Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Conversation with Novelist Luca Pesaro

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Luca Pesaro
with Luca Pesaro

We are delighted to welcome Luca Pesaro to Omnimystery News today.

Luca's debut novel is Zero Alternative (Three Hares Publishing; April 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats), an action-packed thriller.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Luca about his new book.

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Omnimystery News: When writing a first book, is it difficult to decide whether or not it should be a stand-alone or first in series?

Luca Pesaro
Photo provided courtesy of
Luca Pesaro

Luca Pesaro: I've decided to go for stand-alone books at the moment. I had a couple of very different stories, both in terms of plot and structure, that I wanted to explore before undertaking a series. I certainly haven't excluded revisiting some of the characters later on, in particular Scott Walker from Zero Alternative, but it's a little further down the road at the moment.

OMN: How do you categorize your book?

LP: My novels are action thrillers, with an international flavour. Obviously a label is a two-edged sword, helping you to connect to readers that enjoy a particular genre, but as my reading and writing tastes are quite eclectic I would prefer to be considered in the general thriller/suspense category, without any further branding, be it Conspiracy, Finance or else. I intend to explore several modes in my next few books.

OMN: Give us a summary of Zero Alternative in a tweet.

LP: Who can you trust? The world is darker, more dangerous than you think. To cure, sometimes you must destroy first.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience did you include in the book?

LP: Quite a lot in Zero Alternative — I've worked in International Finance for over fifteen years, and many characters in the novel draw something from real people I've encountered throughout my career. The storyline is also inspired by current events and potential near-future developments around the world, so it's very much a fictional extrapolation of our present.

OMN: Describe your writing environment for us.

LP: I write at home, starting as soon as the kids have gone to school, and I have a special room with wonderful views over the Thames, the City of London and its skyscrapers. Staring at water is soothing, and I find it helps me relax when I become entangled in some particularly obscure plot hole, or if I need to sharpen dialogue. Also, maybe because I worked on trading floors for many years, I'm not bothered by noise too much — some of my best scene planning/outlining is done down my local pub (without excessive alcohol, of course; I can't really Hemingway things …).

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

LP: A little of everything, really. For Zero Alternative, because of my previous profession, I could draw on my own experience for most technical bits. I also have a couple of friends who've been high up in Police/Counterterrorism networks and it's always a delight to pick their brains. The internet is obviously an awesome research and idea magic — well, that can take you down unexpected routes.

OMN: How true are you to the settings of your book?

LP: Though I do take the odd "poetic licence", I try to be accurate about the geography and local environment. My settings are important not just to give the story flavour but because they tend to be places where certain things are more likely to happen, and their history or nature suits the plot/mood of the story and its twists. Often I find unexpected ideas born of the particular place where the action is taking place. Also, since I'm Italian, I tend to use my country and its locations when they fit the story, since I feel Italy can be fascinating and interesting, and I believe I can transmit some of the spirit of the place.

OMN: If you could travel anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, to research a setting for a book, where would it be?

LP: South America, in particular Argentina and the Andes. It's an area I've never visited, and it feels like a mysterious place, where the world has so many shades of light and darkness one could explore. It's also full of life and madness at the same time, with a twisted history that suits thrillers perfectly.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your stories?

LP: Chess is one of my passions, and it will be an important part of the plot in my next thriller. I'm also a sports fan, football and tennis in particular, and I would love to try my hand at a thriller set in the world of professional athletes one day.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author?

LP: The best advice has always been to believe in yourself, and keep trying. You will get better, and there's nothing like learning from your own mistakes. Criticism-wise, nothing too harsh, to be honest. I did suffer a bit when my editor told me my ending for Zero Alternative felt too flat, and not thrillerish enough. It took quite a bit of work to get it right (well, hopefully …). Criticism is always someone else's opinion, and you have to consider it, see if they do have a case and eventually try to internalize it. There's no point in blindly following someone's suggestion — you have to come up with your own solution to the problem in your story. That's after having decided there is indeed a problem with it, which might not always (or even often) be the case. But it's normally a spur to work harder, and think more about issues, in my case.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a thriller writer and thus I am also …"

LP: … slightly mad, with a well-developed dark side that's best expressed in writing — as opposed to doing!

