Dennis Palumbo interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Jun 4, 2016 4:08:49 PM

Dennis Palumbo interview with David Alan Binder

His bio from his website: Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT is a writer and licensed psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in creative issues. His newest crime novel, PHANTOM LIMB, is on sale now from Poisoned Pen Press. The book is the fourth in the series featuring psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi.

The first Rinaldi mystery was MIRROR IMAGE, to be followed by FEVER DREAM and NIGHT TERRORS. Palumbo is also the author of WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT (John Wiley), as well as a collection of mystery short stories, FROM CRIME TO CRIME (Tallfellow Press).

He also blogs regularly for the Huffington Post, and writes the popular “Hollywood on the Couch” column for the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY website.

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter, Palumbo’s credits include the feature film My Favorite Year, for which he was nominated for a WGA Award for Best Screenplay. He was also a staff writer for the ABC-TV seriesWelcome Back, Kotter, and has written numerous series episodes and pilots.

His first novel, City Wars (Bantam Books) is currently in development as a feature film, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere. He provides articles and reviews for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Lancet, and many others.

His column, “The Writer’s Life,” appeared monthly for six years in Written By, the magazine of the Writers Guild of America. He’s also done commentary for NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Dennis conducts workshops throughout the country. Recent appearances include the Family Therapy Network Annual Symposium, the Association for Humanistic Psychology, Cal State Northridge, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, PEN West, the Writers Guild Foundation, the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Screenwriting Expo, USC, the Romance Writers of America, the Nieman Foundation, the Directors Guild, and UCLA.

His work helping writers has been profiled in The New York Times, Premiere Magazine, Fade In, Angeleno, GQ, The Los Angeles Times and other publications, as well as on NPR and CNN.

A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Pepperdine University, he serves on the faculty of UCLA Extension, where he was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year.


1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?

“Palumbo,” pronounced just like Columbo

2. Where are you currently living (at least the state or if outside US then Country)?

Los Angeles, California

3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

I’ve learned not to spend too much time thinking and brooding about the work, but just doing it. In other words, writing begets writing. Every hour spent bemoaning the fact you’re not writing is a wasted hour. I like a quote from former screenwriter Frederick Raphael: “For a writer there is only one definition of work---pages that are there in the evening that weren’t there in the morning.”

4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

I don’t know if this qualifies as a quirk, but though I write very twisty mystery thrillers, I never outline. I prefer to make it up as I go along, even though that requires going back over earlier pages and revising them based on how the story’s turning out. For example, I usually don’t know who the bad guy is till mid-way through the book. Which means I then have to go back to earlier chapters and lay in some appropriate clues to his/her identity.

5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

I have no experience with self-publishing. I’ve been published by Bantam Books, John Wiley & Sons, Tallfellow Press, and, currently, Poisoned Pen Press.

a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?

In terms of fiction, I write the Daniel Rinaldi series of mystery thrillers, published by Poisoned Pen Press, based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

No insights, really, though I understand from my publisher that my novels sell more as e-books than in print. As mentioned above, I really have no experience with alternative publishers.

7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

Write a good book, and then get everyone you know to read it. Using the idea behind “six degrees of separation,” sooner or later your work will make its way to an editor.

Another idea: go to author/fan conventions targeted to the genre you write in (mystery, romance, YA, etc.) and network with writers and agents there. You can often get someone with publishing experience to read your work. Especially if you give them a couple chapters to whet their appetite.

8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?

Pretty hard to get an agent nowadays, but not impossible. Probably the best thing is to look up the agents who represent authors whose work is similar to yours and write him/her a query letter. In my case, it was just luck: my former agent from my days as a Hollywood screenwriter read my first mystery novel and recommended it to my current literary manager.

9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

The best piece of advice I ever got was simply this: Keep giving them YOU, until YOU is what they want. In other words, don’t try to follow trends, or copy the style of some other writer. Write what truly interests you, and odds are it will interest readers. As Emerson said: “To know that what is true for you in your private heart is true for everyone---that is genius.”

10. How many books have you written?

Seven in total (so far)

CITY WARS, a sci-fi novel published by Bantam Books many years ago.

WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT (John Wiley & Sons), a nonfiction book about surviving the ups and downs of the writer’s life.

FROM CRIME TO CRIME (Tallfellow Press), a collection of mystery short stories

The Daniel Rinaldi Mysteries (Poisoned Pen Press)





11. What makes your Daniel Rinaldi mystery novels stand out from the crowd?

I think it’s the depth of the characterizations. While I pride myself on my novels having lots of twists and turns, I’m most gratified by the response from readers to the characters. Also, as a licensed psychotherapist for the past 25 years, I’m able to write about psychological issues from the standpoint of someone who works with people and their problems every day.

I also think the fact that the series of books is set in Pittsburgh, my home town, give them a different flavor. As opposed to LA or New York. The city’s changed enormously over the past thirty years, morphing from an industrial hub to a renowned center for state-of-the-art technology and medicine.

12. What are some ways in which you promote your work?

I speak at conferences and conventions, do a fair amount of social media (FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.), and write columns for the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY website. My occasional essays in the Huffington Post help, too.

Though I still believe that word-of-mouth is the best way to build readership.

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