Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pam Stack's "Author's on the Air" Interview with Vincent Zandri

The lovely Pam Stack

Thought I'd give you something different from the Vox for a change. Just this past Saturday I had the distinct pleasure of being the guest of Miami's Pam Stack. Via her popular Blog Talk Radio program, Authors on the Air, she has interviewed some of the hottest and most popular thriller writers at work today, including Dave Zeltserman, Meg Gardiner, David Morrell, and many more. I can't tell you how honored I am to enter into the ranks of these great writers. Before you listen, it might interest you to know that BlogTalk Radio ranked my show #4 out of 30,000 other programs being aired that day. A number which astounds me and really pleased Pam. I can tell you this, it's rare that I listen to the podcast of an interview once it's in the can. But Pam Stack's questions and delivery were so professional and knowledgeable, that she really made me work for my answers. In the end, I think we both did a pretty good job. And I was pleased to give it a very good listen. 

With that, I give you....


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Getting in the Mood to Write

 Papa writes in Africa...

(Author's Note: The International Thriller Writer's Association asked me what I do in order to get in the mood for writing...Here's what I came up with.)

If you were to ask Ernest Hemingway what he did to get in the mood for writing, he might come back at you with a rather macho and dramatic response like, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit at your typewriter and bleed.” Or he might tell you that one’s mood has nothing to do with the all important task of “biting the nail.” He might even say, “Writing is like mass. God gets mad if you don’t show up.”

I think it’s safe to say that as masterful a writer as Hemingway was, the actual process of writing did not come easy for him. He had to work at it, mining the right words, gem by precious gem, until just the right meaning and feel of a sentence was conveyed. In order to ensure that he was “in the mood” for writing day in and day out, he kept a rigorous schedule of waking at dawn and writing until noon. He would then reward himself with fishing, shooting, playing baseball, or simply heading out to his favorite watering hole like Sloppy Joes for a couple of drinks. He never wrote much more than 250 words per day (about a single double-spaced page), and he always stopped at a place where he knew he could pick up again in the morning, thus guaranteeing that he’d be able to continue to write.

I’m not even going to pretend that I belong in the same class as Hemingway. But like him, I do make my living by sitting at my typewriter (Or Lenovo ThinkPad anyway), and bleeding. I don't teach and I don't have another job to supplement my writing income. Making a living at writing words on a page entails two things. The first is that you have to be good, either by sheer talent or by force of will. The second is that you become prolific, at least to a degree that can guarantee you enough of an income to live according to your own idea of what constitutes a decent quality of life. That said, I need to write and have published a certain amount of novels that can guarantee me a steady stream of income for a long, long time (I’m still I my forties). Just what is that magic number of books? I’m not sure yet, but I know it will be more than 20. Currently, I’m writing my 16th, so I’m almost there.

But writing book after book is a lot of hard work (I’m a journalist too, so my daily word count is up there, believe me). That said, getting in the mood to write doesn’t even enter into the equation. I get up to write at least six days a week no matter what mood I’m in, no matter where I am in the world. It’s a discipline I maintain in order to ensure success, and it’s no different from the discipline a surgeon or a lawyer or a brick layer or even a priest maintains. A brain surgeon doesn’t wake up on any given Tuesday and tell him or herself, I’m not in the mood to operate today. He just does it, and does it to the very best of his ability. It’s the same for me. I don’t get writer’s block anymore than an accountant gets accountant’s block. This is something they will not teach you in writing school.

I also don’t require solitude or even absolute quiet. I’ve written in airports, on planes, trains, in boats, and in cars. I’ve written in Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Africa, Egypt, China, the jungles of South America, and in the suburbs of Albany, New York. I’ve written when my wives were bearing our children in the hospital, and I wrote five pages of a new novel only hours after my father dropped dead from a heart attack. I write on my birthday, on Christmas, and Easter. I write on weekends. I write if my significant other is angry with me and tossing my shit out the window, and I write if I’m hung over. I wrote on September 11, 2001, and I wrote on the day we killed Osama Bin Laden. I suppose I will write on the day I die. It is the one thing in my life that is constant, never changing, and loyal beyond the possibility of betrayal, and it is the one thing that is as certain as the sun that also rises on each and every morning. And as for my mood? Well, my mood has not one goddamned thing whatsoever to do with it. 


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vincent Zandri: The Big Thrill Interview

Thriller author Ian Walkley interviewed me last month for The Big Thrill...Here's what he came up with:

The Guilty by Vincent Zandri

Harlan Coben describes Vincent Zandri’s novels as “Gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting…” Vincent’s latest mystery thriller THE GUILTY finds former prison warden and private eye Jack Marconi investigating a local restaurateur who’s not only obsessed with the sexy, dark romance novel, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, he’s accused of attempting to murder his school teacher girlfriend. As the now brain-damaged young woman begins recalling events of that fateful winter night when she was allegedly pushed down the stairs of a West Albany mansion, she becomes the target of the angry foodie/sex-obsessed boyfriend once again. Only this time, he’s cooking up a plot to keep her silenced forever.

Vincent Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling Amazon author of THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT FALLS, THE CONCRETE PEARL, MOONLIGHT RISES, and more. The bestselling author of SAVAGES, Don Winslow, says of Zandri: “He’s a terrific writer and he tells a terrific story.” Zandri’s work has been published in many languages including Dutch, Russian, and Japanese. An adventurer, foreign correspondent, and freelance photo-journalist for LIVING READY, RT, GLOBALSPEC, as well as several other news agencies and publications, Zandri lives in New York.

Vincent, what are some of the things we’ll discover about Jack Marconi in this story?

