How did Kuzneski, a Pennsylvania native and former University of Pittsburgh football player, end up in Tampa? In 1998, while promoting his first novel, The Plantation, he found himself appearing at bookstores in the Sunshine State. "It was February, and I was used to freezing winters, and at that point, I realized: 'Hey, I could live here. It's warm. I'm a writer. I can write from anywhere,' " said Kuzneski, 42. So he made the move, first to a teaching gig at Davidsen Middle in Tampa. After the first semester, he made a deal with Penguin Group and left to write full time; that was 13 years ago. We caught up with him by phone on Jan. 12, the day his seventh novel was released.
What's on your nightstand?
First, I have a picture book on Romania for my work. I also have Gray Man by Mark Greaney. We have the same agent, and it's good. Actually, it's been optioned by Brad Pitt. Mark also just co-wrote the latest Tom Clancy-Jack Ryan novel. I'm also reading The Vault by Boyd Morrison. I actually endorsed another one of his books, Rogue Wave. It was excellent.
Why did you like Rogue Wave so much?
It wasn't the type of book that I would typically read. It was being marketed as a disaster thriller. It's about a person who heads the tsunami disaster program, located somewhere in Hawaii. He got some early warning signals about a big wave heading for Hawaii. It was his race to notify the Hawaiian people and worry about his own family at the same time. . . . I was living in Rocky Point on Tampa Bay at the time, and it made me think about what would happen if there was a tidal wave here.
You majored in writing at University of Pittsburgh. When you were a teenager, what authors inspired you?
The author who probably influenced me then was Clive Cussler. My parents kept his books around, and since they knew there wasn't profanity, they weren't uncomfortable with me reading them. I liked the formula of international travel, history and mystery, even back then.
But wasn't there a thrill back then in sneaking books your parents didn't know about?
Absolutely. There was an allure with books back then that had to do with that. Now, in this Internet age, that particular thrill is gone.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4163.