Saint Augustine, Florida. A place that I am most proud to call “home” and probably one of the coolest, most beautiful towns in the entire United States…not to mention the oldest. The place is chock full of history…to walk its brick-laid streets is like stepping into a time machine. If you believe in ghosts, it’s one of the most haunted places you’ll ever go. And being someone who works in forensics within the city’s historic streets, I can tell you it does have quite a history of crime. So when I discovered that local author Victor DiGenti, under the pseudonym Parker Francis, had written a hard-boiled detective story set in the Ancient City (a book called Matanzas Bay), I knew I wanted to tell you guys about it.
First of all, Vic spends a great deal of time helping other authors in his work with the Florida Writer’s Association. His amazing generosity with his time, experience, and knowledge has fostered the budding careers of hundreds of aspiring writers out there. Additionally, he has a fantastic writing career of his own with his highly imaginative fantasy adventure Windrusher series (which he’ll tell you a little about in our interview). But for now, let me tell you a little about Matanzas Bay. Though Vic will repeat this in one of his questions, here’s the back cover copy for you to consider:
When PI Quint Mitchell volunteered to help with an archaeological survey in St. Augustine, he didn’t count on digging up a murder victim.
In the nation’s oldest city, Mitchell discovers links to ancient sins, comes face to face with his own past, and unleashes powerful forces that will do anything to keep their secrets—even if it means taking his life. In this award-winning debut mystery, author Parker Francis taps into an undercurrent of violence hidden behind the sleepy façade of the historic town. When Mitchell’s friend, the City Archaeologist, is charged with a brutal murder, he must find the true killer while fighting inner demons and the corrosive residue of racial violence dating back to the Civil Rights Movement. As he learns, St. Augustine was birthed in blood—Matanzas means “place of slaughter” in Spanish—and violence is never far from the surface.
Sounds pretty exciting, right? If you’ve been to St. Augustine or have often wanted to go there…you should definitely pick up this book. Heck, even if you’ve never heard of it, you should pick it up because you’ll be blown away by our city’s rich history and intrigue. Plus, I can tell you that Vic is an awesomely talented writer and I honestly cannot wait to sink my teeth into his latest novel!
And here’s a link to it via Barnes and Noble Nook: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Matanzas-Bay/Parker-Francis/e/2940012316172/?itm=1&USRI=parker+francis
Recently I had a chance to talk to Vic, who goes by Parker Francis for his newer, grittier series, about his books, writing in general, and everything in between! Here’s what he had to say:
1) I’ve already described your most recent book, Matanzas Bay to my readers…but there’s nothing better than hearing what a book is about from an authors own keyboard. Please, in your own words, tell us a bit about this book.
Here’s the official description as it appears on the Amazon.com Kindle page:
When PI Quint Mitchell volunteered to help with an archaeological survey in St. Augustine, he didn’t count on digging up a murder victim. In the nation’s oldest city, Mitchell discovers links to ancient sins, comes face to face with his own past, and unleashes powerful forces that will do anything to keep their secrets—even if it means taking his life. In this award-winning debut mystery, author Parker Francis taps into an undercurrent of violence hidden behind the sleepy façade of the historic town. When Mitchell’s friend, the City Archaeologist, is charged with a brutal murder, he must find the true killer while fighting inner demons and the corrosive residue of racial violence dating back to the Civil Rights Movement. As he learns, St. Augustine was birthed in blood—Matanzas means “place of slaughter” in Spanish—and violence is never far from the surface.
Those are my words, but I can add that MB is a hard-boiled murder mystery layered with personal guilt, links to past racial violence, and long-held secrets which bubble to the surface as my protagonist tries to find a murderer and save his friend.
2) The setting for this mystery is in St. Augustine, Florida. Why did you choose that particular location for your book? For those who may not be familiar with St. Augustine, mind sharing a little bit about the town?
