I think of Salvatore Buttaci as a multi-talented writer because of the great range of genres he writes. These include fiction and flash fiction, where he prefers humor, horror, mystery, sci-fi, and crime noire. In nonfiction he writes essays and memoirs, and he also writes poetry in as many poetic forms as he can.
Sal, it’s great to have you on my blog. Tell me, do you plot your stories before you write them or are you a pantser?
Before I sit down to write a story, I work it out in my head the way a movie director does, scene by scene. I know where I will begin, for the most part what develops, and how the story ends. To write blindly, hoping it will all fall together by the last line is not my idea of a good time. However, when it comes to poetry, I sit down and let each line take me places. I’m comfortable with that approach in writing poetry but not in writing fiction. As for nonfiction, I spend time researching and outlining what points I will cover. I sort of follow a loose blueprint where I want the article to take me. Am I a pantser? No, more of a plotter.
When writing fiction, some editors advise writers to make a detailed list of their character’s habits, likes, dislikes and family members. Do you agree?
No, I don’t, especially for flash fiction stories. When I first began writing in my teens, I tried writing a set of index cards for all of my main characters: what they looked like, how they would react in particular conditions––the whole nine yards! Too often it seemed I knew too much and assembling these characters in a story was akin to setting up cardboard characters or literary puppets that moved so stiffly I’d give up writing the story.
Most of what I need for a character comes as I write. The less told the better unless it impacts on the story itself. I don’t like slowing down the narrative by offering readers unnecessary chatter. Their concern is the main character and the action he or she takes to solve the story’s problem. They don’t care if his great-great grandfather rode with Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill.
An interesting point of view. What do you think today’s readers want and how does it differ from readers of the past?
Like always, they want to be entertained, to be swept away from the real lives they lead to the vicarious ones they can only dream of. While there are still those readers who delight in taking on the thickest of novels with pages approaching or passing 1,000 pages, so many readers today live ultra-busy lives where taking what little leisure time they have for reading is a struggle. This is why I wrote two collections of short-short stories, each tale no longer than 1,000 words. Each story does not exceed three book pages. These flashes are fun to read and often are re-read again and again.
I agree. Today’s readers prefer something shorter and more direct. What book would you like to feature in this post?
My second flash collection called 200 Shorts.
The collection runs the gamut of adventure to zany. I tried my best to include sci-fi, fantasy, love, crime noire, humor––you name it! Something for everyone. There are even about twenty autobio-flashes: stories that trace the character Anthony Lanzetti from first grade to about twenty-four years old. Of course, Anthony and I are one, and all the names have been changed to protect me from irate relatives and friends who might not enjoy what I’ve revealed and could very well find ways to cut my writing days short. Let them go find Lanzetti. Lots of luck.
I love it! You say you have written about love. Judging by the success of Fifty Shades of Gray, today’s romance readers want steamy love scenes. Do you agree? Have you written anything that would meet their expectations?
I wrote a steamy story once where it was published in a steamy magazine. The editor suggested I write a steamy novel, but when I became a practicing Christian, I decided against it. You might say I was not about to assure myself in a steamy you-know-what after this life ends! My stories treat love scenes with kid gloves. No one is going to flip through the pages of my work, find sex scenes, and then, based on that discovery, purchase my book. I’ve read novels and stories laden with the f-word. And even those blatantly antireligious. That’s not me at all.
Do any of your your stories have a message?
I believe every flash in my book has a message, though few are hitting readers in the face. We all share the Human Condition. We have all made mistakes in life, hurt others, placed wrong priorities on our lives, worried needlessly, and sought love. Readers can find themselves in many of these stories. Will these stories save lives? Will they help readers make important decisions in matters of the heart and head? Probably not, but they will certainly entertain them.
Tell us what one character from your stories would say to you if he/she was to meet you.
In my story “Grab Bag,” the narrator gets lost in the mountains one night and sees a cabin with a light in the window. He is welcomed indoors by Tempus Navigato, a man unusually tall and slim. It’s frightening how much he knows about future time. He shows scenes not yet acted out, scenes clear as now in a glass cube the narrator holds in his hands that tremble as he views his father’s future death. Understandably so, it frightens him enough to leave the cabin, the strange Navigato, and drive safely home. Years later the glass cube’s paternal death scene verifies itself. In fact, at the wake, he sees the face of the time predictor at the back of the crowd.
