Title: The Murderer’s Smile
Genre: Murder Mystery Thriller
Synopsis: The Evidence Tells the Story. But…What if the Evidence Is a Lie?
As the top-rated news anchor in all of Dallas, Tony Michaels has his smiling face on billboards all over the Dallas Metroplex which proclaim him to be “The Most Trusted Man in Texas.” But when the dismembered bodies of his wife and son are found in his backyard, he is arrested and the media dub him “The Anchor of Death.” Tony insists on his innocence, but the evidence is stacked heavily against him and the prosecution believes he has motive. Facing the death sentence and now haunted by disturbing nightmares, Tony receives an unusual visit and enlists the help of friend and private investigator Ryan Samuels. Now it is up to Samuels to find out anything the police missed in their investigation that can prove his friend’s innocence and save him from the lethal injection.
Author: Kevin D’Onofrio
CH: Please welcome Kevin D’Onofrio to my blog. I introduced him to you in April when I read his book and was excited to tell my audience about a new book and up and coming author. Welcome Kevin.
CH: Please tell us in one sentence, why we should read your book.
KD: It will entertain and surprise you.
CH: How did you manage to write about such a horrific topic and keep your audience clinging to your words?
KD: I tried to make it more about the characters; so the reader is more focused on the impact it has on the characters rather than the actual gory details. I tried to include enough details for those who like that aspect of murder/mysteries or TV shows like CSI, but not so much as to horrify people.
CH: Where do your ideas come from? Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole concept?
KD: To be honest, I’m not always sure where my ideas come from. Some of my past (unpublished) stories have come from simple things like a conversation at a bar. Sometimes for me, they start with one scene or one character and I see if/how it evolves from there.
Sometimes, I know how I want it to end before I start, and sometimes I figure that out during the process. The Murderer’s Smile started with the idea of who this killer was and it evolved from there. When I actually started writing it, I knew what I wanted but I wasn’t sure about some of the details. One of my favorite characters (Simon the Pieman) didn’t even occur to me until I got to the part of the manuscript where somebody like him would help achieve the desired ending.
CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your type of writing?
KD: I put a lot of myself in this book. I think, I develop characters that are deep, real and relatable. Like them or hate them you will have some response to the characters. And I think I bring an original story with a slightly different approach to telling that story.
CH: Are there any books that influence you as an author?
KD: Surprisingly, my favorite book is actually The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Huff, which obviously does not come through as an influence.
Growing up, I read a lot of Stephen King which is probably what lets me get to some dark places. I also loved the Hannibal Lecter character in the Thomas Harris series. But I think influences can come from anywhere. It can come from somebody you see at the mall, at the park, stuck in traffic, anywhere in everyday life. It can come from the news, television, movies and books without your realizing it.
CH: Why did you decide to write this book?
KD: The more I thought about the characters and the more I developed them in my head, the more I thought this was a book that I really wanted to read. I wanted to know how things would turn out and the only way to do so was to actually write the book.
CH: Did you have to do any special research to write this book?
KD: For this book, I didn’t have to do any special research. I did have to google a few things for fact checking. For other stories, I have had to do more research. Since most of my stories to this point are dark, I worry that I am now on some kind of watch list.
CH: Is there a message in your novel that you want your readers to grasp?
KD: I didn’t start out with a message, I simply hoped to entertain. But I think now that if I were to wish readers would take one message from this book, it is to always fight for what is right and what you believe in and never give up. Never give in. No matter how bad things look—endure; persevere and keep fighting. It won’t always wind up in a happy ending in real life, but it definitely beats the alternatives.
CH: They tell us to write about what we know. So, the fact that you’re a sport’s enthusiast is that why there was so much sports in the book?
KD: Actually, for this book, sports was really a means to an end. I wanted Tony to go to Northwestern because it is widely recognized as one of the best—if not the best—broadcast journalism schools in the country. I wanted him to wind up in Dallas, because it’s a top 5 media market and I lived there for several years. So, it was easy to add certain details. It was a convenient way to get him from point A to point B more than it was about trying to infuse sports into the story. But I hope it also helped in developing who he was as a character. He certainly had his flaws, to be mild. But he did have some strong qualities. I tried to balance his good with his bad, so that readers may have mixed emotions as the story goes along.
I studied journalism in college and got my degree in it. I had an internship with a TV station, so I saw the news from the other side of the camera. That may be where I got the idea for Tony being a newscaster. I now live in California, but while I was in Texas (and I assume it continues to this day), there was a radio broadcast about the Cowboys from a different Hooters each week during the football season. I wanted to bring some realism to those who know the area and it was also a convenient place for Tony to have his indiscretions.
