Vincent Zandri: Adventures Abroad and Words from Home
Written by Rob Smittix on September 27, 2020
RRX: So we’ve gotten to know each other from the music scene, you’re a phenomenal drummer but today we’re here to talk about your actual career as a writer and author.
VZ: When I got out of writing school, I scored a quarter million-dollar book deal right off the bat! Which is one of the worst things that could happen to any young author because no way you are going to earn out that advance.
RRX: Okay, so it’s just like a record deal.
VZ: It’s like Tom Petty back in the 70’s. They say he didn’t earn out and he says therefore I’m bankrupt, so FU or whatever. So then I started this spiral of trying to write to save my life and it took a few years to get back on track. I became a freelance photo-journalist and started working for some decent outfits like RT and Living Ready. Next thing I know, I’m in Africa or Asia, I started traveling all over the place. Just amazing adventures.
When you go to some places in the world and just the general smell of the air makes you gag and there’s no relief from it, you know you’re in a special place. One thing that sticks out at me, in the bush in West Africa, I’m in a 4×4 with three Christian sisters; we’re checking out this agricultural thing to build or whatever. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Along the road there are deer hanging and bottles of gasoline if you want to buy it. Eventually, there’s no road at all. Then we see one of these guys in a military uniform with an AK, wraparound sunglasses holding up the road. Oh God, here we go!
RRX: Straight out of the movies.
VZ: He starts questioning us. I’m like okay he’s going to tie me up, rape all of them and then shoot me in the head and no one will ever find me. They’ll burn the SUV and they will have no clue. So stories like that. Just incredible experiences you know?
One funny story about RT was… and this was when Patterson was governor and New York State was going bankrupt. I pitched this story to Moscow from Florence, Italy that Patterson said by the end of the month the world’s financial capital is going to be bankrupt. They asked could I get it to them in two hours. I was like you betcha. So I make a few calls, do a little online research, try to triple up on my bona fides and I get the article out. Ironically I’m the lead story in Eastern Europe, written in Florence, Italy but based in Albany, NY. I was super proud of that and payday was awesome. That was the peak of my journalism career.
RRX: Sitting here with you now is the peak of my journalism career.
VZ: Are you kidding me; you have a journalism career? No one has journalism careers now.
RRX: Correct me if I’m wrong but I envision you spin the globe and decide hmmm, I’d like to go there and write about it.
VZ: My claim to fame is I actually go to the places and do the things. I went to Egypt at the tail end of the revolution to write the Shroud Key. It’s crazy, they were walking around with their double magazine AK’s and their black masks, no tourists whatsoever. Everything burning, it was awful.
RRX: And you stick out like a sore thumb.
VZ: Yes. So I’m able to go to the Pyramids, which I just had a guide and a driver that was it and a buddy of mine came with me, I’m like I need a back-up. Two sets of eyes are better than one. My guide says I can get you into the Pyramids there’s no line, probably don’t even have to pay. So I go into the third Pyramid which is the smaller one of the three. I climb down, going down in, I’m all alone with a flashlight. I go over to the sarcophagus and I lay myself out in it and I just stare up at the ceiling. You can’t ever repeat that kind of experience, I thought this is going to change me. I got up and left and almost got panicked, what if they close up?
RRX: Seal your doom, then you will be the actual star of your own novel. I am envious, I’ve seen you do all of this traveling over the years. If you ever need someone to ride shotgun I’ve got a passport.
VZ: I’m in absolutely! You can be my photographer.
RRX: So you’ve got a new book?
VZ: The Girl Who Wasn’t There. Oceanview moved up the e-book to June because of the Covid thing. Everything was supposed to come out October 13th but the audio and the e-book were moved up to take advantage of people being home and needing entertainment. So the hard cover comes out October 13th.
RRX: So anything you can tell us about this book?
VZ: I love Lake Placid and I wanted to write an Adirondack thriller. I just love the concept of one man against it all. He can’t go to the cops; he can’t go to his friends or family. In this one we’ve got a guy who gets out of prison after being accused of a quadruple homicide, which he’s convinced he had no part in, he was just a driver. He gets out after ten years and doesn’t his daughter go missing. He was known for being a bad-ass in prison and gets blamed for her disappearance, so he’s got to try to find her in the middle of the Adirondacks. We’ve already gotten interest from Stallone, we’re hoping to score that deal.
RRX: No way! I mean you’re the most successful author I personally know from our area.
VZ: And I sell more books than William Kennedy, there you go. I’m close to a million sales right now, although somebody’s going to chime in and say BS. I never hear anything from New York Writer’s Institute. I never hear anything from any of those guys. Here I am making a living writing books and a lot of them are about Albany.
RRX: Their loss I guess. Any words of advice for aspiring authors?
VZ: Rob, I’ve had tremendous highs and I’ve had some real deep lows. A lot of people assume A-listers are on easy street, a lot of those guys aren’t earning out their advances. That’s the business. So if you can ride the storm, if you can ride those waves, you have to realize in the end that the great times aren’t so great and the bad times aren’t so bad. If you can accept that mindset and stick to it, you’ll do alright. You just have to keep at it with persistence.
Vincent Zandri will be starring along fellow top mystery authors Tom Schreck and Kate Laity at Albany’s very first Noir at the Bar at Eden Café on November 8th. For more information on the New York Time’s and USA Today best-selling author visit vinzandri.com