Southport reporter, Scott Williams-Collier Interviews Award Winning Author Christian Cipollini
1. What first inspired you to become a writer?
Inspiration usually comes from multiple places, and often unexpectedly, for me at least. That said, if I pinned down that ‘one’ instance where I blatantly recognized I was good at something – 4th grade, an assignment to write a short story. Funny thing is my teacher pointed out that I had actually written a script and that it was good. My immediate horror of having done the assignment incorrectly quickly faded, thankfully, and I never forgot that moment, his words. I am not very good at a lot of things I assure you, but I owned that one skill from that moment on.
2. You have written books on the criminal underworld and organised crime figures. When did your interest for this subject start and why?
My father was a narcotics cop, so I grew up with that influence for sure. Now as a kid I didn’t really think much about it, or that I would one day become a researcher or author on the subject. Looking back though, the spark was definitely lit. Besides being a police officer, Dad was also a history buff and fascinated by mob movies, etc. Again, influence seeped into my subconscious. As children, we had my Dad’s inkpad, blank fingerprint and arrest report documents – the works, so when all the neighbourhood kids would play ‘cops and robbers’ – the cool thing was we actually processed the pretend criminals. I guess the signs were all there that one day I’d somehow be doing something related to this stuff. It wasn’t until my very late teens, almost twenty years old though when my interest in organized crime piqued. Again, if I had to choose the one shining moment… John Gotti’s infamous trial. I happened to be reading the New York Times in a college library and I was drawn like a magnetic pull to the stories of this larger than life mobster. I was hooked, period. There was this incredible fascination on the surface, but as I learned –there’s a psychology and societal aspect. I was trying to find the nuances, the humanity within inhumanity, if that makes any sense. From there, over a two year period, I think I consumed fifty or so books on gangsters, legal, political and other biographical type writings. That slowly evolved into a driving desire to find the backstories, the connections, the darker shades that reside between fact and folklore. Lucky Luciano became my primary interest and has remained ever since.
3. Are you currently writing anything and if so what is it about?
After Murder Inc. released, I made a decision to take a break. That was my third book in five years. My brain was nearly melted! However, because I am easily distracted and easily bored, my mind constantly mulls over possible projects, etc. About a year ago, my friend and colleague Seth Ferranti suggested the idea of entering the comic book and graphic novel realm. I was in. Although I had (still have) an outline for a pretty big ‘book’ undertaking, and was asked to pen a couple first-hand mob accounts for others, the comic book adventure was at the forefront and definitely required a lot of time. So, since last spring, I’ve been working on the writing of a comic book series, learning much along the way regarding the different format, writing style, and audience. It is a team effort and I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of amazing creative masters – my editor Anthony Mathenia, the letterer Micah Myers, the artist Evgeny Frantsev and of course Seth, who put this all together – just mind-blowing how incredible this process is. The working title is “Gangster: Lucky Luciano” and the premier issue will be released this spring, with three more issues to follow. A full anthology graphic novel will follow that, and release in the fall.
4. You have a talk and book signing event at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas later this year. How you feeling about that and how much are you looking forward to it?
Thrilled beyond words. This has been a year in the making and I’m still amazed it is really happening. I can’t divulge all the cool details just yet, but it will be a presentation on Murder Inc., plus a book signing with all my books and comic books. The engagement is set for early September and I’m already working out the visuals, topics, well pretty much everything!
5. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
First, do not do it for the money. I know that’s cliché but its true. Cash can come, and having a business mindset is very important (though I will be the first to say as a creative minded type – I HATE the business part). Be mindful of that which you do not yet know, and learn to compromise and adapt,but don’t sell yourself short either. Something my dear friend Tera Patrick instilled in me – to beware of sharks and empty promises. You work hard to produce that product… it’s not free. Now, besides the aforementioned and obvious elements, another important concept to grasp has to do with mastering your art. I’ll give credit to one of my college professors for this, and paraphrase:”Master the rules, all of them. Then bend them.” Seriously simple and seriously true advice. Master your art, then you will better develop your own style – without forcing it. It will be natural and your innate skill with the written word will show, believe me. Next, read everything. Don’t reside within your own niche, explore everything – good writing, bad writing, fiction, non-fiction, journalism, poetry, uplifting, heartbreaking, everything. Network and support your colleagues! Cannot stress this enough. Nothing, not even writing (as solitary as it naturally is usually) is done without support, criticism, mentoring, sharing, and connecting with other artists of all kinds. Plus, it keeps you sane and on top of your game.
6. Other than writing do you have any other interests and passions?
Absolutely yes. Although my kids are all grown up now – I will forever be a Dad! That is passion. I’m a pretty big Star Wars nerd, so that is always a good diversion from my otherwise-insane obsession with organized crime research! However, another crime related passion/interest I picked up a few years ago – acquiring original crime scene and press photographs and artifacts. It’s like an addiction now! Few things get me giddy like a child, but finding a rare photo or wanted poster… It’s like Christmas morning! I’m a beach kind of guy, so even though it is a rare moment that I actually take a vacation… I love sun and palm trees. Animals. Just like my parents, I’m the guy who fosters, takes in, rescues, those in need. Not pets, they are family.. You can safely presume what my thoughts are on child and animal abusers. Not a pretty picture of how I personally would like to deal with this ‘legal’ issue and especially the perpetrators. A big passion of mine.
7. Have any of your books been considered to be made into a movie?
I can only say that ‘yes, there is consideration’ but for the moment – I can’t say much more.
8. Being an expert on organised crime. What is your opinion on the current state of La Cosa Nostra in America and do you ever think it will return to what it once was?
This topic is great for debate and discussion. We could go on for days about it, but ultimately the short answer: No, it will never be what it was. Just like everything else in life, the Mafia had an ebb, flow, rise, fall, and plateau. History, time, society, economics, technology – all these things alter the existence of everything, including organized crime groups. No single ‘group’ remains at the top of the food chain forever.
9. Hypothetical question just for fun. If you had to pick 3 historical crime figures to run a crime family: a boss, under boss and consigliere. Who would you pick for each roll and why?
This is good. I’ve never been asked such a question! Boss would be Johnny Torrio. Underboss Lucky Luciano. Consigliere Meyer Lansky. Not a huge variation from how certain things were back in the 1930’s, but I personally think the pre-five family era, aka the Italian/Jewish combination, was the best foundation or best laid plan for illicit enterprise (and far more structurally sound than anything since).
10. Who inspires you?
Again, my inspiration comes from many different places. Everything from a chat with my daughters to discovering a rare piece of history to simply observing ducks playing in a pond… I don’t find inspiration; it tends to find me, makes me see it even when I’m not looking.
Christian Cipollini’s web sites
www.thegr1nd.com (where my comic books will be)
Christian, thank you very much for taking time out from your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
The True Crime Page sites
Twitter: @crime_page https://twitter.com/crime_page
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