I'm pleased to welcome Marco Carocari to Cozy Up With Kathy today. BLACKOUT is Marco's first novel and was released earlier this year.
Kathy: Blackout is described as "a 1970s inspired debut novel". Why the 70s?
MC: I can’t say why, exactly, but the 70s (especially in the US) have always had this hold, and nostalgic effect, on me. I love the music, the movies and TV shows, and love to read books set during that period. Though I grew up in the 70s, my small village Swiss day-to-day experiences were quite different than those of a kid in New York or L.A. So, when I decided to write my own mystery, I knew the 70s had to at least play a part in it, even though the main bulk of the novel takes place in modern New York.
Kathy: In addition to the murder Franco gets entangled with, he was also witness to another murder, when his father was killed in front of him during Manhattan's infamous blackout. How did this childhood event shape him?
MC: He was four when that happened, right before all the lights went out, and the event messed him up. He becomes introverted, and though he couldn’t have done much to save his dad, he can’t shake blaming himself. Forty years later he’s sort of made his peace with that night, as he navigates through life as a mildly successful photographer, but then old wounds get ripped open again. And this time his own life is at risk.
Kathy: Franco, your protagonist, happens to be part of the LGBTQ community. Why is it important to amplify LGBTQ voices, especially in the mystery genre?
MC: We need more diverse voices in crime fiction in general, to accurately reflect the real world we live in, and give all of us characters we can identify with. I love reading books by some of my favorite mainstream authors, but I still remember that special feeling, as a young man, when I discovered Joseph Hansen, Armistead Maupin, Michael Nava, and others, who wrote wonderful books with gay protagonists I connected with on a whole new level. I don’t see Blackout as a gay novel, but a novel with some gay characters, and I love how my readers -straight or gay- enjoy the book for the story, and connect with my characters.
Kathy: Although you set your debut in NYC, you're originally from Switzerland. How has that influenced your writing style and voice?
MC: That’s hard to answer. I came to writing professionally eight years ago, and am still learning the craft. I write from the hip, so to speak, but since all my stories are set in America I have to do a lot of research. I never experienced living in the US 24/7 until I moved here in 2016, but therefore might observe everything around me more critically. Interestingly, ever since starting this undertaking, my goal was always to write convincingly enough so my stories sounded American, not as if a foreigner had written them.
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
MC: Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple movies sucked me in, and I read almost all of Christie’s books after that. And finding myself hugely disappointed that the real Miss Marple wasn’t nearly as feisty and funny as the actress. I love solving riddles and twisty tales, be it in a book or movie, and though I’ve read in many other genres, crime fiction has always remained my go-to.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MC: Not so far, though I'd love to try my hand at comedy or satire, someday.
Kathy: Tell us about your book.
MC: Franco DiMaso goes from unreliable witness to prime suspect in a homicide investigation in present day New York. When it turns out that the event connects to the forty year old murder of his father, during the NYC blackout, he looks to be a man with the perfect motive.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MC: Franco, even when he frustrated the hell out of me. But I also love my supporting cast of his friends, his chosen family, who provide tension and laughs, and much-needed reality checks.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your novel?
MC: On one hand I wanted to read a mystery thriller with a gay protagonist and was missing that kind of book. On the other, I kind of had a story in my head that could have taken place in many locations, but then I found out about the ’77 blackout, and knew that would have to play a part in the book.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MC: After years of writing and editing, and beta readers who all felt I had something here, I decided to take the plunge, and at least try to find someone interested in what I had to say. It took a few years and several rejections, but I kept at it, and found a wonderful home with Level Best Books, who believed in me and the story from the first moment.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MC: Tough one. Jospeh Hansen, Michael Connelly, S.A. Cosby and David Sedaris. That should make for an interesting night.
What are you currently reading?
MC: I just finished S.A Cosby’s ‘My Darkest Prayer’, and am reading Michael Nava’s ‘Lies With Man’ and Cheryl A. Head’s ‘Bury Me When I’m Dead’. Then it’s on to Lori Duffy Foster’s ‘A Dead Man’s Eyes’.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MC: I love traveling (a bit harder these days) and being out in nature. As a professional photographer I still enjoy shooting spontaneous, private projects, like abandoned gas stations or desert scenes.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MC: Always, always pasta, onions, and fresh tomatoes. Sea Salt Pita Chips from Trader Joe’s (like Crack, I swear) and Nespresso coffee.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books?
MC: I’m working on an LAPD procedural, though it’s been tough (mostly because of in-person research, visiting locations and police stations, etc, to get the details right) and I have outlined a sequel to Blackout. Next up is my short story, ‘All In The Planning’, which appears in the upcoming ‘Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical’.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MC: Letting all the voices in my head run wild and see where they take me.
***********************************************************************Death, suspense, and betrayal meet with unexpected hope in 70s-inspired debut mystery novel Strait-laced forty-something Franco definitely picked the wrong night to get freaky. A hook-up with a hot guy on his Manhattan rooftop, and a joint he's unaware is laced, leaves him dazed. And - if memory serves him - the sole witness to a murder across the street. Except, the cops can’t find a crime scene or a body, and Franco’s perforated recollections and conflicting testimony leave the detectives unimpressed. When days later the mutilated body of a philanthropic millionaire is discovered, he’s not only shocked to learn he knew him, but with Franco’s fingerprints all over the crime scene, he quickly graduates from unreliable witness to prime suspect. And the random trick who could alibi him has vanished into the anonymity of the Internet.
Unsettled, and confronted with forty-year-old memories, when Franco’s father was murdered in front of him during Manhattan’s infamous blackout, a shocking revelation finally unmasks the man who pulled the trigger that night. And painting Franco the perfect suspect. With a target on his back and time running out, the truth will set Franco free, or earn him a toe tag at the morgue.
Read the title that author PJ Vernon calls “a gripping debut from an exciting new author to watch that had me turning pages long into the night.”
Marco Carocari: Marco Carocari grew up in Switzerland. After seeing Murder, She Said on TV his grandmother gifted him Agatha Christie’s 4:50 From Paddington. Though hugely disappointed that the real Miss Marple bore no resemblance whatsoever to the brilliant and funny Margaret Rutherford, he was hooked, and devoured every crime novel he could get his hands on that his parents didn’t object to (considering he was ten). Over the years, he worked in a hardware store, traveled the globe working for the airlines, and later as an internationally published photographer, and frequently jobbed as a waiter, hotel receptionist, or manager of a professional photo studio. In 2016 he swapped snow-capped mountains, lakes, and lush, green pastures for the charm of the dry California desert, where he lives with his husband. ‘Blackout’ is his first novel.