In the first two Marconi novels, THE INNOCENT(formerly AS CATCH CAN), and GODCHILD, Jack was much more brooding and dark-minded due to his obsession over who killed his wife Fran and why. That mystery now solved, and ten years having passed in the meantime, Jack is now a little more cocky, and somewhat happier. He’s come to terms with Fran’s death and although he hasn’t remarried, he’s gotten his life back and it shows.

And what or who are some of the obstacles Jack has to face?

Maybe Jack has gotten his life back, but he’s also aging in a way that’s making him feel culturally irrelevant. Smartphones, texting, blogging, Facebook, Google…none of these things were around during his previous adventures or, at least, were in their infancy. How does he compete with a would-be killer who’s obsessed with the post-modern indie erotica novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey?” He has to find a way to get into the killer’s mind-set. Not an easy thing for someone who is essentially still rooted in the 1950s. The sense of isolation he feels adds to his already heightened sense of existentialism. He feels at once alone and dismayed at a new generation of socially media savvy and digitally raised young people who can torture others both sexually and mentally with all the ease and carelessness as one would experience playing a video game. I explored a very similar theme in my stand-alone thriller, SCREAM CATCHER.

What are some of Jack’s flaws? Did you develop these through conscious character design, or do they flow more from the storyline?

Jack is always going to do the right thing, even if it means breaking the law. He’d rather hire a convicted drug dealer and killer as his sidekick than a white-bread goody-two-shoes, because he knows the former knows a hell of a lot more about real life in the modern world than does the latter. Such close underworld associations, however, can make Jack suspect in the eyes of both the police and his clients. It also elevates the potential for Jack to do something bad in order to get at an ultimate good. Like shooting a bad guy in the thigh for instance in order to extract some much needed information.

Who are some of the other characters in THE GUILTY, and how will they impact Jack.

Jack’s a got a new side-kick in the form of a former Green Haven inmate whom he once was in charge of incarcerating. Blood, which is his nickname, is now the local neighbourhood watchman which means he more or less controls who sells and buys what on the street corners. He can also get anything done…anything…but for a price. He is a handsome, very in shape, middle-aged African American man of strict morals who knows what it’s like to be on the wrong side of a set of prison bars. Like Keeper, he only wants to get at the truth of any given case.

What did you particularly enjoy about writing THE GUILTY?

It was fun being back in Jack’s voice. Some readers will say that Jack seems a lot like my other serial character Dick Moonlight, but there are tremendous differences. Jack would do stuff Moonlight would never do and vice versa. They know one another, and often work with the same men and women at the Albany Police Department. One day I’m going to sit down and start writing a novel with both of them in it.

That sounds like a fun story to write. In what ways has your writing evolved since the first Jack Marconi book? Who are some of the influences that have impacted your writing?

I’m older and having written thirteen novels and countless articles in between, I’m a somewhat better writer. Or so I hope. I’ve also been exposed to some great voices over the past decade and a half since I wrote the first Marconi novel. Charlie Huston, Don Winslow, Boston Teran, Les Edgerton, Belinda Frisch among them. They have taught me all about writing great sentences and paragraphs with few if any wasted words.

You recently attended Thrillerfest. What were some of the memorable moments?

Andy Bartlet, my original acquiring editor at Thomas & Mercer, and I tried our best to steal a Kuwaiti flag which was mounted to a pole on the exterior of the Kuwaiti embassy. I suppose in the end it’s good that we didn’t get the flag because then we would have had to fight over who got to take it home. The whole adventure blended well with Thrillerfest in that it’s the one occasion during the year where editors, writers, publishers, fans, all get to let loose together and have some fun. It’s what keeps me coming back year after year.

As well as writing novels and short fiction, you continue to work as a freelance photo-journalist, travel a great deal, and play the drums in a punk rock band. You also spend time in Italy. Do you find your lifestyle creeping its way into your stories?

Sure, it can’t help but creep in. I just wrote a novel called CHASE which is about a writer/adventurer who lives in Florence part-time. He often gives walking tours for extra cash and on occasion will act as a private detective for the local police. In the first book he goes on the trail of a missing archaeology professor and ends up in post-revolutionary Egypt. Not the safest of places. I went to Egypt this past October to research the novel. I couldn’t admit to being an American. My fixer and I also got run off the road, our car crashing into a ditch. It was a strange feeling finding yourself in the hornet’s nest. But then, I like that sort of thing.

You have been extremely successful as an indie author, through Amazon publishing and through StoneHouse Ink, a highly regarded indie publishing house. Do you have a view about how publishing might evolve over the next few years?

I think the big six or five or four or whatever they are down to now will rebound and enjoy a new resurgence with e-books. It’s taken some time, but they are beginning to understand the potential of digital publishing and how it will now replace entirely the mass market paperback. Medium sized Indie houses like StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink will get larger and larger until they are either bought out by the majors or they become majors in their own right. Self-published authors who have not been previously published by major houses will find it harder and harder to compete in a crowded marketplace but that doesn’t mean there won’t be huge success stories every year. At the same time, established authors who have been published by the majors will begin to seek out more independent alternatives in order to gain more control over what they write and publish while increasing profit margins. More brick and mortar bookstores will close including more Barnes & Nobles. However, the trade paperback will continue to share the podium with e-books while on-line sales thrive. I’m actually wondering what’s going to replace the e-book. Whatever it is, it will happen very soon.

It remains difficult for new writers to be noticed. Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists about increasing their chances of success?

Write great books. There’s no better way to be noticed.

THE GUILTY was released in July as a paperback original by StoneHouse Ink/StoneGate Ink.