Interview with Len Serafino

When did you first start writing?
Late. I was always interested in writing and I spent about 20 years reading about it, but I was 52 before I started my first book. I had some success in my 30s and 40s, occasionally writing articles for trade magazines and newspapers, but I didn't get serious about it until my 50s. It's not a coincidence that my decision to write regularly was the result of technology advances. Computers and software like Word made it so much easier to write, especially for a two-finger typist.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Newark, New Jersey and its surrounding suburbs. Being so close to New York, it was, and is, a hub for creativity. There were strong ethnic conclaves, Italian, Irish, Jewish, Polish and African Americans influencing my thinking and broadening my perspective. These tightly knit ethnic neighborhoods were gradually breaking down in the mid-to late sixties, but the exposure to so many different cultures certainly informed my writing.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Technology and social media have opened book publishing up to anyone willing to take the time to type thousands of words. I suspect finding an agent or a traditional publisher has become more like winning the Powerball lottery these days. They have too many choices and it must be overwhelming for them. Fortunately, writers today have options. We can be heard, even if it's by a very small audience. Anyone who does the work necessary to write a novel, wants people to read it. Becoming an indie author gives every writer that opportunity. I'd love to be read by millions, but if just 50 people read my work, I'm still grateful for that.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It's in the doing. I have a friend who pointed out to me that she could always tell when I'm writing. Ours is primarily a friendship conducted by phone. She says, regardless of what we talk about, my voice is more alive when I'm writing. I thoroughly enjoy every draft, the editing process and hearing from first readers.
What are you working on next?
I recently completed my new novel Deceived. Right now, I'm shopping it, mostly because I'm stubborn. At my age, 70 in January, I realize that agents and publishers may not be inclined to promote a first novel. But, I think it's important to try. My next idea for a novel hasn't come to me yet. I'm patient, even at my age. It will come and I'll get to work.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are Richard Russo, Richard Ford, Mario Puzo and Philip Roth. I like Jonathan Tropper and Ann Patchett too..
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm retired so I do a little bit of substitute teaching and I play tennis as often as my knees will let me.
What is your writing process?
Generally, I follow the advice Stephen King offered in his memoir/writing primer, On Writing. I start with a character or two, put them in a situation and see what happens. Early on in the process, I'll write a synopsis describing where I think the story is going, but it rarely works out exactly the way I planned. So far, I haven't written myself into a corner, but I always worry about it.
What advice do you have for older people who want to write?
Get started...Now. As I said earlier the joy is in the doing. If you find a publisher, that's wonderful. About a year ago I started to think it wasn't worth it. I'd never find a traditional publisher so why bother? Then I realized that as a tennis player (I started late there too) I was never going on the professional tour. Yet, I insisted on playing because I love it. It's the same with writing. Writing an article or a book is hard work. It can be frustrating and it is often a humbling experience. But when you've done it, given it every thing you have, it's worth it at any age.
Published 2017-12-23.
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