I’ve been getting emails from Ang Pompano since I started writing crime fiction, and I always answer them. Ang is a stalwart of the New England Sisters in Crime (ok, he’s a Mister in Crime), and he’s tireless – always working on Crimebake or another organizational function. When he reaches out, its to help other writers. That’s why I’m so thrilled that, after numerous wonderful short stories and academic articles about our craft, he finally has debuted a full-length crime novel, When It’s Time For Leaving, and, for a change, we all get to crow about him. Congratulations, Ang! Everyone else…you’re in for a treat!
How does a book start for you?
I start with a subject that is of interest to me and that I hope resonates with the readers as well. It may be something from my personal life or a social issue that I think is important. Then I weave those issues into the mystery, always dropping a body very close to the beginning of the story. After all, the whodunit is what the reader is there for. I think that comes from years of writing short mystery fiction. In my debut novel, When It’s Time for Leaving, detective Al DeSantis has to deal with his father, Big Al, who has the early stages of dementia. That disease is a huge problem that Baby Boomers such as myself, have to deal with either as it concerns their parents or in some cases their spouses or even themselves. Big Al can’t remember his son, yet he expects to help his “new partner” Al solve the murder. Then I layer in other social issues. The story touches on everything from challenging traditional male values, scofflaw fathers, the pink tax, gay marriage, and out of control technology, all while trying to solve a mystery within a mystery. Affects
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
Big Al surprised me the most. I needed conflict, so I wanted to make him a narcissist in contrast to his son who is tough but has a great deal of empathy, even for people who have hurt him. Big Al left his family when Al was eight years old. Then twenty-eight years later he resurfaces deeding Al the Blue Palmetto Detective Agency. Al didn’t even know his father was alive. Big Al couldn’t or wouldn’t explain his past actions. But, as his son digs into his father’s past while investigating the murder he learns some things that explain the personalities of both the father and son.
Where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
Most of the story takes place in Savannah, a town that I really love. But it was originally set on an island off the west coast of Florida. I wanted to write a cross between a traditional mystery and an action story. I had action scenes on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and others involving alligators in the Everglades. Publishers didn’t want it because they had too many stories set in Florida. Savannah was an obvious choice because it has a big bridge and it’s near the Okefenokee Swamp which is loaded with alligators. I really lucked out on that. Still, it took a year to rewrite because, as you well know, setting is a character and it dictates the story in may ways.
What are you working on now?
I intended When It’s Time for Leaving to be a standalone. But I’m getting great feedback from reviewers and readers who say they want to see more of the DeSantis father-son team. So, I tabled my other projects to work on a sequel that’s a little more-high concept. I don’t really know what high concept means, but it’s what my agent told me to aim for. We’ll see if I can pull I off.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
I guess you could have asked me how it feels to finally get a novel published after working toward that goal for so long. I’ve had short stories published and I’ve been associated with the mystery writing community for a long time. But in my eyes, I wasn’t a “real” writer because I didn’t have a book published. Then last year, the day after Thanksgiving I got an email from Encircle Publications saying they wanted to publish When It’s Time for Leaving. I said to my wife, Annette, “Well, this is interesting.” She thought I’d be more excited. I would have thought so too. Maybe I was worried about all of the work that comes between writing the book and publishing it; the contract (I’m lucky to have the great, Paula Munier, as an agent.), the edits, and worst of all – promoting it. I’m not into sales and I’d rather learn about others than talk about myself. As it turned out, I’m having a ball going on blogs such as this. Clea, that’s why I want to thank you so much for inviting me here.
WHEN IT’S TIME FOR LEAVING is Ang Pompano’s debut novel. He has stories in the 2019 Malice Domestic Anthology, and BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES 2019. His academic pieces include one on teaching detective fiction. A recipient of the Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship for a novel in progress, he is on the Crime Bake Planning Committee and is a board member of Sisters in Crime New England. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Annette, and their two rescue dogs.