I am thrilled to have a very special guest joining me today! Robert Masello is an award-winning
journalist, television writer, and author of many bestselling books of both
fiction and non-fiction. His most recent
work is the historical thriller The
Romanov Cross, published by Bantam/Random House. The release date is March 5, 2013, and the
book has received starred reviews in Kirkus,
which praised its “delicious sense of creeping dread,” and in Publishers Weekly,
which said: “Masello skillfully weaves together the story of the
deaths of the Romanov family and the possibility of a new worldwide influenza
pandemic . . . Toss in a pack of slavering wolves, the undead, and a chilling
ending, and the result is a terrific, can’t-put-it-down read.”
I am eagerly awaiting my pre-ordered
Kindle copy! Mr. Masello, thank you so much for the opportunity to interview
you! Your novels are page turners that combine
the elements of thriller, romance, paranormal and historical. So please tell us about your latest work, The
so much for your kind words about all the disparate elements that come together
in my books -- but that’s also been my problem for years! My books do tend to cross so many boundaries
that neither publishers, nor bookstores, always know how to categorize them or
where to stock them on a shelf. This
one features the end of the Romanov dynasty, the strange fate of Anastasia, the
rise of the 1918 flu epidemic, and a contemporary love story between a
disgraced Army epidemiologist and an Inuit woman intent on preserving the
ancient ways of her people at the same time that she helps them to adjust to
the changing climate, in every sense, of the modern world.”
always some kernel in the news that catches my attention, and in this case it
was the fact that global warming had caused the tundra to start to thaw. What
would happen, I wondered, if the bodies of Spanish flu victims, perfectly
preserved in the frozen soil, also began to thaw? Could the virus have been lying dormant all
this time? And could it be re-released
into the world?”
Part of the novel takes place one
hundred years ago and involves a member of Russian royalty, while the other
part occurs in the present, centering on a U.S. Army epidemiologist in Alaska.
Share with us some of the research you did for The
took months just to read tons of books, and watch lots of movies (“Dr. Zhivago”
among them) in order to get the history
and the visual landscape of the story into my head. I’d say the research took way more time than
the writing, actually -- not that the writing was a breeze.”
You’ve written books that cover several
time periods, so I take it you’re a history lover! Part of The Medusa Amulet unfolds in Renaissance
Italy, and some of Blood
and Ice in Victorian England. In
a previous interview I read, you said “writing the period details and
historical portions is easier and more enjoyable than the contemporary
scenes.” For you, why is that? And also,
what is your favorite time period?
because I still can’t figure out how to program my DVR or re-set the microwave
clock. The modern world baffles me, and
I still don’t know exactly what a Tweet looks like. But the past is past, it’s done and set in
stone, and if I research it, I can probably convey it well enough to carry the
reader along for the length of the story.
I particularly love Victorian England, which I did indeed feature in my
vampire-inflected romance, Blood
I’m assuming that research is a favorite
part of the writing process for you, but what do you enjoy most (plotting,
dialogue, creating characters and their worlds, etc.)?
is the worst, the absolute worst! It’s
what keeps me up nights (as it does most novelists). Writing dialogue can be fun, especially
because you never know what your characters might say next. Mine tend to be too nice and get along too
well -- I’m always having to prod them into conflict of some kind.”
my mother, who raised me on spooky stories and Gothic romance. Wuthering
Heights remains one of my all-time favorite books -- and movies. (But I’m talking about the old version, where
Laurence Olivier played Heathcliff, and Merle Oberon Cathy.”
would LOVE to, and if you ever met me at a dinner party, you’d find me a pretty
lively guy -- I swear. It’s just that
when I have to go into a room, all by myself, to write, I get moody and
darker. In nonfiction, I can conjure
up something closer to my spoken voice, but I’ve never been able to get it onto
the page in a novel -- at least to my own satisfaction. (But then I’m one of those writers who is
never satisfied with anything he’s ever done.)”
Some authors write complex character
studies and create spreadsheets when they’re working on a novel. Others tend to make a brief outline, then let
their characters lead the story. (BTW, readers, “Let Them (characters) Lead the
Way” is rule number 41 in Robert’s
Rules). And some writers just
fly by the seat of their pants! Do you
consider yourself a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between?
start out knowing where the novel begins and where it ends (sort of), but the
middle is a muddle. I WISH I could do a
proper outline of the action, but even when I’ve tried, I never wind up
sticking to it.”
What is your writing routine? Do you write a certain number of words each
try to get 1000 words a day -- around 4 typed pages. And I try not to let myself do anything for
fun (like watch “Downton Abbey”) until I’ve done my quota for the day. Most of the time, I write at night, though,
when the phone stops ringing and the e-mails stop coming.”
Is there anything you struggle with
while writing? Also, do you ever suffer
from writer’s block? If so, how do you
me, it’s not so much writer’s block as it is thinker’s block. I get stuck not knowing what happens next in
a novel, and I can wind up staring at the walls for days, trying to figure out
where the story is supposed to go.
Eventually, I always get past it, one way or the other, but writing is
always a struggle. I wanted to be F.
Scott Fitzgerald by now.”
How has your background in journalism
influenced your fiction writing?
taught me to meet my deadlines and get some writing done, even if it’s only
little, each day. It took some of the
mystique out of being a writer, and taught me to approach it more as a craft. Journalists get used to cranking it out,
turning it in, and moving on.”
Now you are a multi-published
bestselling author, but do you have any rejection stories you’d like to share?
Also, tell us about your first break.
is just part of the process. You get
turned down all the time in this business, and often for reasons that have
nothing to do with the quality of your work.
You have to learn (not that I have) to let it roll off your back, and
plow ahead. I’m a delicate flower, and I
even hate to read my Amazon reader reviews, lest I come across someone who
really didn’t like my book. If I get
ninety-nine good reviews, and one bad one, the only one I remember is the bad
one. It’s why I’m in therapy.”
What’s next for you?
wish I could say. Right now I’m resting
between books, and, frankly, trying to get past my divorce. I’m hoping to use that dreadful experience in
my next book. Why not get something out of it, besides legal bills
and anguish? Who knows -- I might even
be able to write that light-hearted, funny novel about a middle-aged guy who’s
trying to learn how to date all over again.
It ain’t easy, I’m discovering.
If I ever had moves, which is doubtful, I’ve forgotten them now.”
Experiencing a trial seems to increase
the flow of creative juices. And
creative outlets prove therapeutic in a time of crisis! We look forward to your next book—perhaps a
Another huge thank you to Mr. Masello! The Romanov Cross hits stores March 5! Readers, what is your favorite time period in the novels you read? I'm sure Robert Masello has it covered! And writers, do you ever experience writers block? Btw, if you don't own a copy of Robert's Rules of Writing, it's worth having!
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!