Theresa Rizzo – Writer Interviews

TheresaRizzo_JustDestiny_800pxTheresa Tree Close 2013_0279

I first met Theresa Rizzo on the phone. She called me to tell me I had won the Sandy Writing Contest for the mystery category for my novel, Blessed are the Dead.

She was encouraging and sweet and terrific and I had hoped to go to the Sandy Writing Conference in person to receive my award and be on a panel and meet Theresa.

Unfortunately, my finances didn’t allow me to do that, but I never forgot Theresa and was thrilled to see she had a new book out. Here she talks all kinds of good and helpful writerly stuff. Enjoy!


1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

I should write every day—wince—I don’t. My books require a LOT of research and I’m a binge writer. I’m one of those who gets an idea, does just enough research to plot it out, writes the REALLY (obscenely) rough draft in 4-6mos, then spend 6mos researching and rewriting and reworking the story dozens of times.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

I’ve never gotten writers block. I have a structured process of writing. I outline everything, but allow for flashes of brilliance that sometimes come with the research. I have struggled to think of a next book. I’m not one of those authors who has dozens of story ideas floating around in her head—I’m actually jealous of those writers—and a little frightened of them, I think. Their heads must be a scary place to be.

Anyhow, I have to be fascinated with my story to stick with it for as long as it takes me to write it, so sometimes it’s tough to find something to inspire me, but most of my stories come from the news and current events.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

James Scott Bell and Donald Maass are two of the very best teachers of craft that always come to mind—though there are plenty of wonderful teachers to be found at writers conferences. But they top my list.

4. Who do you read for fun?

I read outside my genre for fun mostly. I love regencies, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, historical romance . . . ahh . . . suspense like Harlan Coben . . . The Hunger Game and Harry Potter series’ were brilliant, of course . . . To be honest, I read current authors—regardless of genre—whose writing skill I admire in hopes of learning from them and improving in my craft while I’m being entertained.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

I had no career ambitions. I always wanted to be the perfect stay-at-home mother and wife—at least that’s what I thought I wanted. Unfortunately, midway through raising my four kids, I was shocked and disheartened to find I wanted more from life. And let’s face it . . . parenting is HARD –often thankless—work. I got burned out.

Friends and family really enjoyed my annual Christmas letter where I recounted our family exploits, so I thought maybe I would try writing a book. It was something fun I could do around the children’s schedules.

Learning to write was doing something intellectual and creative, and it allowed me to breathe again and find me. Writing fed my soul and allowed me to be a happier person, hence a better mom and wife. It was a win-win.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Be patient, realistic and put in your time. Learning the craft and business of writing isn’t easy, but it should be fun. If it’s not fun—don’t do it. There are over 200,000 fiction books world-wide published each year (the real estimate may be closer to 400,000). Less than 600 fiction writers can make a living at writing. You can’t be in it for the money—because for most of us . . . there won’t be any appreciable money. So you’ve got to do it ‘cause you love to write.

Go to writers conferences and learn through the workshops. Join writers groups and get support and feedback. Critique groups work great for most writers. Test your work in writing contests. Pay your dues. Educate yourself. But mostly, have FUN.

Before I published, I made a video the celebrate the real blessing in my writing journey—for me . . . it’s all about the wonderful writers I’ve met and friends I’ve made. Even if I never make the bestseller list or recoup the hefty financial investment I’ve made in my writing career over the past 18years . . . I’ll never regret becoming a writer because of the awesome times spent at writers conferences and the amazing people I’ve met on this journey.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

Wow, that’s a great question. I don’t believe there’s a single magic skill to guarantee success. I think you have to resilient, humble, and giving—and it doesn’t hurt to have some innate talent.
If you want to become a commercial success, you’re plunging into the uber competitive entertainment industry. And subjectivity RULES. Every successful author has weathered plenty of rejections, set-backs, and disappointments. You have to be resilient.

You have to be humble. You have to be willing and able to put your ego aside and be able to take criticism. It’s not easy, but my mantra is try to be open to everything that strengthens the story. If it makes my story (or my writing) better, I’m probably going to give it a try.

And be generous. Volunteer. Mentor other writers. Help other people. What goes around comes around. Karma can be a beautiful thing.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

I love cheese . . and chicken—oh and BACON. Not all together—though that could be good too. I don’t really have a favorite drink.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

One of my favorite movies is The Guardian with Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. I like a lot of romantic comedies. No single favorite book—too many great books to have a favorite.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

Yup, my second women’s fiction book, Just Destiny, is released March 31st. Just Destiny is a love story wrapped in a courtroom drama. People who enjoy Jodi Picoult’s issues and Nicholas Sparks love stories, will probably enjoy Just Destiny.

