Friday, April 23, 2010

Five Things I learned Writing Moonlight Falls

It’s my pleasure to welcome Noir Thriller author, Vincent Zandri, back to Over Coffee. He’s one of my favorite people who aside from writing some fabulous thrillers, plays in a band.

He is a drummer in the Albany-based punk band The Blisterz. What can I say; I’ve always had a weakness for smart witty men who play music. :-)

Vin, like many authors today, has to juggle life as a single father of three, with working full time. As a photojournalist, he has traveled extensively to Russia, Italy, China, Africa, Turkey, Greece, England, France, and more.

In addition to an award-winning novelist, Zandri is also a freelance essayist and writes for various global publications. Vincent currently divides his time between New York and Europe.

I appreciate his drive and ambition to write despite the various changes in the publishing market. Changes we’ve all seen—whether we are readers or fellow writers. Instead of letting setbacks or rejections stop him he’s wisely taken the time to learn lessons along the way and apply them.

He agreed to share some of those lessons here. Your thoughts on his lessons are welcomed.

Many things were learned during the five on-again, off-again years while I was writing my new noir, thriller, Moonlight Falls, the least if which, is that initial publishing success can be fading. Back in 1999, when my first commercial thriller, As Catch Can, was first published in hardcover by Delacorte, I assumed that I had found a permanent literary home for the rest of my life, and that the next stop in my green career was the Pulitzer Prize. But when Delacorte merged with another publisher, many of its authors were quickly transferred elsewhere and from there, kindly shown the door. For me, it was back to square one.

But despite the trial and tribulations of a commercial publishing world that has been described as “perilous,” I was nonetheless able to adhere to a program of good, solid writing, day in and day out. That alone became my shield against a volatile publishing business. That alone was my guiding force in a short literary life that had seen great ups and that now, was realizing a very deep, seemingly bottomless pit.

Still I trudged on through a period of several years where I did not publish a single book, but instead concentrated on the writing of several manuscripts, not the least of which, became Moonlight Falls.

Here are five things I learned about myself and the world around me during that time.

  • Nothing replaces rock solid writing, research and rewriting. Or, the three R’s, if you will. Even though I might have quit the business altogether and moved on to something less volatile than the writing and publishing life, I still adhered to a rigorous writing program day in and day out, even when there was no money coming in. I chose this path because in the back of my head, I always knew that the novel would one day be published. Not self-published, mind you, but published in the traditional format. Which leads me to…

  • Never lose your faith in yourself and your ability, even in the face of domestic non-tranquility. Things around the house during my, lets call them “wilderness years,” were not very happy. I’d just married my second wife, Laura, whom I believed was my soul mate. We came together at a time when things were great. I was on top of the world as a writer and we were traveling the world. But then, when things got hard. I retreated back into my shell and nearly lost all confidence in my ability to write a great story. But curiously, and sadly, as Laura and I began to break up, I regained my confidence. Which leads me to…

  • Don’t quit the day job. Or in my case, don’t give up the freelance writing and journalism because you’re suddenly under the impression you’re the next Norman Mailer. What you must constantly remind yourself is that even a world renowned writer like Mailer was broke half the time. When I published As Catch Can and the follow up, Godchild, I assumed I’d never have to write another stitch of journalism again; that I could place all my literary eggs into one basket. Turns out, had I kept my foot in the freelance writing door, I might have saved my marriage and my home by maintaining at least a semblance of income. Luckily, I was able to make a return to journalism but only after the domestic damage was done. Which leads me to…

  • Learn to weather the storms and know when to move on with your life. Said another way, learn how to swallow your pride. It’s a tough thing losing everything you have worked so hard for in life, from your publisher to your wife to your home. But to have it all happen at once, well, that’s enough to break even the strongest man for good. But this is the life we live as writers and novelists. This is the life we have chosen. While in many ways I would stop at nothing to have my wife back, I know I am powerless to do anything about it other than write the best I can, and do so consistently and without prejudice; without concern for what the publishing market is currently bearing. Which leads me to…

  • The publishing market is undergoing severe and rapid change. Traditional commercial publishers are dying. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. What’s replacing them are electronically based, independent houses that although utilizing the traditional publishing model of accepting a manuscript based upon its merits as a work of art, now publish the manuscripts in both electronic and POD format. Yes, the independent bookstores will hate you for it, and even turn up their noses at you. But 90% of all book buyers are making their purchases online. Many of them are doing so via Kindle, I-Phone, BlackBerry, and other electronic means.
It’s the new world publishing model of social media, virtual tours, book trailers, blog talk radio, mommy blogs, etc., and it is here to stay. More then likely, it will give over to an influx of self-published material over the next few years, while big agent firms and big publishers die off.

  • Where do you buy most of your books? Online or Bookstores?

I have an autographed copy of Moonlight Falls for a commenter today. Be sure to leave me a way to contact you.

Back cover blurb:

In MOONLIGHT FALLS, novelist and photojournalist, Vincent Zandri, asks the question "If you knew your life could end at any moment, how far would you go to prove you murdered your lover? "

Albany, New York, is the setting of Zandri's paranoid thriller (in the Hitchcock tradition) about Richard "Dick" Moonlight, former APD detective turned private investigator/massage therapist in training that finds himself in deep trouble.

After surviving a botched suicide attempt, he now lives precariously on the fence between life and death due the remnant of a .22 caliber bullet lodged in his brain. With the little piece of lead pressing up against his cerebral cortex, he knows he can’t always trust himself to make the correct decisions. He also can’t trust his short-term memory.

When his sometimes lover, the beautiful Scarlet Montana, calls him up one night he knows he should resist, however, the temptation is too strong. Later that same night, when Scarlet’s body is discovered, Moonlight receives a call by her police chief husband, Jake, to oversee a special investigation into a murder Moonlight may well have committed.

