Morgen: Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Joe: I am Joe Rinaldo, and I’ve written nine novels, one of which, A Spy At Home, is available on Amazon. By day I work as Credit and Financial Manager for a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning distributor; we sell to the guys that come to your house.
Morgen: You’d probably not do well in the UK; we don’t have the weather. 🙂
Joe: When I first started writing, I thought being a numbers guy would make me an oddity as an author. That’s proved to be wrong. The more people I meet in this industry, the more I run across accountants and CFOs.
Morgen: Ah yes, interviewee Philip Neale (http://wp.me/p18Ztn-gX) is an accountant.
Joe: Apparently, creativity infects a variety of people.
Morgen: Absolutely. And we’ve often had numerous jobs before we end up here = experience to write about. 🙂
Joe: Of course, I have the same dream as other writers. I hope my book sells a million copies and becomes a smash hit movie. Selling ebooks for ninety-nine cents isn’t the get-rich-quick scheme I thought it was before being published.
Morgen: Unless you’re Joe Konrath (he says he’s making $100K a year from his 99c procedural crime books). 🙂
Joe: It’s been a lot of work. The actual impetus for me to begin writing came while I was reading Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks. When I got to the part where he received a million-dollar advance, I thought, “Holy cow! He’s a good writer, but I know I can do this, too.”
Morgen: Ah yes, The Horse Whisperer author. But it may have taken him many years to get that far.
Joe: I’ve been writing since that day in 2004.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Joe: The genre of my books is very hard to pin down. My wife and I have searched numerous times for standardized publishing industry definitions with no success. As silly as that may sound, especially for a person who wants to deal in words as a career, genres are hard to define.
Morgen: Not at all; my second novel is ungenreable. 🙂
Joe: A Spy At Home could be considered contemporary fiction, mainstream (this sounds like a synonym for dull), thriller, suspense (what’s the difference between thriller and suspense? Shouldn’t you be thrilled reading a suspense novel, and shouldn’t you wonder what will happen next in thrillers?), drama (any book without intense turmoil probably won’t be worth reading), or adventure (my main character travels to another continent; that’s adventurous, right?).
Morgen: To use an extract from an early (April 2008) handout I did for my writing group on crime: Ian Rankin says the essential difference between crime and thriller is probably the idea of the chase. “In the crime novel it’s more of an internal chase, one detective up against one individual, you’re very much inside the head of the detective and you’re fairly static, not shifting all over the world. When you come to the thriller what you tend to have is some kind of wide ranging conspiracy involving governments or terrorists, and you tend to have an ordinary person who’s thrown into this and has to try to make sense of it, so you get this external chase which goes all over the globe.” Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse, says he is writing in that whodunit tradition. “You get a murder committed and you call in your Man (Morse), who’s usually accompanied by a sidekick (Lewis). Your man is the only one who can read the clues and at the end you get the resolution of the crime by the unmasking of the crook.” Auriol added that it’s usually the sidekick who asks the questions that the reader would ask, thereby presumably adding depth and pushing the story along. Michael Ridpath, who used to work in the City and now writes thrillers set in the financial world, says “War stories were the thrillers of the 1950s, then there was the Cold War and you got more spy stories with Russia as the real threat. Now the spies and the war have disappeared from most people’s experience and I think what’s replaced those books are white collar thrillers, thrillers about more everyday life, legal thrillers, financial thrillers, horse racing thrillers and art thrillers.” In trawling the internet back then, I came across Jasper County (Texas, USA!) Public Library’s website (www.jasperco.lib.in.us) giving sixteen differences between mystery and suspense including: A mystery concerns itself with a puzzle. Suspense presents the reader with a nightmare. In a mystery, thinking is paramount. In suspense, feeling is paramount. Readers of mysteries are looking for clues. Readers of suspense are expecting surprises. In a mystery, information is withheld. In suspense novels, information is provided. The ideal reader of mysteries remains one step behind the hero or heroine. Those who read suspense should be one step ahead of the hero or heroine. A mystery hero or heroine must confront a series of red herrings. The suspense novel hero or heroine faces a cycle of distrust. Mystery endings must be intellectually satisfying. Suspense endings must provide emotional satisfaction. I’m not sure whether that helps or makes you glaze over. BTW Auriol’s one of my Monday nighters who reads/writes crime. 🙂
Joe: I honestly don’t know where my books fall in the narrow definitions of the publishing world; I do know I have tried to make the characters interesting and multi-faceted, moving through difficulties in their lives.
