Interview with Alberto Rios Arias, author of 'A Death For Beauty'

Born in Jersey City and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, Alberto Rios Arias filled his leisure time writing and illustrating short stories and took an interest in creative writing after reading J.D. Salinger’s, Catcher in the Rye in high school.

After a three-year stint in the Army, he pursued another obsession and enrolled in the popular School of Visual Arts in Manhattan under the G.I. Bill. Although he majored in Fine Arts, his creative writing class inspired him to continue writing.

His efforts eventually paid off and he found work as an advertising copywriter. His advertorials appeared weekly in The New York Post and The Daily News. Meanwhile he continued to hone his writing skills and upon early retirement, he decided to pursue creative writing in earnest, recently finishing two feature screenplays and his first novel.

Alberto is currently developing another novel, a short story collection, and a memoir.

A Death for Beauty or, An Immortal is his debut novel.

Learn more about the story:

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Alberto. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your latest book, A Death for Beauty?

Thank you, it’s great to be here. I started writing in college and experimented with screenplays years after that. I managed to finish two screenplays but then I went ahead and finished a novel I’d been ruminating over for some time. What started out as a cowboy and Indian western turned out to be this story about a troubled young woman in the 19th century with a death wish aimed at her husband. When her improbable wish comes to pass, she struggles with her conscience; she’s haunted by it.

This leads to a series of regrettable decisions she cannot escape. I replaced the cowboys with the U.S. Cavalry but the great Sioux Indians were indispensible and stayed with my initial idea. Their indomitable presence braces the main theme throughout the story.

Q: I love your title…can you tell us why you chose it?

A Death For Beauty is a variation on a title from an Emily Dickinson poem, I Died for Beauty, which plays off the main theme. I’ve featured Dickinson’s wonderful poetry throughout the novel. How could I resist? Her views on death are brilliant.

Q: Why did you believe your book should be published?

As far as story concepts go within this genre, at least, I think it’s a strong concept and I’ve always believed it had a good chance at appealing to its core audience of historical mystery fans.

Q: We all know that publishers can’t do all of the publicity and that some lies on the author. What has your publisher done so far to publicize the book and what have you done?

As an independent author, I’ve had both the pain and pleasure of taking on this formidable task myself. Without the benefit of a built-in audience it’s time consuming and a bit of a hit or miss proposition so there are always a lot of unknowns as far as the effectiveness of one promotion over another. Advertising can be very costly and not always as effective as one might think so I’ve relied on book trailers for the most part and blog posts. Analytics help sort things out but most of the time it’s a guessing game where leads might come from.

Q: What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?

People have said that in a way, this story is somewhat reminiscent of Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Others have said, Blake’s Dances With Wolves, and more recently, Stockton’s The Help, or a cross between the three. The main difference is that A Death for Beauty focuses on the uncertainties of life through the eyes of death. What also sets this story apart is its unusual setting (The Civil War) which in a way is unexpected, but at the same time very fitting, given the atrocities war has wrought throughout human history, even as death has wrought fear throughout humanity, so the juxtapositions are quite evident in that sense.

Q: Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

Well, lucky for us, because Virginia has just finished urinating on her husband’s grave. (How unbecoming of a woman from the era. Sorry about that.)

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

For this particular story? I’ve thought about that, and that’s always very possible, but I didn’t plan sequels from the outset for this book. I do have another novel in the works plus an anthology of short stories I’ve been putting together.

Q: Thank you for your interview, Alberto. Do you have any final words?

I’ve had a lot of positive responses from random readers so far and I hope to ignite a spark with the right audience. I know they’ll enjoy this story and take away a great deal of positive things from it.

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