Katie: The Domino Effect is a coming-of-age tail akin to Catcher in the Rye or A Separate Peace. Where did you get the idea for the story?
Andrew: I've always loved coming-of-age stories, and those two you mention happen to be among my favorites. Oddly, the idea for Domino came to me not after reading such stories but after seeing the Spike Lee film, Do the Right Thing. Something about the effect that movie had on me made me want to tell a story that involved racial or ethnic strife, and I really jumbled a lot of my experiences into something that included both types of conflict. Putting an adolescent in the main role made the transformation a coming-of-age experience.
Katie: The main character Danny has such a unique and realistic voice in this novel. Did that voice exist within or did you research to create realistic teenage interaction?
Andrew: Thanks. Danny's voice really is the key to the narrative because he'd probably be too easy to abandon without that connection he establishes with the reader. I sort of conjured Danny's voice by tapping an array of voices I know intimately, including a certain amount of my own.
Katie: You describe boarding school life so well. Have you attended boarding school or is this the result of in-depth research?
Andrew: I'm not much of a research guy, so I tend to write about things I know already. I spent one year at a boarding school, Blair Academy in western New Jersey, and it was all I needed to create the setting, which really is Blair Academy in its physicality.
Katie: You mention in your bio an MFA degree. Some authors think the MFA is the way to go if you want to publish. Others think authors can do just as well on their own. What made you seek out an advanced degree? Would you recommend it to those who want to be a published writer?
Andrew: I'm a believer in an MFA if you are truly dedicated to growing as a writer. Being in school, with deadlines to meet, is important. It really tests your mettle. You also must endure criticism and learn how to use it. I don't think most writers can grow as much on their own. It also helps one find a community, as well as adding some credibility and focus to the pursuit. In the publishing industry, I believe it opens doors that may not be opened otherwise.
Katie: You seem to be very prolific on the web with articles in publications such as the New York Times and The Good Men Project. With two novels under your belt, is writing your career or do you also have a day job?
Andrew: I enjoy writing articles very much. It's a nice variation from novel writing since articles are sprints as opposed to marathons. Writing in two forms makes me a better overall writer. I also teach creative writing and composition courses throughout New York City. I love teaching, and I feel this experience informs my writing as well. At this point, I teach full time and write part time, though I'd love to cut the teaching part in half since all the grading and prep work is tiring.
Katie: You have written many articles for the Good Men Project. Tell us about the Good Men Project.
Andrew: The Good Men Project is an online magazine dedicated to exploring contemporary masculinity in thought-provoking ways. I really like what they're doing, though I'm not the typical contributor since most of my articles are not within their brand. But they like my writing and have been very supportive, which is something I appreciate deeply. They've allowed me to publish articles on a wide variety of topics, from food to friendship to race to politics and beyond. I kind of look at it as my own opinion/editorial/personal essay column, and I'm very proud of the work I've had published there. I just wish I could attract more readers.
Katie: Outerborough Blues is your next release due out this spring. Tell us a little about what to expect.
Andrew: Outerborough Blues is different than The Domino Effect in some obvious ways. For starters, it's noir. It's also harder-hitting in its content and language (there's a couple of racy scenes I'm actually a little embarrassed to have my family read). That said, it's still - at its heart - a coming-of-age novel in that the protagonist has to come to terms with his identity and try to find a way to reconcile his conflicts, both internal and external. I'm really proud of it. I was able to do things with language that Domino just wouldn't allow, considering the age of the narrator.
Katie: You seem to have interests in many different literary genres and age groups. Do you put any weight behind the adage that an author must find his niche and stick to it?
Andrew: I can see why it would behoove an author to find a niche and stick to it, though artists must go where their vision takes them. I didn't specifically switch genres; I just went to work on another book that I wanted to write. At the end of the day, the job is to tell a great story in the best way possible.
Katie: They say today’s author gets little help from publishers with promotion and marketing. How have you been involved in promotion and marketing for your novels? Where have you found the most success? Where were the biggest struggles?
Andrew: Promotion and marketing these days is very much part of the writer's job. Sadly, I'm not so good at it (my most successful article to date was about this very thing - ironic, I know). Having a publisher gets you quality reviews and access to book stores, among other important things, but the onus these days is on the author to connect with readers directly. I love this idea. I love connecting with people (it's one of the primary reasons I love teaching). The hard part is being technologically savvy enough to find an audience. You also need to have time. I'm getting better at it. Twitter is nice. Facebook is important. Pinterest seems to be taking off. I'm pretty bad at all of them, though, as said, I'm getting better. There's forums such as this one to pursue (I'm amazed at the amount of book bloggers and their passion for promoting authors - thank heavens). I've also gotten some great help from the wonderful author, Melissa Foster, (Chasing Amanda, Come Back To Me, Megan's Way) and her online community at the World Literary Cafe. We all help each other and Melissa generously shares her hard-earned knowledge about Social Media and self-promotion. She's pretty amazing. Five more people like her in my writing life would be nice.
Katie: Any advice for writers longing to break into publishing?
Andrew: I would encourage aspiring writers to be pragmatic about the process and their commitment to it. It takes a lot of dedication to complete a novel or story collection. In order to do so, one must write on a regular basis for a long period of time (a few years, if you're lucky, for a single book) without any guarantees. If, knowing this, you can get up and write every day, you're a writer. Keep going. If this is not possible or pleasurable, do something else. Save yourself the agita.
Katie: When you are not writing, what would we find you doing?
Andrew: As said, I teach (too much). I also have a lovely wife and two beautiful kids. I love to cook, so we often have friends or family over for long meals. Amongst all this, I'm usually thinking about writing...
You can find The Domino Effect here.
Visit Andrew Cotto's website
Find him on Facebook
Follow him on Twitter.
If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.