Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interview and giveaway with Steve Piacente - author of 5 star book Bella

Happy Tuesday!

I am honored to present a wonderful author to you today. Steve Piacente agreed to give me an interview. I reviewed his books Bella and gave 5 stars to the book. You can find the review of Bella here. Besides that, Steve is giving away one copy of his book Bella. You can find the details after the interview.

This interview is divided into 4 parts, first part is about Steve, the other about his Book Bella, third part about his favorites and the last question is just for fun.

Before we go to the interview, then here are the sites where you can find information about Steve and about Bella:

Bella on the Web: http://www.getbella.com/
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/bellaFB
Twitter: http://twitter.com/wordsprof
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/getbella
Read the Reviews on Amazon: http://amzn.to/catchingon


So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome author of Bella - Steve Piacente!


Part I


I: Please describe yourself with few sentences. Who are you?

SP: I’m a dad, husband, teacher and someone who started writing very early; pretty much the day I found out I couldn’t do the math, but was good at describing the people who could do the math. Though private as a child, I went on to make a career out of telling stories – first as a daily newspaper reporter, then as a government speechwriter, and now as director of a federal agency’s website, where we use tools in addition to words – such as videos and photo galleries – to tell our stories to the public.

I: What inspired you to want to become a writer?


SP: I was inspired by my mom, who was a voracious reader. Please watch this video and learn why I dedicated Bella to her: http://youtu.be/M3nrzKQE-30

I: Who did you want to become when you were a kid? What did you dream about?


SP: To be honest, I wanted to be a professional athlete. I grew up in New York at a time when the team won so much, it was almost expected they would win the World Series each year. My dream career as a Yankee ended at age 13, when I learned, to my great dismay, that I could not hit a curve ball.

I: What brought you to writing novels? When did the idea of writing your first book form?


SP: I became dissatisfied with the amount of storytelling I could do in a daily newspaper story, and so decided to return to school for a Masters in Fiction at Johns Hopkins University in the late 1990s. Rigorous fiction workshops forced me to re-think the way I had been writing for years. For instance, I had to learn how to expand a significant moment, to build anticipation and draw it out, as opposed to blasting all the key information into the first paragraph, as print journalists typically do in newspaper stories. This set me on the path to write several short stories, and then a novel.

I: What challenges did you meet when you decided to self-publish your book?


SP: It took three years to write Bella, and another year to devise a social media-based marketing plan built around our website – www.getbella.com, and our associated YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook pages. Self-publishing was new territory for me, but technology has made it possible to reach out directly to prospective readers. That has a definite appeal for me. In other words, real people will decide whether my book is worth reading. My job is to get readers to our sites, pique their interest with unique content – such as our video trailer and illustrated excerpts – and close the deal by directing them to Amazon, at: http://amzn.to/catchingon , where they can buy the book.

I: What do you do when you are not reading and writing? Do you have any hobbies?


SP: I’m pretty active, playing basketball and tennis about four times a week. The rest of the time is pretty much devoted to promoting and marketing Bella. I also teach beginning journalism classes at American University in Washington, D.C.

I: What is the most difficult aspect of being a writer for you?


SP: The switch from creative writing to creative marketing was tricky, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. For instance, I now have nearly 600 followers on Twitter, where I write as #wordsprof about the self-publishing process.

I: If you wouldn’t be a writer/journalist, what would you be and do?


SP: I’m doing it. I manage the internal and external websites for a large federal agency in Washington, D.C. It’s terrific fun and a great challenge.

I: Who or what is your Muse?


SP: I draw inspiration from my wife and our three (adult) children. I also try to remain open to new ideas and lay aside preconceived notions when I enter routine situations, such as speaking to a small group of senior citizens about my book. See: http://bit.ly/crossrd

Part II

I: I really like your book Bella, so let’s talk about that. Where did you get the idea for Bella?


SP: That’s very kind. Over a long reporting career, I covered several tragic events, including the murder of Adam Walsh in Hollywood, FL. I have always been interested in how people respond to profound grief – in the Walsh case, parents John and Reve channeled their grief into action by lobbying the state legislature in Tallahassee to pass tougher child protection laws. I’m also interested in how people act when faced with tough ethical choices – essentially what people do when no one is watching. The action in Bella is driven largely by ethical decisions key characters make on the battlefield and in the bedroom.

