November 23rd, 2018
I asked Joe where he would like to chat:
We’re at Central Park on a brisk Fall day sitting on a weathered bench. I’m wearing a black peacoat, my collar is pulled up in place of a scarf. I’m a cigarette away from looking like an amateur PI. The sky is clear and leaves are piled all around. Someone is practicing her yoga poses in front of us as a man plays violin under a tree. A remote control race car zooms by our feet. After it passes a second time I say, “that must be the guy who comes here to race his car.” I look around. “Yeah, that’s him.” I feel the lid of my cup dripping coffee on my hand again. “Don’t you hate when that happens, Laura?” I ask. “No? Just me?”
Laura Mae: Hello, Joe how are you doing today?
Joe Passanisi: I’m well thanks! Getting excited for Thanksgiving.
L: Yes! It’s so close!! Are you cooking for it?
J: I am! Later today I am going to pick up the turkey. I love to cook so it will be fun.
L: Nice! I’m not much of a cook, but I am huge fan of eating! So when you aren’t cooking, and getting ready for the holidays, are you writing? And what are you working on?
J: Yes! I am working on my first novel which is a crime thriller. I finished the first draft this summer and have been working hard at rewriting and revising since.
L: Oh a crime thriller! Love it! Can you tell us a little bit about it?
J: Sure! A young woman from Spain is threatened by a local gangster when her father’s debts aren’t paid. She finds herself wrapped in up in a life she never wanted and it opens up old wounds she’s been trying to hide from.
L: Interesting! What inspired you to start writing this particular story?
J: A couple of things… I wanted to explore the family dynamic and I wanted to use a crime as the jumping off point of the story. I chose a Spanish character in honor of the poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, because his work made me fall in love with the beauty of literature and its impact on our lives.
L: That’s awesome! I was curious of why it took place in Spain, but this makes sense! Lovely. So, Joe, how long have you been writing for? And do you remember any of your very first writings or stories?
J: I made a promise to myself about five years ago that I would write for real. So I’ve been studying, attending workshops and working at it ever since. I think there is a little book of Star Wars fan fiction that I wrote and illustrated that must from way back in elementary school. Growing up I enjoyed storytelling and it wasn’t until these past few years that I wanted to learn how to do it myself through writing.
L: Very cool! Star Wars huh?! That’s adorable. Do you have a favorite author or book/book series that you get inspiration from or refer to from time to time?
J: I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Yes, Megan Abbott is one of my biggest inspirations and a big part of why I decided to start working really hard at learning this craft. I always refer to Stephen King’s On Writing, always. As far as a series I like to go back to J.K. Rowling’s crime series under the pen name, Robert Galbraith, embodies what I love about the genre.
L: Fascinating! I never knew that about JK Rowling! That would be a series I need to look up! So since you are a little more serious about your writing now, do you have any rituals or things you need when you sit down to write?
J: I’m limited in my rituals because I have two young kids that I need to work around. What I try to do is eliminate distractions during the time I have to write so I can maximize my productivity. Writing time is writing time. I became really good at writing in small windows as I worked toward finishing my first draft. That was a huge help.
L: Oh like sprinting! It is very helpful! Do you ever listen to music when you are in your writing time? Or do you need silence?
J: Normally I need silence though sometimes I listen to the sound of rain.
L: That’s so relaxing for me too. What would you say your favorite thing to write is? As far as characters, description, world building, things like that?
J: I wrote a scene about a year ago involving these two guys from Boston. It reminded me of listening in on a conversation with the people I grew up with. Their dialogue was real and funny and filled with all the nuance of the area. Since then, I’ve loved writing dialogue.
L: And the Boston accent is so much fun to write! I love writing dialogue too! Do you have an area of writing that you struggle with at all?
J: I struggle with “telling” in my description. I write a close third person POV and much of the action is implied but it’s difficult to keep that in mind as I write. That’s what editing and revising are for, right?
L: Right! I have trouble with telling as well. Not as easy to fix as people say! Haha! As far as reading goes, do you have any favorite or least favorite tropes?
J: I actually don’t. I just enjoy good storytelling.
L: That’s fine! What about literary characters? Any favorites there?
J: There are so many in the Lord of the Rings, in particular, Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins. I love the adventure and risk-taking personality in Gandalf and the evolution of Bilbo. Like Bilbo, I would never leave the Shire but his journey transformed his life. I’m never going to find a dragon or solve one of Gollum’s riddles but often I find myself comfortable in a routine. That’s boring, though. Sometimes I need a push, a Gandalf to take me into the next chapter in my life.
L: Another great series! That’s a really good analogy, 🙂 So Jow, what do you like to do in your spare time when you aren’t writing the next crime thriller series?
J: Honestly, I try to read as much as I can. I also really love to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I’ve done more reading this year than any other I can remember. I’m a Boston sports fan too.
L: That’s great to hear! Reading is so important! I’m trying to get more reading done myself! What books are you currently reading?
J: I’m beta reading a book for a friend which has been so much fun. I also started the third book in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.
L: Nice! Beta reading is so important. Good for you! It’s really important for the self-publishers. Have you considered self-publishing or traditional for your WIP?
J: I’m considering any route to getting my work out there. I’ve heard the pros and cons of both and I think it will be a matter of what fits for me and this story when the time comes. I really love that there are these options out there for us.
L: Exactly! No one way to do it anymore! Great time to be a writer. Well good luck to you in whatever path you choose!
J: Thanks so much, Laura!
L: You’re welcome! It’s been so great talking to you, Joe! Can you please leave us with some advice for writers out there who might be down in the dumps about their work?
J: I’m often down in the dumps with revisions and find myself wondering about a new project to start. Nothing about the writing life is easy. That’s when I remind myself why I’m working so hard. There’s a magic in what we do and if we work hard enough, we can achieve our goals no matter how long it takes. Don’t be afraid to take breaks when needed. I know it’s NaNo month but sometimes writing a really great sentence is a productive day. Be honest with yourself in what you want to accomplish and celebrate even the smallest of victories because the in between is tough. We have a great community of writers that want to help. Reach out. It’s important to remember you’re not alone in your journey.
So great to talk to you, Laura. Thanks so much for having me!
L: Great Advice, Joe! Thanks again!
Currently working on my first novel, a crime thriller set in Boston. Originally from Boston, I’m currently living in New York City with my wife and two kids. When I’m not writing and reading I enjoy cooking and a really good glass of wine.