The Writer's Life with Philip Cioffari, Author of 'The Bronx Kill'

Philip Cioffari is the author of the novels: DARK ROAD, DEAD END; JESUSVILLE; CATHOLIC BOYS; and the short story collection, A HISTORY OF THINGS LOST OR BROKEN, which won the Tartt Fiction Prize, and the D. H. Lawrence award for fiction. His short stories have been published widely in commercial and literary magazines and anthologies, including North American Review, Playboy, Michigan Quarterly Review, Northwest ReviewFlorida Fiction, and Southern Humanities Review. He has written and directed for Off and Off-Off Broadway. His Indie feature film, which he wrote and directed, LOVE IN THE AGE OF DION, has won numerous awards, including Best Feature Film at the Long Island Int’l Film Expo, and Best Director at the NY Independent Film & Video Festival. He is a Professor of English, and director of the Performing and Literary Arts Honors Program, at William Paterson 
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What’s inside the mind of an author?

Wow! That’s a wide-open question. I usually tell people if they want to know what’s going on inside me, read my books. But I guess the short answer is: a lot. A lot of curious probing, questioning, observing, concluding, doubting. 

What is so great about being an author?

You’re in complete—or so it seems—control of the world you create. And the world you create is a reflection in some way of your interior life, so you get to objectify that interior life, make it more tangible and accessible, so that you can take a good look at it and—one hopes—understand yourself better. And also, as an author you get to work with language, using words and phrases and sentences in a way that evokes emotion. I love that challenge.
When do you hate it?

That I never do—thank God.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

I write usually 4-6 hours a day, seven days a week. I like to finish up by 6 p.m. or so. Then I take the evening off.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

Not necessarily. And, no, I don’t think I have a big ego, though I do think I have a big determination.  (Also, I don’t think a big ego is necessarily a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t blind you to the needs of others.) 

How do you handle negative reviews?

Negatively. Though I do try to understand where the reviewer is coming from: what can I learn about myself and my work from the review? Fortunately, so far, I’ve had to deal with only one mostly negative review.  

How do you handle positive reviews?

With great gratitude.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

They usually ask what I write and, if I make it sound interesting enough, where can they buy the book.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

If I really don’t feel like writing, I do something else. But when I’m working on something, I rarely if ever don’t feel like getting to it. Sitting at the computer is a habit, a daily ritual like having breakfast. 

Any writing quirks?

I need light, so I like to face a window. I also need a fairly clean and ordered desk. And relative silence. 

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

I’d be angry because they didn’t see me for who I am. They probably wouldn’t be a friend of mine.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

The only time I hate it is when I can’t figure out how to make a piece work; but it’s not the writing I hate but my own failure of insight and imagination. 

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

Absolutely not. Success, for me, is whether I think I’ve told the story in the way I wanted to tell it, that the feelings I have for character, place and situation have made it to the page, and that—this is my judgment, of course—I’ve created the appropriate emotional impact.

What had writing taught you?

To be patient, to persevere, to stay true to your subject matter. 

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

A story doesn’t come all at once—at least not for me. My current novel evolved over a number of years, beginning as a short story where some of the main characters appeared. Then the story lay dormant a long while. Then I wrote a second story about these characters. Then I kept the characters and the setting, but threw out everything else. The story began going in an entirely different direction. I followed that new direction to its end. The entire process spanned ten or more years.

Genre:  Suspense/Literary
Author: Philip Cioffari
Publisher: Livingston Press
Find out more on Amazon
When Danny Baker returns home after a self-imposed exile, he finds himself face to face with what he’d run away from. On a hot August night five years earlier, a teenage brotherhood called the Renegades—Danny, Charlie Romano, Johnny Whalen, Tim Mooney and Julianne Regan, the lone female of the group with whom they were all in love—set out on a misguided and ill-fated effort to swim the East River from the Bronx to Queens. Under questionable circumstances, Tim Mooney, known affectionately as Timmy Moon, and Julianne both disappear in the failed attempt. Timmy washes up the next day, but Julianne’s body is never found. In the initial police investigation, the apparent drownings were ruled “accidental.” But Timmy’s older brother, Tom, has recently been promoted to the rank of detective in the NYPD—and he’s decided to re-open the case. Convinced that the death of his brother was anything but an accident, he’s determined to bring the surviving Renegades to justice by any means possible.  Now Danny must fight not only to preserve his childhood friendships but also to save himself and his friends from the detective’s vigilante brand of justice.  And that will mean having to confront the truth about what really happened on that hot August night…
With its richly-developed characters and seductive, suspenseful storyline, The Bronx Kill is a thoughtful, thought-provoking, exquisitely crafted tale.  Gritty, dark, and ominous, The Bronx Kill is an intense character-driven thriller that plunges readers headfirst into the mean streets of the Bronx. With characters that come alive within the novel’s pages, a plot that draws readers in from page one, and its poignant exploration of such universal themes of friendship, loyalty, loss, and redemption, The Bronx Kill is destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.
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