I’m delighted to introduce my readers to Tone Milazzo, author of “The Ginger Jar” in Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. I love this story, which opens with a character checking his trap line — a spirit trap line!
Here’s Tone Milazzo (and what looks like one badass Poodle):
Let’s start at the beginning, the first paragraph of Tone’s story:
Cinque Williams finished his geometry homework in time to patrol his turf and check his traps for spirits. He knocked on his cousin’s open door. Darren lay back on his twin bed, lights on, headphones on, eyes closed, blocking the window. Cinque leaned in to the older boy’s face. “Yo.”
I can see that so clearly. What inspired you to write The Ginger Jar?
1) I wanted to revisit Cinque Williams, the character from my first novel. A YA urban-fantasy called Picking Up the Ghost. The book didn’t get the exposure it deserved and I’m hoping The Ginger Jar changes that.
2) I’ve always wanted to ripoff a bit from an episode of the Twilight Zone. “Talent borrows. Genius Steals!” If I’m successful, then no one will recognize what I’ve stolen and they’ll have to acknowledge my genius. Somehow. Maybe. I don’t have the logic worked out all the way.
What would you like readers to take away from The Ginger Jar?
I’d like to leave the reader thinking, “Boy that was a neat story. I’m going to ripoff a bit of it and call it my own.”
My late father, an artist, always said, “If your work is good enough to steal, then you’re pretty damn good at what you do.”
How long have you been writing?
I started working on pitches for comics book series back in 2000. After a few years, I decided it might be easier to get a novel published than to break into comics. Artists are expensive. There were a number of things that bugged me about the fantasy genre at the time. After I wrote them up in a list. (https://tonemilazzo.com/2006/03/12/cinque-trilogy-manifesto/) I decided to put my money where my mouth was and write a book that inverted these seven tired tropes. That’s where Picking Up the Ghost came from.
The Faith Machine is my second novel and it’s currently out with my agent, seeking publication. It’s a psychic, espionage thriller inspired by Jon Ronson’s non-fiction book The Men who Stare at Goats. The elevator pitch is, “A Korean-American James Bond leads the X-Men through a case from the X-Files.”
Sounds like a fascinating read! Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do for a living?
I wish. I used to be a web developer, but I’m changing careers. I haven’t been happy with tech for awhile. When I got into it in the late 90s it all seemed so Utopian. The Internet was going to bring us all together as a benevolent hive-mind. Now it’s all tracking codes, ads, and trolls. Unfortunately, it looks like I’m still stuck with a day job. I’m not sure what it will be.
I wish, too. So many of us must have day jobs. We can live in hope, eh?
Do you only write short fiction? If not, how does writing a short story differ from writing a novel? (Other than the obvious length/time.)
For novels, I’ve had success with plot outlines. I used the classic Hero’s Journey outline for Picking Up the Ghost. But it tends to break down when writing anything other than an origin story. I wanted The Faith Machine to be film friendly, so the core plot of that book is based on the Save the Cat screenwriting outline. Save the Cat applies to a wider range of stories, but it’s not enough to fill a novel on it’s own. Fortunately, The Faith Machine has an ensemble cast and I was able to fill out the page count with side quests and subplots.
Short fiction is just too short for either of those. I’m still working out my preferred starting structure for short fiction. I’m testing out Dan Harmon’s 8 point plot structure and the try-fail cycle.
What does your typical “writing day” look like?
Whenever I can get in a Pomodoro. That’s a 25 minute sprint of writing followed by a 5 minute break. If I’m lucky I can get in two or three in a row. Sometimes that’s all I need to get in 1000 words for the day.
I envy writers who can write good stuff during blasts. I’m one of those sad writers who need long binges to produce anything worth reading.
Speaking of reading, what’s on your list?
I’m not too crazy about the book I’m currently reading, but I’m going to finish it because I might meet the author one day and don’t want to admit I gave up on them.
Oh, gosh, it’s one of mine, isn’t it? It is, I just know it. Not that I have confidence issues or anything . . . but back to your reading list.
Let me talk about the last thing I really enjoyed reading; Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy; Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. They made a movie out of the first one. Unfortunately they cut out all the paranoia and politics.
Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?
I’m pitching a comic book series called Dead Women. It’s Seven Samurai but instead of swordsmen the heroes are undead women; a ghost, a vampire, a bog zombie, a skeleton, etc. The first six pages are finished and posted here: https://tonemilazzo.com/2018/03/13/dead-women-6-finished-pages/
For my third novel I’m trying to tap into American, white, male frustration in a positive way. We’ll see how that goes. No title yet, but it’s about a guy who traveled back in time to save the world. When he returns to the present no one remembers his great heroic act, and there’s a better, more likable version of him with his wife, career, home and otherwise living his life. “What if you saved the world and nobody knew? Or cared?”
I love that idea!
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
There’s a lot of advice out there, none of it’s law. Pick and choose what rules to follow until you find what works for you. And what works for you one day might not work next week.
Where can readers learn more about you and your works?
Instagram (mostly pictures of dogs): https://www.instagram.com/tonemilazzo
Thanks so much for being here. Readers, go check out Tone Milazzo at his links. And for the love of Pete, read his book PICKING UP THE GHOST at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1926851358 And don’t forget to download the Anthology https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079F248VZ