I'd like to introduce you to the twenty-fourth interviewee in my 'Meet the Author' series. He is Dean Lombardo.
QUESTION: Hi, Dean! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
ANSWER: I’m a business journalist by trade, but my need to explore the stranger and often darker side of life drove me into fiction writing at an early age. There’s a belief held by some out there that journalists don’t make good fiction writers. It’s not my place to try to refute this viewpoint. However, I will say that I have many years of experience in interviewing people, quoting them and studying their mannerisms, and I believe this pays off when it comes to dialogue and characterization. I always read my draft manuscripts aloud, paying special attention to the dialogue, and if the dialogue doesn’t sound real, I sharpen it until it does.
Working as a journalist also taught me how to be economical in telling a story. I write leaner than most, and I believe this can help drive the pace of a novel, which is important for engaging today’s time-pressed, attention-deficient society.
QUESTION: Your sci fi pulp thriller novel, Space Games, will be released by Kristell Ink Press, an imprint of Holland House Books on May 15, 2013. Can you tell us a bit about your book? What inspired you to write it?
ANSWER: I’d always had this desire to write a novel about an estranged couple (man and woman) stuck in space together – if you recall the 1989 film “The War of the Roses,” I was imagining a “War of the Roses” aboard a cramped space station. But then I read Discover Magazine’s 2006 interview with retired U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was asked what the privatization of space travel might mean for the future. When Aldrin mentioned “television game shows,” a game show-like bell went “ding, ding, ding” in my head. I restructured my outline and then wrote a shocking (NOT astounding) satirical tale about a man and woman in their twenties who are contestants in a televised game show aboard a next-generation space station. The station is equipped with an arena room and a device that can create artificial gravity. With the cameras and nearly everyone down on Earth watching their every move, the two contestants compete in events such as partial-gravity basketball and full-contact combat. Only a retired NASA astronaut is up there to keep the fiery, martial-artist woman and the powerful, brutish man apart. Let’s just say, things get out of control and the people watching the show are a bit sickened by what they see. This is just me sharply poking fun at the one-upmanship of reality TV, our society’s thirst for drama and fame, misogyny, misandry, Internet addiction, Hollywood, and more.
QUESTION: I’ve seen artwork—book cover, posters, etc. for Space Games? Who did the artwork? What was the creative process like? Did you have a lot of input into the concepts?
ANSWER: The artist’s name is Ken Dawson, he lives in England, and among his many talents he has a flair for pulpish subject matter. Uh, can we get a visual on the “Space Games” cover? See here? That’s the foxy female contestant, Robin Miller, about to punch her opponent, Joe O’Donnell in the mush during the partial-gravity, full-contact combat event. Ken created the book’s video trailer as well, but it was a group effort among Ken, Kristell Ink and me when it came to brainstorming on just about all of the artwork. You want to see the book trailer? Roll it, Ken! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiiTsk7mLrI)
QUESTION: If Space Games was made into a TV series or a movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?
ANSWER: I don’t know who I’d cast for “Space Games,”; you’ll have to read it and tell me. Ten or fifteen years ago, actress Robin Tunney (Cherish, 2002, and The In-Laws, 2003) could have sizzled as Robin Miller.
For my first novel, “Vespa,” actor Liev Shrieber (Salt, 2010, and The Manchurian Candidate, 2004) would make a perfect Tom Goodman. Goodman’s an entomologist and the main character in “Vespa.”
QUESTION: Can you tell us about Vespa and any new books you might be working on?
“Vespa,” which was published by a small press in 2007 and reissued as an eBook in 2009, was loosely inspired by the movie “Alien,” which I saw when I was far too young. I left the theater traumatized, and for many years after my dreams were filled with creepy-crawly things meaning to do me harm in ways previously unimagined. Writing “Vespa” and finding a publisher for it gave me the catharsis I needed to put those nightmares behind me.
Next up is a middle-grade novel about a lonely eleven-year-old boy and his remarkable bodyguard, the latter who helps the boy cope with the death of his father and extreme bullying. After that, I plan to focus on researching and writing a rather ambitious historical fiction novel with an extremely talented coauthor.
QUESTION: At some point or another, all writers come across the “rules” of contemporary writing: no adverbs, no dialogue tags, show don’t tell, etc. In your opinion, how important are they to writing? Are there any that you particularly adhere to?
ANSWER: I adhere to the everything-in-moderation viewpoint. It amazes me how some writers go to such extremes to defend their right to overuse ‘ly’ adverbs: In many cases, their writing suffers from it. Meanwhile, the other camp says NEVER use these adverbs and that’s not practical either. One should find an action verb that moves the story along so the writing doesn’t call attention to itself. For example: “Sly banged on the door.” I once got in a debate in which folks were arguing that they would prefer to say “Angrily, Sly knocked his fist violently on the door.” I opt for the simpler, more economical approach that doesn’t draw attention to the writing and puts the seamlessness of story first.
Readers can, and do, fill in the blanks on their own. And by the way, the same thing with dialogue tags: use them in moderation and when needed. Use them to make it clear who is speaking. I’ve read manuscripts where the author does some staging with one character and then abruptly introduces dialogue without any attribution. This can be confusing when there are SEVERAL characters in the scene. Confused readers put books down.
QUESTION: You studied journalism at the University of Rhode Island. Have you ever worked in journalism? Is writing part of your day job? Did your studies contribute to your growth as a novelist?
ANSWER: I was a better writer than investigative reporter so I was fortunate when the corporate world saved me from my low-paying job as a member of the fourth-estate (i.e., a newspaper reporter). The habits I learned as a journalist, however, have been invaluable to me. I’m curious, I research, I ask questions, I get answers and, I believe, this all helps me to create realistic-sounding characters and dialogue.
QUESTION: Do you have a writing routine, a special place where you go to work on your novel writing, or a certain time of day? Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind of music?
ANSWER: My writing routine has changed a bit. When I was younger and had greater endurance, I’d stay up and write fiction until 3 a.m. Now that I’m in my 40s, I try to block out time for fiction writing on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, while composing marketing material for the corporate world on weekdays. I tend to write in a quiet, darkened finished basement, and one night while drafting a scary scene for “Vespa,” which is about insects and other types of arthropods, a large, hairy spider decided that the time was right to sneak up on my keyboard. I leapt out of my seat and howled in instinctive fear, waking up the entire household.
QUESTION: If you could meet any book character, who would it be, and what would you do with them?
ANSWER: Uh, Frodo Baggins. I would introduce him to the Great Eagles of the Misty Mountain so the eagles could fly him to the volcano more quickly, sparing readers like me several hundred pages of monotonous walking … and walking … and walking … and walking.
And walking. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Yi-aye-aye-aye. Oh, sorry, Susan. I must have dozed off there.
QUESTION: Of everything you’ve ever written, whether it’s to be published or not, what’s your favorite piece or scene?
ANSWER: I learned a lot about writing tense and visually oriented scenes from the late-great Michael Crichton, particularly how to write from a victim’s perspective. There’s a scene in the second Jurassic Park series book, “The Lost World,” where the T-Rex seizes the bad guy in its mouth and gently carries him away, and the whole time the bad guy is wondering why the giant carnivore isn’t chewing him to pulp. Well, the answer comes a bit later when the dinosaur drops the guy into this enormous mud-and-straw nest. In the nest are these feathered turkey-like creatures that the bad guy, Lewis Dodgson, soon realizes are baby T-Rexes. When Dodgson tries to scramble out of the nest, the mother T-Rex swings her head and knocks him back in among her offspring. Dodgson makes one more attempt to escape and this time Mama bites his leg, breaking it. Then, peck-peck-peck, the baby T-Rexes swarm Dodgson and it’s a slow and painful fade to black. I can’t do the scene justice here, but I’ve tried to write my own scenes in this manner, capturing the impending doom and horror of predation and death. How does that grab you, Susan?
QUESTION: Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!
ANSWER: I can be found at my website (http://www.deanlombardo.com), on Facebook and Goodreads, or grab me by my Twitter handle of @DeanLombardo1. I also write and host a blog called Dean’s Den (http://authordeanlombardo.wordpress.com/).
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