Interview with Richard Stooker

All right, tell everyone how you got started writing.
That's easy, and not so easy. As a kid, I loved to read. I still read compulsively. I cannot imagine anyone writing fiction without loving to read themselves.

At some point when I was nine years old, I realized I wanted to create the same enjoyable feelings in others that I experienced from reading good stories.

Why this shift happened for me, I don't know.

But I started writing a "novel," though I'm sure I couldn't have written more than a few thousand words, at most. It imitated Edgar Rice Burroughs, my favorite author at that time.

I may have continued to write, except I made the beginner and childhood mistake of showing it to somebody. I named the heroine for the mother of my best friend, who lived next door, and she and everybody else but got me got a big laugh out of it. I realize now they didn't mean anything malicious, but I could no longer continue writing that story.

When I began writing again at the age of 16, I never showed my manuscripts to anybody except editors.
2. What happened at age 16?
I never lost that desire to be a writer. And at age 16 I decided it was time to start. I began reading The Writer and Writer's Digest magazines. My family bought me a high-quality Adler manual typewriter. I checked how to write books out of the library. I learned the professional manuscript format. I knew what science fiction and fantasy magazines were being published just from seeing them on sale and buying them. The writing magazines must have carried some kind of market reports as well, because I know my first submission was to Harry Harrison for a one-time anthology.

Soon, standing in line at the Post Office to mail off 10 X 13 manila envelopes, and receiving 9 X 12 manila envelopes in the mail, became a daily routine.
3. Do you have a big stack of rejection slips?
I like to keep them filed away with my paper copy of the story, but I received my share.
4. When did you stop receiving rejection slips?
Only when I stopped submitting manuscripts to traditional publishers, and if I continued writing short stories, as I'd like to do, I'd still be receiving a bunch of rejection slips.

It never really stops. I recall a Lawrence Block column in Writer's Digest discussing how, even though he was a bestselling, award-winning author, he got rejections all the time. From foreign publishers. From movie producers. Even from the mystery magazines, despite his big name.

I'm rejected every time a potential reader lands on the sales page of one of my books -- whether on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and so on -- and fails to buy. I don't get a piece of paper thanking me for my submission but it doesn't meet their needs at the moment, yet it's a rejection.
5. All right, but when did you start receiving acceptances?
I soon learned of fanzines and semiprozines. For some reason, the field of science fiction (and related fields of fantasy and horror) have always attracted a large number of self-publishers. Maybe people who read outside the mainstream tend to be more do-it-yourself types.

Fanzines are small magazines published anybody willing to put in the work. The most popular format at the time was mimeograph, so it helped to have a mimeograph machine or, at least, access to one.

Most were put out for the sheer love of the field and expressing yourself. Many focused on fans and fandom. But many published short stories.

Many of those didn't pay the author, just sent them a courtesy copy.

A few paid the author a small amount of money. Nothing to get excited about. $5 to $10. Just enough so the author could say they made some money from work, but not enough to make a living from selling stories to such markets. They were called semi-prozines.

The prozines (professional magazines) paid the going professional rates.

Anyway, publishing stories in fanzines and semiprozines didn't get you much respect, but I submitted to them, and published some stories.

It's worth noting here:

1. In the field of literary fiction, most magazines published by universities do NOT pay for the stories they publish. Even the very best. Except they call sending the author copies "payment." The prestige of being published there outweighs any financial return they could afford to send you.

However, the prestige is real. Many literary authors have leveraged stories published in university literary magazines to get contracts for novels from publishing companies and/or positions teaching English at universities.

2. Writing SF/F/Horror short stories has not been a viable career since the pulp magazines went out of business in the mid-1950s. At the time I began writing, the best-paying prozines paid about 4 or 5 cents per word. Certainly a lot more than I received from the semiprozines, but NOT enough for anybody to live on, even before the inflation of the last forty years.

Writers who wished to write full-time wrote short stories only for the love of them, and to build or maintain their reputations, while they received most of their money from novel advances and royalties.

Even back then, it was tough, and not many writers could do it for long. Even many of the masters.
6. Do you believe Amazon and self-publishers are destroying bookstores, and isn't that just awful -- not to mention the end of Western civilization?
Whew boy!

I wrote a long blog post about this recently. Let me just say, the two biggest things that encouraged me to read and keep reading were libraries and news stands.

NOT bookstores.

I grew up in the small city of Alton, Illinois. Part of the St. Louis Metro area. We did NOT have a bookstore. (And still doesn't. Although for a few years Alton Mall had both a B. Dalton and Walden Books, that was decades ago.) Beginning at the age of 9, I bought comic books, Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks, science fiction magazines, and everything else from a local drugstore and two news stands I frequented.

I bought every Ace Science Fiction Special at a news stand.

