Interview with Douglas Corleone, Author of Night on Fire
Marilyn: Let’s begin by finding out something about your background.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
Douglas: I first realized I wanted to be a writer when I was in the third or fourth grade, carrying around library copies of The Hard Boys mysteries. I spent a lot of time as a child being dragged around shopping malls, and I’d read as I walked, crashing into people and clothes racks and not caring, always immersed in the story. I’d said it was my goal to become a novelist but was always told that novel-writing was a hobby, not a career choice. I accepted that straight through high school, college, and law school. It wasn’t until I was five years into practicing law that I realized I’d been misled. I went into the law largely because of the books I read in high school, the legal thrillers of John Grisham, Steve Martini, and Scott Turow. I figured the next best thing to writing about lawyers was being one. But it didn’t compare. After five years of practicing law in New York City, I decided I’d rather be a starving writer than a well-fed lawyer. So I packed up, moved to Hawaii, and made it happen.
Marilyn: Night on Fire is a great title. What sparked (pardon the pun) the idea for this mystery?
Douglas: I live in Ko Olina, the small resort community in which this novel is set. I was sitting at one of the large resorts, waiting for the bar to open, when I looked up and imagined one of the towers on fire. It frightened me because when I was a child I’d been in a hotel in Canada when a fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. The fear I experienced that night is as vivid as though it happened just last year, yet I don’t remember a single other moment of that trip. There had been a fire a few floors down from ours, but it was quickly handled and we were permitted to return to our rooms a few hours later. But I don’t think I truly had a fitful night’s sleep in a hotel for the next ten years. I tried to recapture the fear I experienced that night in the first three chapters of Night on Fire, and I when I read it now I feel I succeeded. Because those chapters still fill me with a sense of dread. You can view the trailer for Night on Fire on YouTube.
Marilyn: Since this is the second in the series, would you tell my blog readers about your path to publication?
Douglas: My path to publication was fairly typical, which is to say it was littered with terrifying and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. One Man’s Paradise was the first book I wrote. I landed a literary agent fairly quickly and a couple editors at the major houses were interested early on. But ultimately, we heard things like, “the market for legal thrillers is saturated right now,” and “we’re not quite sure how to market this one.”
It was all very frustrating, and looking back, I don’t see how I didn’t consider giving up. But I didn’t. I kept writing. And when my contract with my literary agent expired, I began submitting on my own. In the summer of 2008, I submitted my novel to the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. On March 31, 2009, I received a phone call from my editor, telling me that I’d won. A year later, One Man’s Paradise hit store shelves. And that was when the more serious obstacles – involving promotion and selling books - were set into place.
Marilyn: How much like you is the protagonist, Kevin Corvelli?
Douglas: Kevin Corvelli is a lot like me in the sense that he is flawed and often conflicted. He’s coming to learn that the world isn’t as black and white as he once believed and that success isn’t measured by a bottom line.
When I was writing the first book, One Man’s Paradise, Kevin and I were both seeing Hawaii through fresh eyes. Now that we’ve both been here awhile, we’re able to focus on aspects other than geography. In Night on Fire, Kevin examines himself through his relationships – with his clients, with his law partners and adversaries – and how relationships we form as adults are often shaped, for better or worse, by our relationships with our parents. Kevin is also facing the paradox all criminal defense attorneys face at one time or another – how do you do what’s right when you may very well be on the side of wrong?
Marilyn: When is your best time for writing, and do you have any special place to write or rituals you go through?
Douglas: I write best first thing in the morning, right after breakfast. My ideal place to write is in a wide open space like the living room, where I can stand up after each paragraph and pace and think about the next. But now that my son is a toddler, that’s his area and I’m confined to my office. I have no rituals, unless you consider a panic attack a ritual. I recently read an interview with Harlan Coben, and he stated clearly that he continues to experience self-loathing during the writing process. If he’s still experiencing it, I’m convinced the anxiety and self-loathing that comes with being a writer never diminishes. And maybe that’s a good thing. I think a healthy dose of self-doubt ultimately improves a writer’s work.
Marilyn: Besides writing, what other things do you like to do?
Douglas: I love the ocean, and if I could find a water-proof, floating laptop, you’d probably never find me on land. At least not before happy hour. I enjoy swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and going out for drinks with friends. Of course, I also love to read. This early in my career, it’s probably only a slight exaggeration to say I buy more books than I sell.
Marilyn: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my blog readers?
Douglas: Just that most writers love feedback from their readers, and I’m no exception. Readers should feel free to contact me through my website, www.douglascorleone.com, and let me know whether they loved the book, hated it, or something somewhere in between. I do write with an audience in mind, and knowing who that audience is and what they like and dislike will inevitably help me produce better and better books. And, at the end of the day, that’s what writing is all about.
Marilyn: By they way, that's a knock-out cover. Thank you for stopping by and answering all my questions.
DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series set in Hawaii. His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands, where he writes full-time. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel.
The amazon buy link is at http://www.amazon.com/Night-Fire-Douglas-Corleone/dp/0312552270/ref=pd_sim_b_1
And here is the dust jacket blurb:
Kevin Corvelli---a hotshot New York defense attorney who packed up his bags and hung his shingle in Hawaii to dodge the spotlight---is deep in his mai tais at a resort when an argument erupts down at the other end of the bar. It’s a pair of newlyweds, married that very day on the beach. And since Corvelli doesn’t do divorces, he all but dismisses the argument.
That’s at least until the fire breaks out later that night, and he barely escapes his hotel room. Most weren’t so lucky, including the new husband. His wife, Erin, becomes not only the police’s prime suspect for arson and murder but also Corvelli’s newest client, and she has a lot working against her, like motive and opportunity, not to mention a history of starting fires.
The heat gets turned all the way up in Douglas Corleone’s scorching legal thriller Night on Fire, his second following the MB/MWA's First Crime Novel Competition winner, One Man’s Paradise.