Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with poet, memoirist and fiction author Joseph J Cacciotti. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Joe. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Joe: Hello Morgen. My name is Joseph (Joe) J. Cacciotti (Ca-shot-ee) and I live Racine, Wisconsin, which is a small city in the US. I’ve been writing poetry since I was seventeen years old. But I never really thought about being a writer, until I made a promise to a very close friend of mine.
To make a long story short; I had an accident when I was 6 years old, and it punctured part of my lung in my throat. I had difficulty speaking at times, and found myself stuttering more and more.
When I was twelve years old, I met this perfect stranger working on an old house. I asked him if he needed help and I ended up not only helping him, but becoming a landlord myself for the next 36 years. I always told him someone should write a book about how it really is to be a landlord, and he told me I should write it because I wrote poetry back then. When I found out he was dying of cancer, I buckled down and started writing my first non-fiction book Blue Collar Real Estate Mogul “Literary Work” and since I was off work due to an umbilical hernia. I was able to go read to Harold what I had completed, and before he passed away he asked me to do him one last favour. He asked me to never stop writing, and when I finished my biography Blue Collar book. I decided to put together 50 of my favourite poems ad put them into a book, and therefore Poems for the Heart was produced.
Morgen: Wow. What a fantastic story. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Joe: I started out writing a Non-Fiction book Blue Collar Real State Mogul “Literary Work” due to the economy I’m not trying to push this one at this time. However, it’s more than just a real estate book; this is my biography about how I met a perfect stranger at the age of 12. Harold Schink, became one of my best friends and my mentor as a landlord. He encouraged me to write my first book, but before I could finish it he passed away from cancer. After 36 years my dear friend was gone, but before he left this world he asked me to do him one last favour. He said “Joey, never stop writing,” this is how I started my new career as a writer.
Not long after my non-fiction book I came out with my poetry book Poems for the Heart, which I won an award for being one of the top five inspirational books of 2011. On may 15, 2012 Poems for the Heart Volume II was published and is now on The Laurus Company.com site and is available on ebook. I’m working on Poems for the Heart Volume III now.
Then I also write my fiction books: Right now I’m working on a ten book series with a detective named Hurricane. My first two books Hurricane Cores the Big Apple, and Hurricane Rocks Wisconsin are out now. With Hurricane Strips Las Vegas on it’s way shortly, also in the mix is Hurricane Strikes Rhode Island, Hurricane Mashes Idaho, Hurricane Gold Rushes California, and I’m currently working on Hurricane Volunteers in Tennessee.
I’ve just entered a contest for a screenwriters play or movie, and this was my first attempt at this field.
Morgen: Good luck with that. I wrote the first 102 pages of a TV drama for the now defunct Script Frenzy and found it much tougher than prose. If any of my books were ever picked up by Steven Spielberg, I’d gladly let a professional scriptwriter write it. 🙂 What have you had published to-date?
Joe: Blue Collar Real Estate Mogul, Poems for the Heart I & II, and both Hurricane books.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Joe: When I first tried to find an agent, I discovered if you have no books published an agent will not touch you. On the other hand if you don’t have an agent, publishers don’t want you. It was a catch-22 situation, and then I tried the self-publisher way. It took me four publishers, before, I finally found one I feel comfortable with Nancy Williams The Laurus Company. The only problems with the self publishing field is, you have to pay up front for your book to be published, along with editing and proof-reading. Watch out because there are a few SP out there that say they edit and proof you stuff, and they do nothing but take your money.
Morgen: They do indeed. It’s tough, isn’t it, which is why a lot of people are doing themselves via Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace etc.. Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process?
Joe: All but my first two books Blue Collar, and Hurricane Cores the Big Apple are now available as ebooks. My publisher did all the work and I paid extra for this service.
Morgen: What / who do you read? And is it via eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Joe: I do not own an Ebooks system, I read a lot of Mystery books James Patterson, Harlan Coban and Dean Koontz.
