Gary Ponzo lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Jennifer and two children, Jessica and Kyle. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Amazing Journeys Magazine and Potpourri. Two of his short stories have been nominated for the very prestigious Pushcart Prize. His novel, A Touch of Deceit, won the S.W. Writers Contest, Thriller category.
Gary's sequel to A Touch of Deceit is set for April 11 release. He also continues to place his short fiction in magazines. When he's not busy trying to find a solution to the problems in the Middle East, he enjoys running, golfing and spending time with his family.
1. Tell us about A Touch of Deceit in a few sentences.
Nick Bracco is a Sicilian FBI agent with strong family ties. When his own family is threatened by a Kurdish terrorist, he turns to his cousin Tommy for help. Tommy has connections in the underground. He's also in the Mafia. Yes, it gets messy pretty quick.
2. How did you come to write this particular book?
I'm Sicilian and when I was sixteen I would work weekends in my father's candy store in Brooklyn. Since I was so young my dad had some friends of his keep tabs on me, especially at night. I guess I knew they were in the Mafia, but at the time they were just guys who'd sit at the counter and talk about their kids and baseball. I guess I wanted to write a story about a group of Sicilian-Americans who become true patriots when the country needs them the most.
3. Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?
It's set in Baltimore, Maryland and Arizona. I chose Baltimore because I'm from New York and I thought Manhattan was such a cliché as a backdrop. Overdone. Then I chose Arizona for the last part of the novel because that's where I live now and it was familiar territory.
4. How long did it take to write your book?
Seriously around a decade, but I wasn't working on it full time--I'd put it down for a few weeks then work on it occasionally. At the time I was busy publishing short stories as well. I'd probably published ten short stories, two of which were nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
5. How much revision of your MS did you do before you sent it off?
Lots. Then lots more. I rewrote the first fifty pages three times until I felt it was perfect.
6. You've gotten awards for A Touch of Deceit. Tell our readers about them.
Yes, I won the Southwest Writers Award, Thriller category. That was very exciting and rewarding as well.
7. How did you find your literary agent?
Actually he was the judge of the contest. Naturally everything is judged anonymously, so when I was chosen the winner I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in representing me. He agreed. He ended up leading me down this path of e-publishing long before I was ready to make the move. He even helped me format the novel. His name is Robert Brown with Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency. He's a prince of a man.
8. What qualities make a successful writer?
I think you need to have a creative mind and the ability to write well. What I mean is, the ability to tell a story without using worn out phrases and typical plots. Keep it different.
9. Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
I think writers are mostly born, however, I would never discount the ability for the human spirit to overcome a challenge. If you want to become a writer and are willing to put in the time, I believe it can be done.
10. To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?
When I first started writing I thought those were the most important aspects to the craft. I thought if I sent a short story to a magazine without any grammatical errors at all I'd be guaranteed a sale within a couple of weeks. Boy was I wrong. Now that I'm down the road a ways that stuff is of little concern. Any writers critique group can edit your work. It's the creative ideas and how you develop your characters which are most important.
11. What single piece of advice would you give to writers still hoping to be published?
Read as much as possible and write every day. Join a writers' critique group. I've been involved with one for the past twelve years and I believe they are a tremendous value.
12. Are you involved in other projects?
With the success of A Touch of Deceit I've been furiously writing the sequel, A Touch of Revenge. After that I have a psychological thriller which is three-quarters done already. I put it on the shelf when my first novel caught on and switched to the sequel.
13. Where can A Touch of Deceit be purchased?
It's a Kindle book on Amazon and a Nook book on Barnes and Noble.
14. Do you have a web site or a blog readers can visit?
Yes. garyponzo.com is my web page and strongscenes.com is my blog. I use my blog to showcase other writer's work with contests and interviews and guest posts. As you know, Lori, writers are a close bunch and they tend to support each other.It's very satisfying to encourage new writers and to speak with more experienced writers as well. Very satisfying.