By Laura Bollin
Political intrigue, immigration laws, blackmail, murder and bloody fistfights.
Just parts of the latest election season? Not quite, but all can be found on the pages of Oak Lawn resident Frank M. Victoria’s first novel, “The Founders’ Plot.”
Victoria has wanted to write a book his entire life, and “The Founders’ Plot” is the culmination of his career as a history teacher, writer for a professional trade magazine writer, and time in the Marines. He spent four and a half years writing the book, and attended about a dozen writers’ conferences all over the country to learn the tricks of the trade he hoped would help make his novel a page-turner.
“I would write almost every day, for two or three hours at a time,” Victoria said. “I would be in front of my word processor at 7 p.m. at night, still writing. There are a lot of hours in that book.”
“The Founders’ Plot” follows the protagonist, newly elected California Gov. Michael J. Di- Grasso, who gets a controversial immigration law passed only to have the U.S. Supreme Court declare it unconstitutional.
“DiGrasso ignores the order and continues to enforce the law, which is the basic storyline,” Victoria said. “It also follows the plight of two Mexican families who are adversely affected by the law. The story is about illegal immigration, Supreme Court decisions and the large federal government.”
Victoria, a retired Chicago Public Schools history teacher, got the idea for the novel while driving home from work one day and hearing about a Supreme Court decision on the radio. “I don’t remember the case, but it angered me,” Victoria said. “I remember being angry about the decision they came to, or that they even heard the case. I started thinking, what if someone in the Supreme Court made a ruling, and someone just ignored the ruling?”
A similar circumstance arose in 1832, when President Andrew Jackson wanted to move Native American tribes from Georgia to reservations in west. The decision was ruled illegal, but Jackson did it anyway, starting the Trail of Tears.
Another incident occurred in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement, when the Supreme Court ruled against segregation. Southern politicians blockaded schools so that black students could not enter them, prompting authorities to send in the National Guard to ensure children were allowed into their schools.
DiGrasso — Victoria’s favorite character — is a composite of the author, his father and one of Victoria’s cousins.
“At the start of the book, there is a flashback to when he was in Vietnam, and he refuses the Silver Star because he doesn’t think he deserves it,” Victoria said. “He shows a lot of brains in the book.”
Victoria had help creating the storylines of the fictional Castellano and Perez families from teachers and parents he met while teaching at Nightingale School in Chicago. The school which has a large population, of students of Mexican descent.
“I got to know the kids, parents, and staff at the school,” Victoria said. “I sat down and talked with a Mexican teacher who came here legally 25 years ago, and she made her comments on the book. It has a touch of what the characters in my book would be like for her.”
Nearly five years of writing helped him develop some tips for aspiring writers.
“Be prepared to work, and work very, very hard,” Victoria said. “Don’t be easily discouraged. If you’re having difficulty finding an agent, find a good self-publisher. Go to writers’ conferences, but it can be costly.”
Promoting the book is a fulltime job, and Victoria attends book signings and works to get copies of “The Founders’ Plot” into bookstores, he explained. A self-described “Neanderthal” with computers and social marketing, he hired someone to help him maintain a presence on his website, Google+, Twitter and Facebook.
“You have to have exposure even before the book comes out,” Victoria said. “There is a lot of leg work that you do. You have to put the time in.”
“The Founders’ Plot” is available for $14.95 at frankvictoria. com, amazon.com, barnesandno ble.com and atlasbooks.com.