Morgen: I thought James Patterson’s short chapters would drive me mad but I love them. He (or his co-writer in many cases) leaves each ending on such a cliff-hanger that you just keep going. I’m not keen on books with ridiculously long chapters because you need a point to stop when you need to (if that makes sense). If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Joe: There are many wonderful actors and actresses out there. But I could see Matt Damon playing (Hurricane) and Jessica Alba as (Tornado).
Morgen: Great choices. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Joe: My publisher loves my titles and accepts what I come up with. I have complete trust in my publisher coming up with the cover ideas, but I do have the final say in this process. Up to date, I’ve never been disappointed yet.
Morgen: You’re very fortunate. Some authors have no say whatsoever. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Joe: I’m currently writing Hurricane Volunteers in Tennessee, which is the seventh book of a ten book series I’m writing. I’m also working on my third Poetry book which I might title Poems for the Heart volume III.
Morgen: I think it’s a very good idea to work on more than one project at one time because then if you get stuck, you have something else to turn to. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Joe: With my work schedule, I try and sit down one hour a day to write, and maybe 3-5 hours on the weekends. Depending on what time I get home determines if I have time to write, and I always carry a tape recorded and record during my breaks and lunches at work.
Morgen: A dictaphone and mini notebooks are a writer’s best friends. 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Joe: I try and find out what the states are known for, and then I just run with an idea. I have a very vivid imagination.
Morgen: An essential tool in a writer’s toolkit. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Joe: I wanted to create a character, that when you heard the word, you would think of my character. For example: When I hear the word hammer, I think of the writer Mickey Spillane. I didn’t make my characters invincible, they’re just as human as the people the go after. I wanted to create a character who could be a cross between MacGyver, and Rambo, not only smart, but someone who cares more for the people he fights for and not himself.
Morgen: Which is what makes him a hero. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Joe: I have a friend who edits my work before I send it in, and my publisher will check it over too. Sometimes even the best editors miss a few things here and there.
Morgen: Don’t they just. There is invariably at least one mistake in every book out there. Do you have to do much research?
Joe: On my fiction writing yes, I like to get as much information on the state or city I’m writing about. I want to make then stand up and say “Hey I know where that is.” But my poetry work, I just write what I feel at the time. There is no research involved here.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Joe: My point of view is manly first or third, but I have written in the second person a few times.
Morgen: I love that about poetry. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Joe: Yes, I think every writer has a few things they always wanted to re-do later on, and never get to.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Joe: Yes, I have had many rejections. Not with my poetry writing, but I have with my fiction mystery / thriller series I’m currently working on. I’ve been rejected by agents, and big publishing companies. I never gave up and eventually found a good self-publisher to deal with. I just write down everything they don’t like about my work, which sometimes is rough, because they don’t always put down what’s wrong. They only say it’s not what they’re looking for at this time, but I just chalk it up to another learning experience.
Morgen: It’s just finding the right person for the right thing. Turning to your poetry for a minute, do you write poetry to form or as it comes? If to form, what are your favourites? Are some easier than others?
Joe: I find it’s easier to write poetry as you feel it in your heart, and so I find it is more personal for me to write it as it comes.
Morgen: Do you generally write rhyming or free verse?
Joe: I write in both free verse and rhyming, depending on how the words flow out of my mind.
Morgen: And you have two collections of poetry. Please tell us more about those.
Joe: My first book ‘Poems for the Heart’ won an award for being one of the top five inspirational books of 2011, by the American Poets Society. You can check it out on my Facebook site. Poems for the Heart Volume II was just released on May 15, 2012 and I was told this is even better than my first book.
Morgen: I love it when we get feedback. Do you deal with publishers directly?
Joe: I deal strictly go through a smaller publisher The Laurus Company, they have been up front and honest with me.
Morgen: Do you think eBooks will change poetry? If so, how?
Joe: I feel that the eBooks will change every aspect of the writing field, you will no longer have to go to the bookstore and so many stores will eventually close. Personally, I still like the feel of holding a book in my hand.
Morgen: Most people do, although they buy them online because it’s still cheaper to do so. Do you show / read your poems to anyone before you submit?
Joe: Sometimes I will read what I have just finished, but most of the time I just submit them as is.
