Thursday, January 26, 2017

An Interview With Robert J. Randisi

Today I am beyond thrilled to present my interview with author Robert J. Randisi. It would be a gross understatement to simply say Randisi is prolific. As you’ll see, he’s a writing machine! He has one heck of a resume. Besides writing hundreds of novels (hundreds, people), he is the founder of the Private Eye Writers of America. The group awards the prestigious Shamus Award each year, honoring great detective fiction. He’s edited anthologies. He’s created numerous book series. In short, he’s one of a kind. He is also one of my literary heroes.

And, he was kind enough to answer my pesky questions. Without farther ado, here’s Robert.

Ryan: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I know you are busy based upon the sheer number of books you publish! So, I’ll start with that.

Please take us through typical month for you. Do you still publish at least one book a month (I know the Gunsmith used to come out monthly and they still seem to)? How many books do you work on at one time?

Robert: I typically work on two books a month, one of which is a Gunsmith, the other varies, sometimes another Western, sometimes a Mystery. I work from 1-5 PM, have dinner, take a nap, work from 9-12, take a half hour break then work from 12:30-4 AM.  I go to bed at 5-5:30 AM, get up at noon, have breakfast and start again. Occasionally the errands of normal life--bank, post office, grocery shopping, doctor's visits--interfere.

Ryan: How many works do you have published as of now?

Robert: The nearest I can figure right now is between 640-650. 

Ryan: How long have you been a full-time writer? Did you always know that is what you wanted to do?

Robert: This month--January 2017--marks my 35th anniversary as a full-time writer.  I decided when I was 15 that I wanted to write for a living by the time I was 30, and that's what I did.

Ryan: What kind of writing schedule do you keep each day? Do you keep set hours or do you have a word threshold (5,000 words a day, etc.)?

Robert: I went into this a bit in question 1. I keep to those hours I indicated, but I try to produce 5-7 pages an hour. In my younger days my normal speed was 10 pages an hour. I'm getting older.

Ryan: Do you ever think of one day hanging it up, or will you write as long as you’re able?

Robert: There will be no retirement. I figure if I write til I'm 90 I'll be close to 1000 books. It's not something I'm aiming for. I never intended to write so many books, but it's just something I do.  It's not even a talent, it's a natural ability.

Ryan: I enjoy your westerns and your mysteries with equal measure. Do you prefer writing in one genre over the other? You can write across the two seamlessly. Has it always been that way, or was it harder in the beginning?

Robert: My preference has always been private eye novels. I've never had a problem moving back and forth between genres. The lone gunfighter and private eye have a lot in common, most notably the same kind of code.

Ryan: One thing that always strikes me about your work is the pacing. I dream of writing that way! Lean, no filler, always entertaining. How did you learn that style? Did it come naturally in the beginning? What pointers might you have for other writers regarding pacing?

Robert: Everything I do I just do. I never took a course, never practiced--DOING it IS practice. My advice to writers is always the same--SIT DOWN AND WRITE. Too much thinking gets in the way.

Ryan: I’d like to talk about westerns for a minute. I often hear that it’s a dying genre. I know many traditional publishers have outright ceased production of westerns or have scaled drastically back. Do you think there are enough new guys to keep the genre alive? Do you think there are enough readers?

Robert: I believe there's a core readership for every genre. The number fluctuates, but readers are always there. Right now traditional publishers don't believe in westerns, but we have enough small press, ebook companies and individual authors who are publishing westerns to keep the genre alive and well.

Ryan: Speaking of the traditional publishers cutting so many westerns, I was happy that you’ve continued The Gunsmith novels, finding a new home for them. Will Clint Adams remain with us for a while? Is he headed off into the sunset anytime soon?

Robert: Clint will be around as long as I am, and I'm taking steps to see that the series continues even when I'm gone-as long as people want to read about him.

Ryan: Switching to mysteries, I have to ask about your Rat Pack series. I love it! Will we see more of Frank, Sammy, and Dino in the future?

Robert: Definitely. For a while I thought I'd stop after 6, or 10, but now I think I'll keep going. Right now I'm working on one that guest stars Jackie Gleason. And Jerry Lewis is in the future.

Ryan: What advice do you have for writers? Is there anything you wish someone would have told you earlier in your career?

