Welcome to the six hundred and sixteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Carmen Anthony Fiore. 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 Carmen. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Carmen: My real name is Carmen Anthony Fiore, which is also my professional writing name. After a three-year sojourn in Florida with my wife, Catherine, who is a professional artist and art teacher, we moved back to our home state, New Jersey. The Toms River area is only about five miles from the Atlantic Ocean. I was born in Trenton, NJ. Anyone from Great Britain who is interested and familiar with the interlocking history of our countries will note that the battles of Trenton and Princeton in 1776-77 (Christmas holiday time) against the Hessians and the British troops played a pivotal role in the American Revolution and Gen. Washington’s rejuvenation as a winner, overcoming the loser he was prior to those battles. Talk about a momentum switch!
I’ve always marched to a different drummer, and I was always highly alert to my environment when growing up, as well as having an active imagination. Looking back, I realize how important that was to my becoming a writer. But I shouldn’t discount growing up with my father’s barbershop occupying the front room of our house. I used to sweep the hair and shine shoes in it while listening to the adult male conversations. I found them intriguing. It was an education you can’t buy or get in school. Of course, as an adult I held positions as a social worker, a schoolteacher and ad a civil servant for the State of New Jersey where I dealt with the public on a daily basis. My work background contributed to the grist that fed my writer’s mill, writing part time while maintaining the jobs, and now that I am retired, I write full time and I’m loving every minute of it. I hold a B.S. in Commerce from Rider Univ. and a Master of Education Degree from Rutgers Univ. (both in NJ). And my all-time favorite author is William Shakespeare. I’m such a fan of his I wrote a supplemental textbook for high-school kids titled SUPPLEMENT TO SHAKESPEARE which is supposed to be published this year by a small independent education press. It compares Shakespeare / Elizabethan entertainments to the present-day entertainments in all their electronic glory.
Morgen: An active imagination certainly does help a writer although it sounds like you’ve had an interesting life to write what you know. What have you had published to-date?
Carmen: So far I’ve published (print / e-books) 26 titles. Twenty-four titles are available on the Kindle e-book reader and other hand-held devices as follows:
Full-length novels priced @ $2.99 per download:
- AVARICE CAN BE DEADLY (private-eye/mystery-suspense) ASIN: B006QG7N5M
- ITALIAN INTERLUDE (private-eye/mystery-suspense) ASIN: B0073GQMOM
- THE DREAM LADY (private-eye/mystery-suspense) ASIN: B006SMKVXA
- TILL DEATH DO US PART (private-eye/mystery-suspense) ASIN: B007139TG0
- EROTIC PRIEST (drama) ASIN: B006GV89SC
- LITTLE OSCAR (erotic drama) ASIN: B00564R9HC
- SEARCHING (racial drama) ASIN: B003KN3Z1U
- SZABO’S SONG (social drama) ASIN: B006OELY42
- THE BARRIER (racial drama) ASIN: B005230PZ0
- THE COLORED KID (family/racial drama) ASIN: B006M47M0O
- THE LINCOLN CAPER (what-if historical fiction) ASIN: B0064D6CZ4
- THE SNAKESKIN (juvenile adventure) ASIN: B004VSYMOM
- VENDETTA MOUNTAIN (family/suspense drama) ASIN: B004X2HTLE
- A CASE IN PRINCIPLE (amateur-sleuth/mystery-suspense) ASIN: B007DCBIFY
- AND BABY MAKES THREE (amateur-sleuth/mystery-suspense) ASIN: B0081KQ1LI
Novellas priced @ $1.99 per download:
- A RESTLESS SPRING (family drama) ASIN: B005BYXAIE
- MIXED DOUBLES (mystery-suspense) ASIN: B005C6CHB2
- SPORTS CAN BE LETHAL (private-eye/mystery-suspense) ASIN: B006VEZ518
- THE DEVIL’S WORKSHOP (private-eye/mystery-suspense) ASIN: B006YDMNKW
- WHERE’S THE PARTY? (drama) ASIN: B005A1IYIE
- YOUNGBLOOD STALLION: boy writer (humorous drama about writing, publishing) ASIN: B00767V43M
- GETTING WHAT YOU WANT FROM DIFFICULT PEOPLE (self-help) ASIN: B005CKIBWM
- HOW TO BE EMBARRASSMENT PROOF (self-help) ASIN: B005D7V8QU
- NOBODY LOVES ME LIKE I DO (self-help) ASIN: B005EHRVB0
I have two books in print that are not on the Kindle:
- YOUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL WAR (creative young-adult historical nonfiction)
- VOICES OF THE DAUGHTERS (nonfiction-interviews of Italian-American women/co-written)
Morgen: Wow. It makes me tired just reading that list. Have you ever written under a pseudonym?
