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

Someone’s Watching

Title: Someone’s Watching
Author: Sharon Potts
ISBN: 978-1608090136
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

If you are looking for a thriller that is quite admirable for both its visual prose and quick pace, then Sharon Pott’s latest crime flick “Someone’s Watching” might just be the thing for you. Not only does it keep you on the edge with its pulse-racing speed but it guarantees you a seriously chilling thrill ride.

It is not until her estranged father suddenly shows up on her doorstep asking for her help that bartender Robbie Ivy learns she has a half-sister, Kaitlin “Kate” Brooks, who went missing along with her best friend, Joanne Sparks in Miami. Robbie seeks help from her ex-boyfriend Jeremy Stroeb who suggests she should consult Detective Judy Lieber, and Robbie made it her mission to locate her sister.

Robbie is frantic when she learns that Joanne’s body was found drowned in India Creek and the whereabouts of Kate remains unknown. With each passing moment, Robbie knew in her heart that the chance of finding Kate alive is getting slimmer by the minute. Racing against time, Robbie intensifies her search, often going against Lieber and coming close to breaking the law. Along the way, Robbie meets self-help author Gina Fieldstone, wife of politician Stanford Fieldstone, who volunteered to help Robbie to find her sister.

Then, a local congressman commits suicide following a visit to a popular bar the same night Robbie was there. She believes there must be a connection to the events to what happened to Kate and she starts digging deeper only to confront a terrible reality that could put everyone she loves at risk.

The lively South Beach club scene in Miami was portrayed so vividly that its gives the feeling you are right there to witness it all. Peopled with sinister characters, Potts delivers a gripping narrative that will keep you hooked until you have reached the very end of this bone-chilling mystery. Be warned that by the time you get there, you will emerge breathless. An utterly zesty read, “Someone’s Watching” is a terrific crime thriller that should win Potts more fans.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com

Did Not Survive

Title: Did Not Survive
Author: Ann Littlewood
ISBN: 978-1590-587454
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Truth be told, a mystery laden with multiple layers of pulse-quickening drama does not get any better than this. Did Not Survive, the second zoo mystery by Ann Littlewood, could only be hailed as just another knock-out. Who would have thought that a zoo, of all places, would be a habitat for such harrowing episodes as depicted in this fascinating mystery. Only Ann Littlewood could so effortlessly pull such an original plot out of the mundane details involving a small town zoo with a heroine who has a knack for playing the detective.

The narrative opens at Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington when zookeeper Iris Oakley, now pregnant and widowed, stumble upon the scene where her boss Kevin Wallace is being mauled to death by a zoo elephant, Damrey. While the whole zoo staff is rattled by the tragic incident, Iris, who is still recovering from her husband’s murder, thinks there is a lot more to the whole story.

As Iris continues to put together the missing pieces, she uncovers a number of suspects within the four walls of Finley Memorial Zoo with motives to kill Wallace. Could one of them have committed the murder or is it really the doing of a mad animal?

The list of suspects grows as it turns out that the elephant care at the zoo has been under criticism from animal rights activists who are staging protests outside the zoo. The new veterinarian seems suspicious enough and Iris starts to keep a close watch on her. To make matters confusing, a new foreman to replace Wallace shows up. Add to that are a series of other disturbing events, including the theft of a zoo van and the discovery of a dead tiger. Iris is sucked into the vortex of the unfolding drama as the police keep dropping by and the animals disappear into thin air.

In this well-plotted mystery, the expertly sketched characters come alive with an appealing heroine who will win you over. The carefully detailed behind-the-scenes at the zoo is complemented by the fascinating portrayal of animal care and human failings. With its nuanced and crisp writing and the page-turning pace, Littlewood has delivered a smart mystery that will leave you staggered with awe. Wildly entertaining.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com

Buffalo West Wing

Author: Julie Hyzy
ISBN: 978-0425-239230
Publisher:Berkley

In her latest culinary thriller Buffalo West Wing, Julie Hyzy concocts a perfect blend of excitement and nail-biting suspense with the terrifying concept of terrorism thrown in together amid a delicious array of food. As everyone’s favorite White House chef Ollie Paras makes an exciting comeback, Hyzy cleverly plots out yet another roller-coaster adventure within the four walls of the official home of world’s most powerful man and his family. You won’t have time to prepare for what’s coming as Hyzy will grab your attention before you know it and keep you hooked until you have seen it to the very end.

White House executive chef Olivia Paras is busier than ever as she prepares for a new First Family to move into the White House. While Ollie recounts the good times she had had with the previous First Family, Ollie is also excited to win over the new residents with her culinary magic. Before she could start on her mission, an ugly turn of events sends things spiraling downwards. It all started with the delivery of a mysterious box of take-out chicken wings to the White House explicitly addressed to the First Kids.

Not having a clue about who the sender was or how did the take-away box made its way into her kitchen, Ollie thinks it is strange for someone to anonymously send the kids their favourite take away snack. Ollie being Ollie, she politely refuses to serve it to the First Kids until she knows for sure – even when the kids asked for it. Ollie suddenly finds herself in a tough spot as she steps on the wrong foot with the First Lady, whose approval she has been counting on.

When the trust has apparently evaporated between Ollie and the First Lady, the family’s personal chef was brought in to prepare the meals for the First Family. Ollie fears that her much-loved position as the executive chef is threatened and she might be replaced by the obnoxious new arrival. Then the chicken turns out to be poisoned and soon it becomes clear that the First Kids are the targets of what appears to be a terrorist attack. How did it land inside White House? The nagging thoughts at the back of her mind have been right all along and Ollie finds herself involved in a messy situation. Will she emerge heroic once again?

A scrumptious slice of a novel, Buffalo West Wing is as delectable as a take-away box of buffalo wings. From the fast-pacing plot to the headstrong yet lovable protagonist, this is the kind of book that you will crave for more even long after you have finished reading it. Just like the way you crave for your favourite snack or you go for a second or even a third helping of your beloved dishes you would be begging for more. Those of you who had high expectations and hopes will not be disappointed. Dive right in!

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com

The Damage Done

Title: The Damage Done
Author: Hilary Davidson
Publisher: Forge
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2697-3

Delivering on all counts, Hilary Davidson’s startling debut The Damage Done is so much more than what meets the eyes. As you turn the pages of this pulse-rating crime fiction, Davidson deftly transports you to a mystery-laden setting where you will be plunged into a deep, dark tragedy that will leave you breathless until you have reached the final written word.

On hearing that her deeply troubled, drug-addicted younger sister Claudia has been found dead in her apartment in New York, a shock-stricken Lily Moore rushes home from Spain. A successful travel journalist, Lily made her escape to Spain a year ago to get away from the troubles in her life, namely her sister Claudia who has been living on the edge of life.

Lily was soon, however, baffled to learn that the body at the morgue belongs to a complete stranger, who has been impersonating Claudia. The whereabouts of her sister therefore remains unknown and the new turns of the events sends her into a state of utter panic. What has happened to Claudia? Where has she disappeared to?

And so, the frantic search for Claudia begins in earnest and when Claudia transforms from victim to suspect in the eyes of the police, Lily becomes determined to find out the truth behind all the baffling mysteries surrounding the disappearance of her sister. In her quest to search for her sister and the person responsible for the tragic situation, Lily makes sure that not a stone is left unturned.

Through all the chaos that ensue, Lily confronts her own past and a string of people who might have any information about Claudia including her next-door neighbor, Lily’s former fiancé, and even Claudia’s obsessive ex-lover. Then there is the life of Claudia’s impostor that Lily has to dig through to find answers. What emerges is a terrible truth shocking beyond belief that ultimately threatens to take a toll on Lily and those she loves.

With haunting details and heart-quickening twists that you won’t anticipate even in the slightest, The Damage Done explores the issue of identity theft in a new light, cautioning us about the threat it poses. The cleverly-woven plot sends you spiralling down an unknown path, as Davidson guides us through her heroine’s family secrets as well as the peculiar bond between the two sisters and their dysfunctional relationship.

Easily one of the most refreshing crime thrillers to emerge this year, Davidson’s The Damage Done is a first-rate mystery debut that is thoroughly entertaining and highly satisfying. So sit back and enjoy this racing thrill ride of a novel full of mystery and suspense that guarantees escapism at its best.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com

The Postcard Killers

“She felt with her fingertips for the man’s pulse on his neck and estimated the force of the flow. Then she thrust the stiletto into the man’s left jugular vein. She cut quickly through muscle and ligaments until she heard a soft hiss that told her that his windpipe had been cut.”

Throughout the breathtaking locales across some of Europe’s most beautiful cities including Rome, Frankfurt, Copenhagen and Stockholm, The Postcard Killers set out to thrill you with the odd mystery surrounding a number of grisly murders. The exhilarating narrative doesn’t cease to thrill you even for a second with the extremely fast pacing of the story and the taut, succinct chapters that makes it a true gripping page-turner.

A series of gruesome murders have been sweeping across Europe with the culprits at large. Always a step ahead of the police, the only clue the heartless murderers leave behind is a postcard of the crime scene sent to a local newspaper at the time where the murder is going to take place.

Enter NYPD detective Jacob Kanon, on the hunt for the postcard killers who murdered his daughter Kimmy, follows the trail of the killers to Stockholm. With a deep vengeance, Kanon makes it his obsession to find the killers and bring them to justice.

With the help of Swedish reporter, Dessie Larsson, who has been sent the postcard of the murderer’s crime scene in Stockholm, Jacob finds himself trying to put together pieces of the complex puzzle that will – at last – lead him to the notorious Postcard Killers.

James Patterson’s latest collaboration with Swedish crime writer Liza Marklund adds a highly thrilling factor to it that inevitably brings you onboard to solve the puzzle along with NYPD detective Jacob Kanon. The Postcard Killers brims with real excitement, with expert plotting to give you an adrenaline-fuelled, high-octane thriller.

As one would expect from any James Patterson novel, the top-notch narrative and the riveting personalities, The Postcard Killers give you the roller-coast ride of an absorbing murder mystery that you have been yearning for. It is thoroughly readable due to the short, concise writing to guide you through the maze of mystery in your quest to find out the motive of the killers. That’s when the real excitement begins. You close the last page of the book with a sense of contentment, similar to that of getting off an adrenaline-pumping roller-coaster ride.

Hard-core fans of the master of thriller-mysteries will be delighted with this one. James Patterson will once again rock your world!

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Author Exposure (September 2010)