“In my business, you don’t give out information, and when you receive it, you don’t reveal your source. You don’t commit to anything, or anyone, unless they’re paying you. That’s the way it works in Washington.”
Or so thinks the main character in D.C. lawyer Roger A. Campos’ first novel, Sleeping With an Angel, a magical-realist romance set in D.C. and fictitious Sanibel, N.M. Given the parallels between Campos’ life and that of his protagonist, Washington lobbyist Tony Cassera, we might imagine that Campos used to feel that way himself.
He began writing the book four years ago. “It was the result of a couple different calamities that happened in my life,” he says. “One was the death of my father. At the same time, a woman who I was involved with and I broke up. The two losses back to back got me to thinking about life’s meaning and purpose: Where do you go from here?”
Campos’ answer came in the form of a friend’s invitation to a weekend of experiential workshops “that really touched deep into your feelings,” he says. The weekend allowed him to confront many painful issues, and when the blizzard of 1996 came along, Campos hunkered down and wrote the story for his first novel within four days. As the executive director of the Minority Business RoundTable, Campos had never considered himself a professional writer—but his son, Jon, was a professional musician. “While I was writing the book, I thought it would be an interesting approach to incorporate someone’s thoughts and feelings into music,” Roger Campos says. “No one has ever done it before, and I thought this might be a powerful expression if it was presented the right way.”
Thus did father and son collaborate on the 287-page novel and its accompanying CD. The reader listens to the CD as the characters in the book are listening to the songs, which are Jon’s original compositions based in classical, rock, and alternative music.
The younger Campos, who recently formed the local acoustic duo Vagabond Soul, says that cutting the CD improved more than his father’s prose: “I think writing the book was good for him spiritually and good for our relationship, especially since I’m a child of divorced parents. The main character is renewing his relationship with his son, and I feel that, through this project, we renewed our relationship. There were a lot of loose ends that needed tying up. We’re a lot closer now.”—Amanda Fazzone