Author interview with Richard Rossi
This interview is with Richard Rossi, author of Canaan Land, about a con man preacher falls in love with a sincere Christian woman and realizes his con game isn't a game anymore.
Exciting to chat to you Richard about your book, “Canaan Land” in Kindle, paperback format and your Hollywood motion picture. Let's start with sharing something interesting about yourself to our readers, where is your favorite place to visit?
RR: My favorite place is Italy, where my father’s family comes from. My last name, Rossi, is the most common surname in Italy. It would be like Smith or Jones in the United States. I love the museums, the food, the sense of love, passion, and family. I enjoyed how people gather in community in the piazza, the open square. And as a Christian, I cherished all the sacred art , like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, David, and the Pieta. The buildings are breathtaking, like the Duomo in Milan, and the Vatican. I was in Italy last because a movie I wrote and directed, “Sister Aimee,” was up for an award in Milan.
PeB: Italy must on most people’s bucket list with some of the most stunning scenery and historical cities in the world, so with your family background is your favorite food Italian?
RR: My favorite food is a candy made in my home state of Pennsylvania called a Mallo Cup. It’s a chocolate cup that looks like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but in the middle is marshmallow and coconut. It is orgasmic to the taste buds, so delicious it may be the food of the angels in Heaven.
PeB: Mallo Cup sounds delicious, last question on favorites, how about your favorite pet or animal?
RR: My favorite animals are are dogs I currently enjoy, like two lovable terriers, Dante and Bella, my close friends Jozy Pollock and Kelly Tabor have, also my friend Boris has a husky who always runs to me and licks me, and my sister Elizabeth has a little dog name Snoball. Snoball and Dante are in my movie “Canaan Land,” which is based on my novel.
PeB: Terriers are adorable, how long have you been writing?
RR: Even as a child I carried a notebook and wrote down funny incidents and jokes. I started writing heavily in my teen years. I wrote some poems that were published in a literary journal in high school. I wrote songs that got a following with my best friend in high school, the late Johnny Walker. We travelled for a couple years performing concerts of our original music, billed as “Walker and Rossi.”
PeB: What’s your favorite book you’ve read this year?
RR: My new novel “Canaan Land” will be a film coming out later this year, so I decided to read other novels that were successful and then became a blockbuster film. One I finished recently and loved was the novel “Love Story” by Erich Segal, which became the hit film starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw. The film is meaningful to me, and is a modern telling of the Romeo and Juliet story, a love story that is a tragedy.
PeB: What three words describe your book?
RR: Controversial. Truthful. Page-turner.
PeB: What came first, the plot or the characters?
RR: The basic plot and characters were archetypes that already existed in literature, of the Elmer Gantryish shyster seducing the pure woman. I had the characters in my mind first, but I had to give some thought as to how to tell the story in a 21st century context.
PeB: Why did you choose the genre and the setting for your book?
RR: I chose Hollywood as the setting, because it is a type of Canaan Land, a place where people seek the Promised Land. This goes back to the Gold Rush days and continues today with people seeking to become movie stars. The genre is Christian fiction but I don’t want to be limited by that description, because my novel is edgy and my characters are more nuanced than many Christian books.
PeB: Where do you draw inspiration from?
RR: I am inspired by other past films and books about con man characters like Elmer Gantry, The Music Man, A Face In the Crowd.
PeB: Can you tell our readers about the book?
RR: Canaan Land is the story of a con man preacher, Brother Billy, who falls for a sincere Christian woman, Sister Sara Sunday. They have a lot in common, including past abuse. She is a true believer. He preaches and fools the rubes with fake miracles like gold glitter he says he called down from the golden streets of heaven. Through Sara, Billy realizes his con game isn’t a game anymore.
PeB: How do you come up with the title to your book?
RR: The title “Canaan Land” came to me from an old black gospel song about Canaan Land, sung by Mahalia Jackson.
PeB: What is the key theme in the story-line?
RR: The theme is redemption for all, even the narcissistic evangelist, Brother Billy, has a shot at redemption, to come back to a pure heart and a sincere faith.
PeB: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
RR: I hope it encourages people to think critically and not blindly follow religious leaders. I want the story to encourage readers along their own spiritual path of seeking truth.
PeB: Describe Brother Billy in three words?
RR: Brother Billy is fake, narcissistic, charming. Sister Sara is sincere, believing, lonely.
PeB: Was Brother Billy inspired by a real person?
RR: Brother Billy is a composite of different con artist preachers I’ve known or observed, and his gold dust stunt is based on events at a real church in California that conned people by putting gold glitter in their HVAC system and claiming it was a miracles as the glitter floated in the air during their services.
PeB: Can give a run down of the cast in your movie?
RR: Our book is being made into a movie coming out this year. Knight Rider star Rebecca Holden is playing Sister Sara, and I am playing Brother Billy. Other celebrities in the film include Cindy Williams, Lynda Carter, Louis Gosset Jr., Sally Kirkland, Kathy Garver, and others. The entire cast of many celebrities is on the IMDB website.
PeB: Tell us about the process for coming up with the artwork?
RR: We had a wonderful movie poster company Dog and Pony who helped us design the movie poster which is also the book cover. Our film editor, Richard Krause took the pictures.
Canaan Land Movie Trailer
By multi-medium artist Richard Rossi
PeB: What surprises or challenges did you overcome to complete the book?
RR: Covid-19 was going on, which delayed the finishing of the film but I used the time of sequestering to finish the novel, so I had the challenge of motivating myself to keep writing. I conned myself into writing by telling myself “Five Alive” just write five minutes today to keep the book alive. Once I started writing, i’d usually write more than five minutes.
PeB: What was the highlights of writing this book?
RR: The highlights were learning more about my characters thoughts and backgrounds, the inner world that was the subtext of the film. In the novel, I could explore the characters in ways I couldn’t in the film.
PeB: What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
RR:The novel ends a way that begs for a sequel. Sara even prays as Billy walks away, “I know, God, you have big plans for Billy in the future.”
PeB: How many books will there be in the series?
RR: Rebecca Holden the actress who plays Sister Sara and I have been discussing an ongoing TV program with the characters in which they would help people on a weekly basis. There can be novelizations of these future adventures.
PeB: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
RR: The film “Canaan Land” is in the final editing stages to come out later this year. I’m also working on a sequel to my first novel “Stick Man” entitled “Naked and Unashamed” that reunites the two main characters from Stick Man, 35 years later.
PeB: What advice would you give to a new writer, someone just starting out?
RR: Read a lot. Leaders are readers and Writers are Readers. Write every day even if its just your thoughts or observations. I write three morning pages of longhand writing as soon as I wake up every morning. Don’t judge your writing. Just get it down.
PeB: What did you learn when writing the book?
RR: I learned how to pull the reader into the story and be more detailed in descriptions.
PeB: What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?
RR: I wanted to get the novel out fast before the movie, so I am not a fan of the old school ways of having an agent take a long time submitting. I wanted to move fast so my favorite part was working through Amazon directly through our small publisher to get it out faster.
PeB: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
PeB: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
RR: I have an authors’ page on Amazon.
PeB: Great to get to know you Richard and thank you for your time with the insider knowledge on your book Canaan Land, grab you copy now folks!