What would you do if your whole world fell apart?
Jenny Harrison made some poor choices in the past, but marrying Gabe was the best thing she’d ever done. They had the perfect marriage, until a tragic accident leaves Gabe brain dead and her world in ruins.
Devastated by grief, she decides to preserve the best of their love by conceiving his child, but Gabe’s family is adamantly opposed, even willing to chance exposing long-held family secrets to stop her. Caught in a web of twisted motives and contentious legal issues, Jenny turns to best friend and attorney, Steve Grant. Steve wants to help Jenny, but he has reservations and secrets of his own.
When something so private and simple turns public and complicated, will Jenny relent? What is Steve willing to sacrifice to help Jenny?

I like my romances, with a little something extra, what about you? What’s your favorite genre-mixing combo, or are you a purest?

You can find Theresa on the web at, or connect with her on Facebook, twitter or Goodreads. You can pre-order Just Destiny at. Amazon Barnes & Noble, iBookstore & Smashwords

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Fully Exposed – Day 17



After (10 min. later)

After (10 min. later)

Okay. Actually the pictures should be before, nine minutes later, and then ten minutes later there should be an empty glass.

I can’t wait for next week because Easter will be over and the jelly beans will have disappeared off store shelves!

I’ve shared my weakness with my friends Dan and Kate Malmon and this is what they put on Twitter:


kate malmons danmalmon

So, today I ate a LOT of jelly beans.

In addition, I tackled revisions on Blessed are the Meek for a good five hours and then worked on finessing my Do Some Damage post.

A HUGE highlight of my day was seeing one of my articles in Crimespree Magazine.

I feel like a struggling musician who has read Rolling Stone Magazine for years, keeping track of all her favorite musicians and then wakes up one day to find  herself in the magazine. Yeah. Like that.

Tried to keep my spirits up even though IT SNOWED. Someone on Twitter, said it best:

I feel like winter and I have been in a fight for 6 months and we both know I won but she keeps barging back in screaming AND ANOTHER THING.

What Katie said. (Of course I followed her after I saw this retweet.)

So, that was my day!

Please be sure to check in with my partner on this project, Matthew Clemens here and here.

Goals: Revise three hours, walk one mile
Results: Revise five hours, walk o miles

Categories: Blessed are the Meek, Fully Exposed | 2 Comments

Fully Exposed – Day 16

coffee shop pic

With the return of winter temperatures, my motivation to get outside and walk has flown the coop.

Instead, today I spent the morning at a downtown coffee shop with a giant latte and my 300-page novel. I read and revised for about four hours before hunger drove me home.

(The picture above is almost the same one as yesterday – same novel, different locale.)

The afternoon was spent working on Sunday’s blog post for Do Some Damage and arranging to look at houses. (We rent and our lease is up soon. Boo.)

Today, I’m going to talk a bit about how I am able to spend 6 hours a day doing writing, or devoted to writerly things.

The short answer is that it is all because of my husband and his belief in me. He bears the brunt of the financial load because he believes in me and my writing (and let’s be honest – he dreams of the day way, way down the road, when my writing supports us and he can retire and play music all day). Which is fine by me because the way I’ve planned it, I’ll keep writing until my dying day. It’s my passion. But here is how it is possible for me to have this tremendous gift of time.

A few years back, when both kids began school, we talked about it being time for me to find a job outside the home again. But before that happened, I picked up enough freelance writing work to justify staying home. I could make my own schedule, which involved being home when the kids were home, and actually was making more money than any part-time job I could get. But then that freelance work dried up. I applied for a lot of jobs and then got a job doing part-time cops for the daily newspaper. Perfect. But still only part-time, so I’m not exactly raking in the money. And as for my books, well, time will tell, but very, very few authors are able to make a living solely from the royalties of their books.

But we keep a low nut. We don’t have debt. We own our vehicles. We rent. We live simply. Which brings me back to how I’m able to dedicate so much time to my writing. Because I’m damn lucky. And grateful. I work well alone, independently and am extremely self-motivated. And stubborn. I work hard at this because I would feel too guilty squandering this gift of time I’ve been given. I know I’ve got it made. I never forget that for a second. I have the upmost admiration for my writing friends who work 40+ hours a week, have a family to raise, and crank out the books.

If an opportunity for full-time work comes up, I’ll be in the same boat. Part of being grateful means I would never sit around all day and read a book. I take my job as a writer very, very seriously. I’m very fortunate to have this time to write and devote to writerly activities and have I mentioned I don’t take a second of it for granted?

So, there is my confession for the week.

Goals: 3 hours revision or three hours writing, one-mile walk
Results: 4 hours revision, no walk

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Fully Exposed – Day 15

photoYikes! Looked at my google calendar and I have a little more than two weeks until revisions on Blessed are the Meek are due. Butt in chair.

