Retiree's novel has been 25 years in the making

Retiree's novel has been 25 years in the making

CUMBERLAND - The paper on which Julien Ayotte first wrote the first chapter of his novel, Flower of Heaven, has turned yellow.

Those words were typed 25 years ago on an electric typewriter, he said, when he first got the idea for his international thriller. Half a century later, the retired lawyer has finally found the time to finish writing and publish the work, which he said is increasing in popularity every day.

Ayotte is a 71-year-old Woonsocket native who now lives in Cumberland with his wife, Pauline, to whom he has been married for almost 50 years. His brother, the late Gaston A. Ayotte, Jr., once served as the city's mayor.

Flower of Heaven, Ayotte said, lends itself to an action-packed film.

Main character Richard Merrill, a priest from Lincoln, travels to France on a vacation, Ayotte explained. While he is there he has an affair with a French woman and fathers twin boys.

"They make mistakes in life, just like everybody else," Ayotte said. "This won't be your typical 'boy meets girl.'"

But the mother, who gives the boys up for adoption, keeps their existence secret from Merrill for 35 years. In the meantime, she marries an Arab prince, whose ailing health would give the priest's sons the opportunity to come to power.

The race is on, though, Ayotte said, to find the boys before the prince's enemies can, which leads to an international search through France, Haiti, the United States and the Middle East.

The story has been in Ayotte's mind for years, he said, but raising three children and running a Worcester law firm did not allow him much free time.

When he retired in 2001, a year he also co-authored "Wealth Building for Professionals," "I decided to finish (the novel)," he said.

Since publishing the book in December, Ayotte has been focusing on marketing and collecting feedback from readers.

He has also earned praise from Kirkus Indie Reviews, and the book was named Indie Book of the Day on March 19.

Ayotte said he is already working on a sequel, hoping to follow in the footsteps of authors like John Grisham, who he said gained notoriety with his second book.

"The best way to sell your first book is to write your second book," Ayotte said.

The former lawyer said he is "humbled" to call himself an author and be among peers in the Association of Rhode Island Authors.

While the book has been received "remarkably well" so far, Ayotte acknowledged that he still has a lot of work ahead of him.

"I'm a new author and it takes time," he said. "Julien Ayotte is a nobody right now, but maybe not for long. I'm determined to make it a success."

Ayotte will be in Wayland Square at Books on the Square at 471 Angell St., Providence, on Saturday, April 27, from 2 to 4 p.m. for a reading and book signing.

Flower of Heaven is available at Barnes & Noble stores and online. Visit www.flowerofheaven.com for more information.