Master of Ceremonies – Steve Piacente
Steve Piacente is an Executive Communication Coach at The Communication Center in Washington DC, a former journalist, and an award-winning author. His books include “Bella”, and “Bootlicker”. He will be doing a short reading from his forthcoming novel, “Pretender”, which is a sequel to “Bella”.
By Sarah Baker
This installment in our exclusive interview series is about former journalist, current executive communication coach, and award-winning novelist Steve Piacente. Steve is the author of Bella and Bootlicker, novels that cover the seamier side of politics while exploring the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either – even for a moment.
Tell us about your writing process. When do you like to write? Where? Do you use a computer or write longhand? What do you advise to deal with writer’s block?
I started writing pretty much the day I found out I couldn’t do the math, but was good at describing the people who could do the math. Though private as a kid, I went on to make a career out of telling stories – first as a daily newspaper reporter, then as a government speechwriter, then as director of a federal agency’s website, and now as an author. I like to write long before the day begins for most people. My favorite spot is a cluttered home office, and I always write on a computer. The home office is also where I “interview” my characters. That is, as I write, I occasionally interrupt myself and pose several questions to the main characters. Then I try to answer in the character’s voice. The technique often takes me in unexpected and hopefully interesting directions. The tactic is also a good way to defeat writer’s block. Other ways to get past those dry periods: step away and do something else; visit a few interesting quote or photography sites for inspiration; and, read something you’ve written that earned praise to remind yourself you’re a good writer.
Why is the book nearly always better than the movie?
The book usually beats the movie because well-crafted words on a page – with no directors, actors or special effects between us and the material – fire our imagination. We visualize instead of see the characters. We picture rather than watch the action. We fantasize about how something tastes or feels instead of watching actors experience it for real. The 18th Century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” I agree.
Which of your characters do you identify with most? Tell us about that character.
I identify most with Dan Patragno, the flawed political reporter in Bella, Bootlicker, and the forthcoming Pretender. I would not have permitted the ethical lapses that follow and nearly doom Dan, but I find him compelling nonetheless. He has good instincts and a sharp mind. He wants to do right, personally and professionally, yet falls short in the first two novels. By the third book, he has learned – and earned – his redemption.
What do you think makes a good story?
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 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 moment to capture your attention. If I fail, I know you’re moving on to another storyteller.
Is there a question you’re never asked as a writer that you’d like to address?
I’m sometimes asked if aspiring authors should write based on what’s hot at the moment, be it fantasy, children’s fiction, or you name the genre. Implied in the question is that writers are only motivated by fame and fortune. I guess some are, but that’s never been the end game for me, or the writers I most admire. I think if you try to write based on the flavor of the week, you’re doing a disservice to yourself. I think it will show and, ultimately be unrewarding. Instead, find what moves you, and then write the crap out of it. The rest will take care of itself.