Chris and I met online years ago due to mutual interests, and I finally got to meet him in person when Christian Slater flew me out to Miami to do location scouting for his screenplay of my novel Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me.
The main reason we hit it off – besides our mutual love of all things Tiki and Rat Pack – is we’re embarking on similar journeys as self-made pulp authors, though naturally our paths and sensibilities diverge in some crucial ways. Everyone is an individual, after all - especially when it comes to creative expression, even if we are sharing the same DIY technology.
That is one of the main points of this series: not simply to promote indie authors, but to reveal in their own words the passions, techniques, struggles, challenges, triumphs and other various aspects of their unique careers in hopes many of you can either relate, or figure out exactly how you differ – then take it from there.
Not let’s meet Chris:
Christopher Pinto is a Crazy Hot Rod Drivin' Sax Playin' Burger Eatin' Retro Kat writing murder mystery books and living in In Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Pinto is the author/editor of Tiki Lounge Talk (http://tikiloungetalk.com), a web-lounge dedicated to celebrating the kool stuff from the Atomic Age and beyond, from big band music to cocktails at the Tiki Bar. He's been writing for over 35 years, has had several plays produced, and has won awards for his creative efforts. During the 1990s he was producer/director of a highly successful traveling theater company in the Atlantic City area, StarDust Productions.
In addition to writing murder mystery books, fiction and plays, Pinto has also written for the Atlantic City Press as well as several blogs and flash fictions websites, and is also and award-winning graphic designer and advertising copywriter. He is an accomplished jazz and swing clarinet and saxophone player and a collector of 20th century pop culture junk. In his spare time he restores and customizes vintage cars, including his own custom 1953 Chevy Belair hot rod (named StarDust).
A lover of all things retro, he enjoys working on his 1953 Chevy Belair Hot Rod, plays jazz tenor sax and clarinet, and is an avid collector of vintage memorabilia. Pinto currently lives in South Florida with his wife Colleen, three birds, two cats, a dog and a Tiki Bar.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I used to write silly kid stories when I first learned the alphabet. By the time I was in middle school, I knew I loved writing. That developed into writing murder mystery scripts for my theater troupe in Atlantic City…but I didn’t get the bug to write a novel until I moved to Florida in 2000. The move brought with it a flood of memories from living at the Jersey Shore, and I wanted to tell those stories.
What are some of your influences, literary or otherwise?
The biggest would have to be Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels. I read my first one when I was around 12, and was hooked. Before the Internet, it took me years to find all his novels as most were out of print, so I actually have some pulps from the 50s and 60s. Then of course some of Stephen King’s works, like Christine and The Shining were very inspirational as they were so far out. Film Noir classics, from The Maltese Falcon to Laura, have had a huge influence on my style, characters, and my lifestyle in general. On a more personal note, my Mother, who was a writer, taught me how to write, and my Father, an artist, taught me how to be creative.
How would you say you’ve evolved as a writer over your career?
My early, non-little-kid works were almost exclusively plays and musicals. I wrote my first full-length musical (including the songs) in 1985, and my high school drama department produced it my senior year, 1986. It was entitled “Swingtime,” featured big band and jazz music, and took place in 1986 and 1941. Through the 1990s, I mostly wrote scripts for my murder mystery theater company, Stardust Productions. They were mostly comedies with intricate plots, and that’s where I learned what people liked in a murder mystery. It was also during that time I began writing ad copy and brochures as my career in advertising took shape. When I tackled my first novel, Murder Behind the Closet Door in 2001, I did it as an exercise in remembering cool things about Wildwood, Ocean City and Atlantic City, New Jersey that I’d experienced. I wrote it with the intention of only sharing it with friends, never to be published, but as more people read it, they convinced me I should publish…and write more. From there, I realized my favorite style was the old noir, gumshoe detective kick with a mix of 1950s flavor and unrestricted modern grit…and also infused with the paranormal, something I’ve been intertwined and nearly obsessed with all my life.
Do you find self-publishing a satisfying option - if so, why, and if not, why not?
Yes, because I can write what I want, when I want, without the pressure of deadlines or the influence of an editor or publisher who doesn’t “get” my style…also meaning I am free to write and self-pub books that aren’t necessarily “commercially viable”, but very entertaining to the audience who appreciates them. On the downside, it’s a lot of work, and the pay is dirt. But at this point in my life I’m not doing it for the money…I do it for kats and kittens who dig this kind of stuff and can’t find enough of it. However, I’m not above a little commercialism. If a publisher were ever interested, I’d bend a little to sell a few books. Just a little.
What’s next for you?
About two years ago I decided, for fun, to try to write a paranormal mystery that would be more “mainstream” than my other books. Two years later I’m still working on it. It took a long time to find a groove with it that I liked, but I finally did, and I’m happy with it. Just need to finish it off and clean it up. The working title is “Jennifer’s Murder”, and it’s a paranormal mystery that takes place in the present and the 1980s in Margate, NJ (a beach town just south of Atlantic City). Once that’s done and out the door, I’ll be returning to more Detective Riggins noir paranormal mysteries, the stuff I really love to write.
Fiction by Christopher Pinto includes:
Murder Behind the Closet Door, The Wildwood Paranormal Mystery (Book One in the Detective Bill Riggins Series)
Murder on Tiki Island: A Paranormal Mystery in the Florida Keys (Book Two in the Detective Bill Riggins Series)
Murder Under The Boards: The Atlantic City Paranormal Mystery (Book Three in the Detective Bill Riggins Series)
A Flash of Noir (Short Stories and Flash Fiction)
How to Kill Vampires because they are unnatural jerks (A tongue-in-cheek guide to identifying and killing vampires)
Jennifer’s Murder (a paranormal mystery, release date TBA)
For more info visit http://stardustmysteries.com.
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER PINTO