I bought every Ballantine Adult Fantasy at a news stand.

I bought the Magazine of Horror and Startling Mystery Stories -- containing the first published stories by one Stephen King -- at a news stand.

In high school, I also began buying books by mail, from a dealer. That would be the equivalent of ordering over the Internet these days.

To the best of my recollection, I never walked into an actual bookstore until my early 20s.

I love them, but don't feel indebted to physical brick and mortar bookstores. They weren't there for me when I was growing up in Alton. To me, Amazon and Smashwords are just as deserving of my support as my local Barnes & Noble. I do like seeing and handling the physical books before buying them, but I also like reading reader reviews, so there's a trade-off.
7. Have you spent your entire life writing? Don't you do anything else?
You mean, like have a life?

Just because Alton Illinois is, according to FATE magazine, "the most haunted small town in America?"

Basically, I had a fairly normal childhood. I did run around a lot. I belonged to a summer swim club, and swam on the swim team. So I guess I was more athletic than typical writers. I never got good enough to talk about, though.

I did typical teenage stuff such as fall in love and have a broken heart, think I knew better than I did, rebel, and so on. Since it was the late 60s, that took the form of being a hippie radical.

I went to college first as an English major. After he read my very first paper, my teacher told me I was going to be a "problem student."

I dropped out, worked as a lifeguard for the minimum wage, got tired of that when none of my novels sold, returned to school and graduated with an Accounting degree.

Then went to work for the Social Security Administration.

Got married, got divorced. Worked a bunch of part-time jobs.

