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Ex-area man, author has a productive year

PRODUCTIVE YEAR — Former area resident Robert Viola published two books in 2020 — “The Orphan, the Abbey & the Pack” on Feb. 1 and “Revolution” in August. -- Contributed

CANAL WINCHESTER — As an unusual year comes to a close, a former area resident can nonetheless celebrate an accomplishment — the publishing of not one, but two books in 2020, both of which, he notes, “couldn’t be more different.”

Robert Viola, the son of Gene Viola of Wintersville and the late Mary Jo Viola, published “The Orphan, the Abbey & the Pack” on Feb. 1 and “Revolution” in August.

The first is a young adult book, the other “a much darker tale for grown-ups only,” explained the 1993 graduate of Wintersville High School who earned a bachelor’s of English literature degree at Ohio State University.

“The Orphan, the Abbey & the Pack” was inspired by the real life monks of ancient Tibet, who kept dog packs to guard their monasteries, noted Viola, a freelance writer and stay-at-home dad. “They kept both small, terrier-sized dogs and large, mastiff-sized dogs. The small dogs would act as a ‘burglar alarm’ and alert the bigger dogs to potential thieves, and then the bigger dogs would apprehend the intruder,” he added. “I have always loved dogs and thought this would make an excellent idea for a story. It is told from the viewpoint of one of the small dogs and involves a challenge to the leader of the dog pack, a mysterious stranger and an orphan with a secret identity,” he continued, noting the title is an homage to one of his favorite childhood books, “The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis.

The inspiration for “Revolution,” meanwhile, involves the aftermath of 9/11. “The government then enacted sweeping new powers to combat the spread of terrorism, and though they were well intended, I couldn’t help wondering if they could have unintended consequences,” Viola noted. “Through the years the country became more and more divided, and so I imagined those new government powers taken to their extremes and what would happen if people decided to fight back. ‘Revolution’ is the story of a small town in modern America that does just that and attempts to secede from the United States.”

After Viola graduated from Ohio State, he moved to New York City. “I had never lived anywhere but Ohio and wanted to see other parts of the country. I also already knew that I wanted to be a writer,” he said. “Writing novels wasn’t just on my bucket list, it was my hoped-for career. In the meantime I took a job at a Barnes and Noble in Manhattan. But a few years later I had made little headway, and so, after getting married, my wife and I moved to New Orleans, where she had accepted a nursing position. We both still wanted to see more of the country, however, and so we soon moved again, this time to the San Francisco area,” he continued. “I worked various retail jobs and did some technical writing for an Internet start-up, and my wife worked as a pediatric cardiac nurse at the children’s hospital at Stanford University. We lived in the Bay Area for almost 10 years, and our first daughter was born there. But as our daughter approached school age, my wife, who also is from Ohio, and I decided to return home to raise our children near our families. We purchased a 100-year-old farmhouse on a couple acres in Canal Winchester, near Columbus, did some extensive renovations to it and have been living here happily ever since.”

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