The synopsis for There’s Always Yesterday
“The young Vince Coltellone lay pinned under his grandfather’s lifeless, blood-soaked body while watching the murder of his parents. For a decade, this was the event that defined who he was. His entire persona was altered on that day, and the graphic scene he was forced to be a part of became branded to his psyche and was replayed every time he closed his eyes. There was no escape from the reality of this. It didn’t matter if he fought to convince himself that he had moved on, or tried to believe he was no longer affected by it; nothing changed whether he allowed himself to fall into depression or attempted to rise above it. There was no way to fully deny that his identity was inevitably fused to this one, fateful day. Now, as Vince enters adulthood, he has a decision to make: Distance himself from everything and try to finally escape once and for all; or, seek revenge and become the person he had promised himself he would never be. No matter how hard he tries to convince himself otherwise, he knows there is only one option if he truly wants to bring this dark chapter of his life to a close.”
What got you into writing? – How long have you been writing?
Joe: I never really thought about writing until senior year of high school when I read The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I had already seen the movie at that point, but the book blew me away. It had so many more details than the film, the backstories were more in depth, and the characters were so much more developed than what could only be shown visually on a screen, and I basically just wanted to be Mario Puzo at that point and write like him. I had always enjoyed writing before reading the novel; but that’s when it first hit me that it was actually something that I wanted to pursue. It was perfect timing too because it was right before graduation and I really had no idea what I wanted to do after high school until then. So college is when I started focusing on the craft and harnessing my style.
What draws you to writing fiction?
Joe: I enjoy fiction writing because of all the possibilities. A story can go in an unlimited number of directions. One change in a word of dialogue, or a character looking left instead of right, or even unexpected weather can impact where the story goes and how or when it ends. Beyond just the ending, there are numerous ways to get to that ending. If ten authors had the same starting point and the same end point, they’d each have a completely different story; and that’s what I love most about fiction. I also enjoy becoming my characters when writing them. You have to immerse yourself into the characters and think like them, which might be hard to do when you have a character who’s morally opposite of your own values and ideals. That’s where it gets fun, though. Letting one of your characters do something that you would never allow yourself to do in real life can give the story another level that it might not have had otherwise; and you know you did a good job when you despise someone that you made up in your head.
Where did the inspiration for this story (There’s Always Yesterday) stem from? Any movies/books that had any impact on your mindset when approaching this project?
Joe: When I set out to write this novel, I wanted to do something crime related because of The Godfather and how much of an impact Mario Puzo’s writing had on me. So I did some research on the Mafia’s history in my hometown of Rochester, NY to give me some ideas. My intent was to take true events from forty or fifty years ago, and bring them into today’s timeframe, giving it a different angle than it had in the past. Also, I really wanted to have a dark, heavy plot all the way through, but that’s not who I am at all in reality and I eventually had to stop suppressing my lighthearted, comical side from coming out because I would have gotten nowhere. The story still gets pretty dark in places, but it’s surrounded by some comedy and fun situations too. I think that ended up making it better overall. I like to keep things realistic, and life is full of all sorts of emotions; so having the characters sit between times of happiness and times of sadness gave it something completely different than I had set out to create at the beginning. I also ended up with different characters than I thought I was going to have and focusing on different parts of their lives. So, believe it or not, crime and darkness was the inspiration even if it doesn’t seem possible based on the end result.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Have their styles or choices of genre impacted your writing at all?
Joe: Mario Puzo, but that should be obvious by now. I don’t read much from contemporary authors because I don’t want to inadvertently end up mimicking anyone’s style; but I do enjoy the writing of Salman Rushdie. He tells interesting, entertaining stories that always keep me looking forward to the next page. I also really liked John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s truly a great piece of comedy. Before reading it, I didn’t realize that it was acceptable to be funny as a writer. So that helped in allowing me to be more of myself in that regard.
How does your title There’s Always Yesterday reflect on the plot of your novel?
Joe: The title is pretty much the underlying theme of the novel. It’s a negative spin on the old saying, “There’s always tomorrow.” This story is pretty much the opposite of that mantra. The characters are stuck looking at the past rather than moving forward. When they do attempt to move on, the past doesn’t disappear, though. No matter what they try to convince themselves of, or what they do to get past something, the history is still there, unchanged. Some try to ignore the past, some use it as motivation for the future, others become stuck in it. Whichever choice is made, the events of the past are ultimately always hovering over them.
How does your character struggle with the death of his parents (as mentioned in the synopsis)? Does the line between good/evil become blurred?
Joe: The main struggle isn’t so much in the coping with the death itself, but in dealing with the desire for revenge. Vince witnesses the murder, and he decides that he will be nothing like the person who took his parents from him. So the line between good and evil is very clear to him, but the struggle is in keeping on the right side of that line. From an early age, he knew what kind of person he wanted to be; but the need for vengeance intensifies as the years go by, and resisting the urge to take action becomes much more difficult than he thought it would be.
Any new projects in the works?
Joe: I have a few ideas for more novels that I’m excited to start working on; an anti- romantic comedy, and a story about a young child who can see her guardian angel are the first two on the list. I also started writing short stories again, which is something I haven’t done since college.