Morgen: Do you enter competitions?
Joe: I’ve entered many Poetry contests: American Poetry Society has a couple contests a year. I’ve won several awards from them in the past, and still send them new stuff all the time. I just entered a contest for a screenplay writers contest, I’ve never wrote a screenplay before, so this could be very interesting. I look forward to the challenge.
Morgen: Good luck with that. Why do you think poetry is such a difficult market to break into?
Joe: There are so very many good poets today, and it depends on what each publisher is looking for.
That’s especially true with all forms of writing, it’s difficult to find someone who is the right fit for your work.
Morgen: Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Joe: Yes, If you write poetry from your heart, you’ll never go wrong. But don’t try to squeeze words where they don’t fit, if you’re having a tough time, thinking about what word or words to use. Take a little break and come back to it later, you’ll see things a whole lot clearer.
Morgen: The same can be said for prose too; it helps me certainly. Do you do a lot of editing of your poems or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Joe: I make it a point to re-read all my poems once or twice before I send them in, I learned after my first book not to trust some self-publishing companies.
Morgen: There are sites like http://pred-ed.com who have invaluable information on agents, publishers etc. I used to write a lot of 60-word stories and found the more I wrote the closer they came out to the word count. It’s obviously not a direct comparison but do you find your poems come out at similar lengths, or do they really vary.
Joe: No, depending on what I’m writing about, my poems can vary from a few words to a few pages.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’? Joe: Joe: I try to do the majority of my marketing, but it’s hard to do when I work 60-70 hours a week beside write. Except for putting it on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com, I’ve been attempting to market my own stuff, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m not really computer-orientated enough to know what to do, and I’ve turned to my one friend Jo-Anne Vandermuelen for some much needed help.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Joe: Believe it or not, even though I have a few books out. I have only been writing books for around 6 years so far, working a 40 hours a week on one job, and owning almost 20 houses at one time, and doing my own work on them. I found very little time to write back in my youth, had I known how much I had missed because of this. I’d have started writing many years ago. But now that I know somewhat about what this business is all about. I plan on holding to my promise to one of my best friends, and I will continue writing until I can’t anymore.
Sometimes I get surprised when I check on the States I write about, most of them have some great history stories behind them. I enjoy writing I don’t care what it’s about, if you give me an idea and a few hours I will have a story for you. Sometimes the deadlines are a bit short, I just finished the screenwriter story in two and a half weeks. This wouldn’t be a problem if all I did was stay at home and write. But I work long hours somedays, and this cuts down my time almost in half.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers generally?
Joe: I keep hoping for the silver lining to shine through, and someone would see my potential as a writer. What ever happens in your life, no matter if you’re a writer or not, you should never give up on your dreams.
Morgen: Absolutely… and aspiring poets specifically?
Joe: When you write, write poetry with emotion and from your heart. I always hope my work will inspire others to also write. If you have something that is bothering you emotionally, write it down and look at it later. Because, the best medicine to ease the mind, is to get what’s bothering out of your system.
Morgen: Writing is therapeutic (when your computer behaves!). If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Joe: There are three people who really inspired me to write. Mickey Spillane the brilliant author of the Mike Hammer series, Rod McCuen who I think wrote some of the most heart felt poetry I’ve ever read, and last but not least Dean Koontz, I think he is an awesome writer. I have many more but my top three picks are here, and I’d prepare a nice steak dinner with all the trimmings for them.
Morgen: I’d definitely agree about Dean – apparently he had over 500 rejections before his first acceptance. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Joe: I read a poster one time that has stuck with me for many years, and I believed in these words: ‘If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If not, it never was.’
Morgen: I love that! Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Joe: No, but I’d be willing to write for a magazine or a newspaper.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Joe: The only thing I do besides write is work my regular job 40-60 hours a week, writing is my hobby.
Morgen: I’m very fortunate in that I’m home-based but blogging’s taken over; I’m planning on redressing the balancing very soon. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Joe: I’m on Facebook, Google, and twitter, I’m still learning what Twitter is all about, but I’ve found many wonderful friends on Google and my Facebook link. If you interested look me up I’m always willing to make new friends.
