September’s in the Limelight: Joseph DeMarco
This month we have someone very prolific. Meet Joseph DeMarco!
KB: Joseph, you have an impressive biography on your site. What part of it would you say molded your writing career the most?
JDM: Any writer’s life shapes their career in many ways. Some of these influences are easily recognized in work produced. Some influences are not as obvious and may cause twists and turns in a piece that the writer did not expect. Sometimes even factors we are well aware of, influence us in ways we don’t realize.
For me, my past history certainly affects my life. My Italian heritage oftenplays a part in my writing. That’s not always the case, but often there’s something there that stems from my heritage. Being Italian-American has enriched my experience and given me a more vivid palette to work from. I grew up in a very Italian neighborhood, but there were other cultural influences which stay with me. I’ve studied in Italy so I have learned about the similarities and differences that exist in the culture as it was translated across the Atlantic and as it has evolved in Italy.
The detective in my Marco Fontana series is obviously Italian and it plays a role in his beliefs, ideas, and development. So far in the series, his Italian past has not come back to haunt him. But it will.
The religion I was raised in, Roman Catholicism, also plays a part in things I write. It appears as part of the tapestry less often than my ethnic heritage but it’s there. In Murder on Camac, it’s there in a big way. I came away from years of religious education with a fascination for the workings of the Vatican and the political intrigue that is very much a part of life there. This all shows in Murder on Camac and in some of my other work.
Growing up in Philadelphia is another influence on my work. And it’s an influence that has wider implications than just the city itself. Philadelphia is a city that is bound to history. Because of that, because of the fact that when you walk the streets you walk in the footsteps of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and many others. History becomes something more than just words in a musty book. It’s alive and it demands respect. It also inevitably works its way into my writing.
Probably most of all, Love has molded my work.
Those are some things but there are many more.
KB: Murder on Camac sounds like a riveting read!
What do you find is the most difficult part of writing gay fiction?
JDM: I don’t think that writing gay fiction is more difficult than writing other kinds of fiction. All writing takes hard work, concentration, and revision. But, what is more difficult about gay fiction as opposed to non-gay fiction is gaining a wider audience, having people respect your work and not look down upon it, and winning an equal place alongside all of the other wonderful literature that exists.
KB: I noticed on your site that you have scores of non-fiction publications too. What do you enjoy writing most? Non-fiction or fiction?
JDM: I want to say that fiction is my favorite because I can create a world that I want to create and populate it with characters who I’d like to get to know. I can remake the world around me so that it’s better than it is. The ability to imagine and create is exciting and the possibilities are limitless. So, yes, fiction is definitely something that gives me great pleasure.
On the other hand, in the nonfiction arena, things are what they are. There’s something pleasant about the limitations you work within when you do a nonfiction piece or book. You must work with what you have. You can’t be faulted because the people you interviewed lacked some quality or other. They are who they are. Whereas a fictional character is judged by other standards.
In doing nonfiction, you can certainly be taken to task if you fudge or misrepresent or do a shoddy job of whatever it is you’re writing about. But shoddy work is shoddy work whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. None of it is a good thing.
I almost like both equally! For all the varying elements that each field comes with. For the different material you have to work with and the way you work with it. For the differing pleasure you get from the product you produce.
But fiction is really my favorite and my passion! It’s more me and gives me more room to exercise and feel free.
KB: I have to agree with you. There is nothing like writing fiction!
In 2001, you became enamored of Montreal. I’ve always had a fascination with the place and hope to visit it one day. What about the city forced you to fall in love with it?
JDM: In 2001, I decided to visit Montréal more often because I found it to be a place that brought me a sense of peace and beauty. So, I decided to spend more time there. It’s a writer’s retreat for me. I still live most of the time in Philadelphia.
Montréal is different in a very good way. There’s a familiarity that surrounds you with a placid security but there’s also a sense you are in a different sort of place, a wonderfully, magically exciting place that has fascinating things all around. The people are interesting, diverse, and beautiful. The atmosphere is invigorating and vibrant. There is a creativity in the air in Montréal that is unparallel. Of course, the language is a favorite of mine.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what caused me to fall for the city. It’s a combination of things that inclu
des history, the ethos of the place, and the people. It has a huge gay village. The first time I visited I remember walking block after block of Le Village and thinking it was so comfortable and that everyone felt it was just another part of the daily life of the city.