Carmen: I have never used a pseudonym and never intend to.
Morgen: I wouldn’t say you need to with a great name like yours. 🙂 You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Carmen: I’ve been published by others and I’ve also self-published in print before going digital with Amazon.
I wanted control of my career. I was never satisfied with what the publishers did to promote my books. I’ve managed to get the publishing rights back to some of my titles and I have brought them out as e-books on the Kindle.
Morgen: I don’t think any publishers, other than the top few, have had much of a budget for marketing, and even less so these days. Now we have social network, authors are expected to do more promotion than ever. With so many of your own books available as eBooks, do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Carmen: Ironically, I’m not a gadget person and I do not own an e-book reader and I still purchase paper / print books, but I am glad to see that the e-readers are bringing readers back to reading. It’s encouraging for us writers. The book is not dead and it’s bright future is in the digital format.
Morgen: It is, absolutely. Regarding the titles / covers of your books, how important do you think they are?
Carmen: Titles and covers are extremely important to a book’s success. They give the potential readers hints and projections of what’s in store for them, if they take a chance and purchase the book. Titles and cover images initially help get a potential buyer’s attention by visually promising satisfaction.
Morgen: And we hope they live up to that. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Carmen: Besides writing prose for books and short forms of reading, I also write screenplays and have sold five options to my screenplays to independent film producers in California. I’ve just finished a screenplay titled THE DARK SIDE OF LUST. It’s a psychological thriller about narcissism and I intend to convert the story into a novel that I will add to my bookshelf at Amazon’s Kindle store.
Morgen: You’ve written so many books, do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Carmen: I’ve never suffered writer’s block, because I’ve learned to use my subconscious mind to its fullest. The adage “Sleep on it” really does work for me. I end up the medium with the pen scribbling on paper or tapping on a computer keyboard as my subconscious mind feeds me the words and lines as if it’s doing the writing and I’m just its lackey scribbler. I found out the hard way that you have to record the information it feeds to you immediately. If you wait to write it all down, you probably won’t remember everything and it will be lost to you. The subconscious does not send a second mental e-mail to you. You either nail it down the first time it floods your conscious mind, or its lost. That’s why when I wake up in the morning and the answer to a literary writing problem suddenly pops into my conscious mind, I reach for a note pad, or the closest piece of paper and scribble like crazy, playing catch-up to the info being fed into my conscious mind. Without fail, the writing problem I’ve been sleeping on is always, and I mean always, solved for me. My subconscious mind has never let me down in getting the answer to any writing problem I’ve ever had. It’s batting a thousand, as they say in USA baseball lingo.
Morgen: I remember taking the dog for a walk some months and coming up with a brilliant idea. I’d no paper or pen with me and consequently lost the idea by the time we’d got home. Ever since I’ve had a jotter and at least two pens (having the paper but a faulty pen would be just as bad) in each jacket and bag ever since. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Carmen: I usually edit as I write and edit again as I go along or take mini breaks from the writing and return to edit and then continue writing. When the work is “finished”, I give it to my private editor and she does her usual nitpicking good job and then we work on it together before I do the final writing and final polish, depending on what is needed. But the difference between the amateur and the professional, the latter always gives the extra effort needed no matter what field of interest or creativity is involved.
