The 62-year-old Brooklyn/New Jersey transplant is a retired teacher who was named the 1998 San Diego County Teacher of the Year and one of San Diego Magazine’s Top 10 Teachers to Watch. “Moonlight” is his fourth book, which took him a little over a year to write. The story came to him in 2015, but the final product took three years to come to life thanks to the help of his team.
What’s it about?
“Meet Me at Moonlight Beach” is set in the 1980s and 1990s and is accurate to the times and the locals with references to the Pannikin, Las Olas and more. It is also self-published, as are Pacilio’s other three novels.
In the book, he explores the physical and emotional consequences that come from misfortune and blind faith. This contemporary novel, set in the coastal town of Encinitas, addresses the resilience necessary to face one’s fears, acknowledge the need to change, and embrace love once again. “Meet Me at Moonlight Beach” raises the question of how people can recover when their world suddenly goes dark.
“I decided early on in writing: be real but no gratuitous violence and little coarse language,” Pacilio said. “I figure if John Grisham can do that, so can I! No vampires. No graphic sexuality. Just a story with heart and soul. The danger and the passion in my novels are understated.”
Whether you are local to Encinitas or not, Pacilio said many will find “Moonlight” simply a good read.
“Encinitas and its surroundings makes for a great backdrop, but it is the issues that the protagonists deal with that touch most everyone: a lover’s betrayal; the crippling injuries one faces; the loss of one’s sense of vision; the need for love; the desire to overcome anxiety and its partner depression; and perhaps the most important of all, the necessity to find help.
“The psychiatrist in the story is an old hand at seeing into people’s fears and his loyalty to his patients is also real. I know. I have been there, done that. I have overcome anxiety myself and it is something that far too many people realize as debilitating. They are embarrassed to seek help. This novel offers hope … as long as the reader will agree to ‘Meet Me at Moonlight Beach,’” he said.
Here’s an excerpt from the book to whet your appetite:
Noelani Keoka and Lewis Bennett sit next to each other in the waiting room of Dr. Amos Adler, an aging African American psychiatrist, whose unconventional wisdom and loyalty to his patients becomes their life preserver. His two final clients are unaware that they are two of a kind, both trusting souls; blind to the betrayals life delivers in one swift, shattering blow.
Noelani, a native Hawaiian aspires to be a professional dancer in Los Angeles, but her future hinges on the power of her legs to propel her and the pressure of men who pursue her. Lewis has a passion for teaching that is threatened by a rare disease and by his wife’s ambition for the finer things in life … ”
A resident for several years, Pacilio said: “I wanted to create a novel that echoed the vibe of our friendly, diverse, lovely town, complete with yoga and the beach. Thematically, I wanted it to be a novel about the physical and emotional struggles lovers go through, but how they can heal and find joy and trust in others once again.”
Nod to teaching
While he has also enjoyed a career in writing, it wasn’t until he retired from teaching that writing became a full-time job. When he was recognized for his work as teacher, he said he felt validated.
“My parents wanted me to be a lawyer, and ‘make good money,’ he said. “They were products of the Great Depression. After 20 years of teaching and knowing that so many of my former students respected my work, it was gratifying to know that my colleagues also recognized me. Remember, teaching is a very isolating profession; it is you speaking to a jury of 35 and I aimed to win every case. I did … mostly.”
Pacilio taught for 32 years at Mt. Carmel High School in a suburb of San Diego and was the speech and debate advisor for 17 years. He concluded that part of his teaching years by having his students win the state championship. He also taught ninth-grade English and 11th-grade American Literature (that class was the basis for his first novel).
“I retired from teaching in 2010, and I began my ‘second act’ as a writer,” he said.
His first two novels are young adult novels about four students and their teacher. The first, “Meetings at the Metaphor Café,” is semi-autobiographical. The second is the sequel, “Midnight Comes to the Metaphor Cafe,” which concluded their high school years. Both are set in an unnamed Southern California town. His first adult novel, “The Restoration” is set in Coronado; moreover, it was based on the actual restoration of the famous Village Movie Theater.
“It was my first crossover to contemporary literature/fiction,” he said.
Pacilio said the most difficult aspect of being a writer is “never the writing. Never making the time. Perhaps, it is the revisions which can be tedious.”
“But by far the biggest difficulty is getting it published, ergo finding an agent. After so many rejections from agents, one of my former students, then working for a company called Create Space (CS), explained how his company offered the best distribution and printing with the most profit for the author.
“In addition, CS was purchased by Amazon, which then gave me a platform to sell that was easily reached. The catch — I had to design the interior of the book, as well as the cover. That is where I began forging my team: book designers, photographers, artists, layout design, editors, etc. So, we do the work. Once that is done, the next difficult obstacle is the promotion and sales. Overall, my three books have sold well over 3,200 copies … so far.”
Pacilio is married to Pam, a retired teacher, too, and a Vermont native.
In his spare time, Pacilio likes “to golf, walk, bike, yoga … repeat.”
“Yoga is a key,” he said. “My female heroine, Noelani, finds that yoga saves her both physically and spiritually. I have been practicing yoga for eight years, and many of my teachers contributed to the novel’s accuracy.”
He and his wife have two adult children who are “our pride and joy.” Son, Nicholas, works for Twitter in New York in its communications division, and daughter, Anna, is the communications director for U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey (D-Texas).
Advice to aspiring writers
Pacilio said his advice to future writers or those contemplating taking the plunge: “Don’t be discouraged. Write what your truth is. Write what you know and what you don’t know, really learn it thoroughly or it will never be real.”
Anyone reading this article can contact him, as he coaches other writers who have also been self-published.
Finally, he will be speaking and signing “Meet Me at Moonlight Beach” at Coffee and Co. in Encinitas from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15.
Pacilio’s books are sold on Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle. They are also sold on his website: www.robertpacilio.net. In addition, the Village Theater’s website on Coronado Island has a link to “The Restoration.”