Frequently Asked Questions

How did your love affair with Italy begin?

I first went to Italy on a high school tour of Europe, but serious interest began with my arrival in Milan, when I could speak the language and really get into things Italian. My job as a press and cultural officer at the consulate brought me into daily contact with a fascinating group of Italians who were kind enough to share their enthusiasm for their country. Milan of course has everything that makes Italy unique: history, art, and food. The seed was planted.

What made you decide to write mysteries?

My first book was in fact nonfiction, on the origin of street names in Rome, a topic that always fascinated me. When that didn’t sell, I went with the old dictum of writing what you love—mysteries, in my case—and what you know, which was Italy. The big three Italy-based mystery authors for me—Dibdin, Leon, and Camilleri—helped push me toward Italy as well. Also, after retiring, I spent several years writing tourist materials on Italy, and I got to the point where I wanted to add stories of my own to the towns I was writing about.

When and how did the character of Rick evolve?

Rick was in the game from the first attempt, and he didn’t change that much through multiple rejections. Again it was the “write what you know” thing, so he became the son of a diplomat, with roots in New Mexico, where I was living at the time. I’ve always enjoyed languages, so making him a translator/ interpreter allowed me to indulge in such matters as pointing out interesting words in both languages. Being dual-national lets him see Italians through the eyes of an American, and Americans from an Italian viewpoint, so I get to show both sides. Rick has evolved somewhat over the four books, becoming perhaps a bit more cynical, but he’s still essentially a good guy, often unlucky in love, with an occasional rough side to him.

How do you come up with the names of the
Italian characters in your books?

Most readers assume they are people I knew in Italy.  But in fact, many of the names are friends from my childhood, since I grew up in a town with a large Italian-American population.  I always contact them before I do it, and assure them their character won’t be the murderer.   I’ve also thrown in names which can be described as bilingual jokes.  For example, in the first book there is a rotund character named Polpetto, which actually means “meatball” in Italian.  In another book I gave a woman  the name of a famous Renaissance courtesan, which matches her character in the book.

What is your writing routine?

I get this question a lot.  When I am actually in the process of writing the manuscript, not planning or outlining but writing, I am at my laptop in the afternoon, though not for more than a half hour at a time.  I have to take frequent breaks to clear my mind.  But in fact I’m thinking about the book all the time, all day long, even on the golf
course.  When I think of something to include in the scene of the moment I write it down.  I use a lot of scraps of paper and sticky notes.

                                Are you working on a new Rick Montoya novel?

After A Funeral in Mantova went to press in September, I started working up ideas for the next Rick Montoya book.  It is still in the initial stages, but at this point it looks like Rick will finally stay in Rome, something my editor has wanted for a while.  As such, we may see more of his uncle Piero, the policeman, in this one.  But that said, it all may change, the writing process is fluid.  Once I start writing, the characters often take me in a direction I didn’t expect.  They have minds of their own.



David's 2013 interview on NM Style
KASA TV Albuquerque

David's 2016  interview on WTVR's Virginia This Morning