Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Randy Rawls


As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Randy Rawls is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

The photo above is the cover for his November 8th release, Hot Rocks,  the first book in his Beth Bowman, P.I. mystery series. In the book, private eye Beth Bowman's latest philandering husband case has ended with a nasty bump on the head and a smoking gun—her own. The good news is that neurologist Dr. David Rassmussen is keeping the cops off her tail . . . and charming her off her feet. The bad news? Someone is trying to turn Bowman into a permanent hood ornament.

Setting out to find the "client" who set her up, Bowman gets friendly with the hunky Dr. Rassmussen—and gets unfriendly with a few ne'er-do-well thugs for hire. As her investigation takes her closer to an enticing stash of high-priced ice, it's up to Bowman and an army of guardian street people to save her reputation and her life.

Sounds like a fun read to me! Below are Terry's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for him, and if you have a question of your own for him, ask it!

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?

Inspired to write? Nothing or no one that I can finger. But, I suppose it was my "little man" complex that said, "I can do that." I've been (and still am) an avid reader all my life. During my military career, I started many stories, never finishing one. Then one day after retiring, I started one and saw it through to The End. It was a great feeling. Been writing ever since. 

2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

Wonderful question. I wish I had an answer to match.

I start with a vague idea of the character, and he/she tells me about him/her as the story unfolds. Kind of like meeting a new person, then spending a lot of time with them. You get to know them a bit more with each meeting. For example, I knew Beth Bowman was a tough female PI in South Florida. As we worked together, she told me she was from Texas and her mother was still there. She's an ex-cop in Dallas, a career she sought after seeing her father killed by a burglar. These and many others are intimate details she shared with me as the story grew.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

Ouch. Beth, you ask great questions, ones that bring out my idiosyncrasies as a writer.

I'm a wannabe outliner. I'd love to sit down and knock out a narrative outline, then fill in the blanks. Only one problem, I can't do it. Even back in my school days, I had to write the paper, then the outline. A couple of teachers caught me, and let me know their opinions of my weakness.

So, I'm a "seat of the pants" type. And, since I write for my own entertainment, I like the idea of not knowing what's on the next page until I turn that page. It's inevitable that one day I'll write myself into a corner I can't escape, but it hasn't happened yet.

4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?

Character vs plot. You're doing it again—making me think.

Character. I say this because the stories I enjoy reading must have a strong character that I like. He/she can get into all kinds of messes, but if I enjoy and trust him/her, I follow along. A plot that outweighs the character(s) just doesn't cut it for me. I find myself thinking, he/she can't handle that—too weak, dumb, whatever.

I suppose this is one of the reasons I'm not enamored with protags who are alcoholics/druggies/on the take/crooked lawyers, etc. I'm not looking for a Superman or a Wonder Woman, but he/she has to be a person I'd sit down and have a beer with.

5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

The biggest challenges have been finding an agent to represent my work and getting published. I'm still looking for that agent, but having Midnight Ink pick up Hot Rocks has solved the publishing part—temporarily. Now I have to sell enough copies to convince Midnight Ink to keep me on.

Before Hot Rocks, I had seven books small-published. Those were gratifying and I honor the people who published them. But, the bigger publisher was always a primary challenge. Like I said, I write for my own enjoyment. It's a hobby first. That's my motivation, pursuing a hobby I enjoy.

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

Sorry, I have no typical workday. It's whatever the wind blows in. I'm at the computer every day, but not always writing. I am active in our community, and that eats up several days a month. I work with our local chapter of MWA (Mystery Writers of America), and that takes time. I edit other people's manuscripts—more days taken up. I'm in two critique groups . . . My writing fits in around all those things and life itself. I suppose I savor my "writing time" as something special, just for me when it comes along.

7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

This is a question I've had asked often, giving me lots of opportunities to consider it. The first and most important advice I give is: Read, READ, READ, READ in the genre you want to write. Learn from the experts. Remember the old adage, them that can, do—them that can't, teach. Way back, when I decided I wanted to write a first person PI mystery, I spent a year reading nothing but. When I started my first Ace Edwards, Dallas PI, story, I felt I had a solid foundation on what to do and how to do it. I still read daily, absorbing from those who have conquered the mountains I still face.

8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.

Wow. Not easy. I'm a pretty transparent guy.

I've shared this with a few people over the years based on specific questions. Maybe it's worth repeating here. Since I am a retired Army officer, I've been asked why I never write military stories. The reason is pretty simple. Pick up any military story and you'll find there is a military villain who abuses his rank and his people, etc. Remember "The A Team" on TV, the nasty Colonel who chased them all over the world. I refuse to degrade the military I love by writing such a character. Thus, I will never write a military story.

And if that's not a good enough example, here's another. I need noise in the room when I'm working—TV, radio, or music playing. Can't work in the quiet. But I HATE commercials. They get muted.

9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

This catches me between books. Two or three weeks ago, I finished the second in my Tom Jeffries, South Florida PI series, a story I call The Alley. I'm shopping it to various agents, hoping lightning will strike. Jeffries is my avenger character who takes justice into his own hands.

I'm looking at another Beth Bowman, heroine of Hot Rocks, story, either a short story to be offered to Midnight Ink as a "midnight snack", or book three in the series. An idea for each is floating around in my head. I'm waiting for one to gain control and point me in the right direction.

10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?

While I'm not good at keeping my website or Facebook page up to date, I hope you'll visit. And, if you happen to read one of my books, please give me your opinion at RandyRawls@att.net. Don't worry about hurting my feelings if you think it stinks. I can only learn from my mistakes.

I love to talk writing and books. If anyone would like to hear more of my meanderings, I'm half-way out the door. Give me a yell at RandyRawls@att.net. It can be in person or via the Internet.

I blog twice a month on Make Mine Mystery, first and third Thursdays. Drop in and see what gets transferred from my brain to my fingertips. Often, it surprises me.

And last, but far from least, thank you, Beth, for allowing me to visit. It's been fun.

Thanks, Randy! Now, who has a comment or question for him? 

7 comments:

Kaye George said...

Thanks for the interview! I met Randy years ago at a conference in Plano, TX, and have followed his career ever since. I'm so glad you got picked up by a bigger publisher--sell lots!

Randy Rawls said...

Thanks, Kaye. Now all I have to do is sell enough books to keep my contract viable. :-)

Karen D. said...

I 'know' Randy from Sleuthfest. I love his books and I'm not just saying that because he bribes me with wine and beer during his Randy's Book Broads sessions!

Deborah Sharp said...

.... and here I thought I knew everything there was to know on the famous Mr. Rawls ....

Randy Rawls said...

Aha, Karen. So you're the one who broke into my wine cellar. (I mean, the quality of wine I serve would never make it to the upper floors.)

RandyRawls said...

No, Deb. YOu only know the public side of me. Come to think of it, that's probably best -- for all concerned.

marja said...

Two things leaped (leapt?) out at me,Randy. You write for your own enjoyment, and if you can entertain yourself, well... Also, I sincerely appreciate your loyalty to the miliary. It's been a while since I read a Randy Rawls book. Guess I'd better get busy.
Marja McGraw