Barbara: After getting a degree in Criminology, what made you decide to become a writer?
RD: I wasn't tall enough or heavy enough to be an effective patrol officer. I didn't realize it for a time but then when I saw others officers could cuff a suspect with ease, I knew I was putting them at risk. I always think I can do really physical things and I can, but not up against someone weighing 200 lbs when I weigh barely 100 lbs. I took up probation. When my kids were older, I worked for an electronics company, various retail stores and the government. When my last kid left home I was out of a job as a mom so I wrote a story that was accepted. I had written a lot when I was a child but college, marriage and kids as well as work, too, all of my time.
Barbara: How do the events in your own life affect your writing? Are any of the characters in your books and stories based on people that you know?
RD: No I never write about anyone I know. The characters are just born, whole and with a background, when I think of a plot. It's sort of like magic. I write pages and pages about the character before starting the story so I really know them. I guess they are somewhat like me but it doesn't feel like they are. They have different goals and ideas. I once wrote a story about a woman who took her kid to school and had a terrible problem. I said the woman wore a pink robe and had brown hair. The woman in the story had a flat tire at the school and the resident priest had to change her tire. At the time I wrote it I had a green bathrobe and blond hair. But my friend had a pink robe and brown hair. She was annoyed with me for years.
Barbara: Would you please describe your own writing process? Is it different for novels than it is for short stories?
RD: Maybe. A short story takes place in a short period of time. A novel can take place over months, years or lifetimes. I write by thinking of a sentence that fits the plot. A sentence that states the theme. I do this for both short stories and novels. Then I think "What if?" And I make lists and timelines of what if possibilities. I have to stand outside of myself when I write science fiction or fantasy to imagine the most unusual events. It's a bit like watching a movie. I can't wait for the next scene.
Barbara: How long did it take for you to publish your first piece of writing?
RD: I was first published at 10 and again at 14 but didn't seriously write for life until I was around forty. I sold my first article about being an older woman and taking charge of one's life. It seems funny now that it was more than 20 years ago. It was printed in a now-closed woman's magazine called Broomsticks.
Barbara: What was your first novel and how did the idea come to you to write it?
RD: My first novel was Mama Tried to Raise a Lady which was first published under the title: Mama Stories in 2000. It sold very well and I was thrilled. My mother was a Southern lady and when she had me she didn't know what to do with a wild tomboy who only wanted to play outside. So the stories are ones from my childhood when I lived on a working farm. I told the stories to my kids and other kids and even adults and when an editor said, "Do you have any more of these written?" I said yes and wrote down five or six more. Mama was first an ebook, then a print book, and now is an ebook again. I would love to have it printed again. People really like it, kids and grown-ups alike. It is still an ebook and is also listed at Amazon.
Barbara: Which do you like writing better, short stories or novels? Why?
RD: I guess I like short stories because I like to try to craft something that is a pleasure to the reader that can be complete it in a single sitting. Not as many people today read long books as I did when I was a child. I love novels though. The complexity and completeness of time make them a daring challenge and always a great effort. But then writing is hard work. I want to do the best that I can. I have a contract with readers that says I will try to write the best stories or novels that I can if they will take the time to read them. I hope I never let a reader down; yet, sometimes I do.
Barbara: Please tell us about a typical writing day for you. Where do you write? Are there things you must have for writing?
RD: I go to my office after breakfast and read my email. The I write until one o'clock when I take two hours for lunch with my husband and do errands in town. At three o'clock I begin to rewrite work that is current. At five o'clock I quit for two hours and have dinner. Then I work on new stories and novels until midnight or later. Boring, I guess, but I love it. My dog hangs out with me; she is waiting for walks on the break times.
Barbara: Some of your stories are available for free on-line. How did you decide which stories to offer for free?
RD: After the stories are around for awhile in ezines or in print and if I own the rights, I get a joy out of putting them up for free. I write more than I could ever sell. I write all the time. One story has sold at least ten times and now that story is at www.bewilderingstories.com under my name. It's called "The Whimsy" and it a Gothic genre gypsy mystery.
Barbara: Are you responsible for all of the marketing for your books or does your publisher contribute to your efforts?
RD: Not even the brick-and-mortar stores do as much in advertising as they use to do. Unless you're Paris Hilton or Hillary Clinton. My publisher, Arline Chase, does promote my book Evil Angel online but most of it is up to me. I'm not crazy about hawking my books but I do it or otherwise no one would know about anything I wrote! I give talks and and do book signings. I am trying to get much better at it. I just recently talked to some women about keeping a journal; I think that is a rewarding thing that everyone should do.
Barbara: Most of your stories seem to be about murders or seriously deranged people. Have you ever written anything that does not deal with crime?
RD: Oh, I think so. Lots of them are about dogs and the people who love them. There's quite a bit of scient fiction and horror. I have two books at www.fictionwise.com and www.mobipocket.com that are romance and drama. The first is Sorrow's Field, about a blind woman in the 1880's London and how she runs away from her adoptive cruel father to find her birth mother. The other is Doors: Five Stories of Strong Women. Also at www.fictionwise.com and www.mobipocket.com is a detective novella about Marion Riles Soft-boiled Detective. This humor and crime combined. These stories just run out the end of my fingers. Maybe I should harness my imagination AND my fingers.
Barbara: What are your plans for future books? Do you have a book ready to be published?
RD: I am finishing Broken Angels, a novel of two friends who meet in Memphis during the civil rights movement and continue to be friends for all their lives. Earle is emotionally damaged and Stumpy is phyically challenged. The research has been so much fun. They meet in 1961, graduate in 1972 and live their lives against the background of a changing culture. I currently have Tahki's Last Chance a book in progress with six chapters up at www.textnovel.com and a story about redemption and a dog called Red Ruby at www.bookrix.com. These last two are free, of course. People like free stories and I write so much that . . . well, I can't possibly sell them all.
Barbara: Evil Angel is your latest book. It is available as an eBook. Is this also available in print? How many of your books are also available in print?
RD: Yes, Evil Angel is at Amazon.com. Mama Tried to Raise a Lady, Saving Reverend Clayton with Louise Ulmer are there too. I have many many stories in anthologies. Those are listed on my website www.rdlarson.com . I also have a blog www.rdlarsonwriter.com on which I have reviews and interviews. Mostly though on the blog I write about Fiction Flash, Politcal Slash and Doggie Splash, my hobbies.
Hey Barbara, thank you for asking me to participate. If anyone has questions they can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.