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Author Interview with Richard Writhen

A Host of Ills

This week’s Author Interview is with Richard Writhen. Originally from New England, Richard has lived in both RI and NYC. He has been e-published on a variety of sites and blogs and is also the author of three independently published novellas on Amazon. He is currently at work on several short stories as well as his fourth novella, The Angel of the Grave.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I even hide secrets in my books from myself. The power of the subconscious is a very odd thing. In one of my favorite anecdotes of recent years, my last novella took about eight months to write. Around six months in, I was working on some dialogue in my head before even turning on the computer, and one of the male characters “came on” to another male character. It was literally half a year in, and suddenly this character turns out to be gay, and even I didn’t know it, he was that far in the closet. When I read the novella back, all the subtext was there.

What is your favorite childhood book?

Probably East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Mercer Mayer. It really struck a nerve when I was a boy. The beautiful art, the fantastical story about loss and slavery. And I also had a few Dr. Seuss books as well that were just great. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish was another favorite.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

My first novella, which is ironically also my shortest, took 28 months to write as an amateur. Once I pretty much knew what I was doing, the second and third ones took only eight months apiece. But to date, I’ve been working on the fourth for over a year.

A Kicked Cur

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Sometimes there’s just too much going on in one’s conscious mind to really let the subconscious imagination unfurl. Life issues, moving, relationships, children, all of it can add up and shut down the creative impulse. That’s why it’s best to just get in the habit of working on something every day. That way, through sheer inertia, that part of your mind isn’t really able to completely shut down. I’m a fan of the lifting analogy; the mind is like a muscle. If you stick to a strict regimen, you won’t have the block. But, I’m sure it happens to even the most talented authors now and again. I too have seen some of the threads online debating its existence; I’ve even seen a few things marketed as a cure, which is a bit shady.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Frankly, I only have about eight total so far. Apparently, you need to ransom your first born child for each one. The ones I have are 80% positive, though. The correct response to a negative review is apparently no response; if you get a good one, I guess thank them. At the end of the day, art is subjective, and people’s opinions aren’t really going to help or hinder you either way. Opinions don’t write books, authors do. But yeah, it can be very ironic when people who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag tear into your work.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’m interconnecting three trilogies for a total of nine novellas and even adding in a few short stories to the mix as all taking place on my planet Cedron. But I’ve got to tell you, the internal continuity involved in maintaining that is ridiculous, with all the magic and what-not. At some point, I may just give up and start basing (the short form especially) on Earth. I’ve already begun to feel that that would be a lot more freeing at this point; at first switching to fantasy was, but when you reach a certain level of realism you simply want to go back to an approximation of reality.

The Hiss of the Blade

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

I don’t base any of my characters upon one real person; they are all an amalgamation. And even if they weren’t, I wouldn’t feel as if I owed someone anything. That’s what they get for existing! I have, however, “tuckerized” two people on purpose, but they were both informed beforehand. And I’m mad supportive of them online. So there.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I want to make art. But to make money, you have to deliver what readers think they want. That’s the distinction. The hope is that others secretly want what you want to read and that is the book that you are writing. How many times have you said, “X is the X book that I always wanted but never knew it.” But the awful truth is that many people will start a book and if it’s not exactly like their favorite fantasy series, they’ll say “Pfft. What is this shit?!” and DNF it.

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Submissions fees, contest entry fees, registration and application fees, paid reviews, there’s a lot of bullshit. A good rule of thumb is that you are writing to make money, not spend it; but as it does take money to make money in virtually every aspect of the real world, some calculated expenditures are necessary. I just participated in two group sales, for instance.

How do you select the names of your characters?

This is one of the most deceptive things about fantasy writing in particular. Well, this and exposition. A good rule of thumb is “mo’ commas, mo’ problems.” But seriously Kal’ ach’ chon’ diek Von Brust’ vaal is not a good name for a character. Or, mayhaps it is, and I’m going to appropriate it for future use. I just try to use practical names, many of which would not be out of place here on Earth as Cedron is a “parallel world.” Sometimes I will shake up the spellings, though.

Thanks, Richard!

To learn more about Richard and his upcoming projects, visit him here:

Happy Writing!

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