We could not get a better author than Antonio Ricardo Scozze to feature as a guest on the occasion of Halloween today, for the writer, who is as mysterious as his nom de plume is (if not more), is trying to create a cohesive, complete world of horror with his writing. Speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction, Mr Scozze says that unlike most pseudonyms, he uses one because the person (that is, Antonio Ricardo Scozze) happens to be a character in the overarching stories he is composing. ‘His own story will slowly unfold as these stories go on,’ he states with a spooky smile.
Spinning ‘Creepy, Weird’ Yarns
Be that as it may, the author lets us know that he has been writing one way or another since his childhood, his focus being more on creepy and weird stories. ‘I can remember writing out a story when I was maybe nine or ten about a medieval ruler who saw what he thought were Viking longships and was thrilled because they were going to fall into a trap he’d set for them, only to find it was a school of sea monsters who destroyed his castle,’ he explains, employing a long-winded sentence, going on to state that the story was only a few paragraphs long but suggestive for what was to come later.
Mr Scozze also lets us know that he then went on to write several short stories as a teenager, inspired by the works of Poe, King, Barker, and the like. He, nonetheless, never tried to get these published, they being more of an outlet for the narratives he had rattling around in his head. ‘But even then, I’d see something weird, or something normal I’d make weird, spinning a yarn about it. Some things never change,’ he says with a guffaw.
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Antonio Begets Antonio
Mr Scozze, who prefers to keep his personal life away from the public domain, says that he wrote his first book in his twenties. ‘But that was based more on enthusiasm for creating rather than skill in writing, so it was actually quite atrocious,’ he lets on with a smile. He quickly adds, ‘Significantly, this story was not in the horror genre, believing at that time that if I were going to be a published author, I’d have to write a real book. That was a foolish notion I’ve long since gotten rid of.’
Mr Scozze, nevertheless, continued to begin other projects in fits and starts, never really getting into the project or being able to complete the story. He later decided to return to his first love – horror – and this idea of a world of terror, a complex one with its twisted mores, norms, and values occurred to him. Says the author with all earnestness, ‘I spent several months mapping out the boundaries, internal workings, and interconnections of this world, and in so doing, Antonio Ricardo Scozze was born. I’ve been writing now obsessively ever since, feeling like I’m reconnecting with the truest version of myself.’
Talking about his published work entitled ‘The House on Blackstone Hill’, Mr Scozze says it is one of those classic haunted house tales notched up a few steps, as well as the introduction to his world of horror and Scozze himself. ‘The thumbnail sketch on this book is that Adam Long is an award-winning journalist who has disgraced himself by quashing a story about Jeffrey Epstein. While visiting a creepy ghost town with his wife, Ava, and their kids, he finds an abandoned colonial mansion and immediately becomes obsessed with possessing it,’ the author tells us. He adds that Ava, in the meantime, feels very uneasy about the house and realizes after Adam purchases it that something is demonically wrong with their new home.
Speaking about how the book came about, the author tells us that he got the idea while driving along somewhere during the winter months some years ago when he was able to look down into a vale where something weird transpired. ‘As I drove along this sunny winter day, I saw a flash in the small valley below and looked down to see a very dilapidated old house. A shard of a broken window had glinted in the sun and caught my attention,’ he tells us.
The overall storyline of the book thus crashed into Mr Scozze’s head right off the bat, and he thought about the story of someone seeing the glint of a broken window that brings them to an old house in the woods, only to realize after they refurbish it that it has a long, evil history of murder and madness. ‘All I did then was firm up the plot and fill in some details, and the result is my first published novel,’ he lets us know.
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A Plotting Pantster
On being asked if he considers himself to be a pantster or a plotter, the author stresses that with all of his previous failed attempts to write a book, he would do the ‘pantster’ thing and make it up on the fly. He tells us, ‘Since I said these were my failed attempts, you can tell how that works for me! Maybe writing a book like that works for some people, not for me.’
Elaborating further, he says he first makes a basic write-up of the entire story he wants to tell and then he pens the story down in a very preliminary and rough way, in one long sweep almost as if he were telling it to someone else. ‘At this point, I usually don’t even have names, but I just let the story pour out of me,’ Mr Scozze explains, although he lets us know that names in his stories are important and typically have some hidden meaning that points to the characters’ motivations and roles they’ll play. Mr Scozze, however, takes that rough write-up and breaks it down into a detailed outline, in which he tends to include the fleshed-out storyline with every beat that he is trying to hit. ‘If needed, I’ll write up character backstories, almost all of which will never be shared with the readers. But they are things I know about the character so I can more realistically capture their nature,’ he shares with us.
He also lets on that by the time he finishes the rough draft, he has usually spent months thinking about the story and weeks writing out the first two steps. ‘I’m well acquainted with the story and characters by then, so writing the thing is fairly easy for me. This also gives me a good bird’s eye view so I can add additional scenes, characters, beats and connections as needed,’ he says.
A Fan of Edgar Allen Poe
On the question of whether or not he derives inspiration from any authors, Mr Scozze pronounces that every writer should also be a reader, and every reader has always got their favourite authors. ‘I have a great many. Of course, there is the original genius, Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t think anyone has ever been quite so good at capturing the visceral fear and loathing of his characters, and he is definitely my model when it comes to trying to make my readers feel what the characters are. I try, but I know my skills pale to insignificance compared to his,’ he explains.
He also tells us that he likes reading Stephen King as he has given the world some of the most memorable horror characters and truly horrifying situations in the genre. ‘I would rank Clive Barker as his equal, and what I love about him is his way of letting go, of taking a situation and elevating it several steps beyond bizarre to make it something unique. I am inspired by Dean Koontz too,’ he says.
‘Writers Are as Much Craftsmen as They’re Artists’
Nonetheless, Mr Scozze, who consciously decided to become an author, underlines that besides horror, he has always loved J R R Tolkien and his almost lyric use of language, including the languages he didn’t invent. ‘I often feel like a blacksmith, hammering and pounding large pieces of steel into a shape I find pleasing, whereas Tolkien as a goldsmith, taking delicate strands and gently turning and twisting them into something remarkable.’
That apart, the author says he loves George R R Martin’s work and is always amazed at his ability to manage so many characters, timelines, motivations, etc., and to weave all these disparate threads into one intriguing fabric. ‘I also am inspired by the way he slowly allows his narrative to unfold without dumping information on you, which draws me even deeper into his world,’ he states. ‘And finally, I enjoy the works of John Stanford and Bernard Cornwell. Not only are their works good, fun reads, but I appreciate their workman-like mindset when it comes to producing books. I believe writers are as much craftsmen as they are artists, and no crafter can afford to make one item every ten years,’ he tells us, adding that writers need to practice daily, and so by writing something every day, they can produce quite a large opus of work. ‘That’s what I’m striving to do,’ avers the author, who despite not following a schedule makes sure to write something each day. ‘A page of bad writing is better than a page of no writing because you can always go back and edit,’ he asserts.
Await Club 27, Would Ya?
Talking at length about his published works, Mr Scozze, who takes deliberate breaks from his writing regularly to pursue other interests or duties, says that he is always working on short stories even as he chips away at his novels. ‘And that is because I find that doing so gives me a pleasant break from the book and something that I can get done in just a few days,’ he tells us. ‘One of my short stories, Club 27, is set to be published in November this year, and I’m excited about that,’ he adds.
Mr Scozze also tells us that he is working on his second book, which is going to expand the world of horror he began exploring in The House on Blackstone Hill. ‘The plot will focus on a werewolf, a powerful coven of Satanic witches, and a US Congressman eager to become president and willing to do anything to get there,’ he says.
The Final Word
When asked if he has any piece of advice for budding authors, Mr Scozze, who can also speak French, Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, Arabic, Polish and Russian with varying degrees of fluency, pronounces, ‘First of all, don’t ever give up. No one ever achieved anything by giving up at it.’ He then adds, ‘Secondly, you always need to write what you want to read. You can never afford to write for the audience, which means, sometimes, the audience won’t like what you write. But that also means sometimes they will, and they will like it very much. So always be true to yourself, and don’t compromise by writing what you think people want.’
Underlining that just because something isn’t doing well now doesn’t mean it won’t do well later too, Mr Scozze says that the popularity of a book has a way of ebbing and flowing. ‘So something can go from being a dud to a bestseller almost overnight,’ he points out.
And is there a thing or two that he would want to see changed in the world we dwell in? ‘I’d want to see a change in the way people treat one another. I’m tired of the powerful taking advantage of and using the weak and have seen enough hatred for two lifetimes. People need to stop lusting after power and be content with the blessings God has given them,’ he tells us, bringing the conversation to a non-spooky, fruitful end.