Morgen: It’s very easy to get caught up with what everyone else is doing on Twitter and Facebook. I tend to leave both on my wall / connect (respectively) so I just know what people are saying about me… all generally very nice. 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Joe: There are so many good writers out there, and everyday more and more appear. I think with the new era of eBooks, Nook, Kindle and the sky could be the limit for a writer.
Morgen: I agree… it’s great! Where can we find out about you and your work?
Joe: I’ve joined forces with The Laurus Company.com, you can also find my books on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble .com or check out my Facebook link just type in my name Joseph J. Cacciotti or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Joe: Writing a book is the easy part, finding the right someone to publish it is another. I’ve gone through self-publishers, before finding Nancy Williams and The Laurus Company, I also found a great person to help me market my books on the internet, Jo-Anne Vandermuelen.
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Joe: Yes, Morgen, with having to work as much as I do. I find it difficult to get out and market my books. Would you know of anyone who can help a struggling author, find the right avenue to travel through?
Morgen: Unless you have money for a publicist (Dorothy Thompson at pumpmybook is very good), although you’re happy with Jo-Anne. I’d say guest on as many blogs as you can. Take a look at http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/me as there are some lists on there. The focus is then on you, and that can never do any harm. Thank you, Joe, and all the best with everything.
I then invited to include an extract of his prose writing…
Meet Samuel James Rufus, the son of a Shoshone mother and a career military/lawman Italian father. From his beginning on a Nevada Indian reservation Sam was physically and mentally agile, but as a teenager in New York he got into trouble with the law that forced him to decide his own fate. After six years in the United States Army that included an unprecedented rise to service as a Green Beret, he joins forces with the detective squad in New York.
Just when he thought his days of fighting were over, he is called upon to help out two friends from the past. Now he must return to the fierceness he once knew in the army: an eye for an eye, a life for a life.
And a synopsis of one of his novels…
Seventeen-year-old Susan Watkins and Shirley Dupree are kidnapped on their way home form school and become hostages in an abandoned, boarded-up old house. Their parents receive a ransom note indicating they have twenty-four hours to collect one million dollars. With a warning of “no police, or death,” Raymond Dupree, Shirley’s father, calls in the only man he knows he can trust to get the girls back: THE HURRICANE.
What is it about the abandoned house? Who is trying to send them a message? The twists and turns in this story will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
I then invited Joe to include a poem…
Feeling of Love
I can feel your heartbeat
Even when you are far away.
I wonder if you can feel mine too,
And know how happy I am with you.
My life seemed empty
Until I held you in my arms
And felt the warm tenderness
In your kiss
I know our love has no bounds
It seems our lives are now complete
It’s as if we were always
Meant to be together
When I look into your beautiful brown eyes
You don’t even have to talk
Because I can see how much
You love me, too.
Just thinking about you
Lying here in bed
My life is full of happiness and love.
I can feel your heartbeat
and a synopsis of his latest poetry book…
In my new book –POEMS FOR THE Heart Volume II- I have 50 new poems written entirely from my heart. After -Poems for the Heart- won an award from the American Poets Society for being one of the top five inspirational books of 2011. I decided to write Poems for the Heart II, and have been told this is even better then my first book.
Joe began collecting his writings in a notebook. After being told by many different people that he should share his writings with others, he published the ones he thought would touch hearts the most. Joe received the prestigious award for the first book, Poems for the Heart, as being one of the Top Five Most Inspirational Books of 2011. I hope my poems are an inspiration to all and will help others find their own magic.
Joseph J. Cacciotti is writing now because of a promise he made to a friend, he told him he liked how he wrote. No matter if it was a poem, or a story, Joe knew how to put emotion in everything he wrote.
Harold A. Schink saw this in Joe, and on his deathbed he asked Joe to do him one last favour before he left this world, “Joey, never stop writing,” and Joe has not disappointed him. He has two of the most heart filled poetry books I’ve ever read. Along with a series of mystery / thriller books about a detective named Hurricane that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Coming soon Hurricane Strips Las Vegas.
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