By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Most locals know Dominic “Dick” Cvitanich for the time he spent as superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District from 2006-2012. Now, the community is being introduced to Cvitanich, the fiction author, as his debut novel Stardust and the Bitter Moon is released in paperback by local publisher Keokee Books.
“I’m not sure I necessarily wanted to be a novelist,” Cvitanich told the Reader regarding his journey from school administrator to writer. “I think what I found is that I liked to write fiction.”
This discovery happened during his college years at the University of Washington in Seattle, where Cvitanich studied Latin American history and politics. For one assignment, he recalls the professor asking his students to write a work of historical fiction instead of the typical research paper.
“The professor called me in and he said, ‘That’s the best thing I’ve ever read. You can’t imagine how sick I am of reading term papers, and that was really good. You should pursue this a little bit more,’” Cvitanich recalled.
He took a few creative writing courses but, ultimately, the endeavor fell off his radar.
“Then I got busy with work,” he said, “and the writing was completely different.”
Cvitanich’s career dictated that he stick to more technical writing and communication. As superintendent of schools in Sandpoint and, later, in Olympia, Wash., his professional writing remained limited to discourse with teachers and parents. However, he was able to begin working on Stardust and the Bitter Moon just before his recent retirement.
“I kept pecking away at it, because there wasn’t much time,” he said. “I had a lot of meetings, but I would come home and it was a way to unwind. So I’ve been working on this story for a while.”
Stardust tells the story of protagonist Anton, a “successful father of three girls but a failed husband,” and, “a child of the ’60s still trying to grow up.” In “search of truth and peace,” the book’s synopsis reads, “he embarks on a different kind of trip in his iconic Volkswagen van in a quest for absolution.”
A child of the hippie era himself, Cvitanich admits that “some of” Stardust is autobiographical, while most of it is “a pretty good stretch.”
“Underlying it all is this great love of music,” he said, noting that each chapter is named for another iconic song of the time. “The thrust of the thing is that, as you get older, you kind of wonder what your generation’s legacy is.”
Cvitanich is of the belief that both good and bad things came from his generation. Among the good were the environmental movement and career advances for women. Among the bad, the proliferation of drugs in American culture.
“It was kind of a mixed bag,” he said. “I think most generations really think they had a great, positive impact. The character in the book is looking back and saying, ‘Wait a minute here — it’s a mixed bag.’”
Also named for the music of the time — a lot of which Cvitanich was fortunate to see live for “dirt cheap” as a student in Seattle — is the book’s title. Stardust is named for the lyrics of Joni Mithchell’s song “Woodstock,” in which she sings, “We are stardust/ We are golden/ And we’ve got to get ourselves/ Back to the garden.”
However, for as much as his generation is “stardust,” Cvitanich said his book is also meant to address some of the not-so-wonderful aspects of his generation’s legacy.
“So, ‘we were stardust,’ but the bitter moon is kind of the other half of that,” he said.
Cvitanich said he has some other fiction stories currently in the works, including a love story about a teacher moving to a small town and falling in love with a local woman, as well as a “crazy little baseball story.”
If one thing is certain, it is that Dick Cvitanich, the author, is only getting started.
“It’s fun. It’s great fun,” he said, “and very satisfying.”
Find Stardust and the Bitter Moon locally at Vanderford’s Books, the Corner Bookstore, Bonners Books, Keokee Publishing and online at keokeebooks.com.
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