Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri l Q&A + Blog Tour + Giveaway

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. A traveler and adventurer, Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Vincent. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I was born and raised in Albany, New York, and educated in private schools. I did my undergraduate at Providence College and writing school at Vermont College. Originally I was groomed to become an executive in my dad’s construction business. But I was more interested in becoming a punk rock drummer! Of course, that all changed 20 years ago when I decided to become a writer. It seemed like a good way to see the world and get paid for it.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Moonlight Falls is basically film noir on paper. It’s about Richard “Dick” Moonlight, suicide survivor who now must cope with a small piece of .22 caliber bullet lodged in his brain. Because it’s pressed up against his cerebral cortex he has trouble making good decisions and he suffers on occasion from short-term memory loss. In times of stress he passes out. He could suffer a major stroke or die at any moment. So time means little to him. When he makes the wrong decision to sleep with his former boss’s wife and she later turns up brutally murdered, he believes it’s possible he might have killed her and just can’t remember it.

I believe I was down in Manhattan promoting As Catch Can with my then Delacorte editor, Jacob Hoye (now MTV Books), when I came across a story about a man who survived a suicide attempt and lived with a piece of bullet shrapnel still stuck in his brain. At the time I was also influenced by a self-stabbing suicide art exhibit that I caught in a Soho gallery by the artist infamous artist Damien Hirst. I’ve also been fascinated with a rarely spoken about story from my family history in which my paternal grandfather committed suicide by slicing his neck open with a straight razor in front of his grown children. What kind of psychotic desperation moves a man to perform such an act?

What kind of research was involved in writing Moonlight Falls?

Mostly web-based research concerning neurological conditions either similar to or resembling Moonlight’s bullet-in-the-brain issue. Some of the material was taken from my own life. I consulted with my own physician regarding suicide by self-stabbing.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Bumpy isn’t quite the word for it. More like manic. I’d always been lucky with publishing short stories, journalism and nonfiction pieces. But it was a hand-to-mouth existence and with two little kids still in short pants, my then wife couldn’t help but wonder when I was going to give up the “fantasy” of being a published novelist and get “real work.” But then I nail a mid-six-figure contract right out of the MFA school gate and that changes everything. I think I had something like three-thousand bucks to my name and unbelievable debt and suddenly I’m cashing checks that make bank tellers lose their breath. It’s a big ego boost and suddenly everyone who used to role their eyes at said “fantasy” is suddenly my best friend. I’m getting movie interest from guys like Spielberg, Hoffman and Clooney, and I’m in NYC partying like a rock star. But then my publisher gets taken over by another, suddenly I’m more or less shown the door. It was back to square one. Moonlight is being published by a small, family-run press. The experience isn’t all about money this time and hands down, it’s the by far the most fulfilling and just plain rewarding publishing experience I’ve ever had. Most small presses are willing to take a financial hit on what they put out simply because the love the writing and feel an almost religious obligation to see it in print. It’s about putting out a beautiful book and making it available to all who want to read it. I’m not making nearly the same money as I used to, but I’m making a living as journalist and novelist and that’s all any writer can ask.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Contracts were signed in March, 2009 (I think). The book was released in December, 2009.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

My agent is the terrifically talent Janet Benrey of Benrey Literary Agency.
Janet is British so everything she speaks about takes on an air of importance. LOL. While some small and indy presses allow an author to submit unagented, it’s definitely necessary to hire a reputable one. That is, you ever hope to be published commercially.

Do you plan subsequent books?

I’ve just completed a novel called The Remains, about a woman who receives strange text messages from a man who abducted she and her twin sister back when they were kids. For decades she’s believed he died in prison. But now, 30 years later, she realizes her past has not only come back to haunt her, it’s come back to kill her. I’ve also completed the first in a new detective series about a woman named Spike, who’s inherited a commercial construction business and who wields a framing hammer like some detectives carry a pistol. When one of her still-occupied elementary school renovation jobs becomes contaminated with a major asbestos leak, and the man responsible for the asbestos removal goes missing, Spike goes searching for him. But what she uncovers is a plot of greed, deception, lust and murder. Spike is a cool, sexy, tough, character. She also knows how to drive a bulldozer! You can’t say that about every woman you come across!

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

Twice a year I rent a small apartment in a five floor walk-up in Florence, Italy. The place overlooks a former convent and the Tuscan hills in the distance. I can work all day without interruption, and often file stories and blogs for RT (Russia Today TV) in order to keep a cash flow going. In the mornings I run along the banks of the Arno and into the park. In the afternoons I walk the streets of Florence. In the evenings I grab a drink and some dinner at a trattoria. Then do it all over again the next day. I’ve also written on a hospital ship docked off the coast of Benin, Africa; and from out of hotel in Moscow; and while sitting on a cliff-side patio on the Greek Island of Santorini; and while drinking coffee in Paris cafĂ©; and even from inside a prison cell in Sing Sing Prison while researching my novel As Catch Can. So what’s the best place to write? It’s all good.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A network television station.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I’ve worked with publicists from the big publishers, spent a fortune on slick New York City publicists, worked with smaller publicists from my hometown and all of them have been very good at their jobs. However, no writer is going to “move units,” as they say, unless they take a personal interest in promoting their product. Besides actively keeping up with the social FaceBook and Twitter networks, I’ve hired both a traditional publicist and a virtual publicist. I also write and publish numerous articles and professional blogs for global publications like RT (Russia Today TV) and every month. I maintain a personal blog too, The Vincent Zandri Vox. All things considered, the word is definitely getting out there.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

An MFA writing teacher of mine once told me that this is a business of three steps forward, four steps back. I’ve never forgotten that. If you have the talent and can persevere, you will have success in some form. That takes discipline and writing everyday, day in and day out no matter what is happening in your life, be it sick kids, a bad marriage, or even Christmas day. People who can’t take the constant rejection or feel that their writing isn’t improving or can’t commit themselves to a rigorous schedule will often quit immediately after writing school. It’s just not worth the pain. I’ve never considered giving up. Not even for a moment. It would be easier to give up breathing. The drive comes from something inside that’s much more powerful than a publishing conglomeration or slick lit agency.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Write and read like crazy. And just when you think you’ve had enough, do it some more. Polish your work and try and get it into the hands of the best agents in the business. Don’t worry about being timely. Just worry about being good. The rest will take care of itself.

Thank you for your interview, Vincent. I wish you much success!

Thanks for having me.

We're having a giveaway! Leave a comment or a question for Vincent between now and February 19 and you could be the winner of an autographed copy of Vincent's new book, Moonlight Falls! Or simply write "I love Moonlight Falls!" in the comment section!

Only those leaving email addresses with their comment or question qualifies.

The winner will be announced on February 22.

Good luck!
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