Please introduce yourself and your books!
I am a short story writer, and I also write about films. All my artistic pursuits stem from my falling in love with movies at a young age: comedies and gangster films, especially the gangster films. I became an avid reader because I wanted to read books based on the movies I watched. Two TV shows, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Twilight Zone,” significantly influenced my writing, and I think you can see that influence in some of my stories. While I attempted to do some writing early on, it wasn’t until about fifteen years ago that I wrote a few stories. Some of which still exist buried in the vault!
Eleven years ago I began writing a film blog (Twenty Four Frames) which is still active today. My first book, “Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames per Second,” was a collection of articles from the blog.” It was during this same period that I began writing short stories once again. Due to my love of film noir, my writing consist mostly of dark crime tales. My first fiction book, “Murder with a Twist,” consisting of two short stories was self-published in 2016. That same year, I published my second film book, “Lessons in the Dark.” In 2017, came “Devious Tales,” a collection of twelve short stories. My most recent collection, “Bitter Ends,” was published in January of this year.
What inspires your creativity?
Like I said earlier, my stories are in the crime genre. Tales of revenge, murder, and other mayhem. The ideas come from various sources in a variety of ways. One of my other passions is photography, so naturally, a few of my tales feature a photographer involved in dirty deeds (“Amanda” and “Anything for Art”). My photographs have sometimes been a source of inspiration. Back in 2014, I photographed this abandoned shack. I was in Vermont driving on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. One day I began to think about what would happen if a couple of kids began to explore this shack. Out of it came my short story called “Life Lesson.” My love of gangster films inspired another story (Smart Like Dillinger). I’ve used newspaper articles, observations and incidents in life as inspiration. My story, “Izzy” is basically true except for the ending. You never really know where something or someone will inspire a story.
How do you deal with creative block?
The process varies. There are stories I have written in one sitting, at least a first draft, and it’s done quickly. I know from the start where it’s going. There are others where I come up with an idea, and sit down and write because I have a beginning, but, I don’t know where it’s going. What I’ll do at that point is sometimes continue to write dribble knowing what I have doesn’t make sense, and hope I can work my way through it. If that doesn’t work, I file the story for another day. My story “Anything for Art,” was originally written with plans to include it in “Devious Tales,” but at the time, I was stuck on various points that didn’t work, so I left it out. I put it aside and forgot about it. Months later, I took another look at it and came up with a more satisfying storyline, and it’s now included in “Bitter Ends.” I also have a black book. Most writers have a book of some sort filled with ideas and other thoughts they can potentially use at some point. Whenever I come up with an idea for a possible story, I write a line or two in my book to be used as future reference. I will look through my black book to remind myself of ideas and hope to find something that will spark my creative process.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Titles naturally should reflect the contents inside the book. One thing I try to do is pick a title that has not been used before, but that’s not always easy. For example, when I came up with the title for “Bitter Ends,” I searched Amazon to see if there were any other books with that title. There were not, but there were books with similar titles: “Bitter End,” “The Bitter End,” “To the Bitter End,” etc. As for the book covers, I know this is not what you are told to do, but as a photographer, I have used my own photographs on most of my books. I put a lot of thought into the design and mood I want the cover to convey. Like the title, I want the cover to fit the spirit of the stories inside. My photographic subjects vary, but most are nature, landscape and abstract. After going through multiple files of my work, the photograph I selected for Bitter Ends was from a trip I took to Yellowstone National Park. There was an area in the park we drove past where the woods were burned purposely by those in charge. The remaining barren trees, plus some work in Lightroom, provided me with the look I thought fit the dark tales inside.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Everyone wants reviews. They help sell books. Of course, everyone wants good reviews, but when you put yourself out there, you have to accept the fact that not everyone is going to like your work. If a bad review is serious and constructive, I don’t mind. It stings at first, and I can accept the advice or not. Then there are always those people who offer nothing but venom. I try to realize those folks most likely hate themselves more than they hate your book. Other than that, good reviews or bad reviews, I don’t get overly elated or depressed, at least I try not to.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Stephen King once wrote, “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness, but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.” What you have to worry about are the unintentional grammar errors and making sure the story flows appropriately. I don’t want someone to discover that the blue Honda my character was driving early in the story somehow turned into a red Toyota. At least not without a legitimate explanation. Lastly, and most importantly, you don’t want to bore your reader.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I always write what I would like to read, and hope the readers come along for the ride.
What are your plans for future books?
I am currently working on my next collection of short stories. I have also been kicking around the idea of another film book, but that has been an on and off sort of project. I am mainly focusing on my next short story collection.
You can check out my blog at https://johngrecoauthor.com/
And my film blog at https://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/
Books are available at https://www.amazon.com/John-Greco/e/B00K0RCADI%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share