Joe Mynhardt: Tell us a bit (or a lot) more about your childhood. Primary school, High school, etc. How do you think your experiences benefited or influenced your career?
Armand Rosamilia: I grew up in a small fishing village in New Jersey named Belford. It really shaped my life in a positive way because it was a small, tight-knit community. You knew all of your neighbors and I had over a dozen kids to play with on our dead-end street. It was a loving, positively influencing experience. I felt like I could do anything I set my mind to. As kids we played in the nearby woods, kickball in the street, hide and seek at night… We used our imaginations. I would spend nights reading instead of watching TV. Making up stories and playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends and my brother. It was an ideal situation for being creative.
Joe: Can you recall a moment where you had to choose between being an author/artist and another career? A decisive moment where you decided to go all out?
Armand: Six years ago I lost my job as a retail manager. While I was looking half-heartedly for another mindless retail job I decided to quietly polish up some of my stories and see if I could get published on a consistent basis instead of when time permitted. I’d been in retail for 25 years and hated every minute of it, to be honest. It was scary to not have a steady paycheck for the first time in forever, but I got lucky and began selling my work right away on a steady basis and never looked back. Hopefully I’ll never have to look back, either.
Joe: How did you respond to your very first success as an author? Was it just rewarding, or did it motivate you even more? Or, did it perhaps feel underwhelmed, which motivated you to even greater heights?
Armand: My first actual story I had published was a short, Beastie, which was published around 1988 in a side-stapled Xeroxed zine. I received a contributor copy for it. I was ecstatic. I felt like all the years of writing had finally paid off. Little did I know the rollercoaster that writing would be for me nearly thirty years later.
Joe: How has your career as an author affected relationships with friends and family?
Armand: I’ve been divorced twice. Was in a long-term relationship with a woman who didn’t understand or want to understand my passion for writing. They all thought I should shut up and go to work and make money busting my ass for 50-60 hours a week in retail. When I went full-time as an author that last relationship failed because she didn’t believe in me. It was a huge motivation to prove her and my ex-wives wrong. I still use that when I’m feeling down on myself. My wife now is the greatest. She helps with the career part of this. Motivates me to write and promote more. Really understands this is my dream and I’m living it. She couldn’t be more supportive or happier how well I’m doing, either.
Joe: Which author most influenced your early career? And who still does?
Armand: Dean Koontz. At 12 I read every one of his paperbacks. My mother is a huge horror reader. When I was a kid she’d read a book and if it didn’t have lots of sex in it I could read it. Nowadays I get motivation from newer authors who are hungry for that first sale or that first big contract. I love talking shop with them, which is why I started Arm Cast Podcast. I could chat with another author all day if they’d let me because it gets my creative juices flowing, too.
Joe: Instead of just focussing on your most successful work, which story are you the proudest of, a story that managed to capture a piece of who you are?
Armand: The novel The Enemy Held Near, which I co-wrote with Jay Wilburn. That book was a tough one for me because Jay is such a great writer, and having to keep pace with what he was doing and where he was coming from was tough at first. He really upped my game and I still think it’s the best writing I’ve ever done. We recently co-wrote a second book together and we’ll be shopping it to publishers soon. It might even be better than the first one because I really had to bring my A game to the table.
Joe: How do you feel when you don’t make your target words for the day?
Armand: Not as horrible as I used to. I’ve really started to understand my focus needs to be not only on the writing but on the promotion. I own a podcast network now, too, so there is a lot of work that goes into that on a daily basis. My wife made spreadsheets and bought me dry erase boards so I can track my progress. Not only for the actual writing but deadlines and promoting and all the rest. The writing is about 20% of the work in my opinion.
Joe: What’s the most difficult topic for you to write?
Armand: This will sound odd but writing about animals. I’m not a pet owner and I’m not really a fan of pets. My wife is allergic to dogs and cats, which is fine with me. So at times I forget about giving a character a pet because it’s foreign to me. I also feel like I don’t know enough about animals to include them in a story without feeling like a liar. See? Odd.
Joe: What do you do to distract you enough to actually relax a bit? Or do you always think about writing?
Armand: I love baseball. I’m a huge Boston Red Sox fan. I grew up in a big baseball family, too. My wife and I have season tickets to the local minor league team, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, and I go to every game as long as I’m in town. I love the strategy and everything about the game. I can sit and watch and get so involved I turn off my brain about writing and work for a few hours.
Joe: Tell us a bit about the people you met while researching a book. Are you still friends with some of them?
Armand: Definitely. When I wrote Dying Days 2, in my zombie series, a woman named Tosha Shorb was a huge fan and I made her a character. I thought she’d die quickly and I could move on. I just finished writing Dying Days 8 and the Tosha character is still around and readers either love or hate her. Hate in a good way because of her actions, I might add. The woman it is based on is now married with children and it’s fun to see after five years or so how her life has changed and how the character has, as well.
Joe: Outside of the actual craft, what is the most useful skill you learnt from being an author?
Armand: Seeing the big picture. I used to get frustrated if I missed my writing goal for the day but now I can look back and see all of the other things I did during my day and know I did as much as I could. It was still a positive because I completed other tasks that will help my career. Of course, the best days mentally for me are when I blow through my daily goal and get in the zone and write and write.
Joe: How did being author change you as a person?
Armand: I look at every situation as a possible story idea. Every conversation I have gets filed away for future use. People I meet might end up being a character in some small way. Places I visit I always think of what book I could use it in. You never turn off being a writer, even when you’re not physically writing.
Joe: Which response / comment from a reader has touched you the most throughout your career?
Armand: I think the first time I got a review from someone on Amazon and I had no idea who the person was. It was someone who had read my book and I had no connection to them. It wasn’t another author, it wasn’t a friend or even a friend of a friend who’d been recommended my book. It was a random person and they enjoyed it enough to take time to leave a review. It still excites me when someone new finds my work.
Joe: What is your life-long goal as an author?
Armand: To keep living the dream. I’ve been full-time for six years and love every minute of it. This isn’t a job to me because I can’t wait to get on my computer (after the coffee is ready) and see what today brings. We’re able to travel and see parts of the country and as my career keeps rising and my wife (who has an awesome career as a commercial property manager) gets to take time off to travel with me, it will only get better.
Joe: What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Armand: I want to be known as an author who helped other authors. I see too many authors with minimal success charging new authors a lot of money for career advice. I do it for free on my podcast and in person. Send me an email and I’ll answer it to the best of my ability. I want to be known as a guy who wants to help, because on my way into this business I had the help of authors who took the time to answer all of my questions.
These aren’t your mother’s fairy tales.