Morgen: It’s always so important to have at least one second opinion. We’re always too close to something to put it out there by ourselves. Make a mistake and readers remember it. Do you have to do much research?
Carmen: I do research for all my writing projects, long or short. I usually do enough research to get the project off the ground and flying, so to speak, then do more research as needed during the writing. I use the Internet, personal interviews, primary sources like diaries or letters, secondary sources, personal experience if required, travel as needed. Sometimes, even after a project is finished, a new bit of info is discovered, and if possible, I will “crowbar” the info into the finished script, which is a lot easier to do these days with the text work being done on computer screens. There is no excuse not to be 100% correct these days with the delete key and the cursor at our fingertips.
Morgen: There will always be experts out there eager to point out the faults so we just have to do our best to make sure there aren’t any. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Carmen: I do have a few writing projects that didn’t quite work out to my satisfaction, so they sit in my file draw gathering dust. Sometimes I can salvage something out of them for a more current piece of writing. But, sadly, I know most of the dead stuff will stay dead.
Morgen: Oh dear, but then it sounds like you have enough going forward. Do you pitch for submissions and / or are you commissioned to write?
Carmen: I still pitch work, long and short, and submit with or without permission, depending on the publication. I have a couple of short pieces being published as part of an anthology in book form. I like working on short stuff in between long projects like novels or books of nonfiction. I intend to turn THE DARK SIDE OF LUST into a novel soon, probably by July of this year and publish it on the Kindle. I’m not going to try to convince an agent or an editor to take a chance on it. I’m really more interested in seeing it an e-book with me in control of the electronic rights. If I ever interest a publisher to do a print book, okay, but from now on I’m not letting go of the electronic rights to any of my new stuff. It burns me that the publisher of YOUNG HEROES won’t give me back the publishing rights so I can put the book up on the Kindle.
Morgen: And it’s odd that they won’t do it themselves. eBooks are outnumbering hardbacks (according to Amazon stats) so they’re losing commission. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Carmen: I still get rejections: it’s part of the writer’s life. But rejection doesn’t bother me the way it used to depress me. I just keep revising the work and keep submitting it to contests or to journals, depending if it’s an essay, a memoir or an article. I’ve had six agents during my long writing career and not one of them ever sold anything of mine.
Morgen: It’s tougher than ever to secure an agent, and tougher for them to sell work yet most authors still strive to find one. Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Carmen: Everything that I’ve sold and had published by others has been through my own efforts. I’ve talked to other writers and I’ve been told they have had similar experiences and ended up being their own agents. Writers soon find out that agents aren’t the total answer to a writer’s publishing success.
Morgen: Most smaller presses prefer to deal with the author directly these days. You write fiction and non-fiction, are there any differences or similarities between writing non-fiction and fiction?
Carmen: Fiction aims at the emotions: nonfiction provides information or advice. I started out writing fiction: long and short. And when I write nonfiction, I use fictional techniques: scene, dialogue, tension, conflict, all the good stuff that makes the writing move, capturing a reader’s interest and keeping him / her involved to the end. Writing screenplays helps train a writer to write visually through scenes and to not rely on descriptive narrative too much. Scenes get the message across and keep the story moving. Pace is important these days with instant information available so easily and quickly that our readers are used to getting what they seek in nano seconds.
I find that no matter what format I’m working in, all forms of writing is challenging. Taking on the assortment variety helps keep me sharp and interested, because each form, short story, article, essay, novel, nonfiction book, screenplay, even a stage play, requires its own discipline, its own approach, and does not suffer fools who think that writing is easy. It never gets easy, no matter how many years you sweat at it. Writing is not for the timid. It requires a large ego and the determination of a charging African bull elephant.
