Fear in Writing: Interview with author Vincent Zandri

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Friday, February 26, 2010

Interview with author Vincent Zandri

Did former Albany police detective Richard "Dick" Moonlight kill his lover?  After all, a bullet to the brain will mess with your head.  That is just one of the hurdles Zandri sends his characters across in his fourth book, Moonlight Falls.  Today he joins us to answer my questions, and yours.

Michele: Richard Moonlight is a man who once attempted to take his own life. That is a stark reality for many readers to get beyond. Why was it important to you to make your protagonist so flawed?
Vincent Zandri: I think its important to throw an electrical jolt into your readers right away, if it's possible. You need their undivided attention. Not an easy thing to do in the era of Facebook! At the very least, they will think to themselves, Well, here's something new! Who doesn't want to know more about a suicide survivor? Who attempts that kind of thing, fails, and then proceeds to live a new life?
Flawed protagonists are simply more interesting than perfect ones. I'm flawed, we're all flawed in some ways. It makes us lovable to others. You know right from the onset that this book is going to be one car wreck after the other, and that's the kind of writing that excites me as an author.

M: As a photojournalist you have traveled around the world to both exotic and wartorn places. Do you think you'll use one of those in a future book?
V.Z.: I do...I've been writing feverishly for four years on two novels, and even a third, all of them thrillers. However, I'd like to write a nonfiction narrative that combines my adventures in dangerous places like Africa, with the trials and tribulations I've experienced here at home being a single parent to two teens, one of whom suffers from severe depression.

M: What have your years as a journalist brought to your fiction writing?
V.Z.: Journalism is about learning. One of my colleagues at RT, a South African who lives in Kabul and writes about Afghanistan, once said that as a writer or journalist, we must "learn to write interestingly about a teabag." That is to say, not that we have to learn how to make boring subjects come alive. But everything and everyone has a story. It's just a matter of bringing it out; of exploration. Many of these topics will simply make it into the fiction one way or another. For instance, I also do a lot of trade journalism on construction and architectural subjects. My newest novel, The Concrete Pearl, is all about a woman who has inherited a dying commercial contracting business from her late father. She becomes an amateur detective when one of her subcontractors and former lover, goes missing with a whole bunch of her money.

M: A man who tried to abandon his son through suicide, cheated on his wife, and won't sleep with the woman who loves him--why should we pull for Richard Moonlight in this book?
V.Z.: Because despite all his bad decisions, he's going through a very difficult period where he's trying to write the wrongs of his life. And doing so despite the fact that he might die trying or at the very least, get himself thrown in prison for the rest of his days. Everyone deserves a second chance in life and we should pull for them when they are sincere in trying.
Richard Moonlight, in Moonlight Falls, is truly trying to do the right thing.

M: There's a certain Sam Spade/noir flare to your book. Were you inspired by that genre and did you grow up on Humphrey Bogart?
V.Z.: Even though I have two older sisters, I very much grew up an only child. Often times when other kids were outside, I'd close the curtains and watch the old Bogie movies on afternoon TV. Key Largo, The Maltese Falcoln, and more. I would watch them at night. Those and old war pictures. The themes were always one man against the world kind of thing. I carried that later on into the fiction I would read. Crumley, Vacchs, Jim Harrison's "A Good Day to Die," and so many others. I also live in Albany which is a noir backdrop. The color gray pervades the city all winter long and at night, every street corner supports a gin mill with a bright multi-colored neon sign on its exterior. Lots of crooked politics, gambling, shootings and more. My kind of city!

M: I loved that this man who touched death's door drives a hearse around town. Where did you get this idea?
V.Z.: It seemed funny at the time. Also, it seemed practical. Moonlight's old man left behind his one pride and joy, his Mercedes funeral coach. Moonlight is broke, so makes sense he drives it, even if he does feel like his father is staring down at him from heaven, just waiting for him to scratch the door or smash a fender.
Does this leaving you wanting more?  Here is a quick bio on Zandri, with some hot search words where you can do your own research.
Vincent Zandri, is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. Other novels include As Catch Can, Godchild, and Permanence. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe . He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz. You can visit his website at http://www.vincentzandri.com/ or his blog at http://www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com/.
Now fire away with those questions!  I am on an airplane today trying to get to my grandmother as she goes in to heart surgery, but Zandri is around and waiting to answer.


  1. Wow, his writing *sounds* like the bolt of electricity he mentioned. What a great background for writing! I love the noir feel to the book. Thanks for the interview and for introducing me to a new author, Michele!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. They say fact is stranger than fiction - I bet Vincent's real-life story would be even more wild than his novels. I think he should write that non-fiction book.

  3. Yeah, I think Vincent's story would be interesting as well.

  4. Thanks for commenting...I'm most definitely going to write the non-fiction book...You can check out some of the content in my blog The VincentZandri Vox and my Dangerous Dispatches at RT:
    or of course, at my website, www.vincentzandri.com

  5. Yeah, that non-fiction sounds wonderful. Great interview, Michele!

  6. Switching from fiction to non-fiction would be challenging but rewarding. It could only enhance writing skills and push back one's tent stakes. So enlarge your tent. Go for it.

    Stephen Tremp

  7. Elizabeth- You're welcome, and I, too, love the noir.

    Alex & Diane- I would read that!

    Summer- Thanks, and thanks for coming by.

    Stephen- I'd imagine a journalist like Vincent could handle the switch, but you're right about it testing one's skills. Maybe we should all try it!

    I'm sorry I haven't been around today. As I mentioned, I flew to Texas today to be with my grandmother. I wish it wasn't on a day when I had this interview on here, but, of course, I can't control that.

    Thank you, Vincent, for making Southern City Mysteries a stop on your blog tour!

  8. HE sounds like a really interesting writer and his character and what his character drives is unique. I should check out his book.


  9. Sounds like a great character for the genre! Good stuff!