Today, I printed out all 300-some pages (Picture: there she is in all her glory — she’s a hefty one!) and sat down with a clipboard and pen to do a final read through and revision on the manuscript.

I did not walk.
I did not write.

Matthew hinted (okay, well flat out said this in so many words) but we feel like we are boring ourselves and others to tears with this project. Snore. But we will continue on. But the posts might get shorter as we go.

Please don’t forget to check out Matthew’s journey on Fully Exposed here and on his Facebook page here.

Categories: Fully Exposed | 2 Comments

Fully Exposed – Day 14

116436101733007Sunday run down — Mass, the After-Party, The Death Beat at the newspaper.

I don’t even bother posting goals or results on this day, but I have something else.

I’ve been tagged by my partner in this Fully Exposed project, Matthew Clemens, in what he affectionately calls “the Blog Hoppy Thing.” My job was to answer some questions and tag two other authors. I’ve tagged Alex Segura and Bryon Quertermous, who will answer these same questions on their blogs Monday, April 21st.


What are you working on?

For the first time, I have several writing projects going at once. I’m doing copyedits on Blessed are the Dead (June 10) and also doing big picture revisions from my stellar editor on book two in the Gabriella Giovanni series, Blessed are the Meek (July 8). The work on BAM is due May 1st and once I return the manuscript to my editor at HarperCollins, I will go back to a YA mystery that is near and dear to my heart. I’m about halfway through and can’t wait to get back to it.

I was just about to give up on the idea of ever writing another YA mystery when I got my first feedback from my writer’s group this month. They loved it. One member said he thought it was the best thing I’d written so far.

(PS Here is a sneak peek at the first two chapters of Blessed are the Dead.)

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

This series I’m writing is first person, present tense. I know first-person is common in mystery novels, but present tense not so much. I don’t know why but when I sat down to write, this is how it came out. I like the sense of immediacy about the present tense, I suppose.

Other than that, I’m not sure. Like Matthew Clemens said in his blog hoppy thingie answer to this question, I’d almost rather someone else look at my writing in this critical way because I’m not quite sure how to answer this.

Why do you write what you do?

My first novel, Blessed are the Dead, was inspired by my dealings with a serial killer on the San Francisco crime beat. I’d covered missing kid cases before, but the little girl connected to this man (this monster) touched my heart like no other. So many daughters ripped from their families arms. It is heartbreaking, so I wrote Blessed are the Dead to purge this guy out of my head, but also to honor all the other girls whose stories I put in the paper and whose names and faces will always be a part of me.

How does your writing process work?

I typically get an idea and then roughly sketch it out using notecards. I start with the opening scene, the midpoint, and the climax usually and then use notecards to fill in some key scenes along the way. However, in the second book of my Gabriella Giovanni mystery series, Blessed are the Meek, I had written up a synopsis for book two earlier s when it came time to write that book, it pretty much wrote itself. I know some people feel constricted by a synopsis or outline, but I use them as a loose structure, knowing that I have the ability to change anything any time I want.

Thanks to Matthew for tagging me. Here are the two writers I’ve tagged.

Alex Segura

I can’t wait to meet Alex in person because online he is the kindest, most gracious person. I LOVE his fantastic novel, SILENT CITY, and absolutely devoured it — it has a super cool vibe and mood and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I loved and admired the book so much in fact I asked Alex if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at Blessed are the Dead. He was a prince about it and then gave me a fantastic blurb. HERE!

Alex Segura is a novelist, comic book writer and musician. He is the author of the Miami noir novel SILENT CITY from Codorus Press and the best-selling and critically acclaimed ARCHIE MEETS KISS storyline and graphic novel. Alex also performs regularly in New York as part of the indie rock group Faulkner Detectives. He lives in New York with his wife and two cats. He is a Miami native.

Bryon Quertermous

I haven’t met Bryon yet, but for some crazy reason feel like he’s my brother or cousin or something. Maybe because we are both parents of super fiesty kids and both are trodding the same publishing path, with our debut books (both mysteries) coming out close to the same time this summer. I also begged Bryon to sit with me at the debut author’s table at Bouchercon because I’m a big, baby wimp. I cannot wait to read his book with the kick ass title, MURDER BOY. Can’t wait.

Bryon Quertermous was born and raised in Michigan. His short stories have appeared in Plots With Guns, Thuglit, and Crime Factory among others, and in the anthologies Hardcore Hardboiled, The Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, and Uncage Me. In 2003 he was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger Award from the UK Crime Writers Association.

He currently lives outside of Detroit with his wife and two kids and is the commissioning editor for Angry Robot’s crime fiction imprint Exhibit A Books. His first novel, Murder Boy, will be published by Polis Books in 2014.

Categories: Blog Hoppy Thingie, Fully Exposed | 4 Comments