Morgen: I wrote a TV script for the now-defunct Script Frenzy back in April 2010 and didn’t enjoy the format but it was great practice for pushing the narrative forward just using dialogue. I’ve been writing dialogue-only stories every Thursday for 5pm Fiction and it’s been interesting not even using any ‘he / she said’s. Do you have a favourite of your characters? If any of your stories were made into films who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Carmen: Tony Avanti, my private-eye character, is my favorite. I have incorporated some of my pet peeves and background into his makeup. I enjoy writing his stories.
I have another male character whom I enjoyed creating. Preston Towers, the protagonist in my novel about the Civil Rights movement during the 20th century’s racial turmoil in the USA. When I wrote the novel, I could see Denzel Washington playing the part of Preston Towers in a film based on my story. I did a ton of research for the novel and used some of my experiences from my social-working days to fill in the gaps and to make the story real. I was in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s during the racial boycott by the blacks and I could feel the tension in the city. At the time I was in the army stationed at Fort Rucker in southeastern Alabama. Segregation was still the way in the South during the 1950s. I was surprised that there wasn’t a riot, or at least some kind of trouble in the state.
Morgen: You have had an interesting life. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Carmen: I have found that each writing project I get involved with requires its own approach and method from outlining to an occasional winging it to maybe writing the entire novel before going back to rewrite it or by writing a chapter at a time and revising it to a certain point, before putting the entire novel together and then working on it as a whole, sort of like a brick layer laying a brick wall one brick at a time. And that’s the way I wrote SEARCHING and I think it turned out just the way I envisioned it should. It’s one of my novels that I’m really pleased with and proud that I managed to get the story out there without any compromise or inner censorship. The truth always sets you free and makes you a better writer. You may lose a few friends or relatives who will never speak to you again, but that’s the price of being a serious writer and taking one for your art.
Morgen: I have some stories I’d never show my family but then they prefer non-fiction anyway. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Carmen: As far as names go for characters, I try to give them names that fit them. What are they trying to accomplish in life? What do they want above all else? What drives them? Do the names I give them fit these inner drives. I want my readers to say: His / Her name is perfect for who he / she is and what they want, accomplish, conquer, whatever?
Morgen: I do like ‘Preston Towers’ – sounds a very solid character. What point of view do you prefer?
Carmen: I like first person for my private-eye and amateur-sleuth novels. The protagonists Tony Avanti and Camilla Swenson, by their very personalities drive their stories and make them interesting to me, which I hope makes them interesting to my readers. It’s fun writing about Tony and Camilla, bouncing their strong points off their flaws. But for my other novels where there were more than one protagonist, I resorted to third person subjective and objective and sometimes author omniscient when necessary to get certain information across to the reader.
Morgen: I was the same with my debut novel. It’s first person and I don’t think would have worked so well in third person. We need Izzy’s inner thoughts as she goes on all the weird and not-so-wonderful dates, but the other have been third person and that felt just as natural for those books. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Carmen: For leisure, I like to do something physical: run, work out with weights, play sports; all to clear out the mental cobwebs that can accumulate when you spend hours in front of a computer screen bringing stories and characters to life, which to some writers it is equivalent to opening a vein and letting the blood drip onto the keys in front of you until you get it right, even if it takes the rest of your life. Now, that’s determination. A writer’s mantra has to be: I will never quit writing, and I will never quit trying to be a better writer, whether I get published or not. I am a writer. It is the oxygen I breathe. I stop writing, I stop breathing. It’s that simple.
Morgen: Arthur C Clarke is quoted as saying something along those lines, and I know how you both feel. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Carmen: Besides finding me on my web site (www.carmenanthonyfiore.com), Facebook, LinkedIn, I’m also on Twitter and Amazon’s Author Central USA and Great Britain, blogs like Speak Without Interruption, and if you Goggle my full name, a whole lot of stuff comes up on me. Nobody can hide these days of instant electronic communication and all kinds of information that’s readily available at the touch of keyboard.