Robert: The advice I got early in my career was to slow down. That was very bad advice.  My advice is, once you discover what your natural speed is, stick to it. Don't try to slow down, or speed up. NATURAL makes it all flow.

Ryan: Finally, what can we expect from you this year? Any new titles you’d like to tell us about?

Robert: More Gunsmiths, a new series called Lady Gunsmith starts in March. My third hit man with a soul book is due 2/27 from Down & Out Books. I'll be doing a second Nashville private eye novel for Perfect Crime Books, a new western for Five Star Books that continues the Sons of Daniel Shaye series. And I have plans for many other books in both genres.

Ryan: Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. And thank you for all of the entertainment you’ve provided through the years. I’m not just blowing smoke, but you’re one of the best and certainly a favorite of mine. I really appreciate this!

Robert: It was my pleasure, Ryan. Thanks for asking.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

An Interview with Ron Fortier

Ron Fortier is a busy guy. He has one heck of an impressive resume! Over the years, he’s worked in comics (Terminator, Green Hornet, the Incredible Hulk, Popeye, among others), written novels, and edited. Besides all of this, he is founder of Airship 27, a leading voice in the New Pulp Fiction movement. Plus, he’s an all-around nice guy and I’m pleased to present this interview with him. I’ve left my questions identified as “Q” rather than “RF” since Ron and I have the same initials. Y’all enjoy!

Ron, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I know you’re very busy as you’re a man who wears many hats in the publishing industry. I’ll keep it brief and we’ll get right down to it.

Q: Airship 27 seems to be the leader in publishing new pulp fiction. I guess I should start at the beginning and ask, how do you personally define “pulp fiction?”

RF: Any fast-paced action-adventure fiction that has larger than life heroes and totally evil twisted villains. Genre is unimportant, be it a crime story or pirate yarn, the pacing has to be lightning fast and never bogged down with introspection or other such boring prose. Readers want pulp to entertain them, not educate them.

Q: Have you always been interested in pulp fiction? What started your love of the genre?

RF: I got my writing start in the comics feel and over time began to understand how comics, especially in the 30s were inspired by the hero pulps of that era. Characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage would later be the molds from which such comic favorites as Batman and Superman would spring. Curious about this history, I slowly began researching the history of American pulps until in the end I was a bonefide fan.

Q: Did you know, even in childhood, that pulp would be your career? How long have you been a full-time writer?

RF: The above answer deals with some of that in that I first grew up as a dedicated comic book fan. I sold my first story in the early 70s but writing was always a part time job while I worked a 40-hour week at a local GE Factory which provided my family in regards to educating five kids and keeping them fed and insured. In 2004 I retired and then devoted my time to writing one hundred percent.

Q: You’ve worked in comics, novels, short stories, and a variety of other mediums. Do you have a favorite?

RF: Although I do love all three forms, I have to confess comic scripting is still my favorite. Prose is a solitary endeavor and though it does have its own rewards, there is nothing like working with a talented graphic artist to bring a tale to visual life. I've been blessed with working with some of the best in the business such as Gary Kato, Jeff Butler, Rob Davis and of course Alex Ross.

Q: You seem to spend a lot of time editing. Airship 27 publishes so many other authors’ work, not just your own. Would you say you spend more time writing, editing, or an equal amount of time on both?

RF: Oh yes, the Catch-22 of being an editor. With the success of Airship 27, more and more talented new writers are coming to us and in the past few years I've found myself doing lots more editing and having to push aside my own writing goals. I recently finished my fifth Captain Hazzard novel, which I had started three years ago. That's primarily because editing just took over my life. I hope to be able to balance it a bit more evenly in the future. If that is at all possible.

Q: When you’re writing, what is your process like? Do you keep set hours? Do you have a minimum word count for the day that you won’t stop until you’ve reached?

RF: I'm a free-wheeling writer as I've never been able to conform to any routine. Generally, I spend several hours editing at the start of the day. Then I'll take a break to do the normal every day errands, like grocery shopping, going out to a movie or simply sitting down to read a book. Then by late afternoon I'll get to my own writing. I tend to see stories in my imagination in scenes, one following the other in the narrative. Thus, my aim when I do write is to tackle the next scene and get it completed. Doesn't matter if it is a short or long section and once finished, I'm done for the day. I'm comfortable with building a story like this, scene by scene until I reach the end.