The problem is ...

Moonlight doesn't remember what happened!

"Readers will be held captive by prose that pounds as steadily as an elevated pulse...Vincent Zandri nails readers’ attention."
~ Boston Herald

Read first chapter excerpt

Moonlight Falls Trailer


Moonlight Falls author, Vincent Zandri, is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called "Brilliant" upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks.

Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine.

He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz. His new thriller, The Remains, is to be published this Summer and Fall in electronic format and trade paperback by Stone House Ink.

You can find Vincent Zandri:

The Vincent Zandri Vox (blog) , Twitter , Facebook , MySpace


Ken Coffman said...

Well, this is wise advice from someone who has been in the trenches. The same advice goes for musicians, i.e. "Don't give up the day gig, kid." Publishing is a tough business, no doubt about it. Well said, Vincent.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I wholeheartedly agree with that last one!!! The publishing industry is rocking right now and the new iPad just spun the boat even faster.

Vincent Zandri said...

Yah, it's amazing that there are still pubs, writers, bookstore owners, etc. who truly believe this new publishing model of electronically based publication, POD books, online tours, etc. is going to vanish one day...:) I guess one day, when it's the end of days, and we'll all writing on cave walls again...:)))) Thanks for chiming on guys and I hope you check out the novel...:)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Vin, so glad to have you back.

I'm in full agreement with your three Rs. Whether you write for e-publication or traditional print, nothing is a worse turn-off reading a book that hasn't been well researched. I also think it's important to have a writing schedule where you are writing something every day.

You mention:

"write the best I can, and do so consistently and without prejudice; without concern for what the publishing market is currently bearing."

While I think it's important to keep abreast with what's selling in your particular genre, I feel one should write the stories that excite us, rather than chase the trend.

VA said...

I'm afraid that I am a dinosaur. I buy approx. 3 books a month at bookstores. Though I may have a computer in nearly every room of my house, I do not do pleasure reading on them. Journal pubs - sure, but reading I do for enjoyment is an experience. It is tactile and has a smell. Who doesn't love the smell of a new book? I'm not that old, less than my fourth decade and my daughter is exhibiting similar tendencies.

Technology is changing the world, but some things needs aren't met by them. Who wants to take an e-reader to the beach/pool and leave it unattended while swimming? How about a paperback? Stuck in a god-awful airport/plane with little chance of escape or recharging?

Yes, I did just buy two leather bound books this past holiday season. I reread favorites for comfort of a familiar dance. So perhaps I am an outlier, but I can't be the only one.

Anyway Vincent, just got to ask after reading the bio blurb, how many languages are you fluent in?

Off to read chapter 1.

Vincent Zandri said...

Ha, just one...I can get by on a bit of Italian and some French, but otherwise I wing it.

As for real books, all my novels are available in trade paper, mass market and or hardcover...I also insist on reading the real thing :)))) But I also do Kindle...

Kat Sheridan said...

Did somebody say "noir"? Sia, you've been peeking in on my reading, yes? I finished all my Raymond Chandler last week, and wrapped up the Dashiell Hammett just this morning, and was casting around for something along those lines to carry on with! This sounds just about perfect!

I've been buying a mix of e-books and p-books for years, and expect to keep doing so. Each has their own use. I expect I'll eventually go mostly electronic, saving my print purchases for things I want for my keeper shelf.

Thank you, Vincent, for an inspirational article, and wishing you the very best of luck with this book. I do love noir!

Vincent Zandri said...

Hi Kat,
Yah, I'm a noir cat...In fact, I was selected by Detroit noir critic and author Heath Lowrance as one of the best noir authors working today...You can check out news of it on my under "News"....

Helen Ginger said...

You certainly have an interesting story, Vincent (your own and your new book's).

I haven't bought an ebook yet. I'm still stuck in print until I decide which eReader is best. I've been thinking about downloading an app for my iPhone and trying that, if I could make out the words on the tiny screen.

Thank you for telling your story. I know it was difficult for you, but it's inspiring to me.

Straight From Hel

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I had forgot you were on a Noir kick, sorry.

Viv, I'm a dinosaur too. I do have books on my computer, many are there to be reviewed and a few for pleasure, but I much prefer holding the book in my hand. To me, opening a book is special because you're opening a door to another world.

Mason Canyon said...

Sia, thanks for giving us a chance to get some insight from this interesting author.

Vincent, I think the part about "learn to weather the storms" can help us all whether we are writers or not. Good advice.

Thoughts in Progress

SueO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SueO said...

Love, love, love traditional books (because they feel so good in my hands).
Afraid, afraid, afraid of eReaders (because I love new gadgets that I can't afford).
Shaken, shaken, shaken by the tale of personal woe (because I fear my husband's patience may one day wear out).

Very good posting, Mr. Zandri. I've never read noir. Some day, perhaps.

Thanks for sharing your insight and words of wisdom.

Anonymous said...

"Cool! Sounds a really intriguing book.

As to where I buy books - many online, but still mostly in stores - we do have some really great bookstores in Oregon."

Sheila Deeth

Kat Sheridan said...

Off to check out Vincent's website. And I'm sort of an "e-dinosaur". I read e-books in the Mobipocket format on an utterly ancient Dell PDA,so old it doesn't even have Blue Tooth. But it holds all my games and music and books and contacts and lots of other stuff, and works just fine for what I need!

Vincent Zandri said...

Thanks all for posting, and I apologize for not being more Johnny on the Spot, but my internet crashed last night...what was that about cyberspace taking over ?:))) LOL...In any case, I hope you'll all check out Moonlight Falls and my new one, The Remains which will be released electronically in June and then in Trade Paper in the Fall....Sia, thanks Doll, and I hope you'll have me back for the new one xxxxxxooooooo