Tell us a little more about yourself?
I have been a (mostly full-time) professional ventriloquist for the past twenty eight years. I’m also a pianist, screenwriter, martial artist, Yiddish teacher/translator and single dad to two teenage daughters whose myriad talents dwarf mine.
I’ve always written all of my material for my ventriloquist act. I’ve had to write material for all ages and kinds of audiences and venues, so it has amounted to a vast amount of writing. About fifteen years ago, my passions for both film noir and ventriloquism led me to the idea of wedding the two in the form of a noir-ish ventriloquist/detective who solves crimes with the help of his wooden partner. Over the ensuing decade or so I wrote a few feature film screenplays featuring the ventriloquist/dummy detective duo of Van Trillo & Sam Suede.
Quickly, tell us about your upcoming releases?
I’m currently writing a Trillo & Suede novel set in Shanghai, China. It is based on another one of my Trillo & Suede screenplays, and I’m excited about how the exciting, romantic, foreboding locale will serve as a backdrop for the novel version of the narrative.
Do you have any specific inspiring incident that turned you out as an author?
I tried for a dozen years to find funding to produce my several Trillo & Suede screenplays as independent films. Several times the funding seemed to be nearly in my grasp, only to see it disappear each time into the Indie Film Makers’ Twilight Zone. So I decided to turn one of my screenplays into a novel. I chose the most recently written screenplay, While the Village Sleeps, which I felt lent itself most easily to adaptation as a novel. It has a good measure of Agatha Christie influence – being set mainly in an old, creepy inn deep in the English countryside – blended with noir sensibilities. It is the first of what I intend to be a series of Trillo & Suede novels.
Who designed your cover art? How did you choose the image?
I used a publicity photo of me and my Sam Suede puppet from my short film, Oxford Park. I put that against a background photo of an eerie location that fit the setting of my novel. I had found the photo on the internet and bought the rights to use it. Then I hired a graphic artist on Fiverr to format it into a book cover.
Do you outline your work before you write?
Not a formal outline. I start by writing down ideas as they come to me randomly. I look for which of those ideas might fit with each other and lead to others to form the beginnings of a plot. I think about characters that would belong in that plot and setting. The development of the plot affects the development of the characters and vice versa. Along the way I look for twists. I ask myself what I would expect at each point in the story if I were the reader and then I make something different happen instead.
How do you like spending your leisure hours?
I love film noir, both movies and literature. I play the piano when I have time (I have an M.A. in Piano from Manhattan School of Music). A lot of my time is spent with my two teen daughters, playing music with them as well as accompanying them on their endless appointments and errands.
Which genre is far more appealing to you as a reader?
Mysteries. All kinds, from cozy to hard-boiled.
What inspires you to write? Is there any level of similarity with the events or characters in your book and real life?
The Van Trillo character (hero of my novel) is quite autobiographical. I imagine him to be very much like I would have been if I had been brought up in a more street-smart environment.
Which is your current read?
I’m between books, waiting to find some breathing room. I look forward to reading another Michael Connelly or Ian Rankin book soon.
What, in your opinion is the toughest part while carving your book?
Forcing myself to sit on my butt and do it. There are so many distractions and life is so busy and demanding, it’s easy to keep making excuses to myself rather than do it.
Share a word of advice with our readers and authors, if any?
Be concise. I think that is the most important lesson that I’ve had to learn and of which I still have to continually remind myself. I received valuable feedback from a British director/producer, Ian Lewis of Farnham Films, on each of the screenplays that I wrote. One of the notes that he kept repeating was to be brutally tough with myself in editing my own work. Most writers by nature hate to cut anything they’ve written, which is why most of us need an editor when all is said and done to make our work better. But it is important to go through our own first draft (and subsequent ones) and constantly ask ourselves, “Is that word truly necessary? Or that phrase/sentence/paragraph/chapter?” If the answer is no then delete it, no matter the pain.
Share one of your favorites from your music band collection, if any?
My favorite music band is the Beatles. But my favorite type of music generally is classical. I also love the Great American Songbook, which figures in the plot of my novel.
If you’re a foodie, tell us about your favorite dish?
I miss Carman bars. They are produced in Australia and not available here in the USA. I was addicted to them when I lived in Hong Kong from 2008-2010.
List any giveaways or surprises in mere future?
Check in at my facebook page for upcoming news about my next Trillo & Suede mystery novel.
Where can we find your books?
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Thank you for reading my conversation with Euphonos 🙂