Randy Rawls has been a friend of mine since…well…seems like forever! If you’ve met him, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, you should. It’s an experience. Here’s what Randy has to share with us today:
PJ: Randy, how long have you been writing?
Randy: First, PJ, let me thank you for bringing me on. As a writer with several books on the market, I need exposure to the public. It is through such wonderful people like you that I gain an audience. Hopefully, someone will take a look at my latest, THORNS ON ROSES, a South Florida thriller, and decide to risk a few dollars.
Now, back to your question. The easy answer is to say I’ve been writing all my life, and it would be accurate. In one form or the other, writing has been a constant part of my life every step of the way. But, as I’ve gone through the learning process of writing fiction (which is still ongoing), I’ve recognized that my writing prior to about 1992 ill prepared me to write fiction. So, if I change your question to “How long have you been writing fiction?” I can honestly answer, “I’ve been learning to write fiction since about 1992.”
The most significant thing I’ve learned in these about twenty years is that writing fiction is an acquired skill.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Randy: Successful? Not there yet. But I’m still trying—writing and learning and applying myself every day.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Randy: Oh, no. I have seen such an evolution in writing, in how one gets published, and in the marketplace.
Back in those historic times of the early 1990’s, the transom still existed. A writer could approach a major publisher direct. Since then, of course, agents have become the gatekeepers and access through the transom has disappeared—unless you have a famous name that will sell books, no matter the quality.
There used to be scads of mid-list writers with the majors. Then in the mid to late 90’s, publishers began scrubbing their lists. Decisions were made based on sales, resulting in many wonderful writers being dropped.
Then came the mergers and buyouts. From a richness of publishing houses available to writers, the market shrunk to a small handful. And, since Agents have this same small number to sell to, they have become more selective in whom they accept. Everything now seems driven toward playing it safe: stay with the “Name” writer who has already proved his worth, pull in the foreign published book with a track record, grab the latest Hollywood sensation or TV sensation or music sensation or person who has made themselves infamous through scandalous actions, etc. A writer with no “name” and no track record finds himself struggling against almost insurmountable odds.
And, of course, the ebook revolution. Who could have foreseen this a few years ago? Yikes! I’m going to hang around just to see what’s next.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Randy: Writing income? My writing expenses—promotion, travel, and publicity—have more than outstripped what income I’ve had. I won’t mention the percentage of outstripped, but think of how the National debt is growing.
I never went into this expecting riches. My pleasure comes from folks telling me they enjoyed my stories. However, it would be nice to break even. Hopefully, the release of HOT ROCKS from Midnight Ink will reverse my negative income trend.
PJ: I hope so too! Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Randy: After my first manuscript was completed, I poured a lot of effort into finding a publisher. Once I turned that corner—not with manuscript #1, but with #3—I felt justified. But the next book had to be written and the next and the next. And each of those had to find a publisher. Since I haven’t broken into the NY publishing world yet, I’m still trying. But, not with the intensity I once tried. I’m quite happy being with Midnight Ink, and I hope there will be several more books in the Beth Bowman series.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Randy: Three manuscripts and numerous short stories. JAKE’S BURN, number one in the Ace Edwards series, was my first published. It was my third full manuscript and was published eight-nine years after I decided to write fiction.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Randy: Perhaps not what I would do, but what I should do. I should take more time learning to write fiction, rather than assuming I knew how. I suspect that’s the mistake that every writer makes. We assume that since we’ve been a “writer” for many years, we can write fiction. Not!
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Randy: We start first with the fact I write for pleasure, not for a livelihood. So, whether I write or not, no one is going hungry. As far as dividing my time, whatever I’m in the mood to do. Some days it’s lock the door and write. Others, it’s spend the day on the Internet, promoting, begging for sales. On another day, I might pull up a short story or a manuscript I haven’t sold and use my time writing queries.
I admire those who are disciplined enough to apportion their time. I am not one of them.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Randy: I really can’t come up with one. Writing THE END the first time, and every time since, was exciting. My first signing, my first radio show, my first TV appearance, my first review—all of these things were exciting. There was one signing when I sold 135 books, still a personal best. That was exciting.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Randy: Disappointing? Probably being rejected by an agent, any agent. Since my first hobby is reading, I firmly believe my stories are as good as many coming out of NY. Yet, agents reject them. Yeah, that’s disappointing.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Randy: Having someone tell me they recognized a character in one of my stories. It was a totally fictitious character, created out of my imagination, yet she was so real to the reader she thought she knew who I was describing. Once I finished saying no, no, no, I felt pretty good.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Randy: My voice. I believe I bring a distinctive voice to my writing. Since I grew up in North Carolina then had a career in the Army, followed by second career in the Department of Defense, my life has been shaped by many different sources. I believe I take that voice into my stories.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Randy: Same thing I tell every group I address. Read, read, read. Read in the genre you want to write. Learn from those who have been there, who have done it. Then take what you’ve learned and individualize it to your personality. Throw out the HOW TO books, unless it is written by someone who has—and then take it with a grain of salt. Concentrate on studying the best in the business.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Randy: I wish I knew, I truly do. The ones I enjoy the most are speaking with people, whether one-on-one or in a group. And teaching—I love to teach, to share some of the things I’ve learned through the school of hard knocks.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Randy: The unadorned book signing. By that I mean manning a table at the front of a book store trying to interest customers in my books. Cold approach and lots of rejections. Not much fun.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Randy: Thanks, PJ. All too often, we forget those who sell our books. Here in South Florida, we are blessed to have Murder on the
Beach Mystery Bookstore, the only mystery bookstore in Florida. It’s a great store managed by Joanne Sinchuk. She is a writer’s best friend, and books can be ordered through the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or through the website: murderonthebeach.com. Please patronize the store and let them know Randy sent you.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
The Ace Edwards, Dallas PI series:
And, in November 2012, HOT ROCKS featuring Beth Bowman, Florida PI.
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
THORNS ON ROSES. When the teenage daughter of Tom Jeffries’ best friend is found in a dumpster, raped and strangled, Tom vows to track those who did it. From personal experience, he knows the justice system cannot be trusted.
And my next, HOT ROCKS. When Beth Bowman, Florida PI, takes on a simple case to follow a philandering husband and catch him in the act, she discovers that things are not always what they seem—they can be much, much worse.
PJ: Where can we buy it?
Randy: THORNS ON ROSES. From me (RandyRawls.com, RandyRawls@att.net), Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore (email@example.com, murderonthebeach.com), L&L Dreamspell Publishing (lldreamspell.com/Publishing.htm), and any online bookstore, and for any ereader.
HOT ROCKS. In November, in bookstores across the country, online, and for your favorite ereader. Please ask for it by name and author, HOT ROCKS by Randy Rawls.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Randy: With my loud mouth, there probably is nothing unknown. But I want to reinforce that books are really important to me. If I had to choose between writing and reading, I’d push away from the keyboard forever. With reading, I can do anything, be anybody, and live in any timeframe I choose. What else could I want?
Thank you, PJ. If our business had more folks like you, it would be a much more enjoyable business.
Randy, you’re very kind. I hope everyone who reads this will buy another one of your books, and then they’ll tell someone else to do the same!