Tom Rizzo, Author of “Last Stand At Bitter Creek”

What is your book about?

Last Stand at Bitter Creek is about a burned-out Union Army spy who gets lured into one, last assignment –the routine surveillance of a battle-hardened Union Army officer and finds himself entangled in an intricate conspiracy involving a ruthless massacre, the heist of a secret gold shipment, and the theft of a priceless US historical document.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

A magazine article I wrote several years ago about the first train robbery in the United States triggered the idea. Since the crime was never solved, I asked myself: “What if something was on the train that no one knew about?” The answer produced a few ideas that I was eventually able to develop into a novel.

How long did it take you to write your book?

I wrote the book in nine months. It was nearly 85,000 words long. But after a long process of revising and rewriting, and having it professionally edited—even before I sought a publisher—I trimmed the book to 70,000 words, which improved the pace of the story considerably.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I prefer creating a compelling main character, and an equally compelling antagonist, who lead the way to a story line. Conflict, of course, is everything. The plot – or story – emerges from how the characters deal with the problems I give them. Conflict creates character. Good characters—lifelike characters—are made up of a combination of contradictory characteristics. The challenge is to keep everyone on stage in character.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Research for a period novel – in this case, mid-19th century – proved challenging because I had learn how characters dressed, what they ate, how they traveled, and how they communicated with each other. How many miles could horse-and-rider travel in a day? How long did it take to get from point A to point B? I learned about hotel accommodations, furniture, and the price of a cup of coffee. There are many details involved in a story like this. And even though I didn’t use them all, I had to know the answers.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

Mostly by their actions, and how they react to each other, or to specific situations.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

There are two ways—at least to my way of thinking—to get into a plot, or the story. Begin with the plot and fit the character to it. Or, as I prefer, begin with the character and provide an appropriate plot.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

The ending, in my opinion, is always the most difficult or challenging part of a story—at least for me. It has to appear as a natural progression of the story itself, and in a way that follows reader expectations of the characters. In this case of LAST STAND AT BITTER CREEK, I had the ending in mind before I started, which made the process a bit easier.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

My goal is to entertain readers with a good story that is driven by interesting and complex characters, who try their best to grapple with daunting problems, or conflicts, who get up off the floor after they’re knocked down, and keep pushing, and persisting until they find the answers they’re seeking. And, it would be nice to hear a reader say—after completing the last chapter—”Wow, when can I get this guy’s next book?”

How has your background influenced your writing?

I’ve been writing most of my life. In high school, I worked at a radio station where I wrote news and sports, and obituaries. After a few years living in England, I returned to broadcast news. I spent several years as a correspondent for the Associated Press before deciding to write fulltime as a freelancer, writing everything from magazine articles to advertising and promotional and website copy. Along the way, I’ve interviewed a number of fascinating characters —from politicians to CEOs, sports figures, to the ordinary man and woman on–the-street, And because I enjoyed creating profiles, I paid close attention to the way someone talked and their mannerisms, how they responded to difficult questions, and how avoided questions they didn’t want to answer. This kind of background proved invaluable in writing fiction.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Coffee. Is there any other?

What are you working on right now?

Another story set in the American West, about a complicated character who was forced to disappear because of a risky choice he once made –a choice that brings him to a day of reckoning that will put him and his entire community in danger.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Read—not only for enjoyment. Treat your reading as a study lab, taking note of how the writer lures you into the story, how characters are introduced, and what makes you like or despise them. Reading soaks the brain with ideas and possibilities. And write, of course. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write. If you need to kick-start the creative juices, choose five or six words at random from the dictionary, give yourself five or ten minutes, and write something that includes all the words you chose. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised at what you create.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?


Where can people learn more about your books?

Learn more about me and my novel, LAST STAND AT BITTER CREEK, at, or at my blog, Buy buy the book at: