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Rose Miller has it all: wealthy husband, gorgeous little girl, lavish house, great success as a novelistand a stalker who knows about her shady past.
Into this realm of sand and sugar comes Victoria Gotti, serving up her new thriller, I'll Be Watching You. As any kid on the beach from here to Coney Island can tell you, Victoria has the distinction of being the daughter of John The Teflon Don Gotti, the convicted former head of the Gambino crime family now serving a life sentence for murder and racketeering. Since publishing her first novel, The Senator's Daughter, last year, she's made the rounds of TV talk shows telling of her upbringing in a family she loyally maintains has no connection to the Mob, her life these days in a Long Island mansion and the countless rejections she got from publishers in her quest to become a writer of romantic thrillers. Well, she's arrived, thanks in part to her infamous surname, with a million-dollar contract to write a couple of novels and, so help me, what her publisher describes as a "combination cookbook and family history."
Gotti draws heavily on her personal history in I'll Be Watching You. It's the story of Rose Miller, an internationally famous writer of thrillers, a resident of a Long Island mansion, the wife of a prominent lawyer and the sometime paramour of a misunderstood mob boss. Into this world enters a homicidal stalker intent on making Rose his next victim, just as life is being enormously complicated by the noisy indictment of said misunderstood mob boss on the eve of Rose's husband's entrance into politics. Pretty standard stuff for this genre -- particularly if you're the daughter of a made man -- and on the face of it a natural for the beach blanket. But with the best writers of frothy fiction -- the Sheldons, Folletts and Clarks -- you sense at least an accomplished technician who knows he or she is reaching down to make a salad of improbabilities and thin characters. Gotti's spent her life in a world of the improbable and now she's reaching up, with not quite the skills of a good writer, to try to make something out of it all.
What results is a novel filled with bad grammar, strangely placed commas, a slew of unnecessary apostrophes and characters who can compete with the mighty sequoia in the wood department. Here's one standout howler: "After successfully completing Evan's first semester at Columbia Law School, his father planned a dinner to celebrate." Greater love hath no poppa than to endure tort lectures for his offspring: Eat hearty, Dad. Doesn't anybody at Crown publishing read this stuff before they send it to the printer?
It's not a high art to write a good potboiler, but it's an art nonetheless. Gotti needs fewer million-dollar contracts and -- if she's not going to stick to the cookbook business -- a few more lessons in craft. You have to hand it to her, though. Unlike her dad, she's found a way to make a tidy profit in the trash business, and the feds can't touch her. SALON June 16, 1998
Victoria Gotti: I am doing absolutely great.
Victoria Gotti: For THE SENATOR'S DAUGHTER, I went back to college and took three criminal justice courses, because the main character was a lawyer and I needed to brush up on my criminal justice knowledge. The research for I'LL BE WATCHING YOU dealt mainly one on one with two very well known psychiatrists while I was investigating the field of mental illness, and I also did extensive research with the victims of stalkers.
Victoria Gotti: There is a big part of Rose that is autobiographical, mainly because she is an author. She is thrust into the spotlight. But I would say the biggest part is the fact that I created her. In numerous scenes I tend to live vicariously through her, as most writers do through their characters.
Victoria Gotti: Yes, with THE SENATOR'S DAUGHTER, I am told there are numerous discussions going on. As far as I'LL BE WATCHING YOU, there have been numerous scouts interested in reading the treatment; the proper channels are awaiting replies.
Victoria Gotti: I believe at this point I am a lot more seasoned as a writer than I was with my debut. I would hope that my readers now embrace the second novel as well as they have the first, and I believe in time I will be known for who I am, not who I am the offspring of.
Victoria Gotti: John Falcone is actually molded after a very good friend of mine -- a retired police officer -- and I used his police knowledge extensively throughout the book, especially in creating Falcone. The physical similarities and the emotional makeup are quite similar.
Victoria Gotti: It is very difficult but I never leave them at home; they travel with me. And it was a ten-city tour, and it probably took about a month.
Victoria Gotti: Yes, as a young adult I kept diaries and journals, and created a number of short stories.
Victoria Gotti: There are many elements in both books as well as many books to come in the near future that are autobiographical, as everything a writer creates is somewhat based on realism. A writer basically draws from their own experiences, from their own everyday lives, because it makes it all the more believable. If you mix a bit of realism with a bit of imagination it makes quite a combination.
Victoria Gotti: I am indifferent about the entire thing. One would say it is and one would say it is not. I basically write to the best of my ability and send it out there and hope that it is formally embraced.
Victoria Gotti: Yes, my father has read my books and has enjoyed them. No, I very rarely show my books to anyone other than immediate family members, editors, possibly an assistant or two -- and that is basically for some feedback.
Victoria Gotti: Well, if you are referring to if I will be watching you, no. It simply means it is a novel about a writer who is the subject of a stalker or the victim of a stalker and he sends these threatening cards with dead rose petals, and on each card he writes, "I'll Be Watching You."
Victoria Gotti: I have not read it and am not particularly a fan of people who try to capitalize on other people's lives.
