Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gary Ponzo - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Award-Winning and Pushcart-Prize nominated author Gary Ponzo. He is the author of the Nick Bracco series of thrillers.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Website: GaryPonzo.com
Author's Blog: Strong Scenes
Twitter: @AuthorPonzo
E-Mail: gary@garyponzo.com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
Author Gary Ponzo began his writing career over a decade ago by writing short stories. He quickly discovered a knack for the short form. In just five years he'd published seven short stories in various publications, two of which were nominated for the very prestigious Pushcart Prize.

His first novel, "A Touch of Deceit," took five years to write and one to pick clean. The story was born from his childhood experiences working in his father's candy store in Brooklyn, NY. His father was Sicilian and became friendly with some local members of a different kind of Sicilian family. Since Gary was just fifteen at the time, these family members would make sure he was protected whenever he would work late at night by himself. He soon discovered a side to the mafia not many people knew. It was these relationships which caused him to write about Sicilian FBI agent, Nick Bracco, who recruits his mafia cousin to chase down the world's most feared terrorist.

"A Touch of Deceit," went on to win the 2009 Southwest Writers Novel Contest, Thriller category. He is currently working on the 5th book in the Nick Bracco series as well as trying to create world peace in his spare time. Gary currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Jennifer and two children, Jessica and Kyle.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you're writing the fifth novel in the Nick Bracco series. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Yes, first I'm finishing a stand-alone thriller about a clairvoyant girl who hears invisible aliens plotting to destroy the planet. A psychiatrist has to decide whether she's psychotic or she's hearing something we can't see because of her abilities? It's based on a short story of mine titled, Saving the World.

As far as Bracco number 5 goes, yes I've already begun research for the book and hope to begin writing it this summer. I believe this one will involve a misguided terrorist who comes to the United States as a suicide bomber, but has a change of heart. The terrorists want him dead because he knows too much and the FBI wants to discover just how much he does know. And he knows quite a lot.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? Since you starting before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How much has it changed your book launch process?

While I believe social media is important these day, I'm unconvinced it really sells books. I rarely go to Facebook or Twitter just to promote my work. I'm there for name recognition and to create relationships with my readers. Probably the most rewarding aspect to social media are the relationships I've developed with other writers. I can't tell you how valuable it is to hear what my peers are doing successfully or unsuccessfully to create a buzz about their work.

Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I've done quite a few online radio interviews and plenty of blog interviews. I keep in touch with my readers through my Facebook page and Twitter: Author Ponzo. Also, I answer all my emails at gary@garyponzo.com. I really enjoy hearing from them.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I don't really have the readers involved initially, but I do show them the finished product ahead of anyone else to judge their enthusiasm. I normally tell the artist what I'm looking for and when they get close I'll become a nuisance until it's exactly what I want. I tell the artist that I'll pay them for their time no matter what, just give me options to play with. It's fun.

You have a book trailer for A Touch of Deceit. (See link below.) Do you know how much impact they have had on your book’s success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailers? Do you use the trailer in your character development? Are the pictures and background the way you see your characters and scenes?

I created a trailer for the first book a couple of years ago and I'm not sure how much it's done for the success of the book. I made the trailer myself with Sony Moviemaker. It was a really arduous project and I doubt I'll do it again just because it was so time consuming. I came up with the images which were available through stock photo sites. It's simply my imagination running wild with Nick Bracco and his mafia relatives.

What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

Up until this past year I've used a critique group for all my work, but recently it's become difficult to find writers who are serious about their work and writing at a similar pace that I do.

Life gets in everyone's way, including mine. I think it's vital to have feedback on your work and I will always have 4 or 5 people read the finished product before I send it off to the editor.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

Actually I do all my writing at night when everyone's asleep. It's the only time I can be alone with no distractions. Our kids are both athletes so between work and family and sports, our days are pretty full.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I did a free promo through Amazon's KDP program and for 3 days in March A Touch of Deceit was the #1 free book on Amazon. I gave away over 43,000 copies of the ebook. After the promo was over it moved the book into the top 100 bestseller list. I was very pleased with the results. There were no obstacles, just the fear of giving away a lot of books that otherwise could've been sales, but it was rewarding to see how many people really were excited to take advantage of the promo.

You started writing short stories and migrated to novels. Did changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Does moving from one to the other give you some breathing room?

I began writing short stories because I figured I'd get all my mistake out of the way in the short form. If I wrote a lousy short story I only wasted a week or two of my time. If I wrote a lousy novel, well, I've wasted a year or more. Once I began getting published and receiving nominations for Pushcart Prizes, it gave me the confidence to move on to the long form.

I actually wrote a blog post on the difference between writing a short story and a novel a couple of years back and it's one of the most popular posts to date. I still get 50 or 60 people reading that post each week. The main thing is to keep the reader interested and resist the temptation to explain what color your character's eyes are by having them look into a mirror. I'm falling asleep just imagining that scene. Of course this advice is limited to the thriller genre, because romance and others genres require you to describe eye color and other intricate details of the human anatomy at great length. Plus, this is just my opinion and other writers have proven this theory wrong many times.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? Tell us about the Readers feature and the concept behind it?

Thank you. I began the blog by offering a forum for beginning writers to showcase their work. I offered a writing contest each month where a writer could submit their first scene for others to vote on. I didn't charge an entry fee and gave away $100 Amazon gift cards as first prize. After a while I received so many entries I couldn't possibly keep up the pace so I converted the blog into a place for readers to discover new writers. I've interviewed some NY Times bestsellers like Janet Evanovich and Tess Gerritsen and Catherine Coulter, but I've also interviewed writers like John Locke and Rick Murcer and Hugh Howey before their careers really took off. It's enjoyable to see these writers flourish in today's market.

If there's a goal I guess it's to keep readers informed of what's happening out there and introduce them to writers they may, or may not, be familiar with. Much like you did here, I always make the interview specific to each writer. I'm not interested in asking stock questions for every guest. It's more intriguing to uncover something other people have yet to ask.

Author's Book List
A Touch of Malice - A Nick Bracco Thriller
From Award-Winning and Pushcart-Prize nominated author Gary Ponzo comes another Nick Bracco thriller.

"These Nick Bracco books are really tight engaging thrillers. Great stuff," Creighton Rothenberger, screenwriter for the blockbuster movie, "Olympus has Fallen."

While filming a documentary, the President's brother is captured deep within the Amazon Rainforest by a Colombian cartel. The President calls the one person who has the underground criminal contacts needed to fight this type of vicious enemy. FBI agent, Nick Bracco. Once again Nick relies on his mafia-linked cousin Tommy to help with the operation. When Tommy recruits an assassin to join the rescue team, the rollercoaster comes off the track and everyone becomes a target.
Order the Book From: Amazon
A Touch of Deceit - Nick Bracco Series #1
Winner of the Southwest Writers Novel Contest, Thriller category. FBI agent Nick Bracco can't stop a Kurdish terrorist from firing missiles at random homes across the country. The police can't stand watch over every household, so Bracco recruits his cousin Tommy to help track down this terrorist. Tommy, however, is in the Mafia. Oh yeah, it gets messy fast. As fast as you can turn the pages.
Book Trailer: A Touch of Deceit
Order the Book From: Amazon
A Touch of Greed - A Nick Bracco Thriller
From Award-Winning and Pushcart-Prize nominated author, Gary Ponzo, comes another Nick Bracco thriller.

NY Times Best Selling author John Locke: "Gary Ponzo's thrillers are so powerful, the government should use them as a renewable source of energy."

Ed Knight, Journey Books: "Gary Ponzo is a talented writer whose fiction contains a sharp wit all fiction readers should hear."

In this high-octane thriller, Nick Bracco, FBI's top anti-terrorist agent is drawn into the hostile environment of the Arizona-Mexico border. A member of his task force is ambushed by Mexican assassin, Antonio Garza, known as, "The Butcher," while trying to prevent the cartel staffer from transporting a dirty bomb into the US. As the agent is on the verge of slaughter, he calls Bracco with one last plea: Kill him.

Garza, however, uses his cartel money to reach over the border and secure a network of US law enforcement to be on his payroll. Bracco is forced to track him down with just a couple of agents he can trust, plus his cousin Tommy.

Tommy is a shrewd character with extensive Mafia contacts who offer their underground assistance as Bracco spearheads the deadly game of Sicilians versus the cartels.

Can Nick Bracco track down Garza before the assassin finds him first?
Order the Book From: Amazon
A Touch of Revenge - A Nick Bracco Thriller
From Award-Winning author Gary Ponzo comes the sequel to the wildly successful thriller, A Touch of Deceit.

FBI agent Nick Bracco heads an elite group of anti-terrorist specialists known as The Team. When his team members start showing up dead, Nick suspects a Kurdish terrorist who has revenge on his mind. As the terrorist closes in, Nick resorts to using an unconventional weapon--his cousin Tommy. Tommy has a quick wit and valuable connections throughout the Mafia.

Sometimes even the bad guys can be patriots.

"This is a wild and exciting ride."
Bob Moats, author of the Jim Richards Murder Novels

"Gary Ponzo's thrillers are so powerful, the government should consider using them as a renewable source of energy."
John Locke, #1 bestselling author of the Donovan Creed series.
Order the Book From: Amazon
Author Recommended by: Claude Bouchard
Best-Selling Author Claude Bouchard writes Mystery & Thrillers novels in the Vigilante Series. Also he is a prolific twitter host. See Claude's Author's Spotlight post.

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