Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Joseph R.G. DeMarco

Joseph R. G. DeMarco is the author of Murder on Camac. His newest work, A Body on Pine, will be published in March 2011 by Lethe Press

What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?

A Body on Pine is the second book in the Marco Fontana Mysteries series.
Titles! Ugh. That’s always a sore point. They drive me crazy! A title is probably one of the more difficult things for me to do. Of course, there’s a lot of hard work before you get to a title. But I always have the toughest time coming up with something that seems to fit, that is catchy, and that really works with the book. I keep trying them out as I write the book until something finally gives me the feeling that it fits. (Which usually leaves a long trail of unused titles.)
The first mystery in the series, Murder on Camac ( (Lethe Press 2009) had a few different titles along the way.

And the title I thought I’d stick with, didn’t turn out to be the one we went with. Once we settled on a title that included the name of the street (Camac) on which the murder happened, things fell into place. Now I can’t think of that book with any other title.

We weren’t sure if we’d stick with street names in future titles in the series but, at least for this second outing, it seems to work. Again, I had varying titles as I worked. At one point we thought we had the title but in testing it out, it really didn’t work. Eventually we came up with a title that both mentions a street in Philadelphia and has other meanings as well. (My best friend has a big hand in these things.)

What is A Body On Pine about?

Here’s the summary:
When Marco Fontana enters his friend’s spa on Pine, he doesn’t find the peaceful retreat he expected. Brad, the masseur, is missing. The spa is splattered with blood and a dead client lies sprawled on the floor. After a thorough search turns up more questions than answers, Marco calls the police. They find Brad’s body a short distance from the spa and before long Marco understands that what appears to be a simple case of murder is anything but. The police want Marco off the case. However, when the body of a popular journalist is added to the death toll, Brad’s case gets sidelined.

Marco refuses to allow his friend’s death to be ignored and convinces an overwhelmed young police detective to bring Marco into the hunt for the killer. He finds plenty to keep him busy. Abusive ex-boyfriends, stalker clients, politicians, scheming businessmen, and Eastern European mobsters swirl together in a dangerous mix which finds Marco in some of the most serious trouble he’s encountered so far.

Life at home doesn’t stop for Marco, either. While he searches for Brad’s killer, Marco’s stripper troupe, StripGuyz, brings him face to face with a stripper’s abusive boyfriend and, with Jean-Claude, a new member of the troupe who innocently comes between Marco and Anton, upsetting the fragile balance existing between them.

What kind of guy is Marco Fontana?

Marco Fontana has been with me for a long time now. He seduced his way into my thoughts a few years ago and, being the hottie that he is, I allowed him to stay. I can’t resist his smile.

He’s an Italian-American born in South Philly, Philadelphia’s Little Italy. A mix of Southern Italian and Northern Italian stock, Marco is on the tall side (almost six feet), has brown eyes, and dark brown hair that he keeps short. Sometimes he “forgets” to shave and the three day stubble serves to emphasize his strong jaw line. He works out but is not over muscled. Think Paul Walker or Sebastian Spence or Matt Smith or lots of others.

Although his friends accuse him of being commitment-phobic, he’d disagree. Except, deep down, he knows that commitment is something he’s not exactly certain about. He doesn’t fear it, he’s just not sure if he wants a committed relationship. All this is dismaying to Anton, an Eastern European, blond-haired, blue-eyed hunk and Marco’s right arm in the StripGuyz business. Of course, it doesn’t bother Luke, his Chinese best bud and an elegant entrepreneur, who enjoys playing the field as much as Marco does.

Serious, focused, and intent on the job at hand are terms that describe Marco when he’s working a case. He never likes to leave things unfinished and never makes a commitment he can’t keep.

He’s got his flaws, of course. Stubborn, willing to cut a corner or break the rules here or there if he needs to. He also won’t back down easily, even when he knows it’s the better path to take. His dedication to finding the truth can cut both ways, at times, and this is not always a good thing. He doesn’t trust others easily, if at all, and this sometimes keeps him working alone against his better judgment. If he ever does place his trust in you and you give him a reason to lose that trust, you can probably never regain it.

Marco is an all around nice guy, though. Unless you get on his bad side, then you’re dogmeat.

What books have influenced your life most?

That’s very hard to say. From when I was a child I was a voracious reader. Then, as now, I enjoyed fanciful things, like the Dr. Dolittle books, fairy tales, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries (and yes, mysteries can be thought to be fanciful for a lot of reasons). I didn’t limit myself to those areas of reading. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine. Some “literary” works influence me as does some comic writing. Vampires, werewolves, and time travel all influence me in some way. I also love reading plays. Drama is, for me, an important part of learning to write.

Nonfiction is another influence in my life. History especially but philosophy and political works give me a lot of insight into things.

I’ve read all the classics and then some (a rigorous Catholic school education will do that). And I believe that very little which we do or see or read gets lost. It’s all there somewhere waiting to be used, to be helpful. It all shapes and molds a person and what they produce.

Raymond Chandler, Issac Asimov, Robert B. Parker, Ray Bradbury, Tolkein, and plenty of others played and still play a significant role in my literary life.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Another tough question. I’m assuming you don’t mean an actual, sit in the chair next to me giving me guidance kind of mentor. I think some of the writers I mentioned, Chandler, Asimov, Bradbury, and others are writers who, by their style and passion, mentor me in the works they’ve produced. Janet Evanovich is another along with a host of other writers whose works created an impression and a challenge. Surprisingly there are a number of YA authors who “mentor” me with their books. The list is long but I can say that I wouldn’t be the same if I’d never read any of their work.

I think that, especially in writing, a mentor who doesn’t challenge you to do better, who doesn’t spur you on to do more isn’t really worth much. So, the people I’ve mentioned, just through their writing, do that for me. And there are others. I still read widely and I often come across a book or a new writer who challenges me. And I love it.

What are your current projects?

I’m putting the finishing touches on A Body on Pine and thinking about the next installment. (And the title for that one is already playing “hide and seek” with me and driving me to distraction.)
I’m also editing a book of Sherlock Holmes tales, A Study in Lavender, for Lethe Press.

There are the several short stories for which I have deadlines coming up.
I have two YA novels which are essentially finished but need a bit of work to get them in shape.

Of course, there’s Mysterical-E ( the quarterly online mystery magazine which I publish. It’s in its tenth or eleventh year now and doing well. It’s a lot of work but it’s also something I enjoy doing most of the time.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Writing is always a challenge. That’s part of the appeal. It’s work but when you hone and polish and labor over every bit of it and come up with something fine and beautiful, there’s no other feeling of satisfaction that can match it. And if someone else likes it, that’s icing on the cake.

Trying to get wonderful characters and beautiful writing and a good plot into the same mix is one of the greater challenges. Finding the right balance and making it work isn’t easy. But it’s good to remember that nothing is perfect and all you can do is your best. Then you try again with the next thing.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Advice, uh oh.

I know people are looking for rules and formulae that will make their writing sing and make publishers empty out their coffers. You won’t find that advice or those rules anywhere.

Despite all the warnings about advice and rules, here’s some I think will work:
Read, write, and submit your work. Study the basics but do your own thing.

Wow! This has been great. Thanks for stopping by today, Joe.

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