Saturday, December 1, 2012


Frank Zafiro has been the #1 ranked Police Procedural author on Amazon and is currently #8 in that category.  That's pretty solid for a guy who spends his days working for the police department in the state of Washington.  He also spent 5 years working in  Military Intelligence for the U.S. Army .  All I know is the guy spends most of his time atop the best sellers ranking for all sorts of thrillers.  With all of his experience in law enforcement I thought it would be good to find out how reality differs from modern day fiction.  He should know, because he's obviously really good at both of these professions.   

 1- As a major in the police department, what’s the most common mistake fiction writers make when portraying members of the police force?

I think there are always procedural mistakes that occur, but it is impossible to be 100% accurate. Procedural requirements vary from state to state and change as time goes on, due to case law. So I think those mistakes are pretty forgivable.

One mistake I see more often in movies than in crime fiction (but it drives me crazy) is when an officer or detective pulls out his gun and, if it's an automatic, racks the slide. This is a huge error. Wyatt Earp may have rested on an empty chamber but in today's world, every cop's gun is "hot." That is, a round is always in the chamber. I know they do this in films for effect, and it works, but it drives me nuts.

Probably the biggest mistake, though, is that they treat cops as caricatures rather than realizing that this is just another person, like all the rest of us. Maybe he's tougher, maybe he's not. Maybe he has a good heart and maybe he's cruel. But being a cop doesn't make him something more or less than human. It's a job. It comes with training and unpleasant experiences and terrible authority and responsibility...but it's a job. It isn't the man.

2- Without exposing names or places, can you describe a scenario when a real life situation found its way into one of your novels?

If you read my short story "Baker-124", that's a pretty good example. I fictionalized it by sending the cop alone to the call, as well as making him a returning veteran from the wars in the Middle East. But the scenario -- checking the welfare of a small girl in a run down apartment building -- was very real, and it is the closest thing to a true event that I've written.

Now, don't get it excited. It isn't a shootout or anything like that. It is more of an emotional ride. But worth it. The story is in my collection, The Cleaner.

As far as novels go, there is a scene in my first one, Under a Raging Moon, in which a female officer encounters a body builder with anger issues that is going to go back to prison if he's arrested...and she has to try to talk him into the cuffs without a fight, while at the same time being willing to fight if necessary. This kind of call happens to just about every cop, but I had an incident a buddy of mine encountered when I wrote the scene.

3- Most authors have day jobs and dream of writing fulltime. Is that a goal of yours, and if so, how close are you to achieving that goal?

Guilty, your honor. As much as I love my career in law enforcement and am proud of the men and women I serve with, I was a writer in my heart long before I wore a badge. Being a full time writer is my goal, and like most people out there, it's a difficult goal to achieve all on your own, without any other income streams. I'm lucky enough to have a wife who is supportive of the idea and the time may come when we can make the leap. Worst case scenario, I can retire in about six years, and that will be my retirement "job."

4- What gave you the inspiration to publish on Amazon—and did you pursue other avenues first?

I've tried to get published by the big publishers, but was unsuccessful. I have had novels published with three different small presses, with varying degrees of success (regarding sales) and widely divergent experiences. Publishing independently on Amazon was something I initially rejected because of the historic stigma attached to it. But after watching the phenomenon evolve into a legitimate avenue, and doing my research, I decided that it was definitely a viable option. So I took the plunge.

You could say I'm "diversified" when it comes to publishing. My River City novels are published in print by Gray Dog Press, but I independently published the ebooks and Books in Motion is publishing the audio books. My Stefan Kopriva series of mysteries is one hundred percent independently published in all mediums. Blood on Blood, which I wrote with Jim Wilsky, is published by Snubnose Press for the ebook, but Jim and I have independently published the paperback and audio. So I'm all over the map...or maybe I'm just a patata head, too.

5- Look into your crystal ball and tell us what the publishing world will look like in 2017 and how will you fit into that world?

Wow. It's anybody's guess, right? The landscape is changing significantly every year. But I'll take a couple of guesses.

I think author's will become more powerful and more in control of their own work, but I do think that in place of the previous publisher/author relationship, more of a partnership will emerge. I think that publishing companies (as opposed to publishers) will offer services for hire or for royalty share, and the benefit to the author will be the expertise that the company offers, and perhaps the reputation of the company. Now, I know this is already happening, but I think the difference will be that the medium will evolve and become more complex (integrated mediums, links, mutiple mediums in one purchase) and may outstrip the average writer's ability to put together a topnotch product solo. Thus, this partnership will emerge.

I'm talking about the cutting edge of the products here. An ebook with links within and without the title, video and audio sequences, or an audio book version synced in, or whatever. This would be the equivalent of a Blu-Ray movie. Could an authors still put out a book that is the equivalent of a DVD movie? That is, a simpler, straightforward story with no bells and whistles?

I sure hope so.

But I think we'll see a drift toward more interactivity.

I also see things become more author-centric (not just the marketing, which it always has been, but the financial model, too). I think authors will form more co-ops, where they offer each other editing services, maybe get a group rate with a cover artist, help cross-market each others work. Again, this is already out there, but I see it becoming far more prevalent.

That's about all I've got when it comes to predictive powers. Not exactly earth-shattering, I know.

Where do I fit in? Right here, telling stories. Wanna hear one?