The cover design of my titles is usually in my minds eye at the inception of a new book. I’m a visually driven author, which means that when I start a new book something that I have seen, read, heard, talked about or imagined has started the creative ball rolling. I don’t start writing a book until I have the cover scene in my mind. When the book is written, I then spend countless hours with my book layout and graphic artist putting the picture in my head on to a book cover. I’m very fortunate; I have found a graphic artist and book layout designer who is in sync with my thought process and he almost always takes my written description of a cover and hits it out of the park on the first try.
What do you read for pleasure?
I’m a lover of so many different genres, fiction, nonfiction, historical, biographical, philosophy, as well as poetry. While I write a lot of fiction, believe it or not, I don’t read a lot of fiction. When I’m reading, I’m typically reading news, financial articles, social commentaries and political news. I like to keep up on current events. In a world that is so based on ‘mythical’ ‘reality television’ I find knowing what’s going on in the ‘real’ world is much more important and inspiring.
When I do read fiction, I’m a lover of all things Hemingway. I also enjoy the works of David McCullough, Scott Turow, Michael Crichton, Thomas Harris, Ayn Rand, John Steinbeck, and believe it or not C. S. Lewis, along with others. I enjoy also nonfiction works by Daniel Walker Howe, Jared Diamond, Edmond S. Morgan, Joseph J. Ellis and others.
I read a lot of works in the classics as well. Authors like, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens, Edgar Alan Poe and others. I have been most impacted in my logic skills by the works of Plato, his two great works Symposium and Republic, as well as Homer, and the works of Aristotle, Socrates, and more recent philosophers such as Arthur Koestler, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have to be honest, it took me a long time to come out of the dark ages of the hard and softcover book. I love the way a book feels in my hands, the smell of the pages and binding, and the feel of the paper between my fingers as I turn page after page. However, my wife and I finally broke down and purchased Kindle paper white e-readers wi-fi readers only. I love the flexibility that the reader gives me when reading works and the ease of use, however, I purchase all of my eBooks in hardcover or paperback if I really love the book.
Amazon and Kindle are propitiatory platforms, when you buy an eBook you really never own it on Kindle your renting it I have learned by doing a lot or research before purchasing the device. I have also read a lot of horror stories from people who have had e-readers of all types that have lost all of the books in their library and in many cases they were lost forever. Amazon and Kindle have the right in the fine print of that Kindle agreement to suspend your account at anytime and for any reason. So when I do download an eBook either in sampling or the full download I always purchase the hardcover, especially if it's a first edition, or paperback depending on the printing. That way no matter what my happens with technology over the years no one can ever take away that print book in my own library on my private book shelf.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Marketing any book takes a lot of time and money, I have been writing and publishing books for over ten years and I can tell you that in my experience their is no one plan. Since the advent of the social network I use Facebook and Twitter, as well as placed and sponsored ad's to get my readers attention. If one has the means to hire a public relations firm it can help but that can cost thousands of dollars a month with no guarantee of success. I have found that the best way to attract an audience to my writing is by writing a great book or books, (Like my new hard boiled crime novel series: The Iron Eagle Series) as well as getting word of mouth from my readers to their friends and colleagues to read my books. I also believe that a provocative book cover is worth it's weight in gold to an author and the audience. The writing might be the greatest in the world, but if the cover doesn't attract the attention of a perspective reader you will never sell a book and know one will ever know just how good a writer you are.
Describe your desk
Disaster! I write all of my novels on the backs of envelopes, I'm not kidding, whole character outlines and scenes on the backs of return envelopes that come in the mail. So my desk is literally littered with blank envelopes awaiting the next book outline or envelopes littered with notes and character lists. I have an open laptop that is connected to a keyboard and monitor so I can move easily when writing. I have Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and while I can still walk, it can be a challenge, so my desk is set up so I have everything I need to write at my fingertips, (which don't always want to work.)
I have an "Admiral Fitzroy's Storm Glass" that is a replica of the one used on the Beagle that Darwin did his work on when he was working on his theory of evolution. There is a photograph of me and my wife Tracy in a silver frame from a trip to Vegas after our wedding in 2005. I have several Hawaiian sculptures on my desk I collected over the years and an Egyptian statue of the god Horus, the god of war.