Morgen: A perfect recipe for a book although I would say that by having ‘spy’ in the title it implies crime and a lot of readers go by the title and book cover (in your lovely cover’s case a gun) which leads me on nicely to ask you what you’ve had published to-date?
Joe: I have self-published A Spy At Home as an ebook on Amazon. Publishing an ebook sounds so simple before you actually try to do it. Every step has been a learning experience. When you buy a book for your Kindle or iPhone, as a reader you never think about the effort that went into formatting that book. When we first tried to upload A Spy At Home, getting all the hard returns and page breaks seemed like such an impossible task. We’re hoping that my next book, Hazardous Choices, will be much easier to upload.
Morgen: Definitely a learning curve. 🙂 What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Joe: Not following the traditional publishing route, my experience with being accepted comes from actually having reviewers tell me they like the book. The way this works is: I send a free copy to reviewers whether they are on Amazon or have their own blogs, and they post their reviews. This can be nerve-wracking during the period between sending them the book and finding out what they actually think about it. Of course, when a reviewer posts a great review, you feel like you’re on top of the world.
Morgen: And presumably a critical review is helpful if constructive (or maybe you’ve not received any of those). 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Joe: Good Lord, yes! My wife and I submitted all of my nine books to approximately 800 publishers and agents.
Morgen: Ouch. Who’d have thought there’d be so many.
Joe: If you refer to my tirade about genres, it comes into play here. The traditional publisher or agent expects every book to fall into a tidy little category. I proudly say that you will have a hard time categorizing my books. Here’s why I say that: a romance novel will end with a tidy bow, all conflicts neatly resolved with the hero coming out on top. When you read A Spy At Home, the reader will have to guess at the ending.
Morgen: Presumably only up until the end. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Joe: Hazardous Choices will be my next release. Darnell Jackson, a kid from inner-city Chicago, wants a new life away from the crime and grime. He accepts a football scholarship to a school in a small Kentucky town. At college, he finds relating to the other students very difficult because their backgrounds are completely foreign to him. As he gains friends in his new world at college, it becomes harder and harder to keep his past separate. You’ll have to read the book to see how these two worlds collide.
Morgen: Ooh, intriguing. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Joe: Honestly, I have never experienced writer’s block. My problem is keeping myself in the seat and typing. As a matter of fact, at this moment, I have three books rolling around in my head. With a full-time job, I simply don’t have the time to write them. My wife supported the family while I wrote my first nine books. Now I have a terrific job, and that’s where I need to be, so I struggle to find time to write.
Morgen: But you do because you want to be a writer – this is what counts. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Joe: I do a hybrid. I outline some to start, and then write. As the book progresses, I outline more. I’ve written nine books, and all but one followed this method. One book came to me in an instant. I wrote nine handwritten pages of outline without stopping. Usually, the main character tells me the struggle that he or she has.
Morgen: Don’t they just? 🙂
Joe: As the character reveals his/her story to me, my original expectation (outline) usually falls apart.
Morgen: Doesn’t it just? 🙂
Joe: I like to think this happens because the character becomes deeper and more interesting than I originally thought he or she would be.
Morgen: Absolutely. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Joe: I certainly hope not. I started writing books for the money. Now I publish books in hopes of having a big payday.
Morgen: Let’s hope so.
Joe: Of course, if I publish a book and reviewers point out some major flaws, then I might hide that book.
Morgen: Let’s hope not. 🙂
Joe: As of right now, I plan to publish all nine after some serious professional editing.
Morgen: What do you like to read?
Joe: Like most avid readers, I read a variety of books. This might sound odd from someone who invests so much time writing a book…
Morgen: Not at all. So many top authors (including Alexis Sayle and Mark Billingham when I asked them) say to read and it does make a difference. Some writers are worried they’ll start copying but unless they remember extracts, there’s little fear of that really.