The idea for Matanzas Bay came to me as I was writing the second in the Windrusher trilogy, Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth. In that book, Windrusher, my feline protagonist, is snatched—catnapped—from his backyard and taken to Southern California. The family who cared for the cat lives on Florida’s west coast in Crystal River, but a neighbor who recently moved from the Jacksonville area to Crystal River tells them about a detective who is extraordinarily good at finding things. The detective is Quint Mitchell. His office is in Jacksonville Beach, but they contact him and he goes on to solve the case. As I was breathing life into his character, filling out his resume, I decided he had an interest in archaeology. I may have alluded to his interest in the Windrusher book, but it played no part in it, but as I was writing the book, a question came to mind: What if Quint digs up a murder victim while assisting on an archaeological survey? The idea wouldn’t go away, and as soon as I completed “Cave,” I began plotting scenes for what turned out to be Matanzas Bay. Setting it in St. Augustine made a lot of sense to me. First, St. Augustine overflows with ghosts from its storied past. It’s the kind of town that begs to have a good murder mystery written about it. Secondly, St. Augustine has many great settings for this kind of book, and I used a few of the more popular tourist destinations for major scenes, such as the Lighthouse and the Alligator Farm. For those not familiar with the nation’s oldest city, it’s a lovely town with echoes of the Spanish settlers who lived and died there hundreds of years ago. It’s well worth a visit, and, as far as I know, there hasn’t been a string of murders like the ones that happen in Matanzas Bay.
3) Now this is the first of your Quint Mitchell series. Any hint yet at what Quint might be facing in the future?
I’m currently writing the second Quint Mitchell Mystery, Bring Down the Furies. In fact, when readers purchase either the Kindle or Nook version of Matanzas Bay (and the upcoming trade paperback), they’ll also receive the prologue and first chapter from that book. In the lead-in to that excerpt, I write, Quint Mitchell is on the move again. The private investigator tracks the “Heart Throb Bandit” to the tiny hamlet of Allendale, South Carolina on behalf of a client. In another time, Allendale felt the wrath of General Sherman’s troops as they blazed a fiery path through Georgia and Carolina during the Civil War. There’s another conflagration brewing today fueled by a serial arsonist and an ugly confrontation between an ultra-conservative minister and the scientist responsible for a renowned archaeological survey known as the Topper Site, which has uncovered proof of the oldest humans ever found in North America. Mitchell is pulled into the growing violence, working with the sheriff’s department to calm the growing storm as a media frenzy leads to massive demonstrations, and arson turns to murder. Caught in the middle, Mitchell becomes a target for the arsonist, and must save himself while helping to save the town from being destroyed for the second time.
4) Matanzas Bay is a mystery novel. Recently, I’ve been hearing that mysteries are becoming as popular (and just as lucrative) as romance. What do you think is the appeal of a good mystery to readers? What are some of the quintessential elements that any good mystery should have?
In a way, mysteries share the same elements as other good fiction: strong characters, a compelling plot, rising tension and suspense. The mystery usually starts with a crime, often a murder, and the protagonist tries to solve that crime. The author sprinkles clues like literary M&M’s (remember how the kids trapped ET?) along the path, salts it with more than a few red herrings to keep the reader guessing, throws in twists and surprises, and then solves the mystery, usually after a climactic scene in which the antagonist and protagonist duke it out. Today’s mystery reader wants more than a simple, formulaic story though. They want sharp characterization, with realistic, charismatic characters who jump off the page. Characters they care about. They want a surprising plot, filled with growing tension derived from conflict and suspense. There are many kinds of mysteries, as there are romances. The cozies are much less violent and often involve an amateur detective. Noir mysteries are dark and filled with atmosphere of place and time. The hard-edged mysteries tend to be police procedurals and private eye novels like those written by Michael Connelly and Robert Crais. As I learned in the writing, and rewriting, of Matanzas Bay, it’s not an easy trick to pull off.
5) Who are some of your favorite authors? Which ones do you draw inspiration from (if any)? How these authors influence your writing?