CH: If you could work with any author, living or dead, who would that be and why?
KD: Wow, that is a great (and very tough) question. Right now, I’m not sure I would feel worthy to work with any of them until I have a skin or two on the wall, but there are several that I would love to watch work or have lunch with or pick their brains over a beverage or two.
CH: In your opinion, what makes a murder mystery thriller a success?
KD: Many things that can make it a success.
Characters: If readers feel strongly about a character, they will continue reading hoping that (depending on their view of the character) either good or bad things happen to that character.
Intrigue: Sometimes readers are kept guessing as to who the killer really is. Sometimes the author makes it obvious, sometimes even early in the story. Even in those cases, if it is well written, there is uncertainty about when and how the good guys will catch the bad guys or if the bad guys will get away. Most of the time in a well-established series (because the character is recurring) you pick up the book fairly certain you know how it will end. But if it is well written, you get caught up in the story, and your emotions rise and fall with the main character. Those emotions get in the way of your logic. You don’t want to put the book down, because YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!!!! If the author evokes that from a reader, it is a success.
A great villain: This one can be tricky. Depending how the story is written, the reader may end up liking the villain or at least certain aspects of his or her character. Readers may even identify with the “why?” of what the villain does, even if they don’t approve of what the actions seem to be. If the villain is portrayed a certain way, the reader may be hoping the villain gets away, so there is another book about that villain. OR the reader may hope the villain meets a well-deserved awful fate in the end. But either way, readers should definitely feel strongly about the villain.
A good ending: It can be happy. It can sometimes be sad. But it has to be honest and it has to be believable within the context of the story. Whether it is something you are or are not expecting, a good story has to arrive at the end honestly. There is nothing worse than a reading a book you love for the first 95% and suddenly a spaceship arrives or something else completely out of the blue and out of context with the rest of the story and you are left with a really bad taste in your mouth. The love you had for the book is gone. This is where I think of the Annie Wilkes character from Misery yelling about some “cockadoodie” problem with the story. Sometimes the ending ties everything neatly in a bow, sometimes the end doesn’t quite feel like an ending (especially in a series) but it has to feel right.
In terms of commercial success, with any kind of book, a huge key is word of mouth. If somebody writes a great book but nobody knows about it, it can’t be a success. That’s where people like you help, Cheryl. But even those without the time or the skills to write a blog can still help. If you read something you love, tell your friends and leave good reviews on Amazon or wherever you bought it. It will encourage more people to read it. Obviously, not everyone has the same tastes, but if you really enjoy a book don’t keep it a secret.
CH: Do you write full-time or part-time?
KD: I am trying to establish myself to where I can write full-time. I feel like it is what I was born to do. It is what I love doing. It never feels like work. I feel like I have some talent at storytelling and if I can earn even a meager living doing this, then I will be living the dream.
CH: Is this your first book?
KD: This is my first finished and first published book. I have tried to write others in the past, but sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes I have reached a point where I don’t think I can write a satisfying ending and sometimes I have been distracted and gotten lost along the way. Reaching the finish line felt like quite an accomplishment. Now, I just need to keep reaching it.
CH: What’s next on the agenda in your writing career?
KD: I have finished a second book that I am currently attempting to market to agents and publishers. If I’m not successful, I will probably self-publish again this summer. I have also finished a story that is novella-length which I may develop further or publish as-is.
Currently I am in the process of writing a screenplay for The Murderer’s Smile and I have started a fourth book which I get to occasionally, but mostly it sits on the back burner for now.
CH: Do you have a website?
KD: I don’t have an actual website yet, but I do have a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/donofrioauthor I try to keep everyone up to date on what I’m working on and what I’m up to. I posted a few excerpts from this book before it was released. I’m sure before too long, I will post some for my upcoming titles.
CH: Where is your book sold?
KD: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Outskirts Press. Almost anywhere books are sold online.
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Murderers-Smile-Kevin-DOnofrio/dp/1478752971/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1432673477&sr=1-1&keywords=the+murders+smile
It is also available in Kindle, Nook and iBook formats. And if anybody is reading this from Ventura County, CA, it is available at Mrs. Fig’s Bookworm in Camarillo. http://www.mrsfigs.com
CH: I love to promote brick and mortar book stores like Mrs. Fig’s Bookworm. Any closing remarks?
KD: Thank you for taking the time to critique my book and helping to spread the word. And thank you for giving me this opportunity. I hope others will see this and give the book a chance and I hope they will enjoy it.
CH: Thank you Kevin, it has been a real pleasure talking with you. We look forward to following your career.
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