Today we sit down with mystery, thriller, and suspense author Randy Rawls for an interview. Learn more about Randy and his books at his website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I've been a writer of sorts all my life, starting in grade school. Over the years, I started many stories, but gave up. In the early 1990's, I managed to write THE END on one of my efforts and realized I truly could finish a story. I've been doing it since.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Hmmm. This is a tough question. It depends on how one defines "publication." Simple publication — about seven years. Publication with one of the big NY houses, never. However, Dating Death is my twelfth "published" book, so I'm satisfied with my "career."
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Some of each. The first two books in my Beth Bowman series were traditionally published. Others, including Dating Death, are indie published. And, of course, I have some recovered rights that I e-published. Guess you'd call me a "jack-of-all-trades" in the publishing world.
Where do you write?
I write in my "office" on my PC, or kicked back in my recliner on my laptop. Also, hotel rooms, or wherever I happen to be when the mood strikes. As long as my laptop will boot, I can write—and do write.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Definitely not one who needs (or wants) silence. I'm a news junky, so usually the TV is on in the background at one of the inane news stations with the talking heads spouting their endless repetitions.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
First, from my life. Probably, a lot, although I cannot identify any one thing. I suspect that my characters capture aspects of people I've known here and there. In the case of villains, ones I've read, mixed with ones I've seen on TV or in the movies, mixed with those in my imagination.
Plots. I pull most of my stories from the news (remember, news junky). For example, Dating Death begins with a dirty politician in South Florida. I don't claim we have a monopoly on them here in paradise, but anyone who studies the news will soon realize that there are forces driving decisions other than altruism.
Describe your process for naming your character?
I have a tough time naming characters. Once in a while, a name will pop into my head, but often I have to compile lists of names and pick one. For example, Beth Bowman, the heroine of Dating Death. When I decided to write a female lead, the name Beth just seemed automatic. In my mind, it's a strong name implying feistiness, trustworthiness, and tenaciousness. Don't know why. It just does. However, I needed a last name for Beth and there, I was stuck. Finally, after deciding that Beth was a transplanted Texan, I decided to find a name that would identify with her background. Ah, the Alamo came to mind. So, I searched the names of its defenders. When I saw the name Bowman, I knew I had a fit. Beth Bowman was born.
Naming villains is even tougher. I want a name that stands out, that fits the personality I give him/her, something that will stand out in the reader's mind. In Dating Death, I pondered what to name the primary villain. I wanted something that showed an ego out of control, a Mr. ??. But, not a normal Mr., a special. Maybe a Mr. Initials. Not normal initials, though. I came up with Mr. ZZ. Then I had to find names that fit the initials. Aha, Zackery Zogby popped up perfect.
So, as you can see, naming characters gets complicated with me.
Real settings or fictional towns?
Fictional towns located in a real area. Since there is often a contentious, scowling police detective in my stories, I don't want any specific police department upset with me. Dating Death is set in Coral Lakes, Florida, a small city located somewhere between Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
This one forced a smile. No doubt in my mind. Dot. She is a homeless person in her sixties, who served 10 years in prison for killing her lover. Before that, she was a "kept" woman until she "aged" out and was being passed around like a used sponge. Now, she's a smart-mouthed Beth Bowman advocate and will follow and defend Beth anywhere, anytime.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Oh, my. My wife could probably answer this with a long list. However, trying to settle on one thing, I'll go with accuracy. When reading a book, if I spot something that is incorrect, it ruins my taste for the story—for example, a revolver with a safety, a clip in an M-16. Ugh. So, in my stories, I am quick to research a minor point to make sure I get it right. For example, in my second Tom Jeffries, I had a villain firing an Uzi on full automatic. It was important to me to know which way the barrel would kick, so I researched it. Once I had satisfied myself that I knew the answer, I wrote the scene. Did it add anything important? Probably not, but I knew it was accurate.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
I have read so many fantastic books, but I'll stick with three that I reread every few years. They've been with me my whole adult life, and I'd be thrilled to have copies in my casket. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. If you're surprised at my last choice, read it. As with The Old Man and the Sea, there is a different story each time I read it.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Good question. Allowing a character to be killed off—one I wanted back in later stories. While his death was important to the first story, my do-over would be to find another way to handle it. I'm very careful now when I consider losing a character. He can be wounded and live for another appearance. For example. In Hot Rocks, my first Beth Bowman, I had a lovable villain named Bruce Langston. Bruce was seriously injured, but I left it open as to whether he recovered or not. This was accidental. As far as I could see then, I was finished with Bruce Langston. However, in book three, Dating Death, I needed a bad guy from Beth's past. Hot dang, I could bring back Bruce. Worked like a charm (for me, anyway).
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Authors, agents, and editors who lie to those seeking their advice. One of the biggest lies in the business is, "Just write a great book, and it'll be published." This business is built around "who you know" far more than writing ability. Joe Smucklewortzer can write the greatest book in history and never see it published. Yes, quality counts, but it's secondary.
The second is the successful writer who says, "I just sat down and dashed off a book, and everyone wanted to publish it." I'm not saying this has never happened, but I know the tough, tough road to publication. And it has little to do with "dashing off a book." Look behind the scenes and you'll discover that author's road to publication had little to do with "dashing off a book." Might want to check his/her family tree.
Wouldn't it be more beneficial to everyone if the author, the agent, and the editor told the truth? Yes, it might devastate some, but it would save many others the distress of learning the facts the hard way.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
I assume you mean after sufficient water and food. Then the answer is books, books, and more books. I cannot imagine life without reading. I would want enough so I never had to reread one—other than The Old Man and the Sea, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Alice in Wonderland, of course. So many years ago, patient teachers drilled into me the ability to read. I might not have appreciated it then, but I bless them now.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
No answer for this one. I've read far too many fantastic stories to signal out one. Heck, I can't even decide on one author. Every decade has produced a cornucopia of authors and stories that will live through the ages. And you can count back as many decades as you choose, long after you run out of fingers, toes, and ears—throughout your neighborhood.
Ocean or mountains?
No contest. Ocean. Soothing breezes, the cooing wash of the waves. Oh yes, ocean.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country boy, born, bred, and will die that way.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Keep writing. Keep reading. Stay involved. Retirement allows me to do each of these. This year, I am Chapter President of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Chair of the Architectural Review Board in my development, write for and handle the layout of our community newspaper, The Voice for All Seasons, and Secretary of our Men's Club. These kinds of things keep me young enough to write and read, my true joys.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I have written three series: Ace Edwards, Dallas PI series; Tom Jeffries, South Florida PI series; Beth Bowman, South Florida series; Down By the River, a historical taking place in 1955-1956; plus assorted short stories. I also have a standalone that I'm shopping. All except the last one are available from Amazon. Check me out. You might find something you like.
The Chief of Police of Coral Lakes, FL has the goods on Roger Adamson, a dirty politician. However, the chief knows Adamson has additional information that could bring down a drug lord and disembowel his organization. Chief Elston asks Beth Bowman, a South Florida PI, to assist by becoming Adamson's consort/bodyguard while Adamson parses out data. Beth agrees, not realizing multiple homicides, a kidnapping, a tight frame for murder, and the loss of the man she loves await her. If not for Beth's homeless friends, all might be lost.