Interview: Steve Piacente

Today we welcome Steve Piacente to the blog, author of Bella and his latest, Bootlicker. Enjoy this interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I grew up in New York at a time when Eisenhower was president, the Yankees always won, and TV was three channels and two colors, black and white. I’ve been writing since I could read my first Superman comic, and writing professionally since 1976. That year I graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., and began a 25-year career in print journalism. Today I manage the web and social media teams at a large federal agency, teach part-time at AU, and write fiction. I hold a BA in communications from AU and a Masters in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University.

Tell us about your latest book or blog. What do you hope readers take away from it?

Bootlicker is the story of a young reporter’s coverage of the dark secret that ties a racist U.S. senator to the man poised to become South Carolina’s first black congressman since the Civil War. My hope is that readers see my novel as a timely story of hope and a tale of guilt and redemption. This is also a story that goes where the cameras aren’t invited, to the back rooms where decisions are made, futures are plotted, and the distinction between right and wrong is not so easily defined.

If you’re a blogger, how often do you update it, and what types of things do you cover?

“Back Story” is the vehicle I use to talk about the ups and downs of being a self-published author. I use my blog to pass on tips on subjects ranging from how authors can leverage Pinterest, to how to get the most out of appearances at trade shows, book clubs and signings. I respond to all questions and encourage discussion of topics of interest to Indie (independently published) authors.

Care to share a link to a favorite blog post?

The newspaper that employed me for 10 years refused to review my novel because it was self-published. Read about it here: http://bit.ly/noindies

What is your most treasured moment as a writer?

In 34 years as a professional writer, there are many fond memories – front-page stories that documented scandals, elections, individual achievements and much more – to the day my proof copy of Bella arrived in the mail. But my favorite memory involves a short story called Four Hands, which I wrote during my first class in the Hopkins program. I was working on another piece in our family room downstairs, while upstairs my two daughters, then 14 and 12, were practicing a piano piece for an upcoming recital. Their teacher had given them a duet that required four hands, two for the high notes, two for the lower register. There was more fighting than playing, and I was about to lay down the law when I realized that a better story than the one I was writing was sitting right in front of me on the piano bench. I used the practice sessions to reveal the girls’ characters, made the dad a renowned conductor worried more about his reputation than his children, and the recital, when all goes horribly wrong, as his moment of enlightenment. Four Hands not only got me an A, a small literary magazine also published it – my first published fiction.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

With the launch of Bootlicker, I’ll be spending most of the next year on marketing and promotion. After that, I’m considering a third book in this series centered on a prison meeting between Sen. McCauley and reporter Dan Patragno.

What is one of the things you’re most thankful for as a writer?

My pulse spikes when inspiration sneaks up and presents an idea, one that will form the core of a new story, or enable me to express thoughts I think are worth sharing. This feeling never gets old, and I try to remain open to learning from internal as well as external sources. One example: When writing a novel, I will take time to craft 5-10 questions tailored for each character, and then answer the questions in that character’s voice. This technique led to what I hope were interesting twists and turns in my novels.

I believe that even with all the amazing technology around us, including new media tools that have rewritten the rules that once governed publishing, we’re still driven by very primitive instincts, things like passion, hunger, jealousy and ambition. Good storytellers must recognize this, and weave tales that explore and shed insight on the impulses that drive our behavior. As a reporter for many years, I’m a strong believer in the “guess what” test. If I say, “Guess what?” and you answer, “What?” I have one chance to capture your attention. If I fail, I know you’re moving on to another storyteller.

Where can we learn more about you?

My newly redesigned website, www.stevepiacente.com

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