Interview with Joseph D'Agnese

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I'm not solidly indie. I've published more than a dozen books with traditional publishers, and have learned a lot about that business model. One thing that saddens me is that, under that model, books are not forever. They go in and out of print all the time, which is no way to build a fan base. I enjoy the freedom of hiring freelancers to work on my products, creating the files, uploading them, and knowing that these books will be available for all time.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
We all daydream. Writers conceive characters, plots, settings and scenarios that would get them ostracized or arrested if they tried to enact them in the real world. But putting your imagination down in words is a safe outlet for expressing those feelings. And it's the most satisfying art I've ever known.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Sure, it was about an anthropomorphic groundhog who seeks and finds a buried treasure. I still have the handwritten story, which I lovingly crafted in second grade. It's in a file cabinet in my basement, and no, you will never be allowed to read it.
Who are your favorite authors?
It's a tough, almost painful question to answer. It starts in childhood with writers such as EB White and E.L. Konigsburg, proceeds to early adolescence when I discovered the works of E.L. Doctorow, Ellery Queen, and Rex Stout, and early adulthood when I embraced Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, and James Lee Burke. In between, a lot of authors from different genres---horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and works of literary fiction.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Who says I do?
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm amazed how much media I consume in my free time, especially books, TV, and movies. Everything ends up contributing to my work---not always in a good way. Sometimes I think it's smart to avoid books in the genre of the book you're writing right now so you don't start aping what you're reading.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Good question. I have to say that I'm not really accustomed to browsing at online retailers, though I understand that a lot of people do just that. I get most of my book recommendations from blogs I follow, which are typically run by other authors. At the same time, I have a number of physical books in my home that are waiting to be read, so I really shouldn't be buying any more books. But I always do.
What is your writing process?
Unless I really know where I'm going, the first draft is closer to automatic or stream-of-consciousness writing than anything else. Write crap, edit later. That's me. What fascinates me is that the second draft, where I wade through the crap and try to pull together the threads is brutally efficient and quick. I often wonder why I don't just start there. But I forget that by then, I have learned the story I want to tell.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No way. But I have memories of early books that were read to me in elementary school that will stay with me forever. A teacher read us "Charlotte's Web" and we all loved it. But since she only read it a chapter at a time, the book was taking forever to finish. Finally, in a fit of impatience, I borrowed the book from the class library and finished it at home in one night. My parents later had to vouch that I did indeed finish it all. I don't know why they'd doubt a little kid.
How do you approach cover design?
I work with one or two really fine designers. Some like to read the book, then go with their ideas. Others want a synopsis. Either way, I find that my editorial eye must be the final arbiter of legibility, clarity and purpose. A designer very often can conceive and execute a beautiful image that is completely off-genre or non-commercial.
What are you working on next?
The simple answer is, I'm not telling. It's just not a good practice until the thing is ready.
Published 2014-11-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Daggyland #1: 10 Stories
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 51,840. Language: English. Published: February 9, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories
Published together for the first time are 10 masterful short stories by a winner of the Derringer Award for Short Mystery Fiction. Fifty thousand words in all. All but one of these tales first appeared in the pages of the world’s greatest mystery magazines…
Harm and Hammer
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 10,730. Language: English. Published: March 21, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories
In this short crime story, a young woman in witness protection adopts a strange new hobby as a way to deal with her guilt and boredom, with tragic results. This story first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
Nighthawks
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 7,300. Language: English. Published: March 20, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories
This short crime story purports to tell the "true" story behind Edward Hopper's famous 1941 painting, "Nighthawks." Four people alone in a diner at night. What's going on in that famous scene? You're about to find out. This story first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.
The Box Top Man
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 13,240. Language: English. Published: January 7, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories
Three short stories—of infidelity, murder, and betrayal—by a recent winner of the Derringer Award for short mystery fiction. D’Agnese gives us three tales that read like Cheever gone from bad to worse, where disillusioned characters dwell in the realm of metro-suburban surreal.
Back to the Boke
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 20,420. Language: English. Published: January 7, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories
A local hoodlum who turned himself around grapples with the loss of his "straight" job in the light of the tragic events of 9/11. This powerful short story first appeared in the online noir magazine, Beat to a Pulp. This ebook edition features the bonus novelette, "Last Dance in Hoboken." One quirky American city, two hard-hitting stories by a recent Derringer Award Winner.
Stand Up Johnny
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 8,150. Language: English. Published: September 22, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
In this country noir short story by a recent Derringer Award Winner, a troubled young man returns home to find deceit, heartache, and murder in the arms of an old flame. The story first appeared in Plots With Guns.
Button Man
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 19,000. Language: English. Published: September 22, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
An idealistic young man returns home after the Korean War, and clashes with the corruption he finds in his father's business in New York's Garment District. Written by a recent Derringer Award Winner, this Runyonesque short story first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
The Sweatergeist
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 9,060. Language: English. Published: September 22, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled, Fiction » Horror » Ghost
Meet Archie Bleecker, the fingerless detective. He earns his keep by solving New York’s most irrelevant cases. When a rich man hires him to investigate the case of a sweater that won’t stay put, Bleecker’s got more than mystery on his hands. Part ghost story, part private eye yarn, this short story first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
The Marshal of the Borgo
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 85,050. Language: English. Published: May 14, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Horror » Ghost
A troubled police captain investigates a series of murders in a small Italian village which force him to use a power he has long denied. A paranormal mystery featuring murder, witchcraft, ghosts, and vino.
Bloody Signorina
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 10,340. Language: English. Published: March 4, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
In this short detective story, a privileged yet unworldly young woman embraces a deadly habit as a means to deal with her anger and grief while living in one of the world’s most beautiful cities—Rome. This story is a Derringer Award finalist. It first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
Sunshine Lady
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 9,990. Language: English. Published: December 20, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost, Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction
Determined to exact revenge on an unfaithful husband, a beautiful witch has a dying wish: to be buried in a glass-topped tomb so the sun can always look upon her corpse. Inspired by a true story.
Glow
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 11,780. Language: English. Published: December 20, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction, Fiction » Horror » General
Two brothers stumble upon a website so entrancing that it marks them for death.
Skullworm
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 12,120. Language: English. Published: December 20, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction, Fiction » Horror » General
A lovesick executive rents a hideous creature bred to nibble his cares away, with horrifying consequences.
Arm of Darkness
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 37,630. Language: English. Published: December 19, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Horror » Ghost
A mysterious demonic stranger intrudes upon the lives of unsuspecting people, forcing them to make choices with horrific consequences. A collection of six short stories.
The Mesmerist
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 88,600. Language: English. Published: May 10, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Fantasy » Urban
A skeptical young cop and a federal agent with a taste for the occult become embroiled in a series of bizarre killings in an alt-version of 1979 New York City, in an era when looks can kill and hands can heal.
Jersey Heat
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 76,590. Language: English. Published: July 19, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled
A retired cop and a young slacker take on corruption in an eco-thriller reminiscent of the works of Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen.
The Scientist and the Sociopath
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 59,200. Language: English. Published: May 5, 2011. Categories: Nonfiction » Science & Nature » History of Science
THE SCIENTIST AND THE SOCIOPATH presents 16 remarkable nonfiction stories, some of real-life scientists tackling theories and discoveries that will change our world, others of laymen grappling with some aspect of science in their lives. Culled from the author’s reporting for magazines such as Discover, Wired and Seed, these tales are presented together for the first time.