Interview with Billy DeCarlo, author of the Vigilante Angels Trilogy

The Indie Crime Scene is pleased to interview Billy DeCarlo, author of the Vigilante Angels Trilogy. This interview was conducted by Dennis Chekalov.

1.        What were your first steps as an author? 

I believe I was born an author. I wrote stories from the time I could write. But I went to college for computer science because I wanted a more reliable way to support my family. Now I am laid off from that profession and finally consider myself a real author. When I decided to become a real author, I immersed myself in learning about the craft of writing through many craft books, websites, online forums and blogs, and practice, practice, practice.

2.        Tell us about your short stories. 

My short stories are quirky, much like those of one of my heroes, Raymond Chandler. Although a few are somewhat dark, and some are more in the romance genre, such as one titled 'Key West'. I am just starting to put some of those on the website for others to enjoy.

3.        What authors would you say have most influenced your writing? 

The best of my writing, which is based on my years hitchhiking and motorcycling around the USA in the early 1980's, is all influenced by my favorite authors Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway. I love Kerouac's stream-of-consciousness complete honesty and Hemingway's crisp, blunt delivery. I tried to make my short story 'Key West' a tribute to Hemingway. My darker works, such as the Vigilante Angels series, are somewhat influenced by Cormac McCarthy, who is another favorite. I won't release my earlier travelogue writing as novels, influenced by Kerouac, until I feel I have sufficiently developed my craft enough to honor it and polish it. These are the human story, and the work I hope to leave as my legacy.

4.        In your biography you wrote about your wanderings “on the highways and byways of America, by thumb and motorcycle, lost.” What have you learned about life and people on your journey? 

When I spent years hitchhiking and motorcycling around the USA in the 1980's, I was freshly rejected from the military after three years of service, broke, and disillusioned. Traveling around the country with no money introduced me to the true beauty of humanity and our natural world. I met so many people from different areas, backgrounds, philosphies and saw the true beauty of humankind, and some of the ugliness of it. I learned that there is something good in everyone, but sometimes it is hardened and buried because of their experiences and misinformation that have been pushed on them in their upbringing.

5.        How did you come up with the concept of your Vigilante Angels trilogy? 

I was sitting with my much younger sister while she was receiving chemotherapy. She was a beautiful soul, the heart of our family. She never said a bad thing about anyone, and unlike myself she never drank alcohol, took drugs, smoked, or abused her body in any way. I was angry that she should have cancer and felt it should be me. I did everything to deserve it, but I was healthy and she was suffering. My thoughts as I watched the room full of sick, suffering people, turned to what I would be thinking in their place. The television often had the news on, and it upset me very much, especially during this time in the USA, to see on that screen the worst of people who were the worst among us, but yet healthy. Priests who abuse children, cops who are corrupt, and a certain hateful, narcissistic political candidates :-) Why should these truly evil people be permitted good health, while my beautiful sister sat dying in front of me? I started to wonder what I might do to them if I had nothing to lose.

6.        Your main character, Tommy, is a retired cop and former Marine. How did your military experience help you in creating this character? 

In the military I learned discipline and was forced to grow up. More importantly, I learned, by being forced to live among people from different races, religions, and backgrounds, that most of what I grew up with in a 'white world' was completely false. My first two roommates in the barracks were a black guy and a Mexican. They are two of my best friends all of these years later. The experience taught me not to hate based on those things. These are lessons that Tommy learns throughout the three books. I didn't bring it out enough, but in the Vietnam flashback in Book III: The Candidate, the Sargent that saves Tommy (and in return Tommy saves him) is black. It's the first experience that opens his eyes about race, but he truly doesn't get them opened until he becomes terminally ill, and finally also learns to accept that his son is gay.

7.        Your hero takes the law into his own hands. Do you judge your character’s actions? 

Tommy is human, flawed, and angry. However, one must never take the law into their own hands. We have a courts system for a reason. People get to the place that Tommy got to by seeing the courts fail, but no system is perfect. I try to bring this out in one scene where Tommy and Moses violently assault Nurse Carmen's boyfriend because of the bruises they see on her. It turns out later that her father, who has mental problems, lives with them and had caused these bruises. It points out that judgement like this can be wrong.

