Tony Piazza is a mystery writer, film historian, and veteran storyteller renowned for his passion for writing and movies. He is the author of four mystery novels and two non-fiction works. Actor and stand-in for movies and television, Piazza has appeared in such notable films as Magnum Force and The Streets of San Francisco. From Clint Eastwood to Steve McQueen, Piazza’s stories read like a who’s who of Hollywood. He is also a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and SLO Nightwriters.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? I’ve always loved books, and been an avid reader since age 9 or 10; it was during that time that my parents bought me a portable typewriter and I first attempted writing a novel. Unfortunately it was a losing battle. I’d end up with a mountain of balled up sheets of typewriter paper and little story. It wasn’t until the coming of the computer and the ease of editing- word spell, and ‘cut and paste’ that I became earnest in my endeavour. My first book started as a serial story blog on a Turner Classic Movie Fan site and received such fanfare that I decided to submit it as a book. In book form it did well, and as they say, ‘the rest is history.’
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? Because I have a full time job, most of my writing is done in the evenings, although throughout the day my mind is usually outlining what I plan to write. I usually aim for 2500 to 3000 words per session. Sometimes I meet it, sometimes I don’t.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? Writer’s block hasn’t been a problem; just the opposite in fact. I usually find myself excising some ideas which usually find their way into my short stories.
4.Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story? Because mysteries are all about puzzles, I’m a plotter. You have to be. Sometimes I put it together as an outline on paper, other times in my head. But, I’m constantly working and re-working it, with all its twists and turns, until I’m satisfied, and then it goes into the book. I begin with the three W’s: the Who, the Why, and the Where, and work backwards from there. It works well.
5.Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? Both. I’ve had an e-book published by a small press, but preferably I’ve gone to self-publishing. I own the rights, get better royalties, and have total control of my work- from what goes inside, to the look of my cover. I have my own copy editor and beta readers, so quality is as good as it gets; and that’s as it should be- I own up to my product. If I’m going to invest in it, then it should be the best that it could be. The only advantage to traditional publishing is perhaps, PR, however I’m hearing from my traditionally publishing author friends that due to monetary limitations, more and more of the promotional duties are being passed onto them anyway.
My advice to aspiring authors, is don’t expect that your work ends when you submit your final manuscript. That’s just the start. You’ll have to sell that product- and that’s the hardest part of the process. It starts from the day it gets published (maybe even before) and continues to infinity if you choose so. You always have to keep reminding readers that your book is out there- the competition is fierce.
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? I would say, the public exposure; getting feedback on my work, both the good and the bad, either through reviews or word of mouth. Being an author has also opened up many doors- radio interviews, print interviews, and television appearances. I’ve connected with many celebrities, who have read my books. There’s nothing more satisfying than that. Especially if it’s other authors who I’d admired. Their compliments mean a lot.
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. I’ve written three books about a fictional detective named Tom Logan, who operates in the very real Hollywood of the 1930s. In the 1970s I worked in the film and television industry and enjoy its rich history. Combining that, with my love of the detective fiction that came out of the era of the 30s and 40s, I created a noir world, populated by interesting characters- some real, some not, which get mixed up in crimes of passion, mayhem, blackmail, and murder- only too familiar from the pulps of those days. If you sense the hard-boiled feel of Hammett or Chandler in my stories, it’s not accidental, but there’s plenty of Piazza as well. These are not pastiches, but original works with just a nod of homage to those authors who came before me. My latest, “Murder is Such Sweet Revenge” has my detective on his honeymoon at a Victorian seaside resort located on an island off of San Diego. A mystery writer’s convention is taking place at this same hotel, and a bestselling author is found murdered in his room. Isolated by a storm, my detective is asked to take on the case. He comes up against a myriad of suspects, and has to search out the facts- not an easy job because, aside from the conventioneers, there’s a movie company filming at the site, and a hotel ghost he has to contend with, who refuses to check out.
My stand alone book, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” takes place on the Hawaiian Islands shortly after the Pearl Harbor bombing. It’s an action adventure, with thrill a minute action that flows from one chapter to the next.
Finally, my e-book, “Bullitt Points: Memories of Steve McQueen and the Making of Bullitt” is a memoir. I wrote this specifically to benefit The Boy’s Republic in Chino, California; the McQueen family’s favourite charity. All proceeds from its’ sale goes to the organization.
8.What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under? My books can be read from teens to adults. The genre varies. The Tom Logan series: “Anything Short of Murder”, “A Murder Amongst Angels,” and “Murder is Such Sweet Revenge” would be listed as hard-boiled detective mystery; “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon”- action adventure, and my memoir just that.
9. Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? Travel. I like to visit the places I write about- it’s what gives them their sense of reality. I take notes, and photograph these locations for use when I start writing later. Also, the mode of transportation figures into my stories, and since trains were a large part of travel during the 1930s, I too have spent a great deal of time on trains and in depots. Ships also; for “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” I took a ship to Hawaii, and spent time on all the islands that figured in my story. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
10. What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) By all means get out into the social media and start shouting your name. If no one knows about you, they’ll know less about your books. Exposure is everything. If you shy away from public appearances, get out of the game. You’ll need to be front and center constantly, otherwise all your other efforts are a waste.
11. How much research do you do when starting a story? I do a great deal of research on my novels. As I mentioned earlier, I like to visit the locations of my stories- walk the walk of my characters- eat at some of the restaurants they do, and absorb the atmosphere- the smells, the sounds, and the sights described in my stories. I take photographs for records, and since my stories take place in a bygone era read up on that period as well- phrases, morals, products, etc. In “A Murder Amongst Angels,” which I based loosely on the Thelma Todd mystery of 1935, I examined Corner’s reports, photographs of the crime scene, and transcripts from the inquiries of the case. Even though it’s fiction, I try to make it as real as possible by going that extra mile with my research.
My author website is: www.authortonypiazza.com.
I also am on FACEBOOK at two locations: you can find me as Tony Piazza, and also as Author Tony Piazza. For Twitter: as Tony Piazza.