Sunday, July 19, 2020

Paul Acampora

Paul Acampora writes novels and short stories for teens, middle grade and elementary school readers. He was born and raised in Bristol, Connecticut and now lives in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. He is a full-time development officer during the day and writes fiction early in the morning and late at night. Acampora is a former kindergarten teacher, a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, and enjoys leading writing workshops with students of all ages. He is also a writing instructor for local colleges, high schools and middle schools.

Acampora's new novel is Danny Constantino's First (and Maybe Last?) Date.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title – Danny Constantino’s First (and maybe last) Date – really sums up the plot. It also makes a bunch of promises: There will be an opportunity for romance. Our hero will screw it up. That should be funny. I hope I’ve kept those promises!

What's in a name?

I definitely put a lot of thought into characters’ names. There needs to be a sort of rhythm and heft in a name so that characters can feel like real people. At the same time, names can provide some insight into a character’s nature. Danny is sort of an everyday, no-adventure name. There are no Pirate Danny’s. At the same time, Constantino sounds a bit like Valentino as in Rudy Valentino, one of the great romantic Hollywood leading men of all time. Constantino also means steady and faithful, which describes Danny as well. Shoving all the disconnects into Danny Constantino creates a source of comedy and possibility and may even hope for the rest of us schmoes.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage self would be very surprised to see me writing anything connected to romance. It is not a subject area in which I excelled. I had hoped that I’d be writing lots and lots of sci-fi stories by now. My goal was to become Marty McFly’s dad (the good version).

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I love writing beginnings. Figuring out how and where a story starts feels like getting strapped into a roller coaster car after a long wait in an amusement park line. It’s satisfying and exciting. But once I’ve built that car, I really am strapped in. I’ll make changes if necessary, but I’m more willing to rework an ending, which I think of as a conversation with the beginning. Like a roller coaster, you sort of end where you started, but now you’ve changed. Hopefully I didn’t throw up on anybody during the ride.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

My characters are definitely connected to my own experiences and perspective on the world. They ask the questions I want to ask. They are often confused and moved and entertained by things that confuse and move and entertain me. At the same time, I push them to react in ways that I might not. As a result, characters can surprise me with thoughts, words, and actions I did not think I had in me.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Everything influences my writing. Overheard conversations, music, movies, the way my dog snores when I’m on a Zoom call. It’s all material. For Danny Constantino, a whole bunch of really fun romantic comedies caught my attention while I was starting to figure out where this story might go. I got intrigued with the rom-com genre and wanted to see if I could write one for middle grade readers. I hope I have!
Visit Paul Acampora's website.

The Page 69 Test: Danny Constantino's First (and Maybe Last?) Date.

--Marshal Zeringue