Longtime writer Zanni gets his big break
By Meg Fraser
LONGTIME AUTHOR, NEWLY PUBLISHED: Johnston resident Gil Zanni, who writes under the name G.A. Zanni, recently published “Deceitful Things,” a religious thriller that is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Gil Zanni has been writing books since he was just 13 years old. He spent much of his teenage years reading and writing, sometimes for hours when a story idea took root, but he was a shy kid, and didn’t share his work.
Now, the 36-year-old Johnston resident isn’t so shy anymore, and he’s ready to share his stories with the world.
“Deceitful Things,” the first of a three-part series, is a religious thriller that follows three characters as they walk the line between good and evil. The book came out electronically on Feb. 28 and will be released in print at the end of March.
For Zanni, it has been a long time coming.
“If you wait for the right time, that day will never come,” he said. “There is never a right time – the time is now.”
Zanni overcame his reluctance to go public with his writing thanks in large part to the United States Marine Corps. He enlisted after high school at the age of 19 and served for four years. That time abroad was a game changer, both for Zanni as a person, and for his writing.
“I went from being very shy, very quiet, to more aggressive with certain things,” he said. The Marines changed his attention to detail, work ethic, commitment and sense of urgency – characteristics he says have all helped him launch his literary career.
At the same time, he started reading the Bible. He noticed that when angels appeared in the Bible, they would always preface their comments by assuring the people not to fear them. That got Zanni thinking – what do angels look like if they instill fear? He created a terrifying image in his head, and the storyline for “The Possession of Men” series was born.
“I had this concept of showing behind the spiritual veil; of angels and demons fighting over human decisions,” he said.
While the book is fiction, the characters too are inspired by Zanni’s experiences. The protagonist, Jack “Bear” Branton, is a Boston homicide detective on the trail of a serial killer. Bear’s relationship with his partner is modeled after Zanni and his closest friend.
“Everybody that I know who’s read it sees pieces of themselves in it,” Zanni said.
The banter, camaraderie and trust in the novel’s police department are likewise molded after Zanni’s Marine Corps service.
“This story definitely was a direct result of my Marine Corps experience,” he said, adding that his four years in the service “pushed it out of me.”
When Zanni returned home, however, the path to publishing was not without its obstacles. He got married at the age of 24 to his childhood sweetheart and they started a family. He now has three children under the age of 10 at home, and works full-time as a supervisor at St. Mary’s Home for Children in North Providence.
“Life gets in the way,” he said.
Writing was pushed to the side, but not out of his life altogether. Zanni finds himself thinking about his projects throughout the day, itching to get back to his computer. When dinner is cleaned up and the kids are asleep, it’s Zanni’s turn. He gets most of his work done at night.
“I don’t sleep much,” he said.
Fortunately, writer’s block is a problem Zanni doesn’t have to deal with.
“I don’t have to be motivated. I can just sit down and write. I’ve always been able to do it,” he said. “I’ll write for four or five hours but it seems like it’s been 10 minutes. It’s like I stop being myself.”
All three of Zanni’s “Possession of Men” books are complete. He had originally written them as one story, but when Trestle Press agreed to handle the publishing, his editors suggested it would make a good series. The first two books end with cliffhangers.
Settling on Trestle was a long process, and it took Zanni more than three years to find a publisher he liked.
“It’s a very difficult process, especially if you’re a first-time author. It took us a couple of years to find the perfect fit,” Zanni said.
He is pleased with the partnership, though, and is looking forward to holding the hard copy of his debut novel. Zanni is proud of his work, and glad he overcame his hesitation to share it. He credits his wife with grounding him, but also with giving him the courage to share so much of himself with the world.
“I’ve always felt like I was supposed to be an author. It’s always been something that’s been in my head,” he said.
Ultimately, Zanni’s goal is to become a career writer.
When asked what he hopes readers will take from “Deceitful Things,” he said, “to understand that what you settle to be is sometimes far away from what you’re supposed to be. People are meant to be great and sometimes we settle for less.”
Already, Zanni has begun working on other projects and expects his next book to be ready within three months. He is inspired by writers like Steven King and Brad Thor, as well as filmmakers like George Lucas, who Zanni says has heavily influenced the way he thinks about storytelling.
While he is largely attracted to science fiction and fantasy projects, Zanni notes that he has an ongoing book discussion with his oldest daughter. Nine-year-old Veronica wants to write a book about a mermaid princess, and dad is happy to encourage her following in his footsteps.
“They’ve influenced me quite a bit,” he said of his three children.
“Deceitful Things” is available on Amazon.com and through the Barnes & Noble website.