Meet Steve Piacente Author of Bella

In conversation with Steve Piacente author of Bella.

Good day Steve and thanks for participating in our interview.

Hamdhoon:
Bella is the most complex character in your novel. Tell us about the development process of her character.

Steve:
Bella is a kind of an amalgamation of a lot of people I covered during my reporting years. During those years I covered several very tragic stories and I have always been interested in how people respond to profound grief, profound tragedy and how they deal with it. Some people blame themselves and can’t deal with their grief, some people find ways to channel their grief into instructive acts and some people are in the middle.

Hamdhoon:
What are the challenges you faced during the character development of Bella?

Steve:
Bella is a complex character. You want to ring it true. You want to stir emotion. So people have very different reactions to her and I wanted that. Some people empathize with her; some people think she uses her beauty and sexuality to manipulate people. If I get to a point where it is becoming predictable, too boring or stale, I stop and I develop 10 questions for my main characters and then I ask the questions and answer them in their voices. It is amazing if you let yourself go because that will take you in very different directions.

Hamdhoon:
What would you say is Bella’s most striking strength and weakness?

Steve:
Bella is very savvy. She is not just down-the-road but around-the-corner, and she is very fierce. Her weakness is that she doesn’t care who falls in her wake. When we meet Bella this is not the Bella that existed prior to her husband’s death. So we don’t really know what she was like before that.

Hamdhoon:
You described Bella as a flawed character. Why so?

Steve:
Well, she is emotionally devastated. She is a woman living the life of her dreams. She has this great hunky husband, a pro-athlete. They have a child. Everything was going along great and then suddenly it was over in a matter of moments. The fact that she doesn’t care who gets in the way concludes that end justifies the means. That’s her flawed personality.

Hamdhoon:
Do you think in Bella’s case, end justified means?

Steve:
I think in her mind, it did. I think she has made that decision from the very beginning. She walked into that Senate office and kind of wows Dan with her beauty and sexuality. She is manipulating him from the start and she has made a decision that she will do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of the story.

Hamdhoon:
Your book deals with ethical dilemmas in both journalism and personal integrity. How has it influenced you to write from your own experience as a journalist?

Steve:
Oh gosh. Very powerfully because when you are a journalist, especially a Daily print reporter, you come across these situations every day and you are constantly weighing, just not whether to write a story but which quotes to use, which quotes to leave out, which information to put at the top of the story, which information to put at the bottom. I would say that ethical decisions drive the story from beginning to end. It is all about the ethical decisions Dan makes and telling how it happened.

Hamdhoon:
Why did you decide to write the story in a male perspective even though Bella is the main central character?

Steve:
I wanted Dan to tell the story. I wanted the reporter to tell the story and if you have noticed, the book begins nearly at the end. The book begins as he is down in the dumps. He has suffered for his sins and then he realized how he got there and in the end we have a glimmer of hope for him. So I think it is a story that should have been told by the person writing the newspaper story because that is how it all began.

Hamdhoon:
What message do you think Bella gives to women?

Steve:
I think for women as well as men, it is a cautionary tale about giving into the power of temptation and the yearning for revenge. The short version of that is, think hard before you take the next step.

Hamdhoon:
Who would be your favorite character?

Steve:
Because I worked as a reporter for so many years, I identify most with Dan. But I get a kick out of a lot of characters. I liked the professor Dan had as a young man, who is basically his conscience. I liked writing her. I also liked Dan’s kid. I think he is an interesting kid.

Hamdhoon:
Do you believe in happy endings?

Steve:
Oh sure. I like happy endings. I don’t like tried endings. I don’t like predictable endings. I think it is perfectly feasible that Dan will have a happy ending. Based on life this far, it is plausible that he can repair his marriage and move on in a positive way.

Hamdhoon:
What was the most memorable aspect of writing Bella?

Steve:
I have been a writer since I can remember so I like to write. I get enjoyment out of writing. I let myself go and answer the questions about character in ways that I don’t anticipate. Sometimes I will come out of my home office in Maryland and my wife will go, ‘Are you okay?’ because I have this bewildered look on my face. It was simply because my writing often took me in new directions and I wasn’t sure what’s going to happen. So I guess it would be letting myself be surprised during the writing process.

Hamdhoon:
What was your writing process like?

Steve:
Aside from the interactions I have with the characters, I would go back re-write and re-edit on a scene that would stick out for me. I don’t usually write in a linear way as in this is the beginning and this is the end. Rather I constantly do writing and re-writing and editing and re-editing on various parts. I like to write only in the morning so I guess it is not uncommon for me to write 6 in the morning.

Hamdhoon:
As a self-published book, what role do social media play in promoting Bella?

Steve:
It is enormous. I had like to say I am romantically involved with the idea of social media because, as a former journalist, I really appreciate the fact that I can now take my product and put it in the hands of prospective readers and let them decide whether it is worth reading or nor rather than some agent or publisher. So that role has changed. I think it is fun. I think it is very much like a new frontier, it is actually very exciting to be a part of it.

Hamdhoon:
Where can readers find out more about Bella?

Steve:
Go to the website getbeall.com. Watch the trailer which, by the way, has my daughter Danielle as Bella. On the website, there are links to Bella’s Facebook page, Youtube page and the blog. The blog is about how I came to this point. There’s one entry called Deconstructing 2010. That will tell you pretty much how we got this far. It has got links to all the things we have done so far.

Hamdhoon:
Tell us about your next book.

Steve:
It is called Bootlicker. During the course of my masters program at Hopkins, I spread it out over the course of a semester and in the process of that time I wrote a chapter of what would then become my first novel. Just like in Bella, Dan is once again the Washington correspondent in Bootlicker. Bootlicker talks about how he became the Washington correspondent. So it was like a prequel but it was actually written before Bella.

Hamdhoon:
When do you expect Bootlicker to be available for readers?

Steve:
Probably not before next Thanksgiving.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Interviewed for bookpleasures.com by Hamdhoon Rashad

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Bella

Title: Bella
Author: Steve Piacente
ISBN: 978-1451571615
Publisher: CreateSpace

It is quite safe to say that Bella, the enchanting debut novel by journalist-turned-author Steve Piacente, is nothing less than a literary masterpiece on so many levels. From its punchy and witty prose to its utterly appealing and irresistible heroine, Piacente has charmed us with a bold and inventive novel the effects of which will linger in your minds for a very long time.

Told through the eyes of the male protagonist, a Washington journalist named Danny Patragno, the story centers on the beautiful and elusive widow Isabel ‘Bella’ Moss who has a way of getting what she has put her mind to. After receiving an anonymous phone call that rattled her, Bella is determined on proving that the U.S. military has lied to her and to the world about her husband’s death during the war, and she will stop at nothing until she finds a way to find the truth and tell it to the world.

She lures a reluctant Patragno into the investigation, charming him with her alluring personality. It was her resolve more than anything that drew Patragno’s attention. Of course, her beauty is a whole different story. Along the way as newfound evidences and witnesses resurface, Patragno is more and more convinced that there is more to the story. So much more than even Bella herself knew.

At the same time, Danny’s life is on the line at home with his wife when he finds himself falling for Bella, her powerful attractiveness pulling him like a magnet to the extent that Patragno is pretty much helpless in the presence of Bella. Working together, they were tested by the power of temptation and the consequences that followed, threatening to alter the course of their lives forever.

The rich, involving narrative is knotted together with an adept hand populated by memorable, life-sized character that gives the novel more reality than real life itself. As he piles on the suspense of what’s coming next and the romance that is brewing on the sideline, Piacente takes us across Washington to Florida, along the way meeting some very influential people in politics and military.

One of the most striking themes of the novel is Piacente’s intriguing take on ethics as a former journalist. Burrowing from his extensive experience in journalism, Piacente thoroughly investigates the fine line between the rights and wrongs of journalism ethics and personal morals with a sharp, focused and perceptive eye.

With an original voice that has so audaciously knitted such an enticing yarn, Piacente has proved himself that he is a writer in a league of his own. A highly engaging and an equally marvelous read, Bella comes with the highest recommendation. I can hardly wait for Piacente’s next.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com