I: Did you ever experience writer’s block when the writing process just wasn’t moving ahead?


SP: Years of laboring under crusty old newspaper editors taught me how to avoid writer’s block. I became so used to writing on tight deadlines that this is simply never a problem. That’s not to say I don’t rewrite. I do – plenty!

I: Which character do you love most in your books? Which character can you mostly relate to?


SP: I relate most to Dan, the reporter and narrator, since I – like Dan – know the world of daily journalism and am also a storyteller. That said, I would not have made some of the choices Dan makes, particularly with regard to getting emotionally entangled with an important source. Doing so compromises his professional integrity and results in dire consequences.

I: Isabel seemed to be a real la femme fatale in the book. Was it difficult for you to write a female main character? (By the way, I think you did a great job with Isabel).


SP: Thank you again! I have always been surrounded by strong women, beginning with my mother. My wife and two daughters are also amazingly strong, and I have also had several wonderful women for bosses. My best friends have also always been women. So writing a female character was not as hard as it might seem. As for Bella, I think the tragedy that befalls her causes devastating grief and reshapes her personality. In the end, I view her as a complex but flawed character with many admirable traits.

I: I’m aware that Bella is pure fiction, but I’d still like to ask: are any of the characters inspired by real persons?


SP: All of the characters are combinations of people I’ve met over the years, but none is intended to portray a real person.

I: Since the political topic you are writing about in Bella is quite actual in the world at the moment, have you got any negative feedback about Bella?


SP: No, and I’d like to point out this is not an anti-military book. I have great respect for our military and believe war is sometimes an unavoidable option, but that proper checks and balances should always be in place to ensure accountability. One of those checks is an aggressive, responsible media.

I: I must ask you about new books to be published. What will it/these be about? Anything you can tell us already?


SP: Dan is back in a prequel to Bella that is called Bootlicker. In one of his first assignments, rookie reporter Dan stumbles on a dark, decades-old secret. Two boys, he learns, were planning to sneak a few beers in the woods. They knew to be careful; 1959 was no year for underage black kids to get caught drinking in rural South Carolina. Before the first sip, they came to a clearing. A black man was on his knees, surrounded by white men in robes. One shed his mask – the local judge. One of the boys bolted. The other, Ike Washington, froze. Reporter Patragno learns that Judge Mac McCauley weighed things in that fateful moment and offered young Ike a choice; join the man about to die, or begin hustling the black support McCauley needed to advance in state politics. In trade, Ike would enjoy a life of power and comfort. Decades later, with Dan on the story, McCauley is a U.S. senator and Ike is poised to become the first black congressmen from South Carolina since Reconstruction. Instead, he winds up in the same forest where the hanging took places years earlier, a long rope in hand. The night is noisy, but all he hears is the name his rivals have bestowed upon him: Bootlicker.

Part III – Favorites

Who is your favorite author? I love Annie Proulx.
What is your favorite book or series? The Shipping News, by Proulx.
What is your favorite book blog you follow? Sorry, don’t have one.
What is your favorite song? I love almost anything by James Taylor.
What is your favorite season? Late spring.
What is your favorite food? Agh, New York pizza!
What is your favorite car? BMW convertible
What is your favorite color? Black, which now goes with my gray hair.
What is your favorite movie? A little obscure – Once Upon a Time in America
What is your favorite time of the day? Early morning, which is when I write.
What is your favorite weather? 80 degrees, light wind, low humidity

Part IV

I: What did you know about Estonia before I found your book?
SP: That the Internet quickly closes the distance between my world in Washington, D.C. and yours in Estonia.


Thank you so much for giving an interview, Steve! It was a real pleasure to read your book and also the interview!

Giveaway:

Steve has been so generous to give away one paperback of his book Bella.

There are two things you need to do: Fill out the form down below and the winner has to agree to sending Steve a photo and a few lines about where you're from and what you do.

You need to be follower of this blog and please feel free to follow Steve, his contacts are on the top of the interview.
Giveaway runs from 13 - 21 of July.

Happy hunting!

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