Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Interview With Bestselling Thriller Author Vincent Zandri

When it came time for me to begin looking for potential authors to blurb my first book, FINAL VECTOR, one of the first people I asked was a guy I had been following on Facebook for a while. His name was Vincent Zandri, and while I had never met him, I saw him as sort of a kindred spirit. He was a fellow thriller writer and a guy struggling to make an name for himself in an incredibly cutthroat industry.

To my surprise, not only did he agree to check out my book, he provided me with an author blurb that, quite literally, made my jaw drop the first time I read it. If you're curious, part of it is on the home page of my website.

We've become friends in the time since, and Vincent Zandri's career has taken off like a shot with his taut, gripping bestseller, THE INNOCENT. Vin is the prototypical overnight success who has been working at his craft for decades, and that success couldn't have come to a harder working or more deserving guy.

He agreed to take a few minutes to talk writing with me, and here is the result:

- You had a whirlwind ride through the world of “traditional” publishing back in the 1990’s, a ride that ended so unhappily you gave up writing fiction altogether for years. What in the world made you decide to come back and try it again?

Well I never gave up writing fiction. I gave up crying about my predicament and got back to work. I wrote something like five books during that time including Moonlight Falls, The Remains, and parts of others. Some short stories too that did get published. I never stopped trying to get my work back out there, but so long as I was perceived as an author who didn’t sell, I was essentially black-listed from New York, after having been paid a mid-six figure advance from a Random House imprint for my first two books. Now my books, or my E-Books anyway, outsell Stieg Larson, John Grisham, Harlan Coben, and many others. You could say I’m the “Kindle champ” these days, but then you would sound just as stupid as I sound saying it.

- As I write this, your thriller, THE INNOCENT, is ranked #3 at Amazon among ALL Kindle books. THE INNOCENT was released last fall by StoneGate Ink but really began picking up steam, sales-wise, in late-winter. What was your first indication that the book was beginning to take off?

My publisher started to call me, just to say hello, and ask me if I needed any money. Ha! Actually, like everyone else, I just kept looking at my sales numbers on Amazon. But a curious thing happened to me last month. I was in the Austrian Alps where I met with healer who told me within a period of three days to two weeks, I would begin to achieve something regarding my profession that would make me very proud. Three days later I was in Rome, Italy, and my numbers started skyrocketing and not coming back down. Two weeks later I landed in the Amazon Top Ten and have stayed there ever since.

- Recently Young Adult author Amanda Hocking received a $2 million advance for a four book series with St. Martin’s Press. What would it take to convince you to reenter the world of “traditional” publishing with a “Big 6” publisher? Would anything convince you to go back?

Well, my deals with StoneGate and StoneHouse Ink are traditional now, in that they are agented deals with excellent terms and payment schedules. I’ve never been happier with a house than I am now. However, I’m a big believer in not putting all your eggs in one basket. Which is why I foresee my relationship with StoneGate and StoneHouse only growing while I entertain both traditional NYC deals (as sought out by my agent Chp MacGregor) and perhaps even a self-published book or two. The there’s foreign rights, movies, etc.

- What’s next in the pipeline for Vincent Zandri?

I’m finishing up the second in the Moonlight series, Moonlight Rises, and my new novel in a new series starring the brassy but beautiful construction business owner-slash-amateur sleuth, Ava “Spike” Harrison. It’s called, Concrete Pearl! I’m doing some travelling and photojournalism in June (we hope), the ITW conference in NYC in July, and in the Fall, the Boise Book Expo. In October I leave for Florence, Italy for a couple of months where I’ll be working on another Moonlight, and perhaps another stand alone for StoneHouse to follow The Remains.

- What writer or writers do you consider role models?

Hemingway, Mailer, Parker, Charlie Huston, Jim Harrison, Dave Zeltersman, Aaron Patterson, Al Leverone, Heath Lowrance…Girly writers…Ha!

- Hypothetical question #1: You’re going to be stranded on a desert island but are allowed to bring one book. What book do you bring?

The Bible with Charlie Huston’s “Caught Stealing” stuffed inside.

- Hypothetical question #2: You are given a choice by the Gods of Publishing. Your books can either bring you tremendous monetary wealth or they can be universally acclaimed as outstanding work by the critics. Which do you choose, and why?

I refuse to play this game with you Al…My wish is to be praised by the highbrows and read by the lowbrows.

- What are you reading right now? What’s next on your “to-be-read” list?

I’m reading A Wilderness of Mirrors by Max Frisch. After that I’ll (sadly) be finishing up the third and final in the Charlie Huston Hank Thompson series.

- You write hard-boiled crime fiction. Who are some of your favorite authors writing in the genre?

Look three or four questions upwards….

- Thanks for taking the time to visit A Thrill a Minute. Any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with my thousands hundreds dozens handful of readers?

Never check your baggage. Always bring carry-ons. You can always do your laundry when you get there.


Bri Clark said...

Great questions Al. I remember V just gushing about your novel and after reading it myself I had to totally agree.

I have a question I'd like to throw out there...Why is it that most hardboiled fiction authors are male?

Al Leverone said...

Hi Bri, and thanks! I still can't get over my reaction when I read Vin's blurb for FINAL VECTOR. He was more than kind and I'll never forget that...

That's a really good question about hardboiled fiction authors, and while there are probably a thousand different takes on a possible answer, here's mine:

Hardboiled fiction is generally dark, often violent, and you can make the argument that many hardboiled "heroes" are barely better, morality-wise, than the "bad Guys" they're trying to find.

Combine that with the fact that hardboiled fiction has its roots in an era when it was considered...unseemly...for "ladies" to become involved in the darker side of life, and you end up with a mostly male population of hardboiled writers.

Nowadays society looks at things a little differently, and while it does seem that most hardboiled writers are still male, there are some exceptions. The most obvious would probably be Sara Paretsky, but there are certainly others, including recent debut novelist Hilary Davidson and the incomparable Sophie Littlefield, who has created one of my favorite female heroines. If you're not familiar with her work, I strongly suggest you do yourself a favor and check it out!