Friday, April 13, 2007

Midnight Ink's One and Only Chuck Zito

Below is my interview with Chuck Zito, a fellow Midnight Ink author. If you like fun mystery romps, his books should be on your reading list.

One of the first things I noticed when I started researching for this piece was that there is another Chuck Zito on the web who is a very colorful celebrity. Do you often get confused with this Chuck Zito? Have you met him?

I’ve actually spoken with him by phone. He called me the day after a story about the confusion between the two of us ran in the New York Post. I used to get phone calls for him all the time: requests for interviews, people looking to hire body guards, and once someone from Texas wanting to sell me a Harley. A reporter from the Post who called to talk to the other Chuck Zito found this so amusing, he did an article about it. The next day my phone rings, and the Chuck Zitos are talking to each other. For the record, he’s a nice guy.

I enjoyed A Habit for Death a great deal and am looking forward to Ice in His Veins (due out in June). Can you give us a preview of what to expect in Ice in His Veins?

Nicky is back in at home base in NYC, snug in his studio apartment. In Ice he decides to help out his former theater conservatory classmates with their all-male production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. The show is very high concept – actually too high concept as it turns out. Between the drag queens, the unrequited love and the murder, it’s all Nicky can do to keep the production together.

Is there a third Nicky D’Amico mystery in the works and can you tell us about it and when to expect it? And a fourth? A fifth?

I’m at work on #3 right now. I certainly hope to see it on the bookshelves in 2008. In this one, Nicky, desperate for work, takes on a Christmas themed murder mystery weekend. Even for Nicky, this marks a new artistic low. And, yes, I have ideas for several more Nicky books.

You definitely have a talent for creating fun and interesting characters. In fact, in reading A Habit for Death, I felt that Nicky was the voice of reason among his fun and nutty friends. Does Nicky have any interesting quirks? Roger and Paolo were fabulous. Will they be ongoing characters in the series? Will Nicky find love?

Well thanks for the compliment. Roger and Paolo will definitely be along for the ride in each book. I love those guys – and it seems everyone else does. Who am I to object? As for Nicky, he does stand out as the voice of reason. I wanted to create a mirror image of the contemporary amateur detective, who is so often a brilliant quirky person set lose in the everyday world. Nicky is an everyday guy set lose amongst the crazies of the theater world. Of course, there is his pet fish, Sushi (a name Paolo calls “too passive aggressive..”). [BTW, this author loves the idea of a pet fish named Sushi.]

Love? I’m not certain Paolo would approve of that word. Then again, he has a lover.

Although I’ve read several writers who write hard-boiled mysteries with gay protagonists, this is the first gay man I’ve seen featured as a humorous amateur sleuth. It’s almost a gay cozy, if you will. Are there other writers writing similar books? Or are you a trail blazer?

I’d love to claim to be a trail blazer, but I’m not on this score. Amateur gay detective stories often have elements of humor. Some go all the way into outright camp. The first ones I ever encountered were the Daniel Valentine/Clarisse Lovelace mysteries by the pseudonymous Nathan Aldyne in the 1980s.

In my books, I hope to shine a light on the prejudice faced by large people, particularly women. In A Habit of Death there were many incidents where prejudice against gays was highlighted and commented on. Is it your hope and/or intention that your books will teach tolerance?

If that happens, that’s fine. Mostly, I’m looking to entertain. The thing is, you can’t write about a gay character without writing about how much so many people just hate or fear gay men and lesbians. That’s just the reality of the world. On the other hand, Nicky works in the theater, a place that has less bigotry than most, so he will run into this stuff more often than not with those he meets outside of the theater. Oddly enough, there was actually one reviewer on a gay web site who complained the book wasn’t “gay enough.” mostly because nobody around Nicky made much of him being gay. But that’s the theater at the level Nicky works at. Nobody really does much care.

Your bio talks about a long career in theatre, which you use as a backdrop for Nicky. Are you still active in theatre? Do you have a day job and, if so, what is it?

Currently I’m working on a project for the Peace On War Forum as a playwright. Other than that there isn't a lot of theater in my life except through Nicky. To support my writing habit I work as a word processor in a law firm. I don't have to tell you, paralegal that you are, what fun law firms can be.

Do you have plans for writing anything beyond the Nicky D’Amico series, such as a stand alone mystery or general fiction novel?

I already write plays. Just recently I've developed an interest in literary fiction – reading more of it and writing it. We'll see where that leads.

What inspires you to write? How did you get started?

I actually wrote my first short story when I was eight years old. Mercifully, no copy exits. It was a mystery. The most I can say is that it was in response to having read The Hound of the Baskervilles and being completely enraptured. I’ve always been a voracious reader. I think the two – reading and writing – go together. I know I remember the experience of reading THTB very vividly to this day.

What are your general writing habits and techniques?

When I leave work at 4:30 in the afternoon, after which I go to my favorite Starbucks, settle in and work for several hours. (And just so you know, I cannot get up and write at 5 a.m. People who do that frighten me.) It took me forever to learn to write on the screen in stead of paper first, but that’s the rule now. I still print everything out, read it, edit it by hand and then type those changes in before going on. I don't know if I will ever be able to edit on screen.

Tell us what is your absolute favorite thing about writing? Least favorite thing? Most difficult thing? Easiest thing?

The best thing is to be in that place where the words are just pouring out, where in my mind I am so completely imagining the action that it is as if I have been transported to some other location. It is the most exciting form of travel I know. The worst is when the opposite is happening, when each word seems to take an hour.

Stephen King says in his book On Writing: “If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.” Of all the books you have ever read, which is the one you wish YOU had written and why?

Every once in a while, when doing theater, someone – reviewer, reporter – will ask,” So, what was your favorite show this season?” or “Which actor did you like working with best?” My answer to those questions and yours is to develop severe memory loss. Where am I? Sue Ann? Are you there?

No comments: