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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Rutherford Resident Mike Rizzo Releases First Book

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Photo credit: Maggie McGill Photography

Michael Rizzo

As an avid reader, lifelong Rutherford resident Michael Rizzo, also discovered his love for creative writing. For the past seven years, Michael has been working on stories that are included in a book that will be published this month. Michael is well known for his commitment to supporting his town through his position at BCB Bank and by serving on a number of different Boards for non-profit organizations, such as Rutherford Chamber of Commerce and the 55 Kip Center. This is Rutherford interviewed Michael about his love of reading and writing, his new book, and why he loves Rutherford.


TIR: When did you discover that you enjoyed writing?


Michael Rizzo: I believe it was either during my 7th or 8th grade year in St. Mary’s Elementary School. My class was given the opportunity to submit essays for the V.F.W Ladies Auxiliary Patriot’s Pen Contest. It was a fantastic experience, and it was the first time I thought about the prospect of creative writing.


TIR: How many years have you been writing?


MR: I have been writing consistently in my spare time for about seven years now. I did dabble a bit with creative writing during high school and college, but it wasn’t until the winter of 2016 when I took up writing as a serious craft in my spare time.

TIR: Where did you draw your inspiration for the short stories in your soon to be released book, Tales of Asterra?


MR: The concept for the Tales of Asterra wasn’t actually my first project. The concept of writing short stories actually came about in 2019 when I was running into a stand still with getting my first writing project, a novel taking place in Asterra, published. I was writing short stories to help build a name for myself as a writer by submitting them to magazines in hopes of getting them published—sadly I didn’t have much success. However, I developed a great number of short stories that filled my world of Asterra with life, and I knew I had to work on getting these published. Each story is inspired by my love of reading fantasy, mythology, and history books, as well as my love of various academic subjects and my love for video games.

Illustration by Alejandro Colucci

TIR: Your new book includes fourteen short stories that focus on Asterra, a mystical land. The narrator of the stories ties the stories together. How did you come up with this mystical land?


MR: I love this question! I have always loved fantasy tales and stories: The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia are two of my favorites. Tales such as those have always brought me comfort when I needed it most. When my dog Angel passed away in 2016, I watched "The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy to put my mind at ease. Afterwards, I began thinking about creating my own fantasy world that could bring me joy and peace when I needed it most. I looked at old writings I did in college and high school, and I began crafting the world of Asterra. I filled the world with all the things that gave me joy, and I created unique cultures, races, languages, currencies, magic systems, and much more to give Asterra life! I am still growing the compendium of Asterra every day!


Illustrations by Alejandro Colucci

TIR: The mystical land of Asterra includes fairies, pirates, and other characters. What about these characters do you think will interest the readers?


MR: I think what is most exciting about these characters is that every single one of them has their own unique tale to tell, and each tale contributes to the ever-growing world of Asterra. Some tales have a direct impact on others, and certain lessons learned from these tales impact characters in other stories. I crafted the world to feel organic, so actions in one city have ramifications on what occurs 50 years later in a small nearby village, or the name of a dwarven character’s pet dog harkens back to the name of the first king of the dwarves learned about in a story about dwarven history—everything is connected.


TIR: With the upcoming release of this book, what are you most excited about sharing with the readers?


MR: I am most excited to share the stories of the different characters in Asterra. They are uniquely woven, and each character paints a splendid picture of life within Asterra. To supplement the unique experiences of each character, there is also a glossary of over 100 unique places, people, currencies, objects, languages, and much more, which immerses the reader in the lore of this magical world!


TIR: Did you have any mentors who have inspired you to pursue writing?


MR: I had four teachers in high school, St. Peter's Preparatory School, that had a profound impact on my writing as well as just my life in general. My English teacher John Campion, my AP History teacher Mary Anne McElroy, my Latin teacher, Joy Seth Hurd IV, and my math teacher, Kenneth Dandorph. Mr. Campion was responsible for introducing me to a plethora of great books and writers as well as helping me hone my craft as a writer. Mrs. McElroy helped me increase my capabilities as a student of history as well as increase my analytical capabilities, which are vital in my writing style: history was also my favorite subject in school and greatly influences my writing. Mr. Hurd introduced me to Latin and the world of classics. Mr. Dandorph taught me discipline and helped me grow as a person.


TIR: How long have you called Rutherford your home?


MR: I live in Rutherford and I grew up in Rutherford. I didn’t stray all too far. In fact, I only live a few blocks away from my parents. I have great memories growing up in Rutherford, and I wanted to keep on making more memories here.


TIR: As the BCB Business Development Officer, you work and live in Rutherford, what do you enjoy about living and working in Rutherford?


MR: This town and its people have had a profoundly positive impact on my life. The sense of community in Rutherford was vital in crafting the warm feeling in some of the smaller towns of Asterra. I enjoy being able to be close with the people I grew up with—this is where my happiest memories lie.


TIR: Anything else you would like to add?


MR: I am very thankful for the opportunity to describe myself and my world of Asterra with This is Rutherford readers. I am currently working on my second book, which is actually the first novel I wrote. If there are any questions that someone would like to ask, please feel free to contact me via email at michaelfrankrizzo@gmail.com or follow me at tales_of_asterra on Instagram or the page Tales of Asterra on Facebook. I definitely want to engage more with fans.


Tales of Asterra will be available at the end of February as an e-book through Kindle Direct Publishing and in hardcover and paperback editions through retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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