A Conversation With Vincent Zandri

I am happy to welcome Vincent Zandri, a bestselling noir author, freelance writer and journalist. His books include The Innocent, Godchild, The Guilty (some of the titles of his PI Jack Marconi series), Full Moonlight, Moonlight Sonata, Moonlight Mafia, Moonlight Falls (from the Moonlight Series), The Remains, The Concrete Pearl, Permanence, Scream Catcher, and many, many more … His author website offers a lot of information on his literary work and journalism, he blogs at Vincent Zandri Vox, but don’t forget to check (and buy) his books on Amazon!

Vincent Zandri

Vincent Zandri

Hi, Vincent – can you please tell us a little about yourself in your own words?
Hello. You did a nice job of explaining Vincent Zandri in that wonderful intro. The only thing I will add is how much I love to travel both on assignment and just for my own curiosity. I have an MFA in writing, I lift weights, drink beer, cook amazing dinners, and I play the drums too.

We can say that you’ve made it – you write for a living. You freelance as a journalist and publish novels and shorts. How did you make it?
I never really feel like I’ve “made it” in that limo with the champagne-on-ice in the back seat kind of way. Certainly I write for a living, and what’s even more certain is that much of that living comes from my fiction, but I’ve never been able to look at myself in the mirror and say, “Vincent, you’ve done it!” My guess I never will do that since I am always hungry to do more. This might sound like a cliché, but the way I was able to make a nice living from writing was to work as hard and as smart as possible. I still work six days a week, and sometimes seven if necessary. It’s terribly hard on relationships, but at base, writing is art and art isn’t something you want to do, it’s something you have to do. I see myself going out like Robert B. Parker, who was found by his wife face down on his typewriter. My dad died suddenly while putting his work boots on. I’m okay with that.

Pros and cons of freelancing?
Pro: Being free to write and travel anywhere you want, when you want (also, not having a boss and sleeping in the next day if you drank too much wine the night before).
Con: Getting paid on time.

I guess, as a freelancer, you have to jump when the opportunity comes your way, plus you need to squeeze in your fiction, post a blog, and even eat and sleep – do you have any particular schedule, like a regular work day?
By all means. I rise fairly early just like any other working stiff. I make the coffee and then sit down and write. If I’m on assignment, I’ll head out into the field with my camera (a Canon Rebel) and then at the end of the day write my story and mess with the photos. These days however, I’m writing 90% fiction and only about 10% journalism, so my day is mostly taken up by writing 2,000 new words a day and some light editing.

Do you have any special rituals?
I try and shy from those things since rituals are actually comfort zones. I find it best to get used to working in places that aren’t so comfortable. On board a hospital ship while docked in an African port, the Amazon jungle with a foot so swelled I can’t get my boot off, Moscow on a cold, dark, winter morning, or in the living room of my apartment, my sons playing video games a few feet away.

A novel or a short story – which is more rewarding for you to write?
If I feel it inside me to write a great short story then I am higher than a kite when it’s finally finished. If my guts are telling me to write a novel, then I’m happier than hell when the first draft is in the can, as they say. Usually when I finish a long project, I take to my bed and enjoy a long nap. Then I’ll go out and have few drinks. I’ll maybe take a day or two off and then get started on something new while I allow the draft to sit and rise like a load of bread.

What is writing to you? Do you see it as a mission, a purpose in your life, or as a way to express yourself and entertain people?
It’s all the above, but for the men and women who do it the best … the authors who will be remembered … it’s almost like a priestly calling. I remember going to work for my dad’s construction business right out of college and feeling terribly out of place. I had always fooled around with writing as a college student, but then one day as a young man barely in his twenties, it hit me over the head that my calling would be as a writer. I was in Venice and I was standing on the Rialto watching the boats go under the white marble bridge and it hit me like a sledge hammer. That Fall I started working for the local newspaper as a freelance sports reporter. My career blossomed from that humble beginning.

As a journalist you have to do a lot of research for your stories – is it any different with your fiction?
Being a journalist has definitely benefitted my fiction in that I refuse to be an armchair novelist. If my novel takes place in post-revolutionary Egypt, you can bet I went to post-revolutionary Egypt to research it. Often times what happens in real life will turn into fiction in the novels. I can always tell when a writer hasn’t been to the places he’s attempting to describe. It falls flat and lacks dimension and authenticity.

Have you written (or thought of writing) for film, theater or TV?
I’ve written a couple of scripts. Right now I’m writing a script for a short film that’s going to be based on my short story Pathological. I don’t watch TV shows so that’s out, and I’m not much of a theater goer, although I’d love to try a play. I have a new film agent who is currently making film plans for The Remains, which is my all-time bestseller. The Innocent was nearly bought by Dreamworks, but in this business, nearly doesn’t count.

If you weren’t a writer, you would …?
I love this question. Hemingway was asked the same question by Dorothy Parker I believe, back in the 1950s, and he answered, “I’d be a white hunter in Africa.” How romantic. But I think I would have become a serious photographer and perhaps covered the wars. I’m technically a photo-journalist now, and I’ve covered some pretty hairy places on God’s earth, but it’s a sideline compared to my writing.

How does Social Media help you promote your work and keep in touch with your readers and fellow writers?
In the beginning it’s indispensable. But as time goes on, it’s more a passive aggressive tool for spreading the word about new books or specials. I’m concentrating on building my subscriber list now, so I encourage all your readers to sign up for my monthly newsletter at vazandri@aol.com or go to www.vincentzandri.com.

Who are your literary heroes?
Too many to mention. But in a nutshell, Ernest Hemingway, Max Frisch, Andre Gide, William Kennedy, James Crumley, Robert B. Parker, Charlie Huston, Boston Teran, Martha Gelhorn …

What’s on your working desk at the moment?
I’m writing the second in the Chase Baker thrillers. The Shroud Key, the first in the series, has done very well, so I’m taking a shot on writing another. I’ve also just got back from Italy where I spent two months rewriting my latest big (400 pages) literary thriller, The Breakup. I also just finished Moonlight Weeps, the latest in the Dick Moonlight PI saga following Moonlight Sonata.

What advice would you give to a young writer?
Read, write, and repeat. Travel and stay single since all you’ll have to support is yourself. Work as hard as you can and then work harder. Eventually, the hard work will pay off. Like my colleague, Liz Potgeiter once said, If you want to be a successful freelance journalist and writer, “you must learn to write interestingly about a teabag.”

Thank you very much, Vincent!
Thank you for having me.

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