Now I'm living out my dream of writing fiction full-time.
8. I've saved your favorite question for last. Where do you get your ideas?
A secret website run by the ghost of Alexander Dumas. Sorry, but I'm not allowed to give out the link.
Published 2013-09-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Chaos Formula
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Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 153,490. Language: English. Published: November 28, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
Can Jaxon Hampton love the Moon Queen enough? If Zeth, the servant of her enemies the Shadow Giants, defeats Jaxon in battle, the Shadow Giants unleash chaos on Earth and destroy humanity. Every night Jaxon experiences vivid recurring dreams in which, 10,000 years ago, he escorts a beautiful woman through many dangers to the top of a cliff overlooking the Nile River.
Stick and the Lion
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,980. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
To graduate from wizard training, Stick must direct a starving lion to go from one end of a long cage to the other. Then survive the brother wizard who hates him -- and the Moon Queen who loves him. Tired of magic wand, eye of newt 'recipe' magic? If the ingredients really contain the power, you perform a chemistry experiment. Perhaps real magicians impose their will without hocus pocus.
Mabini Shadows
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 70,970. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction
When Dan finally returns to Manila, he remembers his love for the bar girl Lin Lin. So does Raul the police informer. And the Mabini shadows. Now Lin Lin's face consists of a mass of scar tissue, so her shame keeps him away from her old lover. He can't still love her. Or can he? And then Raul wants to tip off the police. While the Mabini shadows lie in way to take their revenge.
Light of Tina
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 72,730. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction
Twenty-one years after, Paul Templeton still did not know whether in his old dream he rapes and murders his sister. The rapist killer escapes. Nightmares torture Paul. If he didn't kill Tina, how can he witness it, dreaming he sees it happen in a mirror? Now a beautiful young woman moves into the neighbor, reminding Paul of Tina? Is the killer after her too?
Heaven's Burning
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 71,860. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction
God gave Ted Erickson the power to freeze the sinful, so why does his own body keep growing numb? A prostitute. A dirty bum. They can't survive Ted's growing ability to exhale cold air from the Ninth Circle of Hell. So how can the suicidal teenager next door keep singing?
BloodFire
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 70,720. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Horror » Undead
Elena's brother Ion visits his home today. But the Boyar already cut Ion's throat and buried him in unconsecrated ground. Their mother knows Ion returns tonight for his sister. Can she convince the priest to grant him absolution? Or the Boyar to protect Elena from the brother who sinned with her even while still alive? Does Elena want protection from her brother?
Breakthrough
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 70,290. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Horror » General
Madman or savior? Or both? The police take Terrell Boyd to Malcolm Bliss Mental Hospital. Diagnosis: Schizophrenia, paranoid type. Can the paranormal powers he claims really work? What if Jesus Christ returns to Earth the second time, only to have the world drive him insane?
The Wrong Bettor
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 74,380. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
Dr. Pennell just wants his son back home. But Crain Dalton discovers the mob wants the boy to entertain the bigshots by playing a virtual reality game for the ultimate stakes -- his own life. Even doctors with a trunk of hidden cash suffer when their teenage son hangs out at the local casino and takes a hooker for a girlfriend. Can Crain find Don Pennell in time to save him?
The Copper Quarter
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,980. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
The friendly man shocks the bar by paying for everybody's drinks with a silver quarter. His ruthless killing in the street outside surprises nobody. When private detective Crain Dalton seeks out the beautiful widow, he uncovers a plot to buy local elections with the only kind of money worth anything anymore -- silver and gold, once again illegal to own.
The Pi-a-saw Bird
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 72,500. Language: English. Published: July 16, 2012 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
In 1673 the first European explorers to travel down the Mississippi River spot on the high, sheer bluffs the painting of a huge, winged monster. Where does it come from? Why did somebody take the trouble and risk to paint it on bluff face? The Indians told them the terrifying story of a man-eating dragon-like creature, and the brave chief who killed it.
The Death of Capital Gains Investing (and What to Replace It With)
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Price: Free! Words: 4,980. Language: English. Published: December 6, 2011 by Richard Stooker. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Personal finance
The longest bull market in history peaked in October 2007. The last twelve years have been a "lost dozen." Thousands of Americans are in city parks whining the stock market is a scam and capitalism no longer works. The old paradigms have shifted. Where're the 10% average annual gains the experts promised the stock market would deliver?
Stock Market Investing for Beginners
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Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 21,470. Language: English. Published: October 23, 2011 by Richard Stooker. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Personal finance
Want to get started investing in the stock market, but aren't sure how to do so? What are stocks? What determines their market prices? Why do they go up and down? How can I beat the stock market? What are mutual funds? What are index funds? What are Exchanged Traded Funds?
REITs Around the World: Your Guide to Real Estate Investment Trusts in Nearly 40 Countries for Inflation Protection, Currency Hedging, Risk Management and Diversification
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Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 29,460. Language: English. Published: October 15, 2011 by Richard Stooker. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Stock market investing
Claim Your Share of Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) Profits From Around the World NOTE: the Table of Contents is fully linked. Ever since so many private real estate companies converted themselves into Real Estate Investment Trusts and held IPOs in the mid-1990s, U.S. investors have been receiving high dividend yields.
The Immortality Pill - Available Now
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Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 10,510. Language: English. Published: August 25, 2011 by Richard Stooker. Category: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Aging well
This is a short report -- around 10,000 words -- on the amazing health and anti-aging benefits available right now to seniors who wish to postpone old age and death for as long as possible. This work is all-original and all-unique. The purpose of this short report -- to tell you about the Nobel winning medical research on telomeres and telomerase which may hold the key to an extra long life.
Bring On The Crash! A 3-Step Practical Survival Guide: Prepare for Economic Collapse and Come Out Wealthier
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Price: $8.99 USD. Words: 37,530. Language: English. Published: August 17, 2011 by Richard Stooker. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Personal finance
The U.S. dollar is on the verge of catastrophe. For the first time in history, the debt of the most powerful government on Earth, leading the world’s largest economy, has been downgraded by Standard & Poor’s to Double AA from a perfect Triple AAA.
Income Investing Secrets
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Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 76,270. Language: English. Published: April 10, 2010 by Richard Stooker. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Stock market investing
Finally, you too can discover the old-fashioned -- yet now revolutionary (and updated for the 21st century) -- "gold egg" income investing secrets for lazy investors Despite following the conventional financial wisdom, many senior citizens are now asking what happened to that worry-free fun and relaxation they promised themselves after a long career of hard work. What's the alternative?
Virgin Blood: A Hardboiled Horror Thriller
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Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 147,360. Language: English. Published: April 9, 2010 by Richard Stooker. Category: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction
When mentally challenged Janie Braxton arrives at the emergency room, she doesn't remember the rape and beating that sent her there. Nor does she understand why the spirit of an ancient Indian chief talks to her. But as gang criminals chase her two little girls through the streets of St. Louis, her rage builds to an inferno that threatens the Indian chief's plot to realign the cosmos.
Master Limited Partnerships
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Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 34,540. Language: English. Published: April 9, 2010 by Richard Stooker. Category: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Stock market investing
In a low yield world government bonds pay next to no interest, S&P 500 stocks pay little more than that in dividends, the Canadian government is on the threshold of taxing income trusts, and real estate investment trusts are suffering cash flow problems, one type of security stands to income investors. Master Limited Partnerships This is the only book devoted only to this type of investments.
Beat the Flu
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Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 62,620. Language: English. Published: April 9, 2010 by Richard Stooker. Category: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Diseases
Flu experts agree -- a severe pandemic is just a matter of time. But there are many other ways to protect yourself and your family. They are cheap and widely available. Everybody can take steps to protect themselves and their families. BEAT THE FLU is a comprehensive guide to build your immune system to prevent and treat the flu. It explains the proprietary 7 Perimeter Defense System.