I mentioned two of my favorites, Connelly and Crais. I’m also a big fan of James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, and Lee Child. Each of them is a master of suspenseful storytelling in their own way, and I’m inspired by them as well as many other authors who write in other than the mystery/suspense/thriller genre.
6) Besides writing, what other activities do you enjoy? How do you spend your time when away from the keyboard?
I’ve been active in the Florida Writers Association, almost from its inception ten years ago. I’m on the board of directors of FWA, serve as Regional Director for NE Florida, and lead one of the writer’s groups here. I’m also on the board of our local Friends of the Library organization. These volunteer activities have kept me busy, although these days more and more of my time is spent writing and marketing my books. My wife and I have two children who live in California, so we make frequent trips to visit them and our granddaughter. Other than that, I enjoy a walk on the beach, a good meal, and a good book.
7) Now Parker Francis is a pen name for your new hardboiled detective series. Please tell us a little about your other series of books…I’m sure I have plenty of cat and adventure lovers out there that would love to hear about Windrusher!
The Windrusher trilogy, Windrusher, Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth, and Windrusher and the Trail of Fire (Ocean Publishing) are what I term adventure/fantasies. There are mystical threads running through the books, and when people read them they learn that cats have a culture dating back thousands of years to ancient Egypt where they were first domesticated. And this culture comes complete with mythical feline gods and goddesses. Anyone who has or ever had a cat knows that cats spend the majority of their lives sleeping. So you can see I had a challenge to make a heroic figure of a fur-bearing creature that spends 18 to 20 hours a day curled up on your sofa. One of the things I did was create an Internet of the mind for cats called the Akhen-et-u. While they sleep, cats are able to communicate with one another. Windrusher is called Tony by his human family. Of course it doesn’t matter what we call them since they don’t pay much attention to us except at feeding time. In my books, cats name themselves and he found his “call name,” Windrusher, in a dream, which later came true. And unlike some cat series where the cat helps the inept humans solve crimes or is able to talk to the two-legged folks around him, my cats don’t have any supernatural abilities other than the ability to communicate with one another. Windrusher, though, is visited in his dreams by a different feline god or goddess in each of the books. Their dream visits plunge my protagonist through that fictional doorway into the plot. In Windrusher and the Trail of Fire, for example, our four-legged hero becomes separated from his humans and is taken to a cat rescue center called Precious Friends Cat Sanctuary outside Ocala. There he meets Rahhnut, the keeper of the Day Globe, or the sun to us mere mortals. Rahhnut warns Windrusher that, “fiery destruction is on the way,” and he’s responsible for saving the 200 cats residing at the sanctuary. This was a lot of fun to write. I think anyone with cats, or lovers of fantasy novels (though these are not of the Harry Potter variety) will enjoy the books. I’ve had readers tell me after reading Windrusher they would never look at their cats the same way.
Here’s a book trailer for Windrusher and the Trial of Fire!
8) Now, the question I ask every author I can…If you could offer only one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
New writers don’t like to hear this, but writing is hard work. There’s no guarantee of making it big, or even getting published. Because of that, many give up and never learn whether they are good writers or not. One piece of advice I give new writers is not to give up. To persevere. I think it was Stephen king who said, “Talent is as common as table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” I certainly don’t set myself up as a model for writers to emulate, but I learned that there was a lot I didn’t know, and I had to keep working at it if I wanted to improve. I’d recommend to concentrate on getting better before worrying about how to get an agent or how to get published. Join a writer’s organization like FWA, find a critique group, attend workshops and writer’s conferences. And write!. The more we write, the better we get. Master SF author Ray Bradbury said, “The first million words don’t count.” I’m not sure if I’ve reached the million-word mark yet, but I’m getting close.
Thank you Vic for a great interview! I wish you much success with your newest book! And friends, I highly encourage you to check out Matanzas Bay. Right now, it’s only available the Kindle, Nook, and other ebook formats, but will be released in print very soon.
And if you want to learn more about Victor DiGenti, check out his website: http://windrusher.com/
Here are some links to his Windrusher books too: