Author Interview with Rich DiSilvio
ULM: What led you to writing your novel, Nazis Nemesis?
Actually two things: First, was my intense interest in history and WWII, and second, was a recurring dream I had. For almost two years after publishing my previous novel, A Blazing Gilded Age, I was having a vivid dream of an American WWII soldier and Nazi officer fighting aboard an airplane. It gets very nasty and well, I’ll leave it at that. But it made for an exciting opening. I finally committed to sitting down and crafting an outline, since my dream was merely one action scene. Therefore, an entire storyline, with motives, characters, settings etc., had to be built around that one event. A very odd way to start a story, but that was the seed that grew into a rather complex and twisted tale.
ULM: Which of the characters did you enjoy creating the most?
The protagonist was a fun character. Jack Goodwin/Hornsby is a real piece of work; charismatic, funny, clever, and a puzzle. Jack even had me on my toes, guessing what would happen next. The first half of the novel he is telling his daughter, Eleanor, about his escapades during WWII, and they were so compelling, that I truly had a hard time pulling myself away from writing. Happily, many readers also found his yarns riveting, just as Jack’s daughter had in the novel.
But several other characters had also pulled me in deep, examining their particular psyche, past, or motives, such as Veronika and Bronislaw, who play key roles in the subplot that develops. I also enjoyed crafting Eleanor’s development from an innocent teenager into a self-thinking strong woman. Yet, even small characters have their own charm in the creation process.
ULM: What other projects are you working that you can share with us, readers?
I’m currently working on a series called Tales of Titans. It features a collection of short fictional scenarios, each about a major figure of history. This first volume extends from ancient Rome to the Renaissance, and features such icons as Augustus Caesar and his wife Livia, Constantine, Dante, Columbus, the Borgias, Leonardo da Vinci and others. It also contains brief nonfictional material, making this series both informative and entertaining. And the fact that each chapter is relatively brief gives people a fast read and good taste of how these titans may have sounded in conversation and what made them tick.
Additionally, I recently released two YA books. Danny and the DreamWeaver is somewhat of a fantasy/time-travel novelette, dealing with a ninth-grade boy’s odd yet edifying dream. It’s published under the pseudonym Mark Poe, which is a gracious nod to two great American writers, Mr. Twain and Edgar.
Meanwhile, Meet My Famous Friends is a whimsical picture book that will make kids of all ages laugh, with the subtle intention of fostering an interest in great historical figures, such as Vincent van Goat, Susan Bee Anthony, Albert Eine-Stein, Queen Elizardbreath etc. Humor is a great tool to get kids’ attention. So hopefully some of “my famous friends” will become positive role models for a younger generation and brighten their future.
ULM: What inspired you to write in the historical war thriller genre?
Actually, my first book was a 750-page nonfictional tome on Western civilization, and wars are naturally a part of human history. In fact, all my previous novels include wars, whether in large measure, like in Liszt’s Dante Symphony, or even a single chapter, as in A Blazing Gilded Age. War offers a writer and readers conflict, as well as the ugly and heroic sides of mankind, hence being an intriguing topic.
However, it is keen to note that while My Nazi Nemesis takes place during both WWII and the Cold War, the main storyline focuses on the personal lives of the main characters. Their odd and harrowing situations drive them in various directions to resolve their misfortunes, and that takes them all across Europe and the United States. I think that’s why this novel is even appealing to readers that aren’t necessarily drawn to pure war novels. Additionally, these period pieces offer me the chance to write about other interests of mine, namely music and art. Each of my novels feature the arts in some capacity, giving authenticity to the time period and enlightening some readers about works of art or older music, especially classical music.
However, there are naturally scenes that relate to events during the Cold War and Nazi Germany. Having grown up during the 1960s, there were many WWII movies that were imprinted on my mind, such a The Great Escape or Von Ryan’s Express. While they were not as intense as more recent war movies, like Sophie’s Choice or Schindler’s List, they did instill in me a fascination and fear of the Nazis. As such, I was compelled to incorporate a disturbing scene where Veronika is sent to Auschwitz. What she witnesses and endures, as well as the profound questions she asks her captors, brings something new to this historical tragedy.
Likewise, the Cold War threats of Soviet expansion and a nuclear attack during my childhood also instilled a lifelong lesson. It makes one realize that whether it was the Nazis, the Soviets, or modern day Jihadists, our security and liberty is always at risk. So it is crucial to refresh our memories about these events, even in novel form, because whether it’s the Nazis gassing Jews or the Jihadists decapitating infidels, we must be cognizant of the ugly realities in life and remain vigilant at all times.
ULM: Using three words how would you describe your writing?
Entertaining, thought provoking, and intriguing.
ULM: Besides writing an amazing novel, what are your other hobbies?
I love creating, in all forms. I’ve had my hands at drawing and painting for many years, having studied at an academy under a protege of Norman Rockwell’s. Yet over the years I’ve veered away from oil painting and work primarily in the digital medium. My artwork has appeared in various art galleries nationwide and I recently released a limited edition book of my surreal and fantasy art. I have also toyed around with music, composing a number of songs, and have built all sorts of things, from furniture to all types of home renovations, large and small. I’ve managed to incorporate those hobbies into my careers, so I’ve been fortunate.
And of course I love researching, mostly about historical people and events, especially when it is newly revealed information regarding things we Americans hadn’t learned in school, such as how Soviet women were the only women permitted to fight during WWII. While women from other nations could work in weapons factories or be nurses or fly planes for non-combative operations, Soviet women, in contrast, were flying raids against Hitler. That’s why I found it imperative to incorporate that into My Nazi Nemesis as well. Writing is a powerful medium, and I don’t take it for granted. I believe it’s important for an author to share knowledge with their readers, as entertainment doesn’t have to be frivolous.
ULM: How did it feel to be an international 2016 gold medal winner for your novel, Nazis Nemesis?
Quite stunning. I recall blinking hard, then squinting to get a better look at the announcement page. I had to see if my eyes were really seeing what they were seeing. I knew it was a long shot, competing against so many writers from over a dozen countries, but in my gut I had this uncanny feeling that this novel would rise to the top. As mentioned, the protagonist, Jack Goodwin/Hornsby, even had me enthralled with his engaging tales and sarcastic wit, while also keeping me in suspense and guessing. And the twisted story, I knew, would not be easily forgotten.
Another reason for my confidence was that I had previously received five separate glowing review awards, so my spirits and belief in this work were high. Yet despite the positive feelings, in reality, it is always a tall order to win a competition of this magnitude. So “overjoyed” about sums it up.
ULM: What advice do you have for other writers?
As hard as it is, endure the insults of critics, learn from your mistakes, stay true to your artistic convictions, and keep at it! Quite oddly, besides the gold award and all the glowing accolades, My Nazi Nemesis has also received a handful of insulting reviews. We’ve all heard how some famous writers and their novels had been rejected by the so-called “professionals,” only to be picked up by another, more perceptive agent, to become block busters. So beyond lay readers, even some professionals have bad judgement.
It’s critical to realize that art, in all forms, is subjective. Even works of pure genius can sometimes not be huge commercial successes. For example, the 1974 album “Relayer” by Yes, was a masterpiece in progressive rock, yet due to its sophistication it could never compete on the billboard charts with pop songs that appeal to a broader base. So success can only be measured by your particular niche.
Therefore, the true indicator is what the majority in your particular genre thinks. If a book sells well and scores a solid average of 3 stars or better, you’re in good shape. Dropping below that, you need to do your homework. But naturally, you must always shoot for the stars, all 5 of them!
ULM: Where can readers find both you and your book online?
They can view my books and artwork at my website: http://richdisilvio.com
They can purchase books and eBooks at Amazon http://amzn.com/B01ADO2UUA – Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc. But the only place to get autographed books and special bonuses is at my website.