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Philip Danze's Conjuring Maud

Philip Danze has been a copy editor for Fairchild Publications for more than 30 years and is a member of the New York Press Club. His first book, Conjuring Maud (GreyCore Press, October), is a novel chronicling one young man's adventurous affair with a fictionalized version of 19th century British explorer Mary Kingsley.

At age 72, Philip Danze seems the embodiment of writerly passion. Celebrating the release of his first book this October, Danze sees writing not only as a lifestyle, but as a state of mind and a state of existence.

"Writers are strange animals in a way," he says. "We've got to stay very aesthetic, very focused. We can't allow for any distractions to come along. It's difficult, but that's the price you have to pay—there's always a price for dedicating yourself to something."

The product of Danze's most recent dedication is Conjuring Maud. The novel follows the life of David Unger who, born in the late 1800s in Equatorial West Africa, witnesses tribal wars, gold rushes and ritual killings. But Unger's defining moment is a chance encounter with Maud King, a British trader, explorer and lover of all that is Africa. And while Unger's life is filled with adventure, it's Maud who, though 16 years his senior, captures his soul.

Mixing a sense of romance with the adventurous search for one's natural path through life, the book's themes mirror Danze's own assorted journey. Evolving from a professionally scouted baseball player, to New York University student, to copy editor with Fairchild Publications, to published author, he's always stayed true to his inner course.

"I've worked at Fairchild all my life, but I never belonged to them—not even for five minutes," he says. "A writer can't. You've got to be a part of another world, the world you're trying to discover in your own works."

It's keeping that chastened world from shattering that often proves most difficult though. In the early '80s, two different publishers accepted and then rejected his first novel. But recognizing that the "admission of defeat is a writer's downfall," he continued to write privately for another 20 years before contacting a publisher about Conjuring Maud. But those two decades weren't spent dwelling on what could have been.

"To me, if you're really writing, you're not writing for money. You're writing to save your own soul ... to carry your life to a certain depth," he says. "You're trying to write to put some meaning into your life—that you existed for some purpose."

Thanks to GreyCore, Danze can now share his reality with readers. And as he works to complete his next novel-one he hopes will be viewed as his life's work—Danze is still apt to marvel at the wonder and power of fiction:

"For me, fiction isn't pure escapism; it's sort of a deepening of our own lives. Hopefully, readers will come face to face with something in themselves—that's what I'm trying to do.

"I'm really just trying to capture the essence of things—that which never changes—and reveal the reality behind the veil of appearances."

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