The Dames are pleased to turn the spotlight on author Tony Piazza today. Tony, as you will soon find out, is not just your everyday average mystery writer, but one who has captured the wonderful writing style of some of the best authors of the last century.

Welcome, Tony. Tell us about your latest release, Anything Short of Murder.

It is an old fashion detective thriller set in the Hollywood of the 1930’s. In creating it I drew on the writing styles of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, so you might say that is it a pastiche of sorts. It has all the elements of a classic detective novel from that era- the hardboiled, wise-cracking, world weary detective; the damsel in distress who may, or may not be as innocent as she seems; more red-herrings than could be contained in a barrel; and a mystery that will keep you guessing to the very end.  

An old-fashioned detective thriller, indeed, and I think you did a fabulous job with it. What made you decide to write it in the style of the pulp detective thrillers of the 1930’s and 40’s?

Two reasons, the first being that it was originally being written as a short serialized story for the Turner Classic Movie Fan site. I was composing it for a specific audience, namely classic movie fans that enjoy film noir. It was the success on that site, and the encouragement of all its fans that convinced me to expand it into a book and get it published. Second, I enjoy a good mystery. I’ve read most of the famous authors that the genre has produced over the years, and miss some of the classic detective stories that modern authors have jettisoned in favor of police procedurals. CSI stories are interesting, and definitely play an important part in mystery literature, but personally I enjoy the independent detectives, like Marlowe, or amateur investigators like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot in the books that I read.       

Ah, TCM—about the only channel I watch on TV anymore. I’m an avid fan of the old black and white movies and while reading Anything Short of Murder it was very easy for me to picture Humphrey Bogart playing the lead in a movie made from the book. How did you come up with the idea for the character of Tom Logan?

Tom Logan was formed with Bogart in mind, and perhaps a little of William Powell. As I mentioned earlier, the story was being fashioned for an audience of discerning classic movie lovers. That was helpful in developing the character because you knew that you had to get it “dead on”, or you would hear from the fans. I was encouraged by their response because Bogart was the general consensus. Additionally, as with other authors- although some will deny it- there is also a little of him in me. The sense of humor and to a lesser extent the world weariness is something we both have in common.

Bogart and Powell are two of my favorite actors from that time period. Can you share little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

 I have a second novel, The Curse of the Crimson Dragon which will be published March of 2012. It is not a sequel to Anything Short of Murder, although due to numerous requests I am working on that now. Crimson Dragon is a stand-alone novel, an adventure set on Hawaii during 1944. Initially the plot will seem familiar, but don’t let that fool you, as with Anything Short of Murder there will be twists and turns that no one will see coming. It is also loaded with action, romance, nostalgia, and intrigue- all of which plays out in a lush, tropical backdrop during the tumultuous war years. I was real happy with the results of the final manuscript, and am very excited about making it available to the public. It was certainly fun writing it- real escapism- and I’m sure that that will be passed on to the readers.

Glad to hear you’re working on a sequel since I enjoyed Anything Short of Murder so much. I’ll be sure to watch for the release of The Curse of the Crimson Dragon. Sounds like a lot of fun and I love that time period. How long have you been writing?

I would like to say since I was ten years old. That’s when I first attempted writing, but re-writes with a typewriter and carbon paper takes a patience I wasn’t blessed with. I had assignments in school, and creative writing, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that I discovered how easy writing has become thanks entirely to the computer. So I’d say that I started writing in earnest about two years ago.

Oh, I remember typewriters and carbon paper and shudder to think about attempting to write a novel without the convenience of my laptop. I just don’t think I could do it. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Imagination; I was an only child growing up, and had to keep myself amused. I created stories to pass the hours, and in some cases serialized ones that I would tell myself every night before going to sleep. As I got older, I shared some of these stories with friends and organized plays around them. Imagination was also the driving force when I started reading more regularly at age eight. Fueled on by authors such as Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and later Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming, I couldn’t help but fall in love with books, and that resulted in an urge to become a storyteller.

I grew up in a family of 5 kids and I can remember wishing I was an only child—but I have to say with the wisdom of age, I’m glad I didn’t get that wish!  Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should or could be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

I’ve already mentioned them in your previous question, but now that I have become a member of two writer’s organizations- Sisters in Crime and SLO NightWriters- I am being introduced to a number of new authors, people like Sue McGinty and Dianne Emley and their mystery series. Aside from being great individuals, their mysteries are engaging. Regarding, why do these writers appeal to me? Their books provide escapism, with puzzles that challenge the mind, and an ample serving of good old fashion heroics. A part of me still is a dreamer and believes in a happy ending, although my pessimistic side also acknowledges the realities of life.