Morgen: The joy of posting over 1,700 items on this blog, and having a names that (I believe) I only share with two or three other people, if you Google me I flood the first few pages. 🙂 Thank you very much, Carmen. Great to have you join me today.
I then invited Carmen to include an extract of his writing and this is from his latest novel ‘And Baby Makes Three’…
Social workers, on an average, last between three to five years in the profession, and they either get promoted, “kicked upstairs is more like it,” into administration positions, or they quit the business altogether and seek less depressing and hopefully happier vocations.
Weird me, “I’m still at it after fifteen years. Maybe I’ll remain an idealist all my life, because I think I can still make a difference with my clients’ lives.
My Hatch, late of the aftermath flooding of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is now shopping his murder mystery. And would you believe he still uses his seemingly ancient Remington typewriter? The man’s a literary dinosaur. I can’t get him to use a laptop. He needs more brainwashing. At least I got him to use a cell phone. From my parked county-owned business car, I punched in his number and got him on the first ring.
“See how easy it is to keep in touch when you leave your phone on?”
“Just following your orders, Major General Swenson.” After a pause, Hatch added, “Am I sounding servile enough, Miss Camilla, to your slightly domineering satisfaction?”
“Oh, stop with that meek-little-me-crap!”
“Did you call me to chat, or to give me my marching orders–again?”
“Ooh, I’m going to give you a good slapping.”
“Will that count as foreplay?”
“You’re such a grade-C comedian. Now listen, I have one more client visit scheduled for today, which means I’ll be free in about an hour. So, be dressed and showered by then, we’re eating out tonight.”
“Chinese or Italian?”
“Neither. I’m in a red-meat mood, like a juicy steak smothered in onions and mushrooms.”
“Are you regressing all the way back to your cave-dwelling heritage?”
“Yes, cave woman wants hers medium-rare with lots of red blood showing. It can be a turn-on for later.”
“May I have my steak well done? Dripping red blood makes me queasy.”
“It’s a free country. You can have yours anyway you like, Mr. Wimp.”
“Thank you so much, Miss Camilla.”
“Ooh, you’re going to get it later, I promise.”
Hatch snickered into our cell-phone connection before we hung up on each other. I folded mine and shoved it into my shoulder bag. “He’s such a buster,” I muttered aloud.
And a synopsis of ‘And Baby Makes Three’…
Once again in the Camilla Swenson amateur-sleuth series, Camilla ventures deeply into another one of her special crusades. But this time it’s for one of her welfare clients who is still alive and needs Camilla’s help in a different way. Jackie Graham ends up missing when Camilla stops by Jackie’s apartment during one of her surprise visits to see how the new single mother is doing with her infant son, Cooper. Camilla, the quintessential social worker, had expected the call to be routine. It turns out to be anything but, when the downstairs neighbor informs her that Jackie was last seen leaving her third-floor apartment with a man who was carrying Cooper. Now what was that all about? Camilla has to backtrack to find out the why, the where and the who about Jackie and this man carrying her son out of the apartment building. She starts with Jackie’s mother and sister, who think the man is Mitch Wellesley, the putative father of Cooper. So, there is a connection between the man and Jackie’s sudden exit with him and her son. The story is off and running when Camilla gets a phone call from Jackie. She reports that she’s out of town somewhere but doesn’t know exactly where. Mitch has been vague about telling her, as if she doesn’t really need to know. What’s that all about? Jackie gives Camilla certain sign landmarks seen during the automobile ride to their destination. The information helps Camilla get an idea of the general area where Mitch is keeping Jackie and Cooper. Jackie now realizes Mitch has conned her into going with him and she is now his prisoner, of sorts. He’s informed her about his gambling debts to some dangerous people and his need for instant money. He needs a bonanza and little Cooper is going to provide it through an illegal adoption ring Mitch is involved with. Jackie is now desperate to stop him. Camilla agrees to help stop Mitch. But how? Maybe Hatch will help her. But they don’t have much time.
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