8.        What are your creative plans now? Will me meet Tommy again? Maybe some prequels about his police work? 

 I'm torn about this. I didn't want to be tempted to water down the story and drag it out into endless volumes as I see other authors do for profit. The story is the story, and certainly when you are writing about a main protagonist that is terminally ill, you only have so much runway. I don't want to compromise the story by violating it, and for that reason I wanted to put a lid on it by calling it a trilogy. I like trilogies, they're like expanded three-act plays. After taking Tommy through his journey in becoming a better man, accepting and loving his son, etc. The only concession I may make to this is to write a prequel short story about some of the things discussed, such as when Tommy's police partner was killed, since that affected him greatly, and use those as a free reader magnet to reward my readers and attract others to the series as a freebie. I am working on a new trilogy at this time. It's a bit futuristic, and somewhat utopian (as opposed to all the dystopian stuff that is en vogue now), but people are still people, so it does entail some vigilantism. It's somewhat like the works of Isaac Asimov, who wrote detective novels set in the future, with robots/androids. I love that stuff, and it's what I aspire to with this new trilogy. Readers should sign up for my newsletter at or sign up on my Patreon page for updates! I will release the chapters one by one on Patreon for critique and input from my readers, so it's a way to influence my work and help crowd-source the work. I think it will be fun! I'm very excited about it. The first cover reveal will be soon - stay tuned!
I have had a lot of positive reader response to the mature female hippy character Tara in Book III: The Candidate. She will re-appear in my Hitchhiker series in her younger days, as a young  20-something year old. I want to let readers know! That will come after I finish the DroidMesh trilogy, probably mid-2018.

9.        Do you outline your stories? 

Absolutely. I used to be a 'pantser' who just sat down and wrote. I feel it's the lazy way out, and ultimately leads to writer's block, lots of rework, rework and foreshadowing that must be pushed in awkwardly later, and other problems. I like to flesh out the story first via loose outlining, to decide what the big moments will be. That does not stifle creativity, because by the time I'm ready to sit down and actually write, I have my roadmap and can enjoy the journey of bringing it all to life on the page without the frustration of becoming blocked on what happens next or whether things fit together. Things do change, the outline is not a rigid thing. Often as I write, I find better plotlines and scenes. The outline is just a starting point and loose guide to the story, not an evil thing.

10.        Who is more important for a good story — a protagonist or an antagonist? 

I feel the protagonist is most important. He must be someone that the reader can feel strongly about and want to follow on a journey. Tommy's journey took him to a place where he could finally absolve himself of his past sins. The outer story is about crime and vigilantism, but the inner story is his quest to be a better person before the disease takes him. Sometimes the antagonist is the tortured protagonist himself or herself and that is true in Tommy's story. That said, a good antagonist is a great tool to allow one to illuminate everything good and bad about the protagonist.

11.        What is your attitude towards graphic violence in fiction? 

Ironically, I'm not a fan of graphic violence anywhere. I feel there's too much of it in real life, even just watching the news. I liked the older days when more was left to the imagination. I'm a person that needs to avert my eyes when watching a good movie and there is some graphically violent scene. This really tormented me to some extent in writing Vigilante Angels. As it's a dark crime/vigilante story, there had to be some grahic violence out of necessity. The execution of the priest and the gory death of Detective Carson were kind of hard for me to visualize and write. But they were evil people, I hated them, and I wanted bad things to happen to them.

12.        What aspect of writing do you find the most difficult? 

The most difficult part for me is the nagging worry that the story won't be enjoyable for readers. I'm constantly second-guessing myself, worrying "Does this suck?" Sometimes, it's hard to be objective about the story, because it becomes like a beloved child and you start to excuse its flaws. I genuinely write for the love of it and to hopefully create a story that people will enjoy. The absolute worst thing is to see a bad review or feedback. It just feels like a spike to the heart, and it's very demoralizing and humbling. I haven't had many of those, honestly, and I live in fear of them. But for example, harsh feedback from beta readers or editors falls into the same category. When it happens, I allow myself a moment of self-pity and sulking, and then re-motivate myself to take another objective look at the criticism and vow to use it to make my writing stronger and never let it happen again! But it's a necessary thing. You cannot improve your craft if you live in denial and refuse to listen to your critics. I appreciate them very much!

About Billy DeCarlo:

Billy DeCarlo is an American author of novels and short stories. He writes because he needs to write.

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