Mitzi Flyte, a GLVWG member, had an opportunity to interview the multi-talented Richard White.
Richard will be at the 2018 GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ on Saturday, March 24, where he will conduct sessions on Writer Beware, Writing Realistic Fight Scenes, and World Building 101.
Mitzi: Who are your favorite genre writers and did they inspire you?
Richard: How many pages did you give me for this interview? *grin* Wow, that’s a tough question, but to try and keep this to a reasonable length, I’ll try and hit my top ten:
- Glen Cook
- Anne McCaffery
- Barbara Hambly
- R.R. Tolkien
- Gordon R. Dickson
- David Drake
- Brian Daley
- Tara Harper
- Katherine Kurtz
- Alan Dean Foster
I can track a lot of my current writing to these authors. In fact, I like to tell people that my current fantasy noir novella series I’m writing is my homage to Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. series. The Military Science Fiction novel I’m finishing is about an Armored Cavalry Regiment in the future, which is probably influenced by Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series. Any of my sword and sorcery or high fantasy stories could have links to The Dragon and the George, or The Armies of Darkness, or the Deryni series and so on.
Great books, great movies, and even great radio shows (both old-time radio and current works) can’t help but influence an author. Anyone who says they’ve created something completely unique is probably not being honest with themselves. We’re all influenced by everything around us – the object is to take the influence and make it something unique to yourself.
Mitzi: Do any of your stories scare you. If so, is it while writing or after you’ve written them?
Richard: Normally no. However, I just finished doing a short story for Green Ronin which is set in their Freeport role-playing game universe where I wrote the story from the POV of a serial killer. I found myself going into a very dark part of my mind to write this story. I also developed an appreciation for the writers on the show Criminal Minds, because I found myself actually not wanting to write some of the stuff that I wrote. I certainly edited and re-edited a few sections of the story to try and reach the fine point between being horrific and exploitive, and that’s before I received the edits from my actual editor.
I think this story reinforced in my mind why I’m not a horror author. I can go there, but I’d really rather not. It’s not so much that it scared me that I went there, but it made me uncomfortable that I could go there.
Mitzi: What do you do for relaxation?
Richard: I have several hobbies I dabble in with my copious amounts of free time. *grin* I follow the Kansas City Chiefs football team fanatically, which takes up a chunk of my time. Even though I currently live on the East Coast, I’ve been a fan since 1966, so it’s a bit late to change teams now. So, I try to keep in contact with other fans via bulletin boards and listen to the games on the internet (same with my college football and basketball, since no one broadcasts Division II on national networks).
I read as often as I have time, but I have noticed, since I started writing, I’ve gotten a lot more critical when I read books. I find myself gravitating more toward non-fiction these days, but still read a good chunk of fantasy, science-fiction, and pulp.
I’m a huge anime and manga fan and try to keep up not only with newer shows, although, I fully admit I’m WAY behind on my watching. I will work through all the DVDs on my shelves and need to try and schedule watching time to get through the backlog.
I’ve been big on role-playing games since my sophomore year at college and still participate in a Pathfinder game once a week. It gives me a chance to work out characterizations and develop backstories for my characters who may wind up appearing in one of my future works. See, it’s research, not just goofing off. *grin*
I also enjoy video games, especially some of the modern games – the artwork and complex stories are great inspirations for my writing. I’m currently playing Horizon Zero Dawn, and have a number of games waiting in my stack.
In conjunction with video games, I have an internet radio show on Tuesday nights that ties in with the Guild Wars MMORPG. My show, “The Green Dragon Tavern” is primarily classic rock with other music mixed in, (my musical taste could be best described as omnivorous), and I usually perform for at least four hours (not counting prep time the day before).
Mitzi: Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers, including what traps to avoid?
Richard: Writing groups (on-line and in-person) can be great motivators, but spend some time getting to know them before you get too involved. Does the level of the group seem appropriate to you? If it’s too advanced, you could get discouraged. If it’s too basic, you may feel you’re not being pushed to become better. Are the members welcoming? Is it a mix of professionals and new authors? If they claim to be professionals, what are their credits?