I also have a 1952 Picasso Lithograph framed and signed by the master in pencil I acquired several years ago. There's a digital clock that shows me the time, date, day, and inside temperature that I can refer to as I write to try to track time, but it is of little use, my wife has to remind me to stop writing when the day is through, she also has to remind me to eat and take my medications on time because I forget and I don't get hungry due to my MS, so without my wife Tracy I would probably write myself to death.
Then their is the crown jewel of my desk art, a Fredrick Hart sculpture titled, "Spirit Song" that has been my muse for nearly fifteen years, and all of it sits on an over sized cherry wood desk. With a view over looking the mountains, and desert from my desk here in Lake Arrowhead.
Tracy always says it would distract her to write in my spot. The only time it distracts me is in the winter. When the snow starts to gently fall outside the wall of windows in front of and next to my desk. I stop. I can't write, I can only take in the majesty of this beautiful place that I have been so blessed to live in and in those moments all the world stops and I watch the gentle flakes landing on the fir trees and deck and grounds around me in wonder and quiet amazement.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in New Jersey in the mid 1960's. My family was not one of good function and we moved a lot. I grew up for the most part on the streets of the San Fernando Valley a suburb of Los Angeles in a small town named Reseda. It's a tough town and you get to know your way on the streets very, quickly. Being from a dysfunctional home and moving out on my own at fourteen meant I was never really a kid. I have played the drums since I was six years old. I was able to make that work for me in studio work when I was fourteen and in garage bands until I got married at the age of seventeen and had my first child. I'm one of the lucky ones, many of my friends were lost to drugs, alcohol or the violence of the streets. I broke the pattern that my family history had of drugs and domestic violence. Los Angeles has a mean streak, and I have lived on both sides of that streak. Growing up in that way and learning from the school of hard knocks made me the man and writer I am today. Education helped to lift me from the streets, but I never forget where I came from or the things that happened. It is a huge part of what inspired the creation of the Iron Eagle. I have been a first hand wittiness to some really heavy atrocities, from the murder of a childhood friend of mine by a now notorious serial killer in 1979, to the race riots and separatism born out of the generational and attitudinal changes that were spawned in the 70's and 80's. My writing both fiction and nonfiction is colored by my experiences on those streets and I don't wish anyone to have to live that life. I also know that many, many people do to this day all over this country, and I write of them, because I see one little miracle from those streets every once in a while that credited something that I wrote with inspiring them to move on and that means the world to me.
When did you first start writing?
I have been writing my whole life. My earliest memory of any type of fiction would be about the age of five. I wrote a short story for an assignment in school and I remember the teacher Mrs. Winkle putting a gold star on it and hanging it on the board in the classroom after I stood and read it to the class. From there I started writing song lyrics for bands and was writing and playing in bands by the time I was ten. I really got my start into deep fiction in my early teens, reading it more than writing it. I was more interested in writing nonfiction, stories about the world around me and the people and experiences. I learned quickly that it worked better to write the stories as fiction because many of the stories subject matter was unbelievable to a general audience. In every word that I write their is some event, person, place or situation that I either experienced for myself or had first hand knowledge of , and those things stick with me and are the inspirations that I draw on everyday in my writing both fiction and nonfiction.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Rise of The Iron Eagle is the first book in what is going to be a ten book series. The first seven books have already been written and the first is on sale and two more are ready to release in all formats. The Iron Eagle was born in my imagination after the brutal murder of a childhood friend by a now notorious serial killer who hunted the San Fernando Valley in the late 1970's. The Iron Eagle is the epitome of extreme and swift justice. Rise of the Iron Eagle takes my readers into the underground world of Los Angeles's serial killers some known and others well off the radar of law enforcement. In my business life for nearly thirty years I had many, many friends in law enforcement, several who worked for the FBI and the Los Angeles County sheriffs department as well as LAPD and other agencies. It was through the stories they told and the things that I saw that the Iron Eagle got his wings. The Iron Eagle series is a fictional series based on events that really happen. Through this novel series I bring my readers into the real world of law enforcement, the humor, the horror, the sadness and the lives of ordinary men and woman who do extraordinary things in order to save and protect the lives of total strangers. Book one is an introduction to the Eagle and his tie in with and against law enforcement. It takes readers into the world of profiling, and hunting sadistic people who do the most horrific acts. Man is the most savage beast on earth. For man has consciousness and awareness of his own actions. The Iron Eagle series is intended to not only entertain but also take the reader on a journey book after book into the unimaginable and just when they think they have seen it all, something new comes their way. The same as it does for those in law enforcement no matter how jaded they may be every single day.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
It started with a dissertation that I wrote for my doctorate of biblical studies, The Way, The Truth and The Lies: How the Gospels Mislead Christians about Jesus' True Message. I queried dozens of publishers and agents and got the door slammed in my face. So I stepped out on my own and started Narroway Publishing LLC and Narroway Press to publish my book. The book was a huge success and still sells in hardcover and eBook to this day, and is used as a text book in seminaries and universities across the country and around the world, it was published in 2005. I didn't give up on traditional publishing, I have queried agents and publishers on every book I have written up to my first novel, "And God Laughed" the book was well received by my readers, actually loved by my readers but no publisher or agent would touch my writing it was either to controversial or they just had too many other authors banging on their doors and they didn't want to be bothered or take the risk on an unknown author.
