Q&A With Frank Zafiro
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Q&A With Frank Zafiro
Today I’m doing a Q&A with author Frank Zafiro. Frank is the writer of gritty crime fiction. A mutual author friend of ours Eric Beetner put us in contact with one another and Frank was happy to do this Q&A. Frank’s “River City” series writes from the point of view of police officers and his other series “SpoCompton” is from the point of view of the criminals. Frank also has a podcast titled Wrong Place, Write Crime where he interviews other crime writers. I find it impressive when authors can multitask.
Q: So Frank when did you realize that your calling was to be an author and podcaster?
A: I’ve known that I was a writer since I was a kid, much like a musician or a painter is drawn to their art. But I didn’t start to feel like a “real” writer until my early twenties, when my first story was accepted (for payment), and then a “real, real” writer until my first novel was published in 2006 (Under a Raging Moon, the first in the River City series).
As to podcasting, I never gave it much thought until I saw Eric Beetner doing it on Writer Types. It looked like fun, and the idea of being able to promote my fellow crime fiction authors was one I knew would bring some satisfaction. Of course, I could never out-Eric the Beet-man, so I went in a very different direction with Wrong Place, Write Crime.
Q: What made you choose to write crime fiction?
A: I went through a period from about 1996 to 2004 in which I didn’t write fiction at all. I was a police officer, so I wrote a lot of reports, and I was learning a new position every year or two—patrol officer, training officer, corporal, detective, and then sergeant (I eventually retired as a captain). That kept me busy. At the same time, from 1996-98, I went back to college full-time to get my history degree, which involved a lot of reading and writing. So, during that eight-year stretch, no fiction.
But once I finished school and my career settled a bit, I was able to re-engage in my fiction. By then, I’d been on the job for over a decade. They say you write what you know (or what you’re experiencing), and so crime fiction is what came out.
I found I had a knack for it, though. And I liked how, much like science fiction, the genre gives you the opportunity to tell a larger tale than just what is on the page.
Q: What’s your advice to anyone who wants to write crime fiction like you do? What’s your advice to anyone who struggles with writers block?
A: My advice is—don’t. Don’t write crime fiction like I do. Write it like you do.
I’d also stress that it is important to read, read, read. Read in your genre and outside your genre. Getting to know what’s been done and how it’s been done will keep you from being derivative. To tell your own stories, in your own way.
Reference writer’s block, I can’t be any help there. I’ve never experienced it. The closest I came was staying away from a particular series for a few years due to the emotional weight it carried in relation to real life events. It wasn’t that I couldn’t write, I just didn’t want to be in that world. I wrote plenty of other books during that seven year stretch. And I got over it – I’ve written four more in that series to date.
I could be wrong, but I think writer’s block is related to some kind of fear that the work won’t be any good. I definitely have that fear (like most authors), but it doesn’t stop me from putting words on the page. I guess part of the reason is that I know I will edit it (and perhaps severely so) and no one else needs to see it until I’m ready for them to do so. That kind of mitigates the fear part, which is probably why I’ve not ever suffered from WB.
Of course, having written that, I’m sure that a year-long bout will set in tomorrow morning…
Q: How do you juggle being an author as well as a podcaster? I find it very impressive when an author can juggle multiple things.
A: Well… I don’t anymore. I did for five years, though, and it was a lot of work. I was constantly working on something, and always on a deadline. How did I do it? That’s how – constant effort, and discipline. You can’t really take a day off, or you fall behind.
Q: How does one create a podcast? It seems like it would be so much fun but a lot of hard work. What would your advice be to anyone wanting to start a podcast?
A: There are plenty of FAQs on the ‘net for people to look up the first question, which is too large for me to cover adequately here. But I will affirm that it is a lot of hard work. And as there are more and more pods out there, the level of production quality necessary to rise above the noise has grown. So, my advice to anyone considering starting their own is two-fold.
One, have something unique to say, and a unique reason for you to be the one saying it. Just because you’re a hockey fan doesn’t mean you can create an interesting hockey podcast. But if you used to play, or worked for a team in some capacity, or have been a sports journalist, maybe you have something interesting to say.
Two, learn the technical side of things so that you can produce a quality show. The average listener is becoming more and more discerning, so if all you do is create a scratchy, unedited recording and upload it, don’t expect a lot of listens.
Q: Are you writing a new book now? If so is it a part of any of your series, a standalone or a new series entirely?
A: Thanks for asking! Currently, I am finishing up edits on my newest book in the Stefan Kopriva mystery series, Hope Dies Last (#4). It will be out February 14, 2023 (but folks can pre-order now, and have enough time to catch up on the first three…).
Later this year, among other projects, I’ll publish Shades of Knight, the fifth Spocompton novel and River City #14 (title TBD).