Today the Dames are pleased to shine the spotlight on multi-genre author Joe Perrone, Jr. Hi, Joe, and welcome. Tell us about your latest book, Twice Bitten: A Matt Davis Mystery.
My latest release is Twice Bitten: A Matt Davis Mystery, which is set in Roscoe, NY. When a local meth dealer is found murdered in the cab of his pick-up truck, it appears at first glance as if it is nothing more than a drug deal gone south. However, after the actual cause of death is determined, the investigation takes a decided turn toward the bizarre, and eventually the focus of the investigation centers on an itinerant preacher who dabbles in snake handling – the venomous kind – and his attractive assistant. Ron Trentweiler is an ex-convict who has found religion, and Winona Stepp is a young woman with a very murky past. The devil, as it is said, is in the details, and Matt’s investigation of the pair takes him as far away as the coal mining area of Pennsylvania in an effort to get to the truth about his two suspects. The ending will leave you gasping for breath.
Sounds great. I love books that leave you gasping for breath at the end. They always make me want to read more so you can be sure Twice Bitten is going on my TBR list. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I am currently at work on the fourth Matt Davis Mystery called Broken Promises. In it, an 88-year old woman is found dead on the grounds of an old burned-out hotel, shot once through the heart. If that’s not mystery enough, there is no apparent motive and there are absolutely no suspects. But, as Matt’s investigation progresses, a steady drip of information from numerous sources begins to lead him in a most unlikely direction: back to the hotel itself. The action is divided between the ongoing investigation in the present, and a description of the series of events that led up to the killing, dating as far back as early in World War II. This one is a true murder mystery.
Ah, a series, that’s even better! What is a typical writing day like for you?
No two writing days are exactly alike for me, but they all have one thing in common: they are draining. On a good day, I’ll awake around 7 a.m., traipse downstairs to my computer, check my emails, and then go back upstairs to have my breakfast. After breakfast, when I sit down to write, I will go over whatever it was that I last wrote and re-read and re-edit it until I’m fairly happy with it. Then, hopefully, I will begin to write new “stuff.” After anywhere from one to three hours, I will either stop for the day or take a break, because I am exhausted. I may do some research on the Internet or answer some emails or check my book sales. Then, I will have lunch. If the spirit moves me, I might go back to work for another half hour or hour, and then I’ll quit for the day. That’s a good day! On a bad day, I might just re-read and re-edit the work from a previous session and then just sit there praying for something to happen. If I’m lucky, I might have a publishing project that I’m doing for another author that I can put my energy into; if not, I’ll probably go to the gym.
Okay, you hit on the one thing that would probably make me force myself to write on a bad day; going to the gym. I’d much rather write—even on the hard days. When you’re re-writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
For the most part, I would say that I am in control—that is, until they start to speak. Then, I listen for their voices and write down what they say. The same is true for storyline. When it’s working right, I have a germ of an idea and then it kind of goes where it needs to go – which is not always where I had planned for it to go.
I absolutely love the times when my characters “speak to me” and wish it would happen more often. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I am embarrassed to say that I don’t really read that much. I have some physical problems with my eyesight – and I have ADHD, which has always made it difficult for me to read at length. I also have a dread of co-opting someone else’s work subconsciously, and that keeps me from reading any murder mysteries – especially when I am at work on one of my own. As a result, I have taken to reading mostly non-fiction books about such subjects as travel, exploration, mountain climbing, and politics. I also enjoy reading biographies.
I—and I think most other authors—live with that same fear and like you, I tend to stick to nonfiction when I’m writing fiction. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I spend at least an hour or more per day at promotion. I utilize all forms of social networking, including Facebook, Twitter, and various sites that cater to writers and readers. I also maintain an aggressive advertising campaign, both through Google AdWords and Microsoft Bing. I maintain a website, and blog about once a month on it.
I haven’t tried Google AdWords or Microsoft Bing yet, but I’ve been hearing good things from authors who have. Maybe one of these days I’ll check them out and see if I can figure out the process. How long have you been writing?
I guess I have been writing since around the third grade, which would make it about 60 years. My “serious” writing career began in 1969-70, when I was a sportswriter for a major New Jersey newspaper. From there I went on to write advertising copy, free-lancing with two ad agencies. Then, in the late 70s, I wrote feature articles for local newspapers, as well as fishing articles for local magazines. I started my first book in 1987 while working three jobs, one of which was as a limousine driver, which gave me ample opportunity to write. For three years, I filled up spiral notebooks (six in all) with the memoirs of my time coming of age in the 60s. Somewhere along the line, I came to the realization that no one really gave a damn about my memoirs, so I morphed them into a novel, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, which I eventually published nearly twenty years later after completely re-writing it at least three times.
Wow, 60 years, that’s a long time. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t start writing seriously until about 10 years ago, although I played around with it for most of my life. Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
That would definitely have to be: “Well, bless your heart.” My mother was a native North Carolinian, and she used that phrase all her life. Since I was born in “The Capitol of the Confederacy,” I feel obliged to follow in her footsteps.
One of my favorites, too. And Southerners are very adept at using that phrase in a multitude of ways. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
My favorite authors as a child were Mark Twain and Edgar Alan Poe; one would be hard pressed to find two more diverse writers, I suppose. I loved Twain’s humor, and I loved Poe’s darkness.
I love Twain and Poe, too. In fact, when I was much younger than I am now, I went through a serious Poe fan-girl stage. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?
I would love to meet Truman Capote. He is one of my favorite authors – and one of the most fascinating individuals to ever put pen to paper. He was a true character, and his major work, In Cold Blood, is probably my favorite book.
Great choice. I, too, loved In Cold Blood. Mine would be Harper Lee who was a good friend of Capote’s. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to talk to both of them at the same time? What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
Without a doubt, my biggest weakness when it comes to writing is my inability to create a plot; doing that is definitely the hardest part of writing for me. On the other hand, my greatest strength is my ability to write realistic dialogue, something that I take pride in doing. Perhaps I like dialogue because I love to talk to people and to tell stories. I am probably a natural born story teller.
Yeah, I’m better at dialogue than plotting, too—or maybe I should say my characters are better since I’m one of those authors who allow them to take full control when I’m writing. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know?”
I don’t know who coined the phrase, but he or she really knew what they were talking about. When I am at my best is when I am writing about something I really know, like fly fishing – and my relationship with my wife. Both of these subjects find their way into my writing with regularity.
I always enjoy hearing the answer to that last question. Unlike the plot driven or character driven question which tends to lean toward “character driven,” I think we may be about 50-50 on the answers to that one.
Thanks so much, Joe, for joining us today. I enjoyed learning more about you and hope you’ll come back to visit the Dames often!
Readers, to find out more about Joe and his books, visit his website at: www.joeperronejr.com or follow him on Twitter: @catsklgd1.
The first two books is Joe’s Matt Davis Mystery Series: