This week, we have the honour of an interview with author Dina Santorelli, who wrote the Amazon bestselling political thriller, Baby Grand, and who has since written In The Red.
Recently, I contacted Dina on Instagram and she kindly agreed to an interview.
Where do you live and does this place, or anywhere else that you’ve lived, appear in your writings?
I live on Long Island, New York, which is at the very bottom of New York State. New York is featured prominently in all my books, actually. Baby Grand, my debut novel, takes place mostly in New York’s state capital, Albany, and all of In the Red takes place on Long Island. Hey, you write what you know. 😊
The Baby Grand Trilogy and In The Red all come loosely under the ‘thriller’ genre. What made you choose this genre?
I’ve always been attracted to this genre, from the time I was a little girl. I recently found stories I’d written on construction paper from when I was around 8 years old that were suspenseful in nature.
I always joke that I had a very happy childhood, and I’m not quite sure where my love of suspense thrillers comes from. But I find I can’t write a chapter without some kind of murder and mayhem taking place.
This blogger: (*Chuckles*.) I am very happy to hear that you had a happy childhood and that you had no murder or mayhem at any turn in your life. Still, a nice life makes for a dull thriller lol. Murder and mayhem at the end of every chapter keeps the narrative fascinating, and the reader interested.
Baby Grand was a no.1 Political Thriller and a no.1 Kidnapping Thriller on Amazon Kindle. Why do you think the novel was such a success?
I think the success for any book comes from a combination of a few things:
1) It has a story that people enjoy;
2) Marketing – the author or publisher is aggressively trying to find new ways to increase the book’s discoverability; and
3) Luck – you never know when Amazon’s algorithms put you in the right place, or an influential blogger or social media influencer will decide to take an interest in a book.
I always tell authors to just write the best book they can and to do their best to market it. In short, make the most of whatever they can control, and try not to get too caught up in the things they can’t.
This blogger: Good advice all round.
If you had to choose three books or films that are defined as ‘thrillers’ as a starting point for people who know nothing about the genre (and all its subgenres), which ones would you recommend? And why?
Oh, gosh. I would start with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the first two of its sequels, as I absolutely adore The Millenium series. Those books are full of action and memorable characters. Also, anything by Michael Crichton, whom I consider a sci-fi thriller genius — he greatly inspired my writing. In addition, I happen to be a fan of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I loved the art history component to that book.
In two of my blog posts, I discuss how to write a memorable villain or antagonist. I believe that villains/antagonists make the story as much as the main character. What makes a memorable villain or antagonist in your opinion, with example(s) please?
This is a great question. For me, a villain is a character who is multi-dimensional. Not all bad. Even some good. He/she is complex. In my Baby Grand series, the villain is Don Bailino. He’s a mob guy, who’s a vicious killer but also a philanthropist and a beloved businessman. I write my villains as I do my protagonists — with great respect and fairness. I hope that makes them memorable.
This blogger: It sounds like you already have made a memorable villain (or two) in your books. Those are great guidelines for writers. And I really like that you give villains the respect and fairness they deserve.
Which of the characters in any of your stories is the least like you? And why?
The character that comes to mind is a character named Bob in the Baby Grand series. He is a narcissistic jerk who’s only out for himself. I’d like to think I’m nothing like that. At least, I hope I’m not. 😊
This blogger: You have nothing to worry about on that front.
If you could give your younger self some advice about the writing process, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to be patient. Learn your craft, and the books will come.
How has writing changed you?
I have wanted to be a novelist for so long. Now that I have four novels behind me, I’m definitely more relaxed and less stressed. 😊 I feel like I have a body of work that reflects who I am as an author, and I feel grateful to have the opportunity do to what I love. That’s pretty cool.
This blogger: That’s great. Honestly, I have complete empathy for your prior situation. I can imagine that it must have been a massive weight off your shoulders when you finally got the first of your novels published. I am still waiting for that day lol, and I have been writing a novel for 10 years.
Have your family and friends read any of your novels? If so, what do they think of them and how do you feel when they talk about them with you?
Many of my family and friends have been so supportive of my work. They’ve attended my various author events and bought books, not only for themselves but for their book clubs! I am so very grateful for their support. And I love when we get the chance to talk about the plot/characters. So fun!
Are you writing another novel at the moment? If so, please could you give us the blurb of the book?
I am! It’s my first sci-fi/dystopian thriller. The working title is The Reformed Man. I can’t tell you much right now. It’s top secret. Just kidding. 😊 I’m still working out the plot, so it’s a bit too early to give a blurb.
This blogger: That’s fair enough. When it is ready to be promoted, just let me know and I will do my bit to promote it.
Outside of novel writing, you are also the executive editor of Salute and Family magazines. You’ve interviewed many celebrities over the years, including Maria Shriver, Kiefer Sutherland, Vince Vaughn and Kevin Bacon, among others. Which celebrity did you find the most interesting?
Maria Shriver was a joy to chat with. So was Jane Seymour, who is currently featured in the Netflix series The Kominsky Method. I also got the chance to interview the late James Gandolfini, whose character Tony Soprano greatly influenced my own villain Don Bailino. Gosh, there are so many people to mention! All of them have been memorable or interesting in their own way.
Lastly, outside of writing, what do you like to do?
The fabulous author, Dina Santorelli, herself.
Ah, this is actually a timely question. I realized recently that because I write for my work and I also write for fun, I’m sort of a one-trick pony. 😊
My New Year’s resolution is to find a hobby that will take me away from writing, but also something that I can love just as much. Not sure what that will be. Baking, maybe? I’m excited to find out.
This blogger: You have far too many strings to your bow, Dina, to be a one-trick pony. Nevertheless, may you find another hobby in 2020 that you enjoy.
End of Interview
Thus, our interview with author Dina Santorelli comes to an end. I would like to thank Dina for her time, and to say that it has been wonderful talking to her. I wish her all the best in her future writings and quest for a new hobby (*winks*).
Otherwise, like Dina on Facebook; follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube; and visit her website. This way, you will be able to keep up to date with her and be the first to know when her sci-fi/dystopian thriller will be released.
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