What makes a lifelong Hudson County resident uniquely qualified to write a crime novel? There are probably a lot of answers to that… but in the case of Frank J. Musumici, it’s the interaction with such a diverse collection of real life characters that helped inspire his debut novel, Marked—recently released by Austin Macauley Publishing.
Growing up in Hoboken, Musumici is an avid reader of mysteries and thrillers. Married for 28 years with two children, Frank has spent a lot of time working in social services. Through his experiences and his imagination, he was able to weave a story between the unlikeliest of characters— Native American, a New Jersey Mafia Capo, and an FBI Agent—as they band together to search for a missing teenager.
We had a chance to talk with Frank about Marked, writing, and life in Hudson County.
hMAG: How did living in Hoboken shape your storytelling in Marked?
Frank J. Musumici: Growing up in Hoboken in the early 80’s was a great experience. Yes, it was a tough town back then, with gangs and men associated with the mob, but all in all if you grew up here it gave you a sense of pride and toughness. We had a lot of fun hanging out with our friends.
In those days—and I laugh now because I sound like my parents—kids played outside and participated in all kinds of fun activities. I remember playing wiffle ball in the parking lot of what was then FoodTown on Eighth & Willow, “Johnny on the Pony” in the Wallace School playground, or bottle caps and tops in front of my stoop on Jefferson Street by Saint Francis.
As a teenager, it was hanging with my friends in Four Street Park of course, nowadays I think they call it Church Square Park. And during those times we hung out everyone would crack jokes about one another including friendly insults about them and their families.
Families such as mine also were an important part of growing up in Hoboken going back to when our grandparents first settled there. So as you grew up and roamed the streets, other residents would know which family you belonged to.
Let me give you an example, if I was walking down Washington Street some man or women would stop me and ask, “Hey, you Frankie’s son or is your uncle Papo, the guy who owns the auto part store?” I would say yeah and they would respond with something like, “Tell them Bobby from Adams said hello”. Then you would either tell your father or walk over to your uncle’s and give him the message. It might be cliché, but back then everyone knew each other—good or bad—and you could always count on either getting in trouble because someone who knew your family saw you, or getting help for the same reason.
I used that sense of family and friends living as a large community as my guide in telling the story in Marked. The witty, sometimes crude and funny banter between the characters was also taken from how we all communicated with each other growing up in Hoboken.
H: What was your inspiration behind the characters in the book?
FJM: Again, the bonds that one had with family and friends in Hoboken was what led me to have several of my characters be from there. I also used the back-and-forth playful banter that was always prevalent in my conversations with family and especially with my friends to mold those same characters.
The inspiration for the tough and resourceful women in my story comes from the strength of the women in my life such as my wife, mother, sisters, mother-in-law and grandmothers. You’ll also see in my characters’ resiliency, dedication to truth, and the ability to persevere—all traits taught and learned from one’s family and on the streets of Hoboken.
H: How was the process of getting your book to print?
FJM: It was a very difficult process to say the least.
Several years ago I told my wife, Michele that I could write a commercial fiction novel, just like the ones I love to read and collect. However, the only difference was it would read quickly, as if it were a movie. It would also not contain a chapter or two of what I call fluff material seen in other books. She, like all wonderful partners, agreed and encouraged me.
I wrote Marked in three months, but it took over two years to finally get a publisher to take a chance on it. Marked and another book I had written were rejected over 120 times from agents and publishing houses from two countries—here and in England. However, it was one of those English rejection letters that provided me with some good advice.
The advice was for me to have my manuscript assessed by an agency specializing in that service. I did just that and used an agency in England, Daniel Goldsmith Associates (DGA). They read my manuscript and provided me with an honest written assessment. That assessment provided me insight as to why the manuscript was being rejected and how I could revise it so that someone would pick it up.
DGA went as far as providing me with the name of the publishing house where I should send my revised manuscript, which happened to be Austin Macauley Publishing, USA. They read Marked and offered me the contract to publish it.
The rest is, as they say, history.
H: Where did you do most of your writing? Any good spots in the area you’d recommend for writers?
FJM: [I wrote at] home, either in my bedroom or the dining room… boring I know. I wrote at home because I thought it would help me concentrate better—but if I still lived in Hoboken, then either a bench in Four Street Park or just above the Little League Field.
H: Do you have any other projects in the pipeline we can look forward to?
FJM: Yes, as a matter of fact, Marked was not the first manuscript I wrote. The first one was also a standalone novel called, Hunted—based in Hoboken, with completely different characters; more having to do with my Puerto Rican heritage. It is also a thriller with scenes that play out in Hoboken, New York and Puerto Rico. DGA just submitted their assessment of it. I’m currently in the process of making my revisions so that I can send out to prospective agents and publishing houses.
We’ll keep an eye out for Hunted. Meanwhile, Marked is currently available locally at Little City Books.