Interview with author Walt Biondi

Welcome to another #fridayguestinterview on this fantastic Friday. Today I am pleased to introduce you to my guest and I can’t wait for you to hear about his inspiring journey to become a published author. Let’s dive right in, welcome Walt, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?

Walt:
Hi Kara and everyone. I’m Walt Biondi, the author of my newest novel The Promiscuous Puppeteer.

I spent most of my earliest years in Allentown, Pennsylvania where I was a homeless street kid for a portion of my teen years. I literally had no one and nothing. It was a miserable time in my life. I was at rock bottom. I dropped out of High School after the 9th grade and lived on the streets, stole bread to survive, and ended up in a jail cell on two occasions. Although all charges were later dropped, I recall a defining moment looking out between the bars of a jail cell as a teen when I decided that I would begin to do something, anything, that would allow me to have a better life. I was faced with an early demise, a wretched life, or continued incarceration. I remember listening to a recording, while homeless and slipping in and out of a public library to use their rest room facility, in which motivational speaker Earl Nightengale said “You are what you think most about.” Indeed, I was about to climb out of my absolute poverty, think positive thoughts, set goals, and devote myself to thinking about self-improvement. My success came in small baby steps at first. It was hard. But, soon small accomplishments were replaced with bigger and better ones. I always set new goals and I refused to be satisfied with my efforts until much later in my life. My success did not happen overnight.

My journey from that day forward allowed me to exchange dirty old clothes for three piece suits, to replace a park bench for a lovely home, to trade in a jail cell for the coveted executive corner office suite, and so much more. I passed my GED high school equivalency test and graduated (with Honors) from a University with a degree in the Administration of Justice followed by passing my law school admissions test. Simultaneously, I launched myself into a wonderful career while working at a full time job and while attending higher education classes on a full time basis most nights of the week and all day on Saturdays. Eventually, I became one of the heads of two U.S. Federal law enforcement agencies in the Treasury and Justice Departments in Washington, D.C., a Chief Inspector for INTERPOL, and was chosen as the President’s Distinguished Senior Executive Of The Year.

While working in my primary career I established a couple of small businesses in selling firewood, doing light landscaping, and owning a printing business. I had also previously sufficiently learned to play the piano and guitar so that I was able to earn a little extra income. Upon retiring from my primary career I had a couple of other small businesses and I pursued other interests including writing, oil painting, gem stone cutting, gardening, jewelry making, silversmithing, among others. To this day, I like to begin my day at about 4 in the morning, while often working 60 to 80 hours a week doing things I usually enjoy.

The Writing Piazza:
Well, you certainly have kept yourself busy! Your story is so motivating too! Thank you for sharing it with us. I think a lot of us get frustrated when we don’t see giant leaps of progress in our lives and careers and so we give up but we need to remember that from the inside, greatness looks like many small steps rather than giant leaps. You’ve published the book The Promiscuous Puppeteer, can you tell us about that?

Book CoverWalt:
My newest novel, The Promiscuous Puppeteer, was published by Tate Publishing, LLC. The publisher has a strict standard against publishing anything erotic, containing inappropriate language, or anything considered to be overly violent. Although the story has some themes pertaining to promiscuous behavior and events, it is not unsavory, graphic or erotic. The story has many lessons associated with it and has been deemed appropriate for readers above 16 years of age.

The Writing Piazza:
Thanks for the heads up, I know The Writing Piazza has some younger readers so I always like it when authors give a rundown on the nature of their writing just to be on the safe side. It’s the mom in me I think. 😉

Can you tell us how you came to write your newest novel? What inspired you, what drove you to write it?

Walt:
I researched information for The Promiscuous Puppeteer for almost three years, soon after my first book Jeremiah’s Tale. I recall sitting on a bluff overlooking a Turquoise mine outside of Tonopah, Nevada, after digging for Turquoise at a mine I rented for a day. All of a sudden the story I would eventually write began to take meaningful shape in my mind as I scanned the desert landscape. It was an awakening for me with a clarity I could not forget. It was at that moment that The Promiscuous Puppeteer was born.