In other words, you read for pleasure, and judging from your book, I’d say you write for the same reason. What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you have any habits or established routines that work best?

I usually set a goal of nothing less than 2,500 words. That is the minimum I set for a chapter. Once I get started I pound away until I complete that objective. I usually strive for a chapter a day, but once in awhile it may take two. I am a fast writer once I get into it, however I do have a day job, and that takes precedence when it comes to working on my novel. My first novel took nine months from conception to publication- somewhat of a record. The Curse of the Crimson Dragon has taken over a year, but it is a bigger novel.

2,500 words, that’s impressive and a goal I wish I could accomplish. I have days when I write much more than that but I also have days—too many of them lately—when I don’t come anywhere near a fraction of that. And after the book is written, then comes the hard part, at least for me, promoting. Can you tell us a little bit about how you promote your work?  Any tips for other authors?

My simple answer would be by any means possible. I use Twitter, Facebook, place ads, do interviews such as this, as well as print and radio. I also have done book signings and lectures at independent bookstores, and have a blog site where I write stories about the motion picture and television stars that I had worked with when I was in the industry. Still, it is never enough. Competition is hard, and even though you have a great story, it only sells if someone knows about it. For the release of my next book I am considering hiring a publicist. As far as tips- if you believe in your product…sell…sell…sell.

Competition is hard and with the recent trends in publishing, it’s getting harder every day. Still, like you say, the best thing to do is to believe in your work and sell…sell…sell. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

All my friends at the two writing groups give me a boost when my batteries start running a little low, however, with the risk of sounding a little maudlin I would have to say my parents, especially my mother. It was her persistence that set me on the right course. When I was in second grade the teacher noticed that I wasn’t paying attention to our reading sessions. I seemed distracted, and she communicated that to my mother. My mother asked if she could borrow some books over the summer, and spent each day with me reading. She always felt bad that she hadn’t graduated from high school, and impressed upon me the importance of learning, and especially reading. I became a good student after that, and an avid reader. She passed away nine years ago, but I think she would be very pleased to see that her hard work and concern had paid off, and her son is a published author.

As a retired teacher, I have to say “yay” for your mother. How great that she took an interest in what was going on with you in school and went on to contribute to your love of reading. And yes, I’m sure she’s very proud of her “published author” son.

In your bio on your website, you say you’ve had a “long and varied professional career,” everything from acting to biologist to stunt man. And now you’re a published author. Of all the jobs you’ve had which of them would you prefer if you had to choose only one?

That is a difficult question, because just a like a diamond, each is a facet which makes up the whole of my life’s experience. Each one of those I have drawn upon to help build or reinforce another. A writer needs to be knowledgeable about what he or she is writing. That involves either research, or better yet actual experience. Because my background has been so diverse, I can write about science, or what goes on behind the scenes in a movie studio, or how to detail an action sequence with confidence because I have been there and done that. And besides that aspect, we all strive to utilize to the fullest whatever gifts we have. It is our legacy. I like to think that whatever I have done, whether it was the findings I made in research which may have benefited a sick individual, or the stories that I write that helps readers escape the troubles of the world- all have equal value- that is why I  could not  pick just one.

Good answer and a very well thought out one, too. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Again, it comes down to legacy. Life is short, and memories are fleeting, if Jules Verne or H.G.Wells never picked up a pen, who would remember them? But, more importantly, some measure success by the money they make, but for me the satisfaction isn’t financial, but whether those that read my books truly enjoy them. My objective is to tell a good story, and the payback is to hear that my efforts were not in vain- that it really provided the readers with what I had attempted- entertainment and escapism.  When I receive a comment as such, or a good review, it is worth infinitely more to me than anything money can buy.

I agree wholeheartedly, it’s not the money that makes me want to write, it’s the feedback I get from readers. Knowing that my words give someone even a few seconds of entertainment is much more important.

Thanks so much for joining us, Tony. It’s been a real pleasure!

To find out more about Tony and his work, please visit:

Book Site:

www.anythingshortofmurder.com

Blog:

http://authortonypiazza.wordpress.com/author/authortonypiazza/

Author’s Site on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004K2YN0M

Facebook Fan Page:

https://www.facebook.com//pages/Anything-Short-of-Murder-Fan-Page/252147254802399