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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Author Interview ~ F.P. Lione (Frank & Pam Lione)

Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you'd like to tell us about?

We write a Christian NYPD Series called The Midtown Blue Series, published under Revell/Baker Books. The first book, THE DEUCE was released in January 2005.

It chronicles the lives and careers of two New York City cops, Tony Cavalucci, and Joe Fiore. They are both Italian born and bred New Yorkers, Joe is a Christian, Tony is a hardnosed drinking cop. Tony is on a downward spiral from breaking up with his girlfriend, and the drinking and depression so common with cops. Joe is his new partner, not something Tony is happy about.

The Deuce is what all the old time cops call 42nd street up in Times Square. The series is set in the year 2000 in Midtown Manhattan. The second book, released in October 2005, THE CROSSROADS picks up about six months later, the week in between Christmas and New Years where NYC and the NYPD gear up for a crowd of over a million people for the ball drop in Times Square.

The book includes Tony's struggle with alcohol, his volatile, dysfunctional family and the pressures faced by NYC cops during the bomb searches, terror threats common to the celebration. It is also a firsthand, unique look into both NYC and the NYPD.

Our third book, titled SKELLS, which is the cop name for homeless, crackheads, prostitutes, and the emotionally disturbed persons, deals with Tony's changing attitude towards the lost. Tony finds little relief from his family which is at war with itself as he tries to understand his father, a retired NYPD detective and Vietnam veteran. "Combines grit and an unexpectedly engaging vulnerability to make this story of a rugged cop a captivating read." (to be released in June 2006).

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

Honestly we had never written before. Frank was a cop and I worked as a Sonographer. I remember in college always getting attention for my papers and I did a lot of writing as a domestic violence advocate but other than that, nothing formal.

In January of 2001 after at time of seeking God for direction for our life, He gave us the idea for the series. We sat down together and wrote
The Deuce in four months. We sent three chapters and a letter out to an agent that turned us down. We would have left it at that but our next door neighbor, Geri said, "Just send it out to ten agents, see what happens."

The seventh agent, Mike Valentino of Cambridge Literary called us on September 8th of 2001, three days before the towers came down. He asked for Frank because we left Pam's name off the manuscript figuring a cop book would be better received with a male author's name on it. He was interested in the book and wanted the rest of the manuscript.

Pam answered the phone and when he identified himself she said, "Is this about the book?" and he said yes, and she said, "Did you like the book?" and he said, "Yes. Can I speak to Frank?" I (Pam) told Frank, "An agent's on the phone, he likes the book."

Frank was just as speechless as I was and he said, "Talk to him." I said, "I can't. We put your name on the book." Mike told us how unique the story was and how much he loved it. We were speechless and sat outside on our steps for hours with this "DUH" expression on our faces.

Mike called us again on September 12th, to see if Frank was okay. (The towers fell on Tuesday, and Frank was still in the city. We signed with him as soon as he finished the manuscript and he worked out a three book deal with Baker.

We have since signed another contract and are at work on our fourth book.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

We usually outline and research before we sit down to write. We find each book a little intimidating at the onset, but once we're out of the first chapter we don't look back.

What's the best advice you've heard on writing/publication?

I think it was a book called, "The Writer Within." It said something like, sit down as if you're writing someone a letter and tell them a story. Once you finish the story take off the salutation and closing and there's your story.

What's the worst piece of writing advice you've heard?

To be honest, we never talked to anyone about writing and aside from some discouraging words from an agent in New York that wouldn't even consider looking at our work without being published. Instead of getting discouraged, we never asked another person and just sent the manuscript out.

What's something you wish you'd known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Nothing really. Baker has been great and our Editor, Lonnie Dupont is awesome.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Yes, Matthew 22:37-40: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you've gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

When we wrote our first book, The Deuce, we had no idea there would be an editing process. We found out we couldn't say hell, damn, or God conversationally.

Being from New York, this altered our manuscript considerably. But thankfully, the Lord showed us how to get around that and Baker, although they held their ground was so gracious about it.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

Someone just gave me (Pam) Terri Blackstocks, Covenant Child, which I loved. I also read Dee Henderson, Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, and Sue Grafton to name a few. (I'm a big reader)

Frank isn't much of a fiction reader, he mostly reads the Bible.

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

Being that our last name is LIONE we'd have to say the Lion. Although we are not at all cowardly, we get our courage from the Lord.

What piece of writing have you done that you're particularly proud of and why?

We'd have to say The Deuce because it was our first effort but we love The Crossroads and SKELLS as well. The book we're working on right now is very personal to us. It deals with the events of 9/11 as this was the natural progression of our books. (The Deuce and half of The Crossroads were written before 9/11 ). Frank was there through the whole thing as were other family members and maybe it's a New York thing, but it really hit us hard. We're finding as we write it how much we haven't dealt with what happened yet and it'd pretty emotional at times.

It'll be interesting to see how we feel when we're done.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Yes but Baker has been terrific with it. In the editing process if they want something changed we don't like the "voice" or the New York vernacular to get lost. After the first book they let us know what they want changed and then let us make the changes so the book flows.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

Sure. Pam gets the kids to school, prays, reads the word, cleans, cooks, does laundry and then sits down and writes for a few hours. After dinner we sit together, going over what we'll be writing the following day since Frank still works during the day.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

One of the biggest strengths of a writer is the concept of the "voice". I love the "voice" of Nelson Demille's character, John Corey, also a New York City cop. In his novel, Plum Island, Corey is telling us the story of how he was shot and the size of the bullet holes.

"Not that the size matters. As with real estate, what matters with bullet holes is location. Location, location, location."

In his books The Lion's Game, and Nightfall, Corey's voice is consistent with his dry, cop humor.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

We want to touch the lives of others, that when they read our books they see the love of God and how He never leaves us in spite of our flaws and frailties. We'd love a bestseller, but I guess all writers want that.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Not really. We enjoy it and while its work, we don't labor in it. Sometimes as we're getting to the end of a book and we're working on it day and night it's exhausting but then once it's done we have this tremendous sense of accomplishment.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Book signing! Frank is used to dealing with the public so he's alot more enthusiastic about schmoozing with strangers. Usually once Pam is there it's okay, but a little uneasy beforehand.

How much marketing do? Any advice in this area?

Baker hired Pure Publicity for us. We really like Ben Lauro who handles us but this is all still pretty new to us.

Why write as F.P. Lione? Why not write with both your names?

We liked the way it sounded, and neither one of us had to have our name on the cover, it didn't matter.

What are some benefits to writing with a partner? Drawbacks?

We love working together and to spend so much time together. Sometimes we sit up at night cracking up about some of the stuff we write.

We're in the city a lot so it's always an adventure. As far as drawbacks, it slows it down a little because neither one of us can go ahead on our own.

Any advice for others thinking of collaborating?

Yield to each others strengths. For example, if it's anything relating to Police work, Frank's the expert. No matter how much I've been around it, this is what he does. If you're working together and feeling tired and overwhelmed, walk away, get some rest and pick it back up later.

Parting words?

I think this whole experience has taught us to rely on God. He gave us the vision to do this and has carried us through. For anyone who is writing, keep at it. Don't get discouraged! And don't let just anyone look at your work to critique it. When we wrote, we NEVER let anyone see our manuscript until it was in book form. People mean well but they can influence you. Let God show you what to write, He is the all time bestselling author and He wants to help us. Thank you so much for this interview and opportunity. Frank and Pam


  1. Wow. What a story.

    How cool to work together and create and celebrate.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing. I'm sure Frank's intimate knowledge of NY cops make the work come alive. Your meteoric ride to publication is God driven. Best wishes with the series.

  3. Great to hear from you, Frank & Pam! Thanks for sharing. I love hearing the stories of how different authors have gotten published and work their day to day schedules.

  4. Thanks for the interview Gina. I had never read their books before, but I will now...I love finding new food for my reading addiction..LOL.

    Frank and Pam, I agree about John Corey's voice in Plum Island, and after reading 511 pages, you're pretty well ingrained with it!

  5. Cool interview! To see how a team writes together--so insightful. Thanks Gina!

    And on the topic of 9/11--My family and I were living in Switzerland at the time. The ripples reached us heavily. The U.S. embassey told most Americans abroad to limit travels, even local. The American Womens Club shut down in Zurick. My daughters and I even had a small run in with a group of Muslim women--they didn't like us! Imagine that... But in the same breath, the outpour of care from the people around us regarding our country and our concern was so touching. The broad spectrum of reactions was very interesting.

  6. Thanks for the interview, Frank, Pam, and Gina! It's really neat to hear about how you guys write together.


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