Joe: …but when I’m at the library, I walk along and grab books for bizarre reasons. I might grab a book because of a design on a cover, the title might strike me as interesting, or maybe the author has an interesting name. When I get books from the library, I almost never read the book jacket. In fact, when the books are free, I prefer not to read the book jacket, so that the whole thing is a surprise.
Morgen: I’m the same with films. By the way, I only learned a few months ago that in many cases, certainly in the UK, authors actually earn more per copy from having their books borrowed from the library than sold in a shop.
Joe: When I buy books for my Kindle, I read a blurb before I order, because I don’t want to invest ninety-nine of my hard-earned cents on a book in which I have no interest. Oh, I forgot. At the library, I will take my time to select a biography. The older I get, the more I enjoy reading biographies.
Morgen: Apart from gardening books, biogs/autobiogs are all that my mum reads.
Joe: I guess it’s nice to know others have made mistakes, too.
Morgen: We’re only human. 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Joe: This answer comes from Joe’s wife Vivian, because he doesn’t have the time to take part in this part of his book’s promotion.
Morgen: Because he’s too busy writing? That’s what we like to hear. Welcome Vivian. 🙂
Joe: I have spent countless hours on the internet, promoting A Spy At Home on such sites as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Goodreads, Authors Den, Google Friend Connect, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Scribd, Reddit, Shelfari, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, and others.
Morgen: Ooh, a few new ones for me to check out.
Joe: I help him with his blog, and we had a professional webmaster design his website.
Morgen: It is very smart.
Joe: I believe that the work I do on a virtually daily basis on these social networking sites is creating buzz that is helping sales of his book climb steadily each month on Amazon. In addition, of course, being interviewed for other authors’ blog sites is of great benefit to him in “getting the word out”.
Morgen: Welcome back Joe. Wow, what a wife you have there! Where can we find out about you and your work?
Joe: My website is www.josephmrinaldo.com; it contains a blurb about A Spy At Home and quotes from reviewers. There is information about me and my book on all the sites I named above and on my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/A-SPY-AT-HOME-ebook/dp/B0033WSVVC, and my blog (http://wwwjosephmrinaldocom.blogspot.com) has an excerpt from A Spy At Home.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Joe: I truly believe that professional editing is the key to successfully publishing and selling a book. It is always easier to spot someone else’s mistakes than it is your own.
Morgen: Absolutely, and reading it out loud. Works every time. 🙂
UPDATE FROM JOE, JUNE 2012: A Spy At Home is now available in trade paperback as well as ebook format on Amazon and in CreateSpace.
Additionally, I will be releasing my newest novel in both ebook and trade paperbook within the next two weeks. The novel is called A Mormon Massacre; see the blurb below:
This modern-day novel is based on an historical account of the massacre of innocent Americans by Mormon zealots in the Utah Territory. In present-day Nashville, Tennessee, Jeremiah grows up with a prejudice against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the murders in 1857 of his ancestors at Mountain Meadows. Until the 1995 Oklahoma City attack, this was the most deadly act of terrorism against US citizens.
Jeremiah’s hatred multiplies when his father, Luke, informs him that his mother suffered abuse at the hands of her Mormon husband in a previous marriage. Due to his father’s association with the Mormon Victim’s Action Committee, Jeremiah accepts M-VAC’s offer to train and insert him into an LDS community in hopes of collecting evidence to prosecute the abusers. Jeremiah’s objective broadens when he sees a murder committed by Mormon zealots. Now he wants to expose the entire Church as a violent and dangerous fraud.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, https://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome critique for the four new writing groups listed below and / or flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays. For other opportunities see (see Opportunities on this blog).
The full details of the new online writing groups, and their associated Facebook groups, are:
- Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group (http://novelwritinggroup.wordpress.com / http://www.facebook.com/groups/508696639153189)
- Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group (http://poetrywritinggroup.wordpress.com / http://www.facebook.com/groups/388850977875934)
- Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group (http://scriptwritinggroup.wordpress.com / http://www.facebook.com/groups/319941328108017)
- Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group (http://shortstorywritinggroup.wordpress.com / http://www.facebook.com/groups/544072635605445)
We look forward to reading your comments.