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.


  1. Finding your natural pace and sticking to it is excellent advice. And the way to find that pace is to follow some of Bob's other advice: sit down and write. Great interview!

  2. I'm not overstating the point here, but in this first month of 2017, this is an interview that landed at precisely the right time. I especially appreciated Robert's advice on writing and finding one's natural pace. I also consider the hours worked to be eye-opening. Writing is a real job. Sure, it's a job where you get to make stuff up for a living, but it's a real, honest-to-goodness job.