The story was to be primarily about a unique woman. I later sketched out an outline that became the book’s synopsis:   “The Promiscuous Puppeteer is a multifaceted story about a secret gold exploration company funded by a syndicate comprised of some of the largest mining companies in North America, and a CEO who is approached by a Mexican Native American woman, whose skills, from a sordid and seedy past, have the potential to help launch the world’s largest gold discovery onto the international stage. Chinese intelligence and embassy officials, US politicians, unscrupulous industry leaders, and a fledgling but growing and menacing Native American organized crime element are all primary constituents of a compelling and momentous drama that takes place throughout the western third of the United States. It all begins at a five-thousand-foot-high remote desert location called Tonopah, Nevada.”

The time came for me to write. I remember it clearly. I needed to sequester myself away from every-day distractions so I could “live” in the world I was about to create, without disruption. I was not at a loss for words. There was no so-called notorious “writer’s blocks.” I wrote day and night often as much as 18 hours a day. The characters in the story came alive in my mind. I lived with them day in, and day out. The primary character, who the story is about, became my daily friend, one who I would spend a tremendous amount of time with as I wrote. Although fictional, I saw myself as writing her biography. I became her scribe. I subjugated myself to her power and subordinated myself to her will.

I was living a second life, full blown in living color, as I wrote her story. She is a unique one-of-a-kind woman, unlike any other. Her story is not like the standard cookie-cutter stories where many seem to sound similar or to have similar themes, as renowned author James Patterson admitted in describing many of his books. Writing fiction is considered a sort of permissible schizophrenia. Indeed, one would think so if they could have lived with me day after day as I wrote. I had to live in the story’s world so that I could visualize aspects of the story in such detail that my words would create a vivid vision in the minds of readers so they could see what I saw as I wrote; so the reader could see the story as if it was a movie in their own mind.

The Writing Piazza:
I think you’ve captured what it’s like for many authors with your description of how you wrote your latest book. I love how you said it felt as though you were writing her autobiography. I think that’s one of the strangest but coolest parts about writing is that it doesn’t really feel like you’re making up the story, it feels like the story already exists and you’re just writing it down. They tend to take on a life of their own and often lead the writer in unexpected directions.

Let’s talk about publishing for a bit. I have a lot of aspiring authors who read these interviews so I like to give them an idea of what they’re in for. Can you tell us about your experiences with the publishing world?

Walt:
The publishing world is a business. It is necessarily profit oriented. Well known publishers and the food chain it depends on, such as Literary Agents, look to publish books that will become highly successful, quickly. They invest a very large amount of time and money in that process. It helps if the author is a household name, a celebrity, or one with an inside connection to the people who sign authors and their manuscripts. Often times outstanding stories do not see the light of day. Unrecognized authors have to try to overcome the overwhelming odds of competing against 1.2 million new books a year, in order to rise above the heap. Today, nearly one hundred percent of the time, writers have no choice but to rely on self-publishing options, in the absence of being published by a traditional publishing house. In doing so, they are at an extreme disadvantage in marketing and promoting their book. While authors want to write, most have to devote a large part of their time doing what a traditional major publisher would do, while severely disadvantaged by a lack of financial resources.

Since Tate Publishing released The Promiscuous Puppeteer, I have been blessed to have been interviewed by top radio talk show hosts for CBS, NPR, Sirius Satellite, and many more. (See my web site for a partial list: http://www.walterbbiondi.com/)

My interviews, about my wretched past and about the new novel was simulcast and subsequently rebroadcast on well over 500 radio stations as far away as Singapore. Tate publishing was so taken with my brief “About The Author” part of the book that they decided to include several pages about my past, with the suggestion that I write an autobiography. A sequel to The Promiscuous Puppeteer has also been talked about. I have asked for a commitment from my publisher pertaining to the funds that would be devoted to promoting my next book. I am ready to write if and when some accommodation can be agreed to, or if another publisher expresses an interest in publishing a next book. The Promiscuous Puppeteer has received a near perfect 5 gold star ratings on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In addition, it has received unanimous glowing reviews from people who reside in many countries. The quality of the ratings and reviews exceeds the bestselling top ten books, and authors, of the day.

