- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I interview an inspiring author who also happens to be a social studies teacher.
Welcome, Paul ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I am a graduate from University of Connecticut and am currently a social studies teacher. During college, I started to write short stories and found that I really enjoyed it, leading to writing a novel after I received my bachelor’s degree. However, I view that one as a “practice novel” but would like to revisit the story in the future. I then went on to write several more novels and attempted to find a literary agent. Being that the business is so subjective, it was extremely difficult to find one, so I optioned for the independent route for now and self-published a novel in 2017 with a few more planned on being released in the near future. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had a manuscript accepted by Page Publishing, which should be out in six to eight months. It’s about a conman who escapes his life of crime and heads to Italy where he has family yet ends up getting involved with the mafia.
2. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
When I first started writing, I attempted to plan out a lot of the story. A list of overly-described characters. A laundry list of events. Exactly how the story would end. Yet, I found that my story diverted greatly from my initial outlines and they would actually become useless to me. What I do is simply have a list of characters, a sentence or two describing what the story is going to be about, and maybe a couple of major events that need to be embedded in the story. After that, I start writing and more times than not the story unfolds on its own. I will then write down important details that are a part of the story so to not have continuity errors and continue to write until I finish. Rarely do I ever plan out the ending anymore unless it’s without a doubt what I want and fits the narrative. In fact, a majority of the time I have no idea how the story will end while I’m writing it.
3. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I just love coming up with stories and being able to alter reality in any way that I want. With writing, limits do not exist. That is the beauty of fiction. I can create anything I want and, as long as it is something I am completely happy with, it will be totally acceptable.
4. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
For me, the hardest thing about being a writer now is growing an audience. I know that eventually I will have a large audience and faithful following; I’m that good of a writer. What is hard is to get people to buy or check out a book from a relatively unknown author. It’s a risk on their part but they need to know it’ll pay off for them and they’ll have no regrets. They’ll keep coming back for more.
5. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I have not yet reached my greatest writing achievement, but I know what it’ll be. There has been a story in the back of my mind for years, and I finally wrote the first novel of this particular story two years ago but am not planning on releasing that or any other novel in the series until they are ALL complete. It will honestly be one of the greatest tales ever put on paper, and I owe it to myself to make it perfect and not leave anything on the table or have any doubts in my mind when it is finally out there. I had mentioned the story to a reporter of a local newspaper that it may take as long as five years to see the light of day. That was two years ago; I suspect anywhere from five to ten now because it needs to be perfect. Anything less than that is totally unacceptable.
6. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Right now I have a few projects going on at once, which is something I’m actually not a fan of. I rather start and finish one before proceeding to the next story. I am currently building my author website and organizing at least four novels which will become Ebooks between now and probably March or April of 2020. It depends on when the book with Page Publishing is released. After that, I need to make a decision on what to do next with another completed novel and one that is close to being done. Following that, I am leaving it up to the people to decide which story they want next and will hold a vote on my website that will launch soon.
7. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Music is one thing that inspires me. I’ll listen to the lyrics and automatically brainstorm how the song could be a device to tell a story. Movies definitely inspire me and influence my writing. I tend to sometimes study movies and figure out why a director does what he or she does or what the story itself is suggesting. One of my favorite genres to write is horror, and I love a good horror movie. Unfortunately, most of them these days are recycled stories or half-baked ideas that studios rush to make because horror is a cheap genre. A lot of it is just bullshit put on the screen. There’s a lot of originality out there but poor execution. I’m just thankful there are people like James Wan and Andy Muschietti who know what a good horror movie is and how to make one. Rob Zombie is another favorite of mine. His movies are gruesome and gory but that’s what you have to expect going in when it comes to his stories. His stories are original to say the least. I’d work with him in a heartbeat if he ever wanted to put one of my stories on the big screen. In fact I have a long novel already written that I realized would be perfect for him to film.
8. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I know I can challenge myself to write any genre. My self-published novel, Since My Last Confession, is a story I never imagined myself writing, but I was given the premise and just went with it—though needing to add the murder mystery back story. But, I typically write thriller and horror stories. I think those are the best genres to write and read; it allows the reader to not know what to expect next and to keep them fully engaged to the end. I also enjoy writing crime, especially mob stories because of my Italian background. The large project years in the making will fall under this category.
9. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
My writer’s block is unique and one of a kind. I suffer from not knowing which story to write next. I have a list of stories that have popped into my mind over the recent years. If I stopped coming up with new ideas and wrote one story a year based on my current list, I wouldn’t run out until I was 55 (I’m 29 right now). I sometimes even get pissed when another idea comes about at any given moment because I just don’t have the time to pump out all these stories. I jot down what it is and it gets added to list. Some ideas are more developed than others. A few that I thought about starting but put off are better for it; the idea just keeps developing into something better and better.
10. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
A majority of the time I write in the morning. If I’m at a very important part of a story, I will find time later in the day to continue. There was one novel that I would only work on very late at night. It is an extremely dark and twisted story, far too long for someone trying to find an agent. I believe I am going to divide it into three parts and create an Ebook trilogy out of it. But overall, I do not have a concrete schedule, just prefer mornings.
11. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
My greatest joy is wondering where the story will take me next. I don’t find that I am the one writing these stories. I’m just a conduit, the messenger for the story. It winds up telling itself, and that’s why I hate outlines and haven’t used them since I first started writing. I tried this one method I learned in a creativity class in grad school, having a list of characters, their flaws, and their fate. Needless to say by the end of part one of a six-part story, everything changed. I love sitting at my desk, starting to write, and then becoming amazed as to where the story is taking me.
12. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I actually don’t have a favorite author. I read all different types of stories from all kinds of authors. When I first got into writing, I’d have to say one of my favorites was Stephen King. I love reading his old stuff, not much of a fan of his recent novels. Michael Connelly is another who has piqued my interest lately in terms of crime thrillers as well as Jeffery Deaver. Dan Brown was great, but I have to admit he’s missed the mark lately. I try to find novels from authors I’ve never heard of and give them a chance because I’d want the same done to me. 99% of the time, I’m glad with my choices.
13. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
The greatest compliment I ever received was someone telling me they could not put down my novel. That’s exactly what I set out to achieve. I want my readers to keeping wondering what is going to happen and have no choice but to turn the page and find out. And then when they’re done with that book, I want them to need to read what I come out with next.
14. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Yes. Many of my stories are either influenced a little or a lot. I won’t say how much per each story but eventually, I think people will start to figure out what is and isn’t a part of me. We will leave it at that.
15. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
I did have my first self-published novel edited and am currently getting a stand-alone and trilogy edited and prepared. Those are the four Ebooks that I mentioned earlier. I am also on working on editing my novels myself and studying how an editor looks over a manuscript, what the process is, and what I need to do to become better at that.
16. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
I wake up, probably early because I’m so used to getting up early I can hardly sleep in anymore. Workout, get ready for the day, and then definitely eat something. I have to eat in the morning. I don’t know how people can say they can’t eat in the morning. Then, I’d work on whatever I want or need to get done. Whether it’s a novel or something else based on my work. From there, the day is unpredictable and I’d just go with the flow.
17. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
I’d have to say my future wife, whoever that may be. But since I’m not married yet, I’m torn between two people. Either Tom Hanks because that guy was a cast away for four years and could definitely provide some entertainment (he made a goddam volleyball come to life!). Or, I’m taking Gordon Ramsay with me because not only do I love to cook too but I’d want to put his skills to the extreme test. Let’s see what he can make from just a few coconuts and salt water.
18. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Get your shit together.
19. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
My website will be launching soon after I self-publish my next novel called Five Ways to Kill, an Ebook that revolves around a hitchhiker getting involved with a hit-man and being driven around a horror-plagued city for the night. I have a thriller trilogy—more like a dystopia—that will be released at some point in early January, the first book that is. Hopefully I can start to really attract an audience and grow a fan base. I’ll commit to any publicity as well. All publicity is good publicity. What I intend to do the fullest is strive toward that ultimate goal of wring for a living.
20. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Sometimes I do. Many times, though, when I’m writing, I try to be in the mindset of the character and wonder what he or she may do in any given situation, not necessarily what I would do. But there are a few characters that are like me in many ways. One future novel in particular has five characters, and each one represents a part of me. It is almost finished, but given the subject matter of the story, it has taken a toll to write consistently. The story developed out of nowhere. I was mindlessly typing away at something and then the story just grew out of three pages of nonsense. I breezed through the first 40,000 words in three weeks, but it has taken me over 8 months to have written the next 40,000 words. I hope to finish it before the year ends.
21. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Absolutely. I think it is one of the most unfair systems out there. It does not allow talented writers to showcase their work, only the lucky few that get representation and then get picked up by a publisher. I believe if you work hard at it like I do, then you should be able to do this as a living and not have to wait and wonder if it ever will.
22. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
If I said “no” then I’d be a liar. A handful of times I’ve sat staring at my laptop wondering why the hell am I continuing to write, and this is after contacting hundreds of agents with either no reply or a generic rejection. Again, I blame the industry and what it’s become—far too saturated with people who think that just because they own a laptop they can type out a masterpiece. It doesn’t give the actual talent out there a chance.
23. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
My favorite manuscript to write was the first novel in my planned crime saga that will take me years to complete. I look back at that manuscript now and realize a lot more work needs to be done, but it was a great accomplishment to finally get that story on paper.
24. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
If you wake up every morning and know your one and only job is to be a writer—to come up with whatever you want and turn it into a story—you’re a successful writer. It wouldn’t matter to me how much I made as long as I could sustain a living off of my income as a writer. I don’t need to be a millionaire.
25. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
They should know that even if the story is something they believe could never happen in a million years, there is truth hidden somewhere in that work of fiction. Whatever I’ve come up with should make them question their world, the people around them, and the choices that they personally make. Regardless if it is a crime, thriller, or horror story, I want to scare the shit out of my readers, psychologically mess them up as they read my book, and then make them crave more once they’re done with it. My readers should be both afraid and anxious for what I come up with next. Nothing shocks me, nothing frightens me, and I will write just about anything as long as the story warrants it. With that mindset, people should be terrified of and utterly curious about what I produce, unable to stop thinking about it until they’ve read the story for themselves.
And that attitude also goes with, hopefully, a number of future public appearances. I would love to engage with fans, fellow writers, celebrities, and TV show hosts. I do not have a filter and will say what is on my mind. That definitely keeps an audience engaged and to have to wonder what will I do, say, or write next. If the entertainment world ever developed a poll and voted on who is the most dangerous person to interview, I’d want that person to be me.
26. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
Without a doubt. That being said, it would have to be agreed upon that I retain some sort of creative control, that I be a part of the filmmaking process. Too many times have I watched a movie and wondered if the filmmakers actually read the book. I understand there’s a difference in creative interpretation, but people go to see a movie based off a novel because they liked the novel. Take Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. That’s my favorite Harry Potter book but the movie is absolute shit. It was more like the students were on Temptation Island rather than at Hogwarts, the Bachelor and the Bachelorette combined.
Now having said all that, when I write my stories, I envision the scenes in my mind as though they were movies. I actually fantasize about writing and directing movies based off of my work, or at least working on the set of the film and being a part of making the movie. One director that I believe would be a perfect fit for the stories I come up with is James Wan. He doesn’t rely on cheap thrills or jump scares to put the audience on high alert; it’s the tone and manner he directs his movies that can definitely resonate with my work. I did attempt to write a screenplay for an original story but haven’t revisited it in a while.
27. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
Right now, the nice thing about self-publishing is I can come up with the book cover on my own and tell a designer exactly what I want on it and what can be left to interpretation from the artist’s perspective. I think a lot about book covers and what I want each one to look like. I know the old saying about not judging a book by its cover, but I want my covers to be badass, and the hitchhiker story I mentioned earlier has an amazing cover. It’s simple but it’s unique.
28. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
My ultimate dream is to wake up every day and know my job is to tell stories. It doesn’t matter to me how hectic my schedule is on any given day. Whether it’s to just simply sit and write that day or go on TV to do interviews, travel nonstop for a period of time, or be active on a movie set telling one of my stories, it would be a dream to do that.
29. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I’ll take all the help I can get to have my name and stories shared with as many people as possible. It’s a challenge to be unknown by the masses and to get people to read your stories. I think there needs to be a more efficient way for someone who wants to write for a living like myself to actually achieve that goal. This career is not like others where you can apply and interview for a position as a full-time novelist. You have to be selected and it’s not even based on credentials but rather if one specific person likes that one specific story you came up with. It’s bullshit but that’s just how it is. So I need to keep fight toward that goal of becoming a full-time writer and getting the attention of as many readers as possible.
30. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
As of right now, yes. I have the one self-published paperback and am going to release probably four Ebooks in the next several months. However, I am still hoping and trying to find representation. Or, another idea I have is to grow my company, Option 13 Entertainment, into a business that employees independent-contracted agents and expand from there.
31. WHAT IS OPTION 13 ENTERTAINMENT?
It is an entertainment company that I founded earlier this year. Every one of my future novels will have an “Option 13 Entertainment Presents…” page followed by the title. Think of the way a movie’s opening credits begin. That’s what I envision. It’s also a promotional platform. Once I start to launch my website and other social media accounts, I plan to have separate accounts for Option 13 Entertainment. I honestly don’t know what it may become but the possibilities are endless. In a perfect world, it will be both used to publish and promote stories and also serve as a film studio company.
32. WHY THE NUMBER 13? ISN’T THAT BAD LUCK?
I am 100% Italian, and in the Italian culture, the number 13 is their lucky number. It’s actually the luckiest number and brings about the best fortune, so that’s why I chose it. Also because the number 13 is creepy and gives off that curious vibe. That’s reflects my writing so it’s a perfect fit.
33. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Never going to stop writing.
34. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
That’s a long list to choose from. I guess I’d have to say the writing industry. Not to repeat myself but, holy shit, it is not easy to get started in that industry at all, and it does piss me off to put in a lot of effort and time into a story only to be rejected by someone because it simply did not appeal to them at first glance. I hate it when the criteria for submissions say something like: “send your first five pages.” And that’s it! Yeah, I know the start of the story has hook you, but I’ve read more than few novels where the beginning is generic or bland or boring as hell, but the story as whole is great and those details in that initial tedious beginning were actually necessary and paid off in the end. I sometimes find myself thinking that I could write better than what’s in my hands. BUT someone gave that author a chance and it all worked out in the end. Agents and publishers need to take more risks and branch out to reach independent authors; they are missing out on some great talent out there.
35. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
The last book I read was called The Demonologist. It detailed the paranormal cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren. I am a huge fan of The Conjuring movies and have always been interested in those sorts of topics. It was a great read and will serve as part of my research for a character I plan to develop an on-going series around. I won’t divulge more than that because it is a very unique character and something that isn’t really seen in the literary world. I think it’s because people are either too afraid to write about it or they simply lack the ability to make it worthwhile.
36. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
37. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
It’s simple yet redundant: to be happy. I won’t bore you with what will help me achieve that but what will make me happier is to be happy. But rest assure, my writing style and storytelling will never, ever change.
38. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I know that I can be successful in the literary world. Right after I self-published my first novel, my cousin joked and said “Now you’re the Godfather of the Literary World.” I laughed it off at first, but realizing how much work I put into my writing and continuing put forth the effort to make every story perfect, my cousin was 100% right. I don’t want to be the next this author or the next that author. What happens then is people will automatically assume you are going to not only mimic the type of stories they tell but mimic their success, and after one little bump in the road (they happen to everyone), the public will second-guess you in a matter of minutes. I don’t want to be the next anything. I want to be me because I know that’s when I’m my best, and I am the Godfather of the Literary World. They just don’t know it yet.
Clancy's comment: I'm very pleased to have interviewed the Godfather of the Literary World. Happy to be your right hand man, Paul. Well done.