Q: What does the future of pulp fiction look like? Are there enough authors to keep it going?

RF: I think the future of pulp fiction is better than ever as more and more writers are discovering it. And by that, I mean young college age writers. Back in the 40s and 50s there was some kind of stigma put on populace literature. It seemed academia, for whatever highbrow reasons, labeled all pulp fiction as junk and not worthy of critical attention. But the truth was most of the famous big name authors, ala Erle Stanley Gardner, Bob Silverberg, Isaac Asimov and so many others actually had their start in the pulps. So pulps evolved into the 60s and 70s paperbacks producing such renown writers as Clive Cussler, Stephen King etc. Today, with their successes, the literary community has finally come around to recognizing the significant contributions to our culture that pulps have made and today writers don't shun the word, they are actually flattered to be known as "pulp" writers.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring pulp authors? What could you say to them that you wish someone would have told you?

RF: When you write anything, better make sure you are having fun while you are at it. Because if you aren't having fun writing it, how do you expect your readers to have fun reading it?  Simple advice and one I learned to take to heart over the years. Write what you love and what excites you and most likely you'll entertain lots of other people along the way.

Q: Finally, what are some of the upcoming titles from Airship 27 that we can look forward to?

RF: Well, it's a new year and we just kicked things off with a great western, "Comanche Blood" by R.A. Jones. We'll be following this up with a pirate adventure, "Queen of Anarchy" by Nancy Hansen and after that, a book I'm really excited about, "Holmes & Houdini" by I.A. Watson. So, as you can see, as ever, lots of great books in lots of genres. And all of them pure pulp fiction.

Ron, thank you again! You’ve always been very kind and gracious with your time. Thank you for all the entertainment you’ve given readers like me through the years. I can’t wait for Airship’s future titles!
For more information, check out Airship 27's website!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Few Words on Writing

I'm no expert when it comes to writing. I'm not pretending to be. I do know what has worked for me.
I’ve started 2017 at a breakneck speed. I've written 56,000 words. I can't keep this pace up long. I don't write full-time. Not yet. I hope one day…
2016 finished really strong for me. Reviews have been good and sales even better. I’m  still in the romance game, but at least I'm having fun and making money (don’t judge; a fella does what he has to do to get a foot in the door).
A friend recently asked how I've increased my output. How am I writing at a faster pace? I told him I have no doubt the reason. It's what I believe the key to being a good writer is. I read.
An author I follow on social media recently made a comment that for a writer, all reading is research. He's a wise man.
When I read, I soak up tips and pointers from the masters without even realizing it. It sinks in through osmosis. It's as if these guys mentor me, even though I never speak to many of them.
When I read I learn sentence and paragraph structure, pacing, and story flow. I have no doubt it all shows up in my own work. When I spend time with authors who are great, I find  myself getting better than I was.
So if you want to write, my humble advice, and take it for what it's worth, is to read, read, read! Soak it all in. Enjoy the stories for what they are. Be entertained! But I promise, it will improve your own craft.
So here are a few recommendations.
Louis L’Amour was terrific. For sheer imagination, I love the guy. He could take a location and write a fun, exciting tale around it.
For pacing, I read a lot of James Reasoner! Every part of his books propel the action, moving the plot forward. Pacing is something I often struggle with. I wrote a romance following “Reasoner’s Rules” (pacing tips I've learned just by reading his work—but I like the name). It's the best reviewed and highest selling work I've ever done.
Speaking of pacing, Robert Randisi knows a thing or two, or a hundred. He writes the Gunsmith series under a pen, as well as a ton of titles under his own name. Check out his Rat Pack mystery series! Fun and fast.
And while we are talking pace, let's talk Lee Goldberg. King City is a great place to start. It's like watching an action movie.
You want to read a well-crafted action scene? Check out John Hegenberger. The man knows where it's at.
If you want to see a fine example of nonstop excitement, read Brad Thor or the late, great Vince Flynn. Those are darn good thrillers they put out.
And finally, for great first person perspective, Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole books are wonderful.
Let me know your thoughts and the writers that help you!