Monday, December 24, 2012

Meet Western Fictioneer Matthew Pizzolato

1. What was your first Western novel or story and was it published? 
My first published work was a short story titled "The Old Outlaw" and it was accepted by a small press magazine called The Storyteller.

2. What Western writer or writers of the past were the biggest influence on your work?
I grew up reading Louis L'Amour novels and quickly accumulated everything he had written. I not only enjoyed his writing for the entertainment value but I gleaned a lot of life lessons from his stories that shaped me into the man that I am today. His stories always started fast and contained a lot of action, and I suppose that subconsciously, I've tried to begin my stories the same way.

I also enjoy reading Don Coldsmith, Loren D. Estleman and Elmore Leonard.

3. Is there a particular scene from a Western novel that was so powerful when you read it that it stuck with you? Perhaps has become a scene you've tried to live up to/equal in your own writing?
I'd have to pick a movie for that one. The most powerful scene I've ever watched was the ending of the Clint Eastwood film, Unforgiven. Seeing it for the first time gave me chills and goose bumps. Eastwood's character in that movie was part of the inspiration for Wesley Quaid, the antihero protagonist of my latest release, OUTLAW.

4. What's the first Western you remember reading from cover to cover?
I'd be hard pressed pick out one in particular because I've been reading Westerns for as long as I can remember. Most likely, it was something by Louis L'Amour.

5. Who is your favorite historical Western figure, and why?
Wild Bill Hickok. I've always been fascinated with his life and the tragic events of his death.

6. How much historical research do you do, and how do you go about it?
I've accumulated several shelves of historical books and I turn to them as I need to look up something. I do a lot of research online as well and on occasion, I'll visit the library.

7. How important is setting? How important is it to get setting right? What's the best use of setting in a Western as far as you're concerned?
I think that setting can be critical in a Western, as vital sometimes as a character, but a lot of it depends on the story. Louis L'Amour always used setting well in his stories.

8. How do you choose where to begin your story? Do you use prologues?
It depends on the story. I've used them before, but most of the time I don't. Usually, I start with an idea see where it takes me.

9. Do you do all your research ahead of time, or as you go along?
I research as I'm writing. If I come across something I'm not sure about I'll look it up online or in one of the historical books I have. Then I'll do a fact check again as part of the editing process.

10. Which of your characters do you identify with the most, and why? Was there a role model for this particular character?
My Texas Ranger character, Jud Nelson, would probably be the one that I identify most with, but I have put part of myself in all of the characters that I write, whether they are heroes or villains.

11. Do you outline and plot your story or do you write as the inspiration or MUSE leads?
Sometimes I write a general plot summary to serve as a sort of road map, but I never outline an entire story. For me, doing so would take the fun and enjoyment out of writing. Like Louis L'Amour said, I write because I want to see what happens next.

12. Are you a conservative in your writing and stick with traditional ideas for your characters and plots or do you like to go beyond the norm and toss in the unexpected and why?
I like to go against the norm and to create characters that don't fit the mold. Whenever I read fiction, I like to find characters that I can identify with, or in other words, characters that are flawed but are inherently good like antiheroes.

13. Do you need quiet when you write, listen to music, or have the TV on and family around?
I prefer it to be quiet, but I can write with noise going on around me.

14. Have you experienced the "dreaded" writer's block and how did you deal with it?
I don't believe in writer's block. Like Robert B. Parker said, I think that writer's block is another word for lazy. Whenever I get stuck on a story, I put it aside and work on something else. I've found that letting something simmer in my subconscious for a short period allows me to return to it with a clear mind.

15. Who is your favorite fictional character that you have created?
The protagonist of OUTLAW, Wesley Quaid, is my favorite character because for me, writing an antihero is a lot of fun. Instead of being limited by the moral absolutes that the traditional hero an villain stories require, I find that writing an antihero allows me to explore the gray areas of morality.

16. Who is your favorite fictional character that someone else created?
William Tell Sackett by Louis L'Amour. There was a lot of the loner aspect of Tell Sackett that I found myself identifying with as a young man.

17. Do you address "modern" issues in Westerns? Racism. Feminism. Downs Syndrome. Mental disabilities. Genetic disorders. Sociopathy. Immigrant questions. Brutality. Pedophilia. Any more?
I have addressed racism and bullying in a couple of my most recently published stories, "Day of Reckoning," and "Sixguns and Pitchforks," that were published in online magazines.

18. Have you found that being able to self publish through Kindle and Nook, that you find yourself writing more of what you want rather than what the agent, editor, and publisher wants?
Apart from my short stories published in print journals and online magazines, I have always self published, so I've never had to deal with having anyone else tell me what to write.

19. Do you make a living writing? If not, what is your day job?
I don't yet make my living from writing, but that is a goal that I am striving toward. In the meantime, I work as a meat cutter in a grocery store.

20. What are you writing right now?
I'm working on a series of short stories that is a sequel of sorts to my latest release, OUTLAW. I will be publishing them as a collection the first part of next year.

21. What do you plan to write in the future?
I'll always be writing Westerns because I think the potential of the genre is endless.

22. What made you decide to write Western fiction?
I decided to write Western fiction because I've always loved reading Westerns. I always said that I was born in the wrong century and writing allows me to go back in time and live vicariously through my characters.


  1. Nice interview, Matt. I'm a LL fan, too. Also a Wesley Quaid fan. Wonder if that guy's gonna hook up with an ornery female some day.

  2. Must agree concerning the final sequence of "Unforgiven." Second only to the ending of "The Wild Bunch," IMO.

  3. Look at it this way, Matt. You were born in the right century for all your readers. Stick with us, OK?

  4. Great interview, Matt! I was glad to learn more about you. I totally agree about writers' block. Of course, a lot of my clients and students think I'm overly harsh... LOL Loved all the LL books--that's one of my fond memories--as an adult I discovered them and as I read them I passed them to my dad to read. He got to where he was reading them faster than I was, so I gave him all of the ones I'd bought and he read them first, then gave them back to me. We had many conversations about LL's characters and plots, and both of us enjoyed them.