The Writing Piazza:
That’s some success story you’ve got there! 🙂 So of course I have to ask, what do you think helped contribute the most to your success?

Walt:
Jeremiah’s Tale, my first novel, became a “nominal” best seller twice in the past 4 years. My newest novel, The Promiscuous Puppeteer was labeled by Tate publishing as a multiple award winner in a press release they did recently. First and foremost, the story has to appeal to as wide a number of people as possible. That is not easy. It is well known that pornographic sex and horrific violence stories “sell.”  Yet, many other types of authors and their books, continue to have appeal to the reading public. I am of their genre and I know that a majority of great books are avidly sought and digested by readers hungry for a good story. A good story is what it is all about; one which allows the reader to escape their everyday life while living the fantasy lived by a writer who wrote the story.

I began writing short stories and short text booklets many years ago. When I retired from my primary career I had the time to devote to researching and writing more comprehensively. An author needs to write with personal conviction and passion in a way that transfers an appealing story into people’s hearts, homes and leisure time. The Book Thief, is one such story that struck a chord with readers around the world. There are far too many to list them. But, I wanted to write something that would be heartwarming or entertaining without the eroticism and bloody violence themes. I used to ask myself, “How many ways can a person engage in intimacy or murder before the stories become blurred, indistinct, and merely a short term titillating fad? What is new in what is being written? What will be learned in the process of reading books with commonalities and similarities?”

To my taste for reading, I prefer to read refreshing new content; something other than the cookie-cutter stories that don’t rely on skillful storytelling, fresh imagination, and a vacation, or an escape, from the same old everyday life most of us live day in and day out.

So, my connection with many readers, my contact with them both here and in faraway places, and my stories, have touched many people’s lives in ways that has been mutually rewarding and beneficial. In that process I have spent thousands of hours communicating with an untold number of people. My greatest reward is hearing from readers and being able to communicate with them one-on-one. At the end of the day I have been able to help many people and I sometimes smile thinking about those I have been able to connect with.

The Writing Piazza:
Wonderful! I agree, I think being able to make that connection with readers is so important. And finding that fresh idea is the Holy Grail for writers. I think you also landed on another great point that was really subtle so I’d like to highlight it a bit. You talked about your own taste in books. I think the best writers are avid readers. The more you read, the better story you will be able to craft and it’s because you know what works and what doesn’t. That’s all great stuff you mentioned!

How about something that has shocked you about this industry? What was something that took you by surprise?

My publisher’s Marketing Manager telling me that 1.2 million new books were published last year. That major publishing houses and independent Literary Agents are very unlikely to read anything that you send to them. That the average self-published author sells less than 100 books. That possibly one or two, out of every hundred, people in the US will write a book. That huge advertising budgets sell huge quantities of books even if a book’s content is substandard.

The Writing Piazza:
Those are some astonishing numbers! And I have certainly read some books that were subpar and wondered how they became bestsellers.

Being an author is no easy profession, that’s for sure. What would you say has been the hardest part about your journey as an author?

Walt:
Truly, the hardest part about being an author has been the increasing demand on authors to market and promote their books. Publishers have had to reduce their sales staff, promoters, publicists, and marketers. Publishers are having to cut their expenses so they can wholesale books at prices demanded by retailers, especially online retailers. The profit margin is severely diminished and the author’s royalty percentage of a book’s sales price is lower now than ever before with traditional publishers.

The Writing Piazza:
The publishing industry is changing rapidly. It’s interesting to think about what the future of traditional publishing will look like. It certainly is a difficult business to enter. You’ve got to really want to write and develop a thick skin.

