I’m happy to introduce Don Massenzio. He is a new author to me, so I followed his blog to learn more about him, and … WOW!
He has excellent posts and resources for writers, and I’m thrilled to give him space here to tell you more about himself.
In fact, he returned my interview in record time AND chose to answer every question on the list. Given that, I’m posting the interview in its entirety because I’m a firm believer that hard work deserves an audience.
Please welcome Don Massenzio to Eden’s Exchange.
* * * *
Great to have you here, Don. How would your best friend describe you in 20 words or less?
I believe I would be described as loyal to a fault, driven, humorous and intolerant of lies.
Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
I have a demanding day job that takes up about 50-60 hours per week and requires about 40 weeks per year of travel. I use the travel time, airport time, and hotel time to write. It keeps me on a schedule and makes me more productive.
Great to use that “down” time for something creative. Where do you live?
I live in Northern Florida where I’ve been for the past 20 years. I grew up in Upstate New York where we suffered through endless winters. Because my job demands so much travel, I feel like I’m going on vacation every weekend when I come home, especially in the winter.
Nice! What is your biggest extravagance?
My home workstation has two 26 inch monitors attached to it. I’d like to say it makes me more productive, but the second monitor is often displaying Netflix.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
The age at which I started writing. I published my first novel at 51. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
You got it done and that’s the most important thing. What profession other than your own would you like to try?
Well, writing comes to mind as a full-time job. Also, I enjoy arranging music and would love to be an orchestrator/composer.
What is one thing you want to do before you die?
I would love to see my eight-year-old daughter established as an adult. I’d also like to write a lot more books and travel to Italy again.
Do you have any favorite curse words?
My current favorite is ‘asshat’ which I love to apply to various presidential candidates and other people I encounter. I generally don’t use a lot of curse words as I believe they are a lazy substitute for creativity.
I agree, but there are times when a good curse nails it! Do you have a motto you live by?
As you get older, move away from those around you that hold you back or pull you down.
That’s a wise one. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Convincing my beautiful wife to marry me and raising a family.
Sweet :). What makes you laugh, and I mean, REALLY laugh?
Besides the current presidential race, my eight-year-old makes me laugh very hard. I knew she was going to be a person that likes to make others laugh at a very young age. At age three, she asked for help getting dressed and I assured her she was a big girl and could do it on her own. She came back stark naked with her underwear on her head and said, “See Dad, I told you I couldn’t do it.”
No comment about your presidential race, except that it is definitely fodder for comedy. Let’s find out more about you as the writer. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from everywhere. I’m an avid observer and I am always people watching when I travel. I draw stories from things that happen to me and others and from the news.
What motivates you to write?
The creative process and the validation when a reader tells me they enjoyed my work. It’s the best feeling in the world.
It is! What is the best advice you’ve received as a writer?
This came from Stephen King through his book On Writing. To paraphrase, he said that if you don’t read regularly then you shouldn’t be writing.
That is a profound book. Name a few of your favorite authors and books, and why you like them.
My all-time favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it in high school and related to Scout. I recently read it again and related to Atticus as an older dad trying to keep up with his kids. I’m also inspired by Stephen King’s books. His book, It, was one of the scariest things I’ve ever read. He has truly mastered the horror genre. I also like Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series. He has brought the same characters through 20+ years of novels and has allowed them to age and grow.
I’ve enjoyed Kellerman’s writing as well. How do you market yourself?
Interviews, blogging, social media, book signings, telling everyone I know, shamelessly using family members and various other techniques. My eight-year-old recently came to a book signing and it was pretty quiet. She picked up one of my books and started walking around the room telling everyone, “Buy my Daddy’s book.” No, I did not tell her to do this.
What a precocious girl, you need to hire her! How much research do you do for your books?
It depends on the book. When I wrote my terrorism thriller, Blood Orange, I used the Internet to research the effects of radiation and dirty bombs. I kept waiting for the black SUVs to pull up in front of my house. I also use experts like military people that I know along with police officers and others. One thing I’ve learned is that readers will call you on bad information. I had a police officer that read an advance copy of my book tell me that the gun my character used doesn’t have a safety even though I said it did in the book. I was able to change it before the release and avoid the potential embarrassment.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being a writer?
My favorite part is being able to escape into the lives of the characters. Sometimes I’ll go back and look at dialog and not even recognize that I wrote it. My least favorite part is everything outside of the writing; the editing, marketing, promoting, etc. I see the importance of those things and I do them, I just don’t like them.
How would you define your style of writing?
It’s very stream of consciousness driven. I do a pictorial outline at the beginning, but the scenes and chapters just flow. I don’t edit at all until the first draft of the entire book is done.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy getting started. It’s like having a blank canvas where you create the world and the people in it. By the time I get to the editing, however, I’m usually sick of the story and anxious to get it published.
Is it important for you to know the title or ending of a book before you write it?
For my detective series, the main character’s name is Frank. The first book was Frankly Speaking. Then came Let Me Be Frank, Frank Incensed and Frankly, My Dear. My fear is that I’ll run out of Frank titles before I run out of ideas. I had someone at a writers’ conference come up to me after a panel I was on and hand me a list of about 20 titles with ’Frank’ in them. Some of them weren’t usable, but it did help. I have about 10 potential titles with story ideas attached to them. That should keep me busy for a while. I don’t always know the ending when I start a new book. In fact, sometimes I think I know the ending and it changes as I complete the journey to it.
I love the branding with the name, Frank. Do you outline, plot and structure, or do you just sit down and write?
I use a hybrid method where I diagram out the chapters of the novel and then plot them out in Scrivener. I don’t want to lock myself into an outline, but if I write without my pictorial view, there’s no telling what rabbit hole I’ll venture into.