If Tempus Navigato were to meet me, he would speak of the inevitability of time’s passage, how we are powerless to change it or relive it. He’d tell me to make the best of it, fill it with whatever positive memories I might gather in my life.
A wonderful message. Did you self-publish, or query and hope a publisher would accept your work?
In the past I self-published several chapbooks, then in 1998 I self-published a book of my poems called Promising the Moon, and A Family of Sicilians… I paid for a 1,000 copy run of each book and then, self-promoting them, managed to sell every copy except those I gave away for review.
Before I wrote Flashing My Shorts, my first short-short story collection, a friend of mine had a book of her haiku published by All Things That Matter Press. She encouraged me to contact him about doing the same for my poetry. He wasn’t in favor of taking on another book of poems and asked what else I had. At the time I had written about ten flash stories. I sent a few to him and he liked them enough to ask for over a hundred more! In the next two or three months I worked feverishly (well, maybe not that hard) until I had 164 flash stories which I sent him and he accepted for publication. A year later he accepted 200 more in my book 200 Shorts.
Wow!! That’s impressive! Sounds like your writing is really good. How did that work out for you?
Phil Harris, publisher of All Things That Matter Press, is a reputable guy who works hard to teach his authors to promote their work by getting out there and making themselves visible to potential book buyers. Though horror stories of dishonest publishers do make the rounds, I am grateful to do business with ATTMP and to consider Phil, his wife Deb, and all the authors they have published part of my family.
What do you do to promote your writing?
I write articles about flash fiction and submit them to local publications as well as post them at various writers’ and readers’ sites. I belong to a few marketing groups committed to helping one another to promote our work. I’ve been a guest on Internet radio and interview sites. I promote our work on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Scoop-it, etc. I do readings at local venues.
What advice do you have for your fellow writers/authors?
I offer these several suggestions I call the four W‘s:
(1) Work on mastering the craft of writing by reading and internalizing writers’ handbooks and critical essays on writing by established writers.
(2) Write every single day.
(3) Ward off negatively unhelpful criticism by building self-confidence.
(4) Welcome editor and publisher rejections because they serve a positive purpose: to persuade you to write more acceptable publishable work.
Great advice. I hope every writer who reads this will take it. Tell us about your next project.
I am editing two of my novels. The first one, Under the Dome of Noonan, is a combination of time travel, alternate history, and science fiction. The other is called Carmelu the Sicilian, the story of a former movie actor who played Mafiosi roles in Hollywood and now in his old age realizes he was wrong to contribute to anti-Sicilian media bias.
It sounds like you have some very intriguing ideas. Why do you think we should buy your book?
Here is where I cast modesty and humility to the winds! 200 Shorts is a book worth reading, not only because I say so, but because the world’s largest and most prestigious Flash Fiction Library at the University of Chester in England lists my book in its bibliography and carries it on its shelves.
200 Shorts offers readers their money’s worth. The short-short stories are varied in themes and they lend themselves to several readings. I had a buyer tell me she’s read 200 Shorts six times so far. Now if one pays the price of one book and benefits from several readings, wouldn’t you agree the book pays for itself? Those who have ordered and read 200 Shorts are my best promoters, recommending it to their family and friends.
Please include a paragraph about you, your family, your interests… anything you’d like people to know about you.
I have been writing since nine. The first poem “Mama” was the Mother’s Day gift I gave my mother in 1950 because I’d spent all my allowance on green grapes and a strawberry malted! I have not stopped writing since. I love it, but not as profoundly as I love my wife Sharon. She inspires everything I write and do. I am blessed to have such a special woman. We are both Roman Catholics who love the Church and Christ’s Gospel. Volunteering at our parish is something we both enjoy doing. I would like readers to know I also edit books. My last was “Knowing As We Are Known: An Exercise In Inner Stillness (A 29 Day Journey)” by Eugene T. Yotka. Any writers in search of an editor can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
If Roosters Don’t Crow It Is Still Morning: Haiku and Other Poems
LULU: A Family of Sicilians: Stories and Poems