Interview with Don Massenzio

by AC Mink

Don Massenzio, Amazon bestselling author, was born in Syracuse, New York to first-generation Italian American parents. An avid reader, he began writing as a way to fight homesickness and “combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays” of corporate life. From mystery and intrigue to nonfiction and even a children’s story, Massenzio’s stories run the gambit. However, the author, who admits his character, Frank, was inspired by binge-watching old Rockford Files, is most happy spending time with his wife and daughter, and always ends his day with a good book.

You started out in the Corporate world. What a transition. What helped you on that journey?

I am still in the corporate world. Writing is a passion. Working is a necessity to support my family and my writing habit. I dream of making the transition to only writing for a living, but reality is a very strong motivation for staying in the corporate world.

On average, how long does it take you to write a book?

My first book took about a year as I wrote it while traveling for work on paper in small notebooks. I was afraid to have anyone read it. I started putting it on literary critique websites and gradually made it to the point where I was brave enough to have my wife read it. It finally was published after a year of writing, rewriting, and editing. After that first books, I averaged a book about every six months or so

What do you think makes a good story? And what influences, other than literary, impact your writing?

There are many schools of thought on this. I personally think characters are key. One of my favorite authors, Jonathan Kellerman, has put his two main characters in various detective stories over the past nearly 40 years and I keep going back to see how the characters have developed over time. They’re like old friends or relatives that you want to check in on.

I would say life experiences, like places I’ve traveled and people I’ve met have a significant influence on my writing. I travel a lot. Locations, people that I encounter, and situations that I find myself in can be the inspiration for stories, chapters, or characters in my books. I have mentioned the influence of television. My Frank Rozzani series was inspired by a binge-watching session of the old Rockford Files detective show. Also, I watched a lot of television shows as a child and some of my books are influenced by the structure, plot twists and characters from those shows. I’ve also used news headlines as a way to spur ideas for stories. A simple news story can be expanded or embellished into the plot for a short story or even a novel.

How do you research your books? Do you consult with subject matter experts?

The Internet is a great source of research if you know where to look. Sources like Google Earth, for instance, can help you describe a location in detail even if you’ve never been there. I have been known to consult with acquaintances in law enforcement, the medical field, legal field, and the fire department to make sure that procedures and technical details are correct.  One example comes from my first book, Frankly Speaking. I’m not a firearms expert at all. I had my main character using his Glock handgun and I mentioned a safety. One of my law enforcement acquaintances quickly educated me that a Glock does not have a safety. This would have been an embarrassing mistake if it had made it into the final book!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your books? Do you have any writing quirks?

I think, at first, I was surprised that I could complete a book. Now, 10 or so books later, I’m surprised at some of the stories in my early books.  As an author, I sometimes believe that the brain wipes the memory clean after a book is finished. As some of my early books were turned into audiobooks, I found myself listening to them as they were produced and thinking, “did I really write that?”

I can write anywhere and everywhere. I’ve been known to write while waiting for flights in an airport, on the plane, in a hotel, etc. In fact, the most difficult place for me to concentrate on writing is in my home office with total peace and quiet. I need the distraction of noise and often listen to music while writing.

Do you have a favorite among your books?

Usually, my latest book is my favorite of the moment. I do, however, have a soft spot for Frankly Speaking, my very first book. It’s the one that started me on my writing journey. I’m currently working on a new Frank Rozzani book based on a trip we took to Italy in 2018 and revisiting those old characters I haven’t written about in a few years is making this one a current favorite.

From reading your blog posts, you mentioned that you find it helpful to read reviews. Has your opinion changed at all since that blog post?

Reviews can be an important tool on two fronts. As I believe I’ve mentioned on my blog, I tend to disregard bad reviews if they are not constructive. I also, however, disregard glowing reviews. No book is perfect. I tend to put the most stock in reviews that point out flaws in a constructive way and I work to improve those flaws in future books. At first, I hung on every word of every review. Now, although I read them all, I sift through the ones that have little or no value in helping me improve, both positive and negative in perspective.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Family is very important to me. During this period of being at home during the COVID-19 quarantine, I have enjoyed every day with my wife and 12-year-old daughter. It hasn’t been a punishment. I also am a musician and like to play and record music. I’ve started uploading some of my musical recording experiments to my YouTube channel which previously only had trailers for my books. I also am a voracious reader and have to read every night before I go to sleep.

Can you tell us anything about your newest work? And juicy tidbits?

My latest work is my most ambitious to date. It is another Frank Rozzani detective book, my sixth, and takes place in Italy. I did a multi-city tour of Italy with my family two years ago and did a great deal of research while I was there. It incorporates my experiences with some exciting twists. Frank will go through personal and spiritual transformations during this adventure while he solves a very personal crime. I hope to finish it in the third quarter of 2020.