Welcome to Flash Bang Mysteries, Frank! We’ve been e-friends for a long time, so it’s a great pleasure for me to have you here. The last time we communicated you told me you had a new book coming out in May. What’s the title and what can you tell us about it?
I’ve had a couple come out since last we spoke. The first was The Short List, the sequel to The Backlist, which came out last August (2016). It’s the second in The List Series (or A Cam & Bricks Job) that I’ve written with Eric Beetner. It features a pair of former mafia hit men. We each wrote one of the two main characters, presented in alternating first person chapters. I wrote Paula “Bricks” Brickey, a sharp tongued, take no prisoners type. The series is a combination of dark comedy and action. The third, The Getaway List, will be out next year.
Down & Out Books also released a police procedural I wrote with Lawrence Kelter called The Last Collar. That one features an NYPD detective and his partner trying to solve a murder while something else is obviously going on with him, lurking in the background.
What inspired you to start writing fiction, and how long have you been at it?
I’m not sure where the inspiration came from, since it was just something I’ve always done. An easy comparison is to someone who is a musician, and just “always has been.” As such, I’ve been writing stories as long as I can remember. Certainly by the time I was ten, the concept of “I’m a writer” had fully formed.
For those who don’t know it, you’re retired law enforcement. How’d you get into that line of work?
I took a civil service test. [grin]. No, I realized early on that being a writer wasn’t a career you could just waltz straight into (at least not as a novelist – I had little interest in journalism), so I had to ask myself what primary career I wanted. I did a tour in the Army and when I got out, I knew I either want to be a cop or a teacher. Both had the opportunity to help people, and to be of service. That was attractive to me. The thing was, I didn’t have my college degree at the time but I had enough credits to apply to the police department. So that decided it. To make up for it, I married a teacher. [another grin].
Do you miss law enforcement work and are you ever tempted to go back? (This question will probably appeal more to me than most readers, as I stare down the barrel of my planned retirement date.)
I miss the work, though I recognize that in retrospect, I probably romanticize it, too. Like Mellencamp sings, ‘the good old days weren’t always good…’ But I definitely miss the people. No matter how much you want to stay in touch, it ends up being sporadic at best. And even if you get a chance to see someone, it’s not the same as the camaraderie of the active patrol team or the investigative squad.
But relax…there is most definitely life after retirement. For one, I got to start teaching! (See, life is a circle?).
What genre do you prefer reading, and who is/are your favorite author(s) in that genre?
I tend to read in the crime fiction field a lot. Lawrence Block, Steve Hamilton, Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, and the like. Stephen King, too – a much better crime writer than he gets credit for. Lately, I’ve been rediscovering some science fiction, though I’ve been pretty selective. And for every couple of novels, I read something non-fiction, too. I was a history major, so I delve into that, or sometimes psychology (Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, for instance).
Along that same line of questioning, have you ever read an author who has had a lasting and positive impact on your life?
Yeah, a number of Stephen King novels have done that. His novella, The Body, stuck with me pretty hard, and more recently, Duma Key and 11/22/63. A couple of Dennis Lehane’s novels gut punched me, too, particularly Gone, Baby, Gone. I remembered Frank Herbert’s Dune as pretty powerful on many levels, and it is one of the books I recently re-read. It stood up to my memory.
How many hours per day do you devote to writing fiction?
It varies. I’m not really on a set schedule. I probably should be, yes? But I write in bursts, always have.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of Frank Zafiro?
It depends. If I’m on the road teaching leadership to law enforcement, it’s up, breakfast, teach, come back to the hotel exhausted, maybe work up the discipline to go for a run, eat dinner, crash (which means consume Netflix or a book until sleep overcomes). At home, it’s a little more leisurely, and I can work in some time to write.
How does your current day-to-day differ from that of when you were a cop/writer?
When I teach, it’s similar in a lot of ways, because I’m teaching leadership to cops, so I’m around what I was around. But when I’m home, it’s way more leisurely. Mornings are for coffee and easing into the day. No stress, little pressure. It’s a nice change from the hustle, bustle (and BS) of my police world.
What has been the highlight of your novel-writing career thus far?
Up until a few years ago, I would have said when my first novel was published. But then in the fall of 2012, I had a sales explosion that catapulted me to the #1 spot on Amazon in the Police Procedural category. That height lasted about three months, during which time I hung around the top 5 and sold an amazing number of books. Foolishly, I didn’t get a screen shot while I was #1, so the only one I have is when I was #2. Michael Connelly was #1.
I still don’t know exactly what caused that leap, other than I’d switched my titles to .99 cents right at the time that people were looking for that, and readers gobbled up the titles. They must have got their fill, too, because in the last couple of years, my yearly sales are below any of those single months during that stretch. Ah, the vagaries of the marketplace!
If you could write from anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
We took a long trip to Italy, and stayed in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast for almost a week. I think I’d like to write at least one book from there (and set there).
I know one of your interests or hobbies outside of writing is hockey. Do you prefer playing or watching? Do you have any other interests or hobbies?
Both. I follow the Philadelphia Flyers, so watching most of their games all season long is fun for Kristi and me. And while I haven’t played yet since moving to Central Oregon, when I did play, it gave me a chance to get in a work out while experiencing some time with the guys.
I’ve always been impressed by how fast you can pump out your novels. How long does it normally take you to complete a novel?
I’ve been slow of late, since I’ve been teaching so much. But when I’m slow, it usually means I’m simply not putting words on the page at all. When I sit down and actually write, it flows pretty quickly. I can finish a 50-60K word book in about a month. That doesn’t include the revisions and if I’m publishing it myself, all the work associated with that. But for a first draft? It either flows or it drips.
I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions and I wish you continued success.
Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Purchase THE LAST COLLAR
THE LAST COLLAR blurb:
The demons that drive John “Mocha” Moccia to obsess, to put absolutely everyone under a microscope, and scratch away at every last clue, make him the best hardnosed detective in Brooklyn homicide. But these same demons may very well write the final chapter in his career.
He isn’t the kind of detective to take no for an answer, but in his most recent case answers are damn hard to come by. Partnered with the conscientious Detective Matt Winslow, Mocha endeavors to solve the murder of the wealthy and beautiful Jessica Shannon, a woman who had every reason to live.
As Mocha and Winslow strive to push forward the hands of time and solve the murder, their imposing lieutenant breathes down their necks, suspects are scarce, and all of the evidence seems to be a dead end.
With the last precious grains of sand falling through the hourglass, Mocha pushes ever forward, determined to make an arrest, even if it means this collar will be his last.
Frank Zafiro was a police officer in Spokane, Washington, from 1993 to 2013. He retired as a captain. He is the author of numerous crime novels, including River City novels and the Stefan Kopriva series. This is his second novel with Eric Beetner.
In addition to writing, Frank teaches leadership and other law enforcement topics to police officers and college students alike. He is an avid hockey fan and a tortured guitarist. He lives in central Oregon with his wife, Kristi and two dogs.
For more about the author, visit: http://www.frankzafiro.com
Copyright © 2017 Frank Zafiro