OMN: What kind of feedback have you received for Zero Alternative?

LP: I love it when people respond by pointing out that it entertained them, but was a page-turner that made them think a little, and maybe learn something new.

OMN: Tell us more about the book's cover and title.

LP: The designer for my book cover, the excellent Jennie Rawlings, asked me what sort of covers I liked in the thriller genre. I came up with a selection, and it became obvious I liked an uncluttered style, with a few, powerful markers. I also mentioned how much I loved the graphic look of "The Matrix" branding and she did wonders in synthesising it into the final design. The title took a quite a lot of choosing — we wanted something sharp, that underlined the dichotomy and choices made by the hero as he grows through the book, and the underlying sense of menace. We went through so many false starts before we came up with Zero Alternative.

OMN: Action thrillers often make for exciting films. Suppose Zero Alternative were to be adapted for film. Who do you see playing the part of Scott Walker?

LP: Javier Bardem — maybe not with the awful blond hair he sported in Skyfall, but he does have that Latin edginess and depth, and he looks like he could handle himself in a fight if needed.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

LP: I've always been a fairly omnivorous reader, but my first passion as I grew up was Science Fiction and Fantasy and my first great "author love" was Isaac Asimov, followed by Tolkien. After that, Stephen King and the way he spun stories with a minimum of fuss had a big influence. In the thriller genre, I would definitely mention Grisham, Ludlum (for the non-stop action) and more recently Daniel Silva, who's very good at adding great depth to his characters while building intricate plots based around current events, like I attempted in Zero Alternative.

As far as technique and skills: style-wise — but I know I'll never be nearly as good — for thrillers the model has to be le Carré. And if I had to pick a writer to read and reread for his visionary quality, it would be Philip K. Dick. This is all on the commercial side of course; no point in naming all the great classic writers we all love and enjoy, though Hemingway was always a particular favourite of mine.

OMN: What do you pick up today to read for pleasure?

LP: I still read a lot of thrillers, and enjoy Lee Child, Flynn and Baldacci. Fantasy, particularly the epic, multi-POV sagas like "Game of Thrones". But I'm also a sucker for Dan Brownish-type capers, and I'll pick up any airport-type book that intrigues me before a holiday.

OMN: Do you have any favorite literary characters?

LP: Hector from The Iliad, The Mule (Asimov's foundation), Macbeth, Tyrion ("Game of Thrones"), Holden Caulfield, any Philip K Dick heroes, Morgana, Kellus from Scott Bakker's books.

OMN: And what about suspense or thriller series characters?

LP: Hannibal Lecter, Gabriel Allon, Jason Bourne/James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Jack Reacher.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

LP: Here are three of them:

Top 5 Films: The Silence of the Lambs, Pulp Fiction, The Matrix, Forrest Gump, The Godfather Part II.

Top 5 less-known Italian cities you should visit: Ferrara, Parma, Perugia, Lecce, Palermo.

Top 5 weird dishes you should try: Haggis, Culurgiones, Ants, Seadas, Pisarei (you'll need to check the net for some of those!).

OMN: What's next for you?

LP: Another thriller which, as I said before, is inspired by chess — one of my great passions as I was growing up. It's called A Game of Kings and it's a Ludlum-type story where people are being manoeuvred as chess pieces without their knowledge. It will be a little broader in scope than Zero Alternative, with various POV characters. And of course writing full-time is giving me the opportunity to finally spend some time with my children and watch (and hopefully help) them grow up … at a dizzying speed.

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Luca Pesaro was born in northern Italy but he has spent most of his adult life in the US or UK. After long years gaining a degree and masters in Economics he became a derivatives trader in financial markets, and has worked for Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan and RBS, and been a regular commentator on Bloomberg TV. He is now writing full-time.

He lives in London, is married and has two children who always manage to annoy, surprise and delight beyond any reasonable expectation.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Zero Alternative by Luca Pesaro

Zero Alternative
Luca Pesaro
An Action Thriller

Scott Walker is a fugitive from the quicksands of Finance, with one card to play — DeepShare, a silicon oracle coveted by billionaires, hitmen and hackers.

As he fights for survival and vengeance, digging deeper into the dark heart of the global economy, one question torments him: what price will the world have to pay? Print/Kindle Format(s)


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