Victoria Gotti: For THE SENATOR'S DAUGHTER, thankfully the reviews were all great. For a debut novel it is wonderful and certainly encouraging. As for I'LL BE WATCHING YOU, there are really no reviews out yet. But as to whether I take them seriously? It is wonderful to get great reviews, but as far as receiving a bad review, I wouldn't let it bring me down, because I am aware of how hard I have worked to create each novel. In regards to if I take their advice? No, it is constructive criticism and I welcome it, but I have my own style...and if there is a majority of readers that support the writing, that speaks for itself.
Victoria Gotti: I interviewed quite a bit of them extensively, and I chose my agent, Frank Weinmann, because he was genuine and sincere -- two qualities that I found to be so important.
Victoria Gotti: Judy Blume, Edgar Allan Poe, Tolstoy, and Beverly Cleary. Quite a combination.
Victoria Gotti: I am also an equestrian, but for the most part I spend all of my free time with my children.
Victoria Gotti: Not in the near future.
Victoria Gotti: It is not separate. I do weave everyday experiences into my plots and my characters. Anyone can tell a story, but to draw on something you know or experience is so much more believable.
Victoria Gotti: Thank you.
Victoria Gotti: I would love to do a part two to THE SENATOR'S DAUGHTER, when the time is right, because I felt so strongly about the character Taylor Brooke.
Victoria Gotti: No, I do not watch them. The producers always try to reach out for my input, but they are denied access.
Victoria Gotti: I think a good Rose would be Michelle Pfeiffer or Kristin Scott Thomas, because they are both methodical, strong, and assertive. As for the other characters, I really have not given it much thought. We would be here all night.
Victoria Gotti: When you love something so much, when you feel so strongly about something, you fight to accomplish it. You make time.
Victoria Gotti: I would have to say the best mystery/suspense that I have ever enjoyed reading would have to be Sidney Sheldon's THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT or RAGE OF ANGELS. I don't know if one would categorize them as mysteries, but they are absolutely captivating.
Victoria Gotti: THE SENATOR'S DAUGHTER is. In I'LL BE WATCHING YOU, there are three main characters -- two male and one female. I would like to consider all three characters main characters. I have also written an unpublished novel that has a male protagonist, so to answer your question: no.
Victoria Gotti: You don't just become a writer. You are a writer. You are born with it. You have to have some sense of creativity to be able to write, just as a painter needs it to be able to paint. It is a talent you are born with. I am not convinced you acquire it.
Victoria Gotti: From plot planning to rough writing/first draft to final copy edited version -- one year.
Victoria Gotti: I would love to do more works of nonfiction on women's health issues.
Victoria Gotti: Yes, that is a great part of my life. I try to organize, orchestrate, and chair at least three major fundraisers a year to benefit the American Heart Association. I currently sit on the board of directors for this organization and will diligently fight for this cause for the rest of my life.
Victoria Gotti: I knew what I was up against, but I was determined to get my voice out there and not willing to let this stand in my way.
Victoria Gotti: I think it will make a wonderful film. I'LL BE WATCHING YOU was created for entertainment purposes. I, too, agree that it would make an interesting vehicle for viewers.
Victoria Gotti: I got the idea for the plot for I'LL BE WATCHING YOU from a friend that was a victim of a stalker. She was terrified, living a menial existence for years out of fear that her stalker would move above the level of just spooking and terrorizing her and in fact cause physical harm or assault her or worse. She shared with me so many of her experiences, her anger as well as her fear, sparking my interest and exposing this subject to the public. I believe that, coupled with my own fears of unwilling exposure at times in the press and in the media, prompted the birth of I'LL BE WATCHING YOU.
Victoria Gotti: Yes, I will be going on another multicity tour, including Washington. As for readings, I do enjoy reading my favorite passages that I have created to a receptive audience.
Victoria Gotti: The toughest part of being a writer is often being your own critic, both good and bad. Sometimes we feel or know that something does not work, something we have created, but because of the time and effort we put in it, I know I hate to admit that it is not good and has to be re-created.
Victoria Gotti: Sidney Sheldon, because I truly believe he is the master of suspense. I enjoy reading his stories because I think he throws in a mixture of suspense, romance, and I believe realism to create a mixed stew that often boils over at any given moment.
Victoria Gotti: It is extremely hard to separate "church from state," but I am strong-willed and strong-minded, steeled to the fact that it is my job, my chosen profession, and any obstacle or hurdles in my way, I will gladly fight or go around.
Victoria Gotti: Yes, I do write every day. A writer's life is extremely disciplined. I give myself a limit of at least five pages but anywhere up to 12 pages, because if you don't, you let one day slip then two days slip then you become extremely lax, and it is just nonproductive.
Victoria Gotti: Thank you very much, glad to see that you are still on board.
Victoria Gotti: It has been a pleasure being online tonight. It is really great when you have a receptive audience, and I can honestly walk away saying what a memorable experience I had. Thanks again, and enjoy the book.
Posted July 15, 2006