I recently interviewed Armand Rosamilia about his recent release, Chelsea Avenue 2, the second in his Chelsea Avenue series. The trilogy follows the Long Branch, NJ, pier fire of 1987, attributing a supernatural cause to the misfortune, and every year, that evil returns to wreak havoc.
This ambitious three-book story spans decades, with the second beginning in 2004, and it’s set right in my home town. Obviously, I had to chat with him about the project.
Chelsea Avenue 2, the sequel to your novel Chelsea Avenue, is based on/inspired by the pier fire of July 8th, 1987, in Long Branch, New Jersey. I know you’re from New Jersey, but what about this incident (as opposed to any other fire/disaster in NJ) called to you?
I remember it as a kid. I grew up in nearby Belford. I was in eleventh grade when the fire happened and remember seeing it on the news. A couple of years later I started going to Murphys Law Club on Chelsea Avenue to see metal bands and hang out. I always loved the area, especially at night.
New Jersey’s always been known as sort of a weird, haunted place. Maybe not as haunted as Massachusetts, but it’s up there. Any favorite haunts?
Whipporwill Valley Road in Middletown is a favorite. Even wrote a short story about it. It’s a long dirt road with lots of history and legends about Satanic cults and murder.
Based on your bibliography, you clearly have a lot of love for Jersey. What brought you to Florida?
I needed a new beginning. I was married with three young kids and working dead-end retail jobs all my life. My brother had been down here for a couple of years and loved it. I moved down and I couldn’t be happier, although every year I return to New Jersey for a couple of weeks to visit and do book signings.
The novel primarily follows three characters: Tammy, Stephanie, and Mark as they confront a dark entity named Wiy of the Water, who is responsible for the aforementioned fire. While writers generally love all their characters, at least to an extent, do you have a favorite?
Mark’s character was fun to write because it’s based on someone I grew up with. I don’t really hang out with him anymore but I imagined what he’d be like today if he’d become a cop.
A least favorite?
My least favorite characters are always cut at some point. If I don’t like the character how will the readers? I’ve created quite a few ‘evil’ characters that readers hate, which is a good thing. The worst would be if a reader is neutral about a character, which means he’s not fully formed enough for anyone to care either way.
Did you imbue any with your own pet peeves, or traits you particularly admire?
I think there’s a part of me in every character I write. Especially writing about people from New Jersey. The Jersey attitude, especially with some of the Jersey Girls I grew up with. And married. And divorced.
Do the characters visit any local Long Branch hot spots—The Windmill, The Lighthouse, Brighton Bar, etc.,–or is the story contained to the eponymous Chelsea Avenue?
Yes, of course. The Windmill is mentioned a few times in both books and will definitely be a part of the third and final book. Brighton Bar as well. I used to love going there to see bands on the tiny stage. Quite a few other landmarks in and around the area.
The sequel begins in 2004. Without spoiling too much, do we go to other years, experience other major events, etc.? Likewise, to what extent, if any, do major events like 9/11 or Hurricane Sandy factor in?
Each year, on July 8th, the action happens. I tried to be cognizant of what was really going on in the world at that point. Technology as well. The focus is on this date each year as the story progresses so there might be music or fashion that changes as well as the history of Long Branch and other area places.
Were there any aspects to this book you found challenging to write? Any particularly dark or painful scenes, etc.?
The first book took me about fifteen years to write with so many false starts to it. I knew the basics of the story but didn’t have the chops to write the story the way I thought it needed to be told. A lot of the characters in the first book (including Tammy and Mark) are based on real people, so it was fun to have the victims as real people from my past, but it was also tough because you don’t ever want to give them a wimpy death and have them get mad at you.
Of course, I have to ask: Do you have plans for a Chelsea Avenue 3?
Yes, this is a trilogy. My publisher, Devil Dog Press, signed me to a three-book deal for this when they read the first one. I’m hoping before the end of 2018 I’ll have it finished and maybe it will be published.
Let’s say the dream comes true and both of these books get adapted for film. Who would you want to direct? Play the Mark, Stephanie, and Tammy? Play Wiy?
Kevin Smith directs. Paul Rudd plays Mark. Mira Sorvino is Tammy. Harley Quinn Smith is Stephanie. Bobby Cannavale is Wiy. It would be an all-New Jersey cast.
For both of the Chelsea Avenue books, you worked with Devil Dog Press. Have you worked with them on other projects? Are there other Devil Dog writers you’d recommend?
This is my second trilogy with them. Previously they released Green River Blend, a horror series about coffee. I also had The Enemy Held Near, a haunted house book I co-wrote with author Jay Wilburn released through them as well as United States of Apocalypse with co-author Mark Tufo. I’ve worked with them quite a bit as you can see. I’d recommend a few of their authors: Jack Wallen, Jaime Johnesee, Greg Ferrell… honestly, they put out some great books so I could recommend them all.
In general, who are you reading right now? Any indie names catching your eye lately?
If you had to pick three favorite authors…
I read mostly nonfiction. Every so often I’ll read a thriller or horror book. I find myself not enjoying fiction as
much now because my mind wanders and my creative part starts taking the story how I would write it, which gets annoying. There are some great names out there to read: Chuck Buda, Frank J. Edler, Tim Meyer to name a few.
Any writing quirks or rituals you use to get in the zone before actually putting your fingers to the keys?
Coffee. I can’t do
anything unless I have that first cup to start my day.
You’ve done a lot in your career so far, between all your short stories, novels, your two podcasts, and other projects, but if you could only accomplish one more major goal, i.e. win one award, be recognized for one work, what do you think you might choose?
I’ve been blessed so far. I’ve been able to not only become a full-time author six years ago but sustain it and I’m able to pay my bills and travel quite a bit because of it. I’d love to someday be recognized in the horror field as someone who helps others and mentored quite a few writers. And I’d like a Lifetime Achievement Award at a convention or maybe just be the main Guest of Honor.
In general, do you ha
ve any goals you’re working toward?
Always. Every day. I need a daily word count goal. A weekly goal. Monthly. Yearly. Five year plan. I can’t imagine not having any goals to strive for and being able to succeed. It’s what keeps me going. Plus, the fear it will all fall apart and I’ll have to get a ‘real’ job again.
And, naturally, my favorite question: if you could have one superpower, what would it be? (No mimicry or stealing other powers!)
The power to eat as many M&M’s and drink as much coffee as humanly possible and never gain any weight. Oh, I guess I’d need the superpower to not be fat in the first place, too.
Be sure to check out Chelsea Avenue 2 at the link provided, or see the sites below for more of this prolific author’s work!