I suggest a new writer check these things out before diving in too deeply. Too often, if it’s all new authors, there’s a lot of misinformation that gets passed around as gospel, or it serves as bait for unscrupulous people to try and sell things to the authors by presenting themselves as “the professionals.” One group, I hang out with has a great mixture, but if a publisher/agent/editor, etc. shows up to start promoting their stuff, believe me, the professionals will review them with a fine-toothed comb – not to slam competitors, but to ensure that new authors don’t get caught up with a bad publisher like Tate or Publish America or a bad agent who’ll wind up charging them outrageous fees.
Honestly, professional and new authors both want new publishers. It’s healthy for the business to have multiple sources producing books, but agenting and publishing are not entry-level positions. People who succeed have had experience in the business in some fashion, and it’s important for new authors to be able to identify warning signs. A good writer’s group can help new authors find leads for their work. A bad writer’s group can send people down the wrong path unintentionally.
Mitzi: If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? And would you have started on your Masters earlier?
Richard: Besides not marrying my ex-wife? *grin* I would probably tell myself to become serious about writing earlier and to have tried harder to write for role-playing games back in the 80s. Selling my first prose story at 39 wasn’t optimal for a long writing career, but then again, maybe I needed the experiences I brought to my writing are what makes my writing better today?
Given my choice, I would have finished my Masters in History back in the 80s, but if I had done that, I have no idea where I might be today, and honestly, even with all the bumps and twists, I can’t imagine being anywhere other than where I am today.
Mitzi: When did you start writing?
Richard: I tried my hand at writing my first novel at twelve. I was a huge fan of the Brains Benton/Hardy Boys/Power Boys/Nancy Drew/Robyn Kane/Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators style of books and wanted to create my own detective series. I wound up hand-writing about 200 pages of story, but as is common at that age, my enthusiasm outpaced my writing skills.
My first professional writing gig came when I was 15. The local town paper tried to cover the sports teams at the High School, but being a small-town paper, if the owner/editor couldn’t make it, then there was no story. Since I played on the basketball team, I talked to him about doing articles about the games, and he gave me a shot. By the time I graduated, two years later, I was the “Sports Editor” and had two other high school reporters working for me. We also covered the plays, concerts, and other events at the school. I received five dollars per article I wrote and two dollars for ever other article I edited, which in the mid-1970s wasn’t bad money.
I sold my first comic book script in 1992 to a small comic publisher, my first short story in 1998, and my first novel in 2004. I did mostly media tie-in writing when I started writing professionally (Incredible Hulk/Star Trek/Doctor Who/Gauntlet Dark Legacy), and only started selling my own original work around 2010.
I also write professionally in real life as a technical writer.
Mitzi: Do you have any unfinished books?
Richard: I still have my original book I tried writing in 7th Grade as well as about twenty novels, four novellas, and eight short stories I’m either writing or plotting. (Yes, I do keep a spreadsheet with all of my writing projects on it so I can track progress. I’m an analyst – it’s what I do.)
Mitzi: Do you have any plans for them or are they tied with a pink ribbon and hidden away in a trunk?
Richard: I refuse to throw away my original story. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to writing anything more on the story, although I know there’s a kernel of a good story in there. I mainly use it to help deflate my ego whenever I think I’m getting this writing thing down pat. *grin*
The other stories I absolutely will do something with eventually. A few of them need a lot more time in the development stew until I know exactly what the heck I plan on doing with the characters/story/world. Others are in various stages of completion – I have a habit of moving on to the current shiny ball unless there is a deadline hanging over my head. Definitely something I need to work on, but it’s hard to resist the “new story siren.”
The one thing I don’t have to worry about is wondering if I have anything to work on.
Mitzi: Considering your genres, some might think you don’t have to do any research – that everything just bursts out? Or maybe it does just burst out. If you do any research, what kind of research do you do and how long do you spend before starting a book?
Richard: Oh, I’m by nature a researcher. My background in history won’t let me “just make it up,” because even if you add magic to a world, there are natural consequences to that, depending on how prevalent magic is and how many people can wield it (legally or otherwise). Now, stories may burst out in my mind, but as soon as I get beyond writing down the bare bones of the story, I start doing some basic world building and character creation.
For example, I love writing about pirates, but I grew up in Missouri, which is about as far from an ocean as you can get in the United States. Open water sailing is not a big sport there, so if I was going to write about pirates and not have my readers rolling their eyes at my poor attempts to discuss nautical matters, I had to make myself smart about sailing ships. So, along with the thirty or so books on pirates, the age of sail, medieval to Revolutionary-era trade, and so on, I’ve spent time on the USS Constitution and Constellation