KB: I see that you write plays too. Can you tell my readers a bit about the life of a playwright?
JDM: The life of a playwright has a lot to recommend it as well as a lot of pitfalls and rough spots. I still love theater even though I’ve not written a play in some time. Though I still have works which I’d love to see go up and I continue to watch the Tony Awards, fantasizing about being there accepting an award.
I used to think of pla
ywriting as quintessential writing. You have only the characters and what they say. You can add stage directions, as well. But that’s it. Writing drama teaches you to do a lot through dialog. It teaches you to show and not tell (though even in drama, one can fall into the trap of overly telling and not showing).
Writing the plays was fun but working with the production companies and actors was a ball, too. I came to respect the work that actors and directors do and had some interesting squabbles on the way to the stage.
Would I jump at the chance to have one of my works brought to life on the stage again? It all depends.
JDM: Murder on Camac was released in September 2009 and my publisher is getting ready to release the second installment in the series this Fall. So, I’m working at revisions and getting editorial input. And trying to find a suitable title. (That’s one of the hardest parts, finding a title.)
Murder on Camac is the story of a writer who is murdered after he claims to possess documents which reveal who was involved in the murder of Pope John Paul I, who reigned for 33 days. The police think it’s a mugging. The writer’s partner knows that it had to be murder. So he calls in Marco Fontana, my detective, to do an investigation. Marco follows a lot of trails and has to discern whether or not it was really just a mugging, or a murder committed by a publishing rival, a disappointed lover, or a surgical assassination to keep him quiet.
Marco works in Philadelphia and knows the city and especially the gayborhood quite well. Marco also has the distinction of owning a troupe of male strippers, a job which keeps him busy when he’s not doing work on cases. Marco is an Italian-American and his ethnicity plays a part not only in having developed his character but also in his daily life.
Of course there are men in his life: Anton and Luke are the two major interests for Marco but he has a roving eye and isn’t quite ready to commit just yet. They all have their ups and downs and I can tell you that in the forthcoming installment, there will be a lot of twists, turns, and surprises – and that’s just in Marco’s private life!
Murder on Camac developed over a long period. But when it took hold it wouldn’t let go. It was actually supposed to be the second book in the series. But it really gripped me as a story and I decided it would have to be written first.
KB: In 2004, you took over Mysterical-E. How has that gone and what’s your favorite part of handling the magazine?
JDM: The first issue of Mysterical-E under my direction as Publisher/Editor was in Spring 2005 (which means we just celebrated five years), thought I’d had the magazine since November 2004 and worked on revamping it for several months.
It’s work. A lot of work. It’s a volunteer effort (we can use more staffers, send me an email!). Because it’s all volunteer, I cannot be demanding of my staff. These are good people who have lives of their own and they help out when they can. I do a lot of the necessary work. My webmaster handles the technical side of things. And my staff gives generously of their time when I ask them to do some editing or reviewing.
My favorite part of doing Mysterical-E is getting writers and their work out there to a hungry public and hearing the satisfaction both groups express. I’d like to pay something to our writers but I’m not a wealthy person. Trying to hunt down advertisers or other funding sources is not something I can do (anyone wanting to hire on for that kind of work: Call Me!) But it’s a goal of ours.
KB: I have to admit one thing that often influences my work is TV shows. I see you have several favorites such as Cold Case, which I enjoy, too, but with the new shows that have aired for the summer, do you have any new ones to add to your list?
JDM: I watch far too much TV and the new approach of some TV execs, i.e. having summer programming which is excellent and fills the gap left by disappearing reruns) is great. The hell of it is that they keep coming up with some great shows.
My favorites list now includes White Collar, The Glades, Lie To Me, Unnatural History, and more. I hear from my best friend that Scoundrels is great. I’ve yet to see The Gates which features a favorite of mine: Vampires.
KB: Well, Joe, I must admit that this has been a wicked-cool interview! You are certainly full of surprises and captivating information! I am so glad you’re the September author in the limelight, and I wish you the best of luck with your new release!
Readers, if you would like more information about Murder on Camac and where to purchase it or would like to learn more about Joseph De Marco, please visit his site at http://www.josephdemarco.com/.