Alumni Profile: Author Marc Fitten

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Marc Fitten’s novel approach   His debut novel is in its second U.S. printing and…

Georgia (Oct 28, 2009)

Marc Fitten’s novel approach
His debut novel is in its second U.S. printing and another novel is in the works.
Life is good.
Debut novel
As a graduate student at Kennesaw State, Marc Fitten wrote a novel inspired by the years he spent living in post-communist Hungary. That novel, about the love adventures of an irascible woman in her 60s, was published in the spring to critical acclaim, with Publishers Weekly calling it a promising debut. “Valeria’s Last Stand” is now in its second U.S. printing and is a bestseller in Germany. It is being published in Italian, French, Spanish and Hebrew. “I feel spectacular,” said Fitten, who is also an occasional op-ed writer for The New York Times. “I thought I’d sell a couple of copies in Europe and get to talk about it at parties.”
From communism to capitalism
Fitten was in Eastern Europe just after the collapse of communism and he witnessed first-hand the chaotic transition to capitalism, when people had lots of choices at supermarkets but could not afford to buy anything. He was struck by how this change affected the elderly, who had lived their entire lives based on a set of rules that became null when communism fell. “People had to reinvent their lives. It wasn’t very easy. Good or bad, socialism provided a certain standard of living, even if it was a meager one,” he said. “For old people, it was like an earthquake.”
Editor and novelist
Fitten’s day job is as editor of The Chattahoochee Review, a literary journal based at Georgia Perimeter College. He started working at the Review as an intern and in 2005 he was named editor. Fitten knew he wanted to be a novelist at age 15. His favorite writer was Henry Miller. “I read his books and discovered that he had gone to Europe. That’s what a lot of my favorite American writers did.” James Baldwin, George Orwell, Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Marquez also served as inspiration. “I wanted to write with a global perspective. I wanted to be a global writer, not just an American writer.”
The world is his oyster
The son of Panamanian immigrants, Fitten was born in Brooklyn and grew up in the Bronx, where he attended Catholic school. His family moved to Atlanta when he was in the 10th grade. After graduating from the Marist School, he wanted to travel the world. “I’d been in Catholic school most of my life. I wanted to go out and see the world. I was headed to Bulgaria.” With $10,000 in his pocket, he ended up in Budapest, Hungary, instead. “I really wanted to get off the map. I ended up in the furthest eastern city I could find, Debrecen, and I loved it there. I stayed there for five years and came back in 1998. I loved it,” he said. “I’d spent all my money in six months.”
Years at KSU
When he returned to the states, Fitten enrolled at KSU. His colleagues at The Chattahoochee Review told him that if he wanted to be a writer, he should meet writers. So he came to Kennesaw State because author Tony Grooms was teaching here. Fitten majored in English and graduated at age 29. He came back to KSU for his master’s in professional writing. With Grooms as a mentor, Fitten wrote the bulk of “Valeria’s Last Stand” while pursuing graduate studies. “The book was mostly done by the time I finished,” he said. “It’s not as magical as [the works of] Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is not magical realism but there’s a tone about [magical realism] that I tried to emulate.”
Long road to success
By the time he got to KSU, Fitten had been writing short stories for years and was tired of getting rejected by literary publications. So he decided to write a novel. He submitted the first chapter of “Valeria’s Last Stand” as a short story to a literary journal and it was accepted. That led him to a German agent who loved his manuscript and tried to sell it in Europe. Though the deal fell through, the novel had generated enough buzz at the 2008 London Book Festival. “Valeria’s Last Stand” was purchased in several European countries earlier this year. Fitten is now working on his second novel, due next year. “Now I just have to do it again and do it again and do it again.”
- Aixa M. Pascual


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