Meet James Conroyd Martin, author of The Boy Who Wanted Wings, and the Poland Trilogy: Push Not the River, Against a Crimson Sky, and Warsaw Conspiracy. Martin’s books are considered historical fiction but mirror true events. Each one takes place at the time of a significant event or era in Polish history. They make for an entertaining read whether you are familiar with Polish history or not. Martin is of Irish and Norwegian descent, but after a friend shared the diary of a Polish countess from the late eightenth century, he thoroughly believed the story should be turned into a book. He has been studying Polish history ever since.
Martin’s dream of a book came true with the publication of Push Not the River in 2001
The book is based directly on the translated diary of Countess Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish countess in the late eighteenth century. His friend, a direct descendant of the Countess, shared the diary with Martin who became immediately attached to the story. It took many years of writing late into the night while working full-time, but Martin’s dream of publishing the Countess’ story came true with the publication of Push Not the River in 2001. In many ways, the story mirrored Poland’s history. Two years later St. Martin’s Press picked up the story, and immediately contracted with him for a sequel. Since Martin had already written the stories recorded in the Countess’ diary in Push Not the River, he creatively envisioned how his characters would have evolved for the second two books.
A career as an English teacher and training in screenwriting prepared James Conroyd Martin to write a great book
Professionally, Martin taught high school English in the Chicago area for thirty years, interrupted by a nine-year stint in Hollywood to study screenwriting. At one point he even met Bette Davis and offered her his manuscript to preview. While his screenwriting never resulted in a show, the experience did prepare him for becoming an author. His books read like movies. In fact, Martin always envisioned his sweeping epic as a “Polish Gone with the Wind,” and indeed there are many parallels. I have read all three of the books in the trilogy and I concur with the analogy. The Polish edition of Push Not the River, Nie ponaglaj rzeki, became a bestseller in Poland in 2005. The first printing sold out in a matter of months.
The Boy Who Wanted Wings, published in 2016, is based on the Battle for Vienna in 1683
In 1683, the Turks of the Ottoman Empire were poised to overrun all of Europe, culminating with a major battle at Vienna. Had they won, many Europeans would have been forced to convert to Islam, their countries dominated by an outside force. Aleksy Gazdecki, a poor farmhand, dreams of becoming a Polish Hussar, warriors who rode into battle with a winged frame behind them. They were well known to be fierce fighters. Martin also wove in the cultural clash of a dark-skinned Tatar child (Aleksy) raised by a peasant Polish family, as well as the vast differences between the nobility and peasant classes. I read this book recently, and finished it in two days. It held my attention throughout and should appeal to most ages, from middle-school to adult.
Martin’s books have won high awards, including the Gold Medal from The American Institute of Polish Culture
In 2007, The American Institute of Polish Culture, Inc. awarded their highest honor, the Gold Medal, to Martin for promotion of Polish history and culture. The award is an extremely high honor as it has been awarded to very few authors. Martin’s latest book, The Boy Who Wanted Wings, also won gold. He self-published his latest book, and the Independent Publisher Book Awards awarded The Boy Who Wanted Wings first-place in the category of Military/Wartime Fiction. The IPPY award is considered one of the most respected awards in all of independent publishing. In 2017, the contest drew over 5,000 entries from across the US and seventeen countries to compete in 83 categories.
For more information on James Conroyd Martin’s books, find him at his website: jamescmartin.com.
Trailer for The Boy Who Wanted Wings