Today I welcome Douglas Corleone, author of the legal thriller NIGHT ON FIRE (Minotaur Books, April 2011), second book in the Kevin Corvelli crime series set in Hawaii.
Corleone's debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE (Minotaur Books, April 2010), was the winner of the second Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, he now resides in the Hawaiian Islands, where he writes full-time.
About the Book:
Former NY defense attorney Kevin Corvelli, practicing in Hawaii to dodge the spotlight, is deep in his mai tais at a resort when he hears an argument between a pair of newlyweds. He dismisses the argument until a fire breaks out later that night, and he barely escapes his hotel room. That new husband is dead; the wife, prime suspect for arson and murder, becomes Corvelli's newest client. She also has motive opportunity...and a history of starting fires.
What inspired the book? How was writing this different than your other works?
"The inspiration for NIGHT ON FIRE was a frightening night from my childhood. My family was vacationing in Canada and we were staying in a high-rise hotel in Toronto. In the middle of the night, the fire alarm went off, waking everyone up. I was terrified. We escaped the building, and the fire, which started two floors below ours, was put out before anyone was seriously injured. But that night remains emblazoned in my memory, even though the rest of the trip was lost.
"Writing this book was different from any of my other works because this was the first book I wrote that was already under contract. It gave me tremendous confidence knowing the book was already sold and that it would ultimately reach my readers. I think that confidence shows in my writing and it’s a better story because of it. I realize many authors suffer through their sophomore novel, but for me, it was a joy to write. Hard work, yes, but still a joy."
What's your favorite part of the book, and why?
"My favorite part of the book is when defense attorney Kevin Corvelli is trapped in his hotel room trying to escape the blaze. He’s every bit as terrified as I was as a child, but he now possesses the wherewithal to take control of the situation. I’ve now read that part countless times, yet I still feel a sense of dread as I peruse those pages."
Share how you got your book deal and your path to publication?
"My debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. It’s a fairly new competition. I was only the second winner. The inaugural winner Stefanie Pintoff went on to win the Edgar Award for Best First Novel for her historical masterpiece IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM.
"Winning a competition is an unconventional way to get published, but some of today’s best crime writers got their start thanks to competitions like Minotaur’s. My editor felt strongly that Kevin Corvelli should lead a series, so we entered a deal for the next two legal thrillers, NIGHT ON FIRE and next year’s CHOICE OF EVILS."
Where or how do you write? What's your writing schedule like?
"I write on a laptop in my home office, usually first thing in the morning after breakfast until sometime in the late afternoon. My work clothes are shorts and a tee shirt year round, no shoes. I’ve tried in the past to give myself word goals, but they never seem to work. So now, I write as much as I can, and then stop."
Any writing tips and advice on getting published that you'd like to share?
"In terms of constructing a novel, do what works best for you. Dismiss advice that sounds too rigid, such as 'Don’t begin revisions until you have a complete first draft.' That’s nonsense. I revise as I write; many successful writers do. But I read that piece of advice in just about every writer’s forum and magazine that I stumble upon.
"As for getting published, develop a thick skin and persevere. The publishing industry moves at glacial speed, so once you type 'The End' on your first manuscript, don’t be disappointed if it takes you five years to get it published. And once it’s published, that’s when the challenges really begin."
Excerpt from NIGHT ON FIRE:
As I rise to consciousness I realize the prison alarm is just an alarm clock, maybe the loudest alarm clock on earth. Lying on my stomach I feel around for an extra pillow, place it atop my head and try to smother my ears.
When the cougar begins clawing at my back I realize this is no alarm clock. It’s a goddamn fire alarm, the kind of fire alarm even the dead could hear. I reach for another flat, lifeless pillow and tug it down hard over the first.
The cougar’s growling something at me.
“...time is it?” I shout.
I peek out from beneath my pillowed teepee and glance at the window. It’s still night, no light spilling in at all. My eyes flutter toward the digital alarm clock, which reads two-twenty something, the last digit blacked out by one of my socks.
Quickly I take inventory of myself: pounding head, burning stomach, a mouth that tastes like rum and coconut suntan lotion. So, nothing out of the ordinary.
The cougar meanwhile is on her feet, slipping back into her sundress, shouting at me to get out of bed.
“No way,” I say, lowering the heavy lids of my eyes.
Fire alarms, they go off all the time. Like car alarms, only louder. I’ve been putting up with this ever since my first semester at URI, some jacked-up resident advisor constantly chasing me naked out of the freshman dorm. Drills they called them. Drills held in the dead of night just to get the girls outside in their underwear, nipples instantly hardening under white cotton tank tops in the brisk New England air. Gossips loitering with their binoculars ready to report the following morning on who is sleeping with whom. Dorms, hotels, condos, apartment buildings, it’s always the same. Always a prankster, some joker or toker higher than an elephant’s eye blowing bong smoke up at the ceiling. Never is it a bona fide emergency.
Well, almost never.
The cougar smacks my bare back so hard that it stings. “There’s a fire,” she shouts.
I groan. “How do you know, baby?”
“Because there are flames out in the hall and there’s smoke coming in under the door,” she yells. “And stop calling me baby!”