on 95 to get to work,” he said. “I figure the more I create, the greater the odds will be that it happens. Still, my life is fantastic. I work at a job I like, I’m getting married, I just got a dog and am now in this beautiful house in Stratford. If I get to write full-time, I will get the entire piece of the pie.”