But let’s move onto a lighter topic. Do you have any fun/heart-warming/inspirational stories you can share about your experience as a published author?

Walt:
Barely a day goes by where I don’t hear from a reader, a follower, someone who wants to connect with me, to ask a question, or to share their thoughts about my newest novel. I am blessed to receive messages from people literally from around the world. I reply to everyone who contacts me. I pride myself in corresponding briefly with anyone who takes the time to want to write to me. Such moments truly bring a smile to my face. I am very grateful each and every day.

On one recent occasion, a reader was very ill and I corresponded with her sporadically for weeks. Then, knowing the impact her illness was having on her, and in response to her request that I video Skype with her for a few moments, I sang to her, with karaoke music, a song she had requested and loved. She smiled on the video camera and then she gave me “two thumbs up.”

As I attend various events, I am often asked to sign people’s copy of The Promiscuous Puppeteer. The feeling that overwhelms me is indescribable and such encounters often results in a heartfelt “thank you,” a hand shake, a pat on the back, a hug, photographs being taken, and brief conversations. My scrap book for The Promiscuous Puppeteer is overflowing with notes, emails, cards, pictures, messages, reviews and words I want to never forget. I always feel honored and I am always grateful to those who take a moment to write to me, meet me, or want me to sign their book.

I am often astounded when I walk into a coffee shop, for example, and see someone sitting at a table reading their copy of The Promiscuous Puppeteer. I always walk up to them without introducing myself, and ask them if the book they are reading is good. I always get an affirmative if not enthusiastic reply. Then when I introduce myself as the author the reactions are like two old friends meeting for the first time after many years. Questions abound and the fellowship is always warm and gratifying.

Anyone who takes the time to write a rating or review on-line about The Promiscuous Puppeteer has my undying loyalty.

The Writing Piazza:
I love your idea of the scrapbook for what you’ve received regarding your new book. That’s such a great idea! Writing can be such a lonely and often disheartening career. I’m sure it’s amazing to have the scrapbook to look at whenever you need a pick-me-up. There are so many great things about writing too though and you named a number of them! Thanks for sharing those stories with us.

There’s also a lot we learn as we work on publishing our work. What is one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known before you published your very first book?

Walt:
The tremendous satisfaction I would eventually feel every day as a result of having written a story that has appealed to so many people in the US, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Serbia, Australia, China, India, Thailand, The Philippines, Ghana, Brazil, Singapore, and other places around the world.

The Writing Piazza:
I can only imagine how great that feels! I hope to one day feel that satisfaction myself. 🙂

Do you have any last advice for authors hoping to publish their own work?

Walt:
Do not accept anything less than your absolute best effort. Know your market and what appeals to your market. Do not fall prey to the so-called “Pride Of Authorship” syndrome where you cannot be open-minded to suggestions for improving your manuscript. Be prepared to spend thousands of hours on promoting and marketing, unless you are the lucky few who have a major publisher.

The Writing Piazza:
And of course I have to ask, are you currently working on a new book?

Walt:
It is a well-kept secret. Haha.

The Writing Piazza:
Haha, fair enough. How about if readers want to connect with you, how can they go about doing that?

Walt:
My web site is http://www.walterbbiondi.com/ (Please read).

My Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/waltbb (please like and follow) (10,000+ followers)

My Twitter page is: https://twitter.com/waltbiondi (please follow) (28,000 followers).

The Writing Piazza:
Excellent! Well, that brings us to the end of our interview. Thank you so much Walt for taking the time to be with us today. Your story was truly inspirational and motivational. And thanks to those of you who are reading this interview. We are honored that you have chosen to spend some of your precious time here with us on The Writing Piazza. We hope you will sign up to follow this blog so you can stay up-to-date on all the goings on.

There is always something new and exciting going on and we want you to be a part of the WP family! Have a look around and of course if there’s anything you’d like to see on the site that you don’t see, please drop us a line at thewritingpiazza@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to give you what you want!

Until we meet again.

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