As promised yesterday, fellow mystery/thriller author J. L. Abramo is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post. The photo above is the cover for his latest release, Gravesend, about which Crimespree Magazine said:
"In our top five for best of 2012 is J. L. Abramo's Gravesend. The discovery of a boy's body on the roof of an apartment building sets off a chain of events that will tie together a group of people in profound ways. Homicide Detectives Samson, Vota and Murphy of Brooklyn's 61st Precinct link the body to that of another boy, with no solid clues. As each detective works the case, each is also torn by other cases and other traumas, some very close to home. This is a remarkable book that will tie you in knots as you wait to see how it all plays out. A truly exceptional novel."
Gravesend is a stand-alone crime thriller set in the Brooklyn neighborhood of the same name where the author was born and raised. A crime novel on the surface, the book evolved into its present incarnation when Abramo finally understood what he was humbly attempting to explore...namely how the manner in which human beings handle adversity will ultimately define them as persons...good or evil...weak or strong...fair or unjust...loved or despised...admired or feared.
Sounds like a great read to me! Below is J. L. Abramo's guest article. He is running a free book contest for those who comment with a question or remark for him. A randomly selected commenter will win a free autographed copy of the trade paperback version of Gravesend. So fire away and good luck!
My simple answer to the question, “What inspired you to start writing?” is reading.
Reading books, whether fiction or non-fiction, has always offered me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and my sensitivity while doubling as a terrific source of entertainment. I have always found writing to be my preferred tool of expression and creativity, the instrument I wished to master. I delved into poetry, song writing, journalism, short stories, and ultimately book length fiction.
The summer of 2000 found this Italian-Russian Brooklyn boy working in an office in Columbia, South Carolina. A fish out of water. In the evenings I would write, working on my first full length novel. And then one day it was complete. Now what?
It was literally impossible to get a publisher to look at the work unsolicited. So I was forced to go the prescribed route, attempting to find a Literary Agent who would champion my novel. All of the agencies I researched would only accept query letters; they would not even take a peek at a chapter or two. If I imagined I could write a good book, I learned quickly that I could not write a convincing query letter. The responses were short form letters which all said basically the same thing. Thanks but no thanks.
When Van Morrison was asked what would you do if you never sold a song or a record he answered without hesitation that he would not stop working at it because, he confessed, “I can’t not write.” Vincent van Gogh said “If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
Determined to thwart discouragement, I did the only thing I could think to do. I sat in front of an archaic Dell desktop PC and began to fill in a blank page. I wanted to write something unlike what I had written before. I wished to take my mind off rejection. Without much premeditation it began as a first-person narrative set in the office of a San Francisco private eye and displayed humor that had been absent from my earlier efforts. I wrote ten pages.
How a new work of fiction begins is as important to the writer as to the reader. For the writer, the opening pages are the seeds that will hopefully grow into a personally satisfying and coherent literary journey. They are the cornerstone. For the reader, the opening pages are the hook that will hopefully inspire the fellow traveler to continue on that journey. When I face the blank first page I approach it as a quest (often not yet fully realized) and try in time to reach some hidden treasure by the end of the excursion; with many detours and side-steps along the way.
I do not know the final destination when I begin. The characters are created and developed as composites of people I have known, including myself, and by human reactions to events. The plot develops as a consequence of how these characters react and interact and is secondary to the characters, since it is the people in a story that have always interested me most as a reader. And, I get to know these characters more and more clearly as they move through the story. In a series, such as the Jake Diamond books, there is the opportunity for the writer, as well as for the reader, to learn more about repeating characters in subsequent installments. Getting to know my characters is far less challenging than discovering the need, when the plot demands, to end the life of a character I have come to know and have grown truly fond of, an episode which is often as surprising to me as to the reader, and one which may not please all readers.
Plotting is extremely challenging, but when the theme of the work finally dawns on me, when at last I understand what it is that I am really writing about, it provides direction. When I finally discover where the story is headed, I often find it necessary to backtrack in order to locate the path I need to be on to get there. But at the start, when I begin, my books have always begun with a scene, one that will hopefully be recalled throughout the book, by myself and by the reader, as the circumstance that launched the expedition.
A few days after the barrage of rejection letters, I was surfing the Internet (more like rowing back in the days of dial-up) when I stumbled across the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest for Best First Private Eye Novel. Interesting coincidence. I decided immediately that I would finish a private eye novel and submit it before the deadline, which was less than a month away. Apparently for the characters and the dialogue, and certainly not for the convoluted plot, Catching Water in a Net was chosen for the award. The prize was publication by St. Martin’s Minotaur (after a considerable amount of editing) and an advance against royalties. Holy smoke!
Exactly one year later I received a final hardback copy in the mail. It was a wonder to behold and a thrill to hold. The novel was released on the first of October in 2001, less than a month after 9/11, making my first Bouchercon World Mystery Convention both an exhilarating and sober occasion. St. Martin’s Minotaur gave me two more shots before deciding that the Jake Diamond series, though well received by critics and readers alike, was not what they considered a cash cow. I continued to write, of course. What other choice did I have? But the work seemed destined to remain out of the public realm. And then, the net held water once again when Down and Out Books reached out to me and gave Jake Diamond and J. L. Abramo a second shot.
Over the course of eighteen months, Down and Out Books re-issued Catching Water in a Net, Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity as eBooks and published the stand-alone crime thriller Gravesend in eBook and trade paperback. A prequel to the Jake Diamond series will be released in early 2013, and I am currently putting the finishing touches on a fourth Jake Diamond novel.
We write, we paint, we sing because we need to. And if we are persistent, and honest, and lucky, perhaps we can catch water in a net and reach an audience. We keep clutching and counting. And we keep writing.
How inspiring! Okay, readers, fire away and good luck in the free book contest.