I have a friend who was an agent for authors for nearly four decades and I went to him and asked him, "Rick, what's the deal, I can't get my foot in anywhere?" He said, "Roy the publishing industry is all about who you know, if you don't have an in with an agent or a publisher out the door you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a book deal. I have read all of your books and I love them, if your going to make it you are going to have to do it yourself, and I believe you can."
After that conversation came the start of the Iron Eagle series. I sat down with my wife Tracy Teel who is a graduate of University of California Irvine where she earned her MFA in English and creative writing, the third best writing program in the country, she is my editor and I asked her, "What do you think, do I waste another year holding these books back from my readers or do I just say screw it and publish them myself without querying anyone?" She said, "The books are great, scary and not my cup of tea but GREAT! Do this on your own." So I started writing like crazy in August of 2013. The series was originally only going to be three novels, and I wanted to have the three written before I published book one. Before I knew it I was writing book six in January of 2014 and then book seven. I took a brief break to contact my graphic artist to help with book layout and cover design and we took off. I like the excitement of being in control of my projects, with no time tables or restrictions. I let the readers decide if my books are worthy of their praise and recommendation and say to hell with the traditional publishing industry. But movie rights to all of my books are available and I am more than willing to talk!
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I'm relatively new to the Smashwords platform. The platform does make publishing the eBook formats of my titles easy. It has a great distribution channel and the founder is very, very honest and straight forward in his book about writing and marketing your own books. I liked the honesty that he gave from the outset in the free eBook that he gives away on this site, that most writers will never sell many books and very,very few will ever get discovered. It's all true and I knew that coming in, but his honesty in his book about his own platform I think is really, really cool. There are a lot of people out there who will take an authors money and promise them the moon, (and yes I have been taken by a few of those folks) Smashwords makes no promises, charges no money to setup and distribute a title and that makes them in my opinion one of the best freelance sites for authors out there. I release all of my books in all formats, Hardcover, and Paperback through Lightningsource which is a part of Ingram that costs me money, but they have a great platform and distribution system world wide. I publish my books in eBook format through KDP for Kindle, and I also publish on Nook directly even though Smashword does publish there. I'm hopeful that between smashwords and other sites that this new novel series will take off and gain a wide, wide readership.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I have progressive multiple sclerosis and I had to retire on disability from a high level executive position in 2011. I was writing and publishing while I was working in my field but not like I write today, there really is no money in publishing. When my doctors told me that it was over, I had to retire, I could no longer handle the stress and pressure of running a multimillion dollar company I was scared to death. I had a great benefits package from my employer which included long term disability insurance but it was only going to pick up a percentage of my income and I was making a very, very high six figure salary. It took some getting used to being home and knowing that my MS was eating away at my brain and spine and there is nothing I can do about it. Then in the first six months I realized I don't have to sit here waiting to die. That's going to happen when it happens, do something. Writing allows me a way to live out life through the characters I create. I can live vicariously through them and in a way it allows me to leave a little bit of myself behind after I die. I love the creative process of writing a new novel and the characters have taken on lives of their own, for me writing my novels is like watching a movie in my head and writing down what I see it isn't always pretty but it is damn interesting. In the writing of the Iron Eagle series I have actually had moments where I scared myself in what a character decides they are going to do, something I never would have expected. Even my wife has grown fond of the character's in my novels as she reads and edits them, though the books give her nightmares, they creep into my dreams often and the next thing I know there's another book.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything, they are one of the biggest reasons that I write. I want to entertain them I want to see their feed back and see their comments and likes on my authors page on Facebook. I am always touched when someone messages me or leaves a review that shows how much something that I wrote impacted them. My readers are the best and I strive to write the best possible prose for them that I can. Each book that I write has to be better than the last one so that my readers are entertained and excited as well as scared all in good fun of course.
What are you working on next?
I have written the first seven books in the Iron Eagle series and I am now in the middle of book eight. The series has taken on a life of it's own and could very well span way beyond ten books. On top of that I have two other novels in the works as well as some nonfiction works I have been writing. In the near term I see the Iron Eagle taking up the bulk of my writing time.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My wife, my readers and the will to keep moving in spite of progressive multiple sclerosis.
What is your writing process?
I write linearly, which means I literally write my books from start to finish without an outline. I find it is the best way for me to write and it keeps my mind moving and thinking, because I have to remember very, very detailed and complex story lines.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
"My Brother Sam is Dead" by: James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier. It was one of my earliest books it had a huge impact on me as child peaking my interest in American history which would grow to a love of world and natural history.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
"Atlas Shrugged" By Ayn Rand, because of Ayn Rand's uncanny ability to see the American economic future. It's a long novel but in my opinion a must read for anyone who truly wants to understand the state of our nation, world and economy.
"The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway, One of the most powerful and moving books I have ever read. 'Papa' as he is known is a remarkable story teller. The images that he created in the narrative live with me to this very day. I re-read it at least once every ten years. It is a must for any one who aspires to be a fiction writer.
"What Hath God Wrought" By Daniel Walker Howe, A brilliant history of the early America as the fledgling republic tried to find its way onto the world stage. A must read for anyone who loves early American history.
"Symposium" by Plato, it is the simplest of lectures on the use of logic in helping man determine his place in the world and the universe.
"Hannibal" by: Thomas Harris, While I have read all of Harris' novels including Black Sunday. I found Hannibal to be his best work. The novel helps to round out his characters, Clarice Starling, and Hannibal Lecter, the writing was intense the story line compelling and the ending of the novel satisfying to me. Unfortunately Hollywood could not stomach the way Harris ended the novel so they tweaked the ending which undermined what Harris was trying to do with the novel. He was giving it closure and also opening new possibilities for future books. I think the movie killed that idea in Harris. My only real regret about the series, (and I learned a lesson from Harris for my own writing) is he painted himself into a corner by right three novels with no real sequence to them. While readers can pick up any of the novels and take off with out back story, I think he let his readers down by not giving the full story of his evil Hannibal Lecter character, allow his audience to see Lecter in his hay day as a killer prior to being caught. I learned some valuable lesson from his books as an author.
That's why in my crime novel series the reader learns in the middle of book one who the Iron Eagle is and gets a full background on him so they understand his history and motivation. You can pick up any book in the eight books I have written so far and enjoy the story without having read the series, but the idea is to peak my readers curiosity so they go back to the beginning and book one, and read the series in order.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When we are not at our keyboards, my wife and I love to spend time together. Playing with my best friend Sanford (Sandy) our Springer Spaniel. Stretching my legs with my wife on late afternoon walks on our mountain here in Lake Arrowhead, CA. Sharing a drink and good conversation with a close friend, or playing chess or cards, and I can never go wrong with a good book, either on my Kindle or in physical form on my lap on our deck over looking lake Arrowhead and the desert of Hesperia.
Taking walks in the snow with my wife and Sandy in the middle of a storm. I put on my Yak tracks on my shoes and my cane with its ice pick on the end we walk the street in the falling snow and take in the majesty of winter. My wife and I are also huge Jeopardy fans and watch every night. We are not TV people, we both would rather sit down and read a good book or have an intellectual conversation on a litany of subjects than to sit in front of the TV. My MS has brought new challenges as it progresses, which has made it difficult or impossible to do many of the things I did just ten years ago. I however try to take it in stride and work with what I have and be grateful for the little things. My wife Tracy is a wonderful cook, she loves to work her culinary magic almost daily and I enjoy assisting her in the kitchen, cooking together is a highlight of any day.
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