Joe Porrazzo is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who currently works for the Department of Defense and writes mystery thrillers in his spare time. His newest release, Deliberate Deception (2018), is the second book in the Alex Porter trilogy. A native New Englander, Joe now lives in Sahuarita, Arizona. You’ll find him on his website JoePorrazzo.com, as well as Facebook and his Amazon author page.
The book blurb for Solemnly Swear, the first novel in the Alex Porter series, describes it as “an action-packed suspense thriller that explores the fragile balance between justice and self-preservation.” How would you describe book two, Deliberate Deception?
After reading the publisher’s description for Solemnly Swear for the first time, I thought it was a good line that summed up the story very well. In fact, one of the first author reviews for Solemnly Swear read: “Mr. Porrazzo’s thought-provoking storyline draws the reader in with one of the most impossible dilemmas a person (fictional or otherwise) can ever find themselves in—doing what’s morally right no matter what the cost or protecting oneself and the ones we love.” That theme continues in Deliberate Deception in another author review: “…Porrazzo gives us an outstanding portrayal of one man’s reaction to morality, immorality, and amorality. Can the lines really blur, or is a clear-cut answer always the right one? Can love flourish amid deception? Can the sins of the past be forgiven? Alex Porter wrestles with these questions as he races against the clock to stop an unknown killer….” While both novels are suspense thrillers with very different story lines, they both place Alex Porter in impossible and moral dilemmas. If Alex were a real person, he’d either be in therapy or be really pissed off at me, or both.
What would you like readers to know about the story itself?
Deliberate Deception is a labor of love based on personal and real-world events. The story opens with five mysterious, random deaths that end up being executions because the victims came across a website they weren’t supposed to see tied to a high-stakes charity raffle. I actually entered a raffle like that. When checking the status one night, I came across a page showing the top prizewinners weeks before the drawing date. How could that be? The next day the page was gone, and I was left wondering if I had really seen it or not. Months later tragedy struck not far from where I live and work. In 2011, I was halfway through the plot for Deliberate Deception when the tragic Tucson shooting occurred. A few days later, the news announced President Obama was coming to Tucson. I remember thinking we just had a politician shot on the streets of Tucson. Investigators weren’t yet sure if it was politically motivated or if the shooter was a nut job…and they’re going to bring the President of the United States here for the memorial service? Really? That’s when it all clicked, and I used the event to enhance the plot of my story.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Including the Tucson tragedy in my plot caused a lot of consternation for me. It was still too new, too fresh, too soon to write about the senseless tragedy. We delayed publishing the book for almost nine years. I hope enough time has passed to include it in a fictional story.
How did the Alex Porter books come together?
Solemnly Swear was just an idea in my head for years while serving on active duty. I finally decided to put words to paper and publish it as a hobby. My objective, like many wannabe authors, was to see it in print, hold a finished book with my name on it, and see it in a bookstore. All of that came true and I was ecstatic to see it on the new release table at the front of a Barnes & Noble store. Designed to be a one-and-done project, I started receiving email from friends, family, and especially strangers, asking about a sequel and wondering what was going to happen to Alex Porter.
As I did with Solemnly Swear, I took a week off from work and wrote the first manuscript for Deliberate Deception. All that means is that within that week I got the beginning, some of the story, and the ending down on paper (approximately 50,000 words). Solemnly Swear was published after two years with 90,000 words. Deliberate Deception, finished in 2013 and published in 2018, came in at 108,000 words.
I usually design my own book cover—just to have one—until the story is nearly finished and ready for a professional artist. I like to design the cover to represent the whole story but that’s not a good idea. I designed about four for Deliberate Deception and the final doesn’t mirror any of them. So it’s a good thing I don’t do my own final book cover.
Will those who know you recognize you in Alex Porter?
People who know me personally picture me as they follow Alex’s journey. That’s funny to me because I created Alex as a person I would love to be, not who I am. He took on a persona of his own as I wrote his story.
Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for the book?
Yes, it brought some of my personal flaws to the surface. As I formed Alex and other characters, creating their backstory, current events, and futures, I recognized and acknowledged that I made many bad choices as a young adult. I faced adversity early with the loss of both parents, and my immature view on life and decision-making should have been much better as it pertained to relationships, behavior, and life choices. It brought closure for me on some things and helped me deal with those choices and to see them for what they were—I was a young man struggling through life as best as I could in my situation and environment at the time. The main thing is I came out of it a much better person and without therapy (lol), but still with regrets. Given the chance, I would change a few things and make apologies where needed.
What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Making stuff up! People muse that I would be good at historical nonfiction (given my interests), but I love the research and taking real events into my twisted brain and tossing them out as mystery and suspense thrillers. I would love to write a time-travel novel similar to Stephen King’s 11/22/63, but how do you top that?
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Surprisingly, almost immediately after publishing Solemnly Swear. I had no idea if the book would resonate with readers, but it started winning awards right away. The same was true in 2019 with Deliberate Deception when I was presented the PSWA first place award in Las Vegas in July and the MWSA Bronze Medal in Albuquerque last month. However, the industry and the genre are highly competitive, so the toughest part is finding new readers. The readers I do have let me know they love the series and are anxiously awaiting the final book in the Alex Porter trilogy. Brutal Betrayal will bring back the Vionelli mob family and will include a plot based on the true story of an Air Force colonel who was kicked out of Venezuela by Maduro and accused of giving cancer to late President Chavez. I currently work with that colonel, so doing research and weaving together a fictitious story should be both easy and accurate. The colonel’s story is amazing.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I truly appreciate the loyal readers I have now. I want to let them know I’m hard at work on the final Alex Porter novel—I promise to tie up all story lines. If new readers are interested in sharing Alex’s journey, I recommend they start with Solemnly Swear (the second edition!) and then Deliberate Deception. I’m hoping to have Brutal Betrayal out in 2020. Please check out my book trailer video and website at JoePorrazzo.com. A quick shout-out to my SouthWest Writers, Public Safety Writers Association, and Military Writers Society of America families!
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.