Friday, April 23, 2010

9mm: An interview with Dennis Palumbo

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors.

For the seventh in this regular series of quickfire author interviews, I put the 9mm questions to Dennis Palumbo, who was a Hollywood screenwriter before becoming a licensed psychotherapist. In his psychotherapy practice, Palumbo specialises in helping new and established screenwriters, directors, and novelists address creative issues, as well as those involving mid-life and career transition. He is the author of the non-fiction book Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within, as well as the crime and mystery short story collection, FROM CRIME TO CRIME. Later this year his first crime novel, MIRROR IMAGE, will be released.

I first 'discovered' Palumbo when I came across a very well-written article he had in The Huffington Post. Intrigued, I did some further quick research, and found out about his fascinating background, mystery short story collection, and upcoming crime novel. He also has an interesting blog, which you can read here. I now have a review copy of MIRROR IMAGE, and am very much looking forward to seeing how the screenwriter-turned-therapist and writing advisor, has constructed his own fictional tale.

But for now, I'll leave you with Dennis Palumbo himself:

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
There are a number of characters I really love, from Phillip Marlowe to Inspector Morse to Dave Robicheaux (not to mention Mr. Holmes of Baker Street). However, as of right now, I'd probably have to say Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
My father bought me The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a handsome illustrated hardcover whose bindings I can still smell. I loved those stories, re-read the book a dozen times. I loved the Holmes and Watson relationship, maybe because I saw a bit of my idealized young self in each of them. I also loved the puzzles, and, oddly, the period setting.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Prior to my current career as a licensed psychotherapist, I was a TV and film writer. My credits include the TV series Welcome Back, Kotter and the movie My Favorite Year. I've written a sci-fi novel, City Wars (Bantam Books), a nonfiction book about writing called Writing From the Inside Out (John Wiley), and a collection of mystery short stories, From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). My stories have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine and elsewhere. My essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Lancet and many other publications. Currently, I do a regular blog for The Huffington Post.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love hiking, and once spent three months in Nepal trekking in the Himalayas. I also like being out on the water, especially in a sailing boat. And, of course, tons of reading.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
My hometown of Pittsburgh has many famous attractions, including the two universities, Pitt and Carnegie-Mellon, plus museums, etc. But I'd recommend getting someone to take you out on one of the Three Rivers on a boat. I don't even know if you can do that anymore. But the history along that river---the abandoned steel mills, etc.---is fascinating. The whole story of industrial America, and how it's been dismantled and transformed.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? The first name that comes to mind is Gabriel Byrne, though probably because he plays a therapist in HBO's In Treatment. Though it might be hard to explain what I'm doing with an Irish accent.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My upcoming novel, Mirror Image, because the hero-narrator is a psychologist and the story is set in Pittsburgh, my home town. I also like the fact that I was able to weave into the story so much of my own experiences as a therapist.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
This was many years ago, but I remember clearly the first time I saw my sci-fi novel, City Wars, in a special display at the UCLA bookstore where I was doing a signing. I couldn't believe it. Here I was, a guy who'd spent his life browsing in bookstores, and now I was an author, doing a signing at one.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
One of the most interesting experiences was when my former literary agent and I shared a panel at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. We talked openly about the ups and downs of our professional relationship, where and when we disagreed, how we each brought certain expectations to the relationship that we each admitted hadn't been met. It was like a therapy session, done before a roomful of people. Afterwards, neither he nor I could believe how honest and forthcoming we'd been with each other. Neither, I think, could the audience. The buzz afterwards was huge.

Thank you Dennis Palumbo. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

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So what do you think of Dennis Palumbo's answers? Have you read any of his writings, either articles, short stories, or non-fiction work? If so, what did you think? Do you like the sound of some Pittsburgh-set crime with a psychologist as the hero? Feedback, thoughts, and comments greatly appreciated.

2 comments:

  1. Craig - Thanks for this interview. Dennis Palumbo is certainly an interesting person, and it was especially interesting to find out that he's based only about an hour and a half from where I went to university. Small world... I look forward to learning what you think if Mirror Image.

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  2. Thanks for introducing Dennis to your readers. He has been one of my favorite writers for years.
    Dr. Mark Baker
    Pasadena, California

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