Tell us about your typical writer’s day.
I don’t have a set schedule. My typical writer’s day is centered around maintaining my blog in the very early morning hours and then writing whenever there are holes in the day. Planes, trains, airports and hotels are my usual writing environment and I write when I can.
Do you have advice for new authors?
Keep writing every day. Listen to advice objectively. There are those who are snobbish about writing and view it as a privilege only to be enjoyed by those that pass the publishing gate keepers. Don’t be intimidated by them. Whenever an aspiring traditionally published author turns up their nose at the idea of independent publishing, I always ask them how many books they’ve sold and how many they have in print.
What are some of your “must-have” tools for writing?
My brain is the only real tool I need. I wrote my first novel longhand in notebooks and then typed it in page by page. I do like using Scrivener to draft the novel and then switch to Word for editing so we can track changes and insert comments.
Don’s latest book is Frankly, My Dear.
|Book blurb: Frankly, My Dear
Frank Rozzani, a transplant to Jacksonville, Florida from Syracuse, New York, has left his tragic past as a police officer behind for life as a private detective. Frank and his partner Clifford “Jonesy” Jones work with the local police to solve crimes that are virtually unsolvable.
In Frankly My Dear, the fourth in the Frank Rozzani Detective Series of novels, Frank and Jonesy are at it again and this time the case is one of the most bizarre that they have faced. Their latest client, arrested for domestic abuse, swears that he is the victim of one of the most vengeful women on the face of the earth.
Frank and Jonesy must determine if their client is telling the truth. As they investigate the case, they again pay a personal price for their involvement. Is their client trying to get away with his crime or is his ex-girlfriend continually coming up with new ways to damage him and his reputation?
Follow them as they navigate the twists and turns in this exciting new installment in the series, Frankly My Dear.
You classify the book as part of the detective/mystery genre. Tell us why we should read it.
People should read my book by the millions so I can quit my day job. Short of that, I think it’s a fun story and they will enjoy escaping into the world that I created for a while.
How long did it take for you to write it, and what was the inspiration behind it?
From the pictorial view to publishing took about six months. The readers of the previous book wanted the series to continue. This is the fourth in my Frank Rozzani detective series.
How are you marketing your book?
I’m marketing it through interviews, my blog, select social media ads, author events, radio and television interviews, newspaper blurbs, smoke signals and shameless plugs.
Don’s video for Frankly, My Dear.
How did you publish the book?
It’s a pretty simple road. Amazon and CreateSpace make the publishing process very easy. Publishing a book is not the hard part. Publishing a book of quality that people want to read and then telling them about it, now that’s hard.
Well said, Don. How did you celebrate when you finished your book?
I started the next book almost immediately.
Great way not to lose momentum! What has the reception been to Frankly, My Dear?
Thanks to advance reader copies, it was released on Amazon and received 20 reviews the first day on Amazon and Goodreads. The reviews have averaged around 4.8 stars.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from writing it?
I’m always learning and thinking of ways to improve the next one. One thing I learned from this book is to begin publicizing it earlier in the process.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
That’s a hard question. I hope the quality and the sincerity of the story are part of it. It’s in a genre that is pretty crowded so any recognition I get that differentiates it is positive.
How can people support your book?
Every indie author will tell you that reviews and word of mouth are the biggest help. My first book just passed the 50 review threshold on Amazon and I’m seeing more movement with it. Several people have let me know that Amazon has sent them emails recommending it. That’s a positive sign from reviews. The book itself is free.
What is next for you, Don?
I’m already 20,000 words into the next one which should be out in the September/October timeframe.
Excellent, something to look forward to! Let’s finish with a lightning round.
Aside from people/pets, what is the ONE item you would save if your house was on fire? My computer, of course. It’s where my writing lives.
Favorite place you’ve traveled to or would like to travel to? I went to Italy back in high school and would love to take my family for a long, leisurely trip there someday.
Name a food you can eat everyday. Not to perpetuate an Italian stereotype, but it would be pizza.
Salty or sweet? Mixed. I love salted caramel.
Coffee or tea or something else? Coffee.
Cat/dog/other pet? Dogs. I’m allergic to cats and other pets aren’t as fun to play with or as cuddly as my 80-pound black lab.
Favorite style of music? Depends on the mood. I like to play jazz and listen to jazz and classical, but sometimes hard rock fits the mood.
The best gift you’ve ever received? My family. I always tell my wife I’d be living in a box under a bridge without her. She thinks it’s a joke.
Your most guilty pleasure. Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.
Favorite season. Spring – rebirth.
Name something you cannot go a day without. Hugging someone in my family or seeing them via facetime or Skype when I’m traveling.
Thank you Don for sharing with my readers. Great to learn more about you. Readers, please visit Don at his virtual homes and say “Hello!”
* * * *
Connect to Don
Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird.
Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.
His first published long work was the novel, Frankly Speaking, published in April, 2014. It was the first in a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files. Don’s second book in the series, Let Me Be Frank, was published in October of 2014. The third book in the series, Frank Incensed, was released April 24, 2015.
He took a break from his detective series and published the terrorism thriller, Blood Orange, in November of 2015 followed by his latest book, Frankly, My Dear, the fourth book in the series in April of 2016.
He has also released a collection of short stories called Random Tales that is available for your Kindle or as an eBook on Amazon. Also, look for Don’s first non-fiction book, The Ultimate Guide for Independently Published Authors: Tips for improving quality and selling your work, available on Amazon.com as an eBook or in paperback
He now resides in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife, children, and two dogs.