“Interview with Ronnie L Richards, author of Shadow Comfort”

Q: Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
A: On your own work, you should be. Your writing will most likely have a wide audience and proper grammar allows them to stay in the story without mentally correcting the grammar. I allow bad grammar in a character’s dialog if that is their tendency. As for policing other people’s grammar, I let it slide. Because I have to work at keeping my grammar proper, I feel I am not in a position to be correcting anyone.

Q: How important is research to you when writing a book?
A. Research is critical, even in fiction. Accurate facts and details add to the believability of any story. For my novel “Full Circle: A Life Story”, which is based on my grandparents’ early lives together, I researched life in Arizona cotton camps in the late 1930’s. I also researched why families lost their farms in eastern Oklahoma after WWI to better understand the migration to Arizona and California to be migrant workers. I felt the research was necessary to build a believable backdrop for the story. The conditions in the migrant camps of that time played an important role in my grandparents’ lives.

Q: What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
A: I wrote my first novel, “Full Circle: A Life Story” in longhand using a fountain pen and steno pads. This was in the late 1990’s and computers and word processors were common and I worked in IT at the time. I chose pen and paper because I did not feel creative sitting at a keyboard. Plus, I am a visual writer. I write the scenes and dialog being played out in my mind. At the time of my first novel, my typing skills were not sufficient to keep up with the story being played out. My second novel, “Shadow Comfort”, has been written entirely on a computer. My typing skills allow me to get the scene down as it unfolds. It did take practice to become creative sitting at a keyboard. And, since I don’t have to watch what I type, I can focus on the story being played out in my head.

Q: How often do you write?
A: With rare exception, I write every day. I just finished my second novel, plus I have two other novels started, plus I write a blog. Trying to do all of that around a full-time IT job means I need to write every day. The good thing about so many writing projects is I rarely have writer’s block because if I get hung up on one writing project, I have others to work on.

Q: Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
A: The only set schedule I have is to try to write every day. Between my day job and my dog, my schedule is hectic and varies from day to day. I can usually manage an hour or two at the least each day to devote to writing.

Q: Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
A: No. Because of my day job, the amount of time I can devote to writing each day varies from day to day. And even if I could schedule my time as I wish, I would not impose the type of requirements that I feel would interfere with my creativity and writing flow. My novels are character driven and I need to allow the characters the freedom of being who they are without putting constraints on how much I expect from them each day. As for my blog, I write in the moment. The articles are, for the most part, about what I am going through and feeling at the time.

Q: Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?
A: Yes. And no. For many of us, writing is done around other full-time jobs. So the opportunity to write often happens at a time normally associated with socialization times. We have to choose between getting our words down or interacting with others.

Q: Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
A: My novels are character driven and do not follow a plot. There is a story line and underlying theme. But I do not plot out the story from front to back.

Q: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
A: I read every day. Often, I am reading more than one book at a time. I don’t have a favorite author for a couple reasons. I don’t want to find myself wrapped up with just a handful of works by favorite authors. And, I am with my reading like I am with my music. I am very eclectic. I don’t have a favorite genre. I am always looking for new, and fresh works by new, and relatively unheard of authors.

Q: Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?
A: I read all reviews and comments. As for replying to reviews, most sites frown on authors replying to reviews. But, I always reply to comments on my sites or other sites, such as Goodreads.

Q: Does a bad review affect your writing?
A: No. A bad review is difficult to take because my writing is so personal. But, I do not let it determine what I write or how I write. I realize not everyone is going to like what I write. Unfortunately, knowing that does not make it any easier on my feelings.

Q: Do your novels carry a message?
A: The two I have written to date, do. They are about struggle and perseverance.

Q: Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
A: Yes, I have in both of them. In the opening chapter of “Full Circle: A Life Story”, some of the scenes between my grandfather and grandmother actually were between myself and my grandmother. The novel “Shadow Comfort” is loosely based on a certain summer when I was young. Many of the scenes in the book actually happened to me.

Q: Poets and writers in general, have a reputation of committing suicide; in your opinion, why is that the case?
A: Many poets and writers are creative people who have high I.Q.’s and are very sensitive. An inordinately high percentage of people with depression are very creative and intelligent. I live with General Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. I don’t believe being writers and poets is the reason for the high suicide rate so much as the type of people that often become writers and poets.

Q: How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?
A: For me, fiction writing is a passion. My non-fiction blog is a necessity. I have found that writing what I am going through while dealing with anxiety and depression is a coping mechanism for me. And sharing it on my blog is a way of helping others.

Q: Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or can you just sit in the middle of a cafe full of people and write?
A: I have found I am my most creative when I am in the middle of a cafe full of people. I wrote my first novel almost entirely in Borders Cafe back when there was a Borders Book Store. And I have written my second novel in Starbucks. I need the activity to help me zone out, almost like white noise to me, while my subconscious works on my writing.

Q: Have you ever written a character with an actor in mind?
A: No. At least not yet. All of my characters are based on someone I know or have known. Often a montage of people I know. So much so that I recently posted on my Facebook page: How you treated me in my past determines how I portrayed you in my novels. Think about that, see if you are in my novels and if so, was I accurate?

Q: Which literary character do you most resonate with on a personal level?
A: The down on his luck and love main characters of Charles Bukowski’s poetry.

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, which country would you choose and why?
A: The United Kingdom. I grew up escaping the harsh reality of my childhood through the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Author Conan Doyle, and William Shakespeare. For me, the mecca of writing is the UK.

Q: Do you blog?
A: Yes. I have a blog titled “The Ramblings of a Writer” and it does tend to ramble at times. Most of my articles deal with what it is like living with anxiety and depression while I am coping with a bout of major depression. The most difficult part for me when I started writing the blog was transitioning from fiction to nonfiction. It is one thing to put yourself out there in the anonymity of a fictional character and quite another to bare the real you to readers, especially to those people who know you.

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