"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis
Sunday, June 15, 2014
A Chat With Richard Earl Rice
I retired from my day job at age 61. For a while I tried to occupy all my now-found free time with golf and fishing. Unfortunately in Idaho, you only get about six months of weather decent enough to do either. And the wind blows relentlessly. And I can’t say either pursuit adds much of value to anyone other than myself.
I had always wanted to try writing, and in fact, had a few false starts along the years, but never took the time to finish anything or really learn the craft. But now I was free, so I grabbed one of my dozens of latent story ideas and launched myself.
Probably it’s an ego thing. I reasoned if I was successful at telling a story, maybe someone out there would laugh, or cry or escape into a world I created. Maybe someday my kids will read my stories and pass them on to their kids and in a way I’ll live forever.
What have you written (books, short stories, articles, etc.)?
In the dozen or so years I’ve been at this, I’ve completed three novels, with a fourth nearly done, but set aside for a while to incubate. I’m a third of the way through my fifth novel. I’ve also written a dozen or so short stories.
Which of the novels you’ve written are your favorite and why?
My last novel, Star Eaters, is my favorite. I think the story is good, but more than that, I’ve had a lot of help on perfecting the manuscript. First, it was rigorously critiqued by my writing group. Later, the story caught the attention of an agent, who encouraged me to try getting a professional editor take a whack at it. I took his advice and actually hired two editors work it over - a story editor and a line editor.
The feedback from all those folks helped me remember all those rules of grammar I once learned and taught me a lot about story pace and development. I may never get this novel published, but it marked a turning point in my writing career…I believe I’m a far better writer because of all the help I’ve received.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have a pretty long list, as I knock off about a book a week. When I crave weirdness, I go to Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crighton, or Scott Sigler. If I’m hungry for SciFi or Fantasy, give me Ben Bova, Terry Brooks, Suzanne Collins, Robert Sawyer, Jack McDevitt. Thriller/spy writers like Brad Thor, Lee Child, Vince Flynn and Daniel Silva trip my trigger. I’ve also enjoyed more conventional stories from talented, best seller authors like John Grisham, Ridley Pearson, James Lee Burke, Stieg Larson, Wilber Smith, even Janet Evanovich.
What is your favorite genre to read?
I like thrillers - the conventional spy, secret agent, anti-terrorist good guy vs. bad guy stories
What is your obligation to your readers?
To give them a story they will not forget, and maybe a warning to tuck away that our world is in a lot of danger these days and the future may have to be approached very carefully.
What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?
To always keep writing and never stop learning.
Who are your favorite hero and heroine?
Jack Reacher – Creation of Lee Child – masculine, competent, different
Stephanie Plum – Creation of Janet Evanovich - cute, real, never gives up
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Be prepared to go into it with gusto. Half an effort, with lots of excuses to avoid wordsmithing won’t get you there.
What was your easiest book to write?
I wrote a thriller called Incendiary. It had elements of firefighting and light airplane flying, which are things I have done during my lifetime. It was also set in parts of the world where I have lived at one time or another.
Which was the hardest?
A novel I’m calling Prodigy. I had the first part of the story nailed, but could not find a way to conclude it to my satisfaction. It is now sitting quietly in a box in my closet waiting for a new inspiration to strike.
What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?
Finding good ways to “show” instead of “tell”
Do you write by an outline? If not, what is your method?
Sometimes a general one, but mostly…no. I try to get an idea in my head of where the story goes in general then let the characters take me there.
Do you have set hours in the day to write?
I try to crank out at least 500 words before noon then go do other stuff.
Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?
I’m not of the opinion writing is tough. Fighting forest fires is tough. Manual labor in an oil field is tough. Studying for final exams is tough. Giving a technical presentation to a vice president is tough. Telling a man you’re laying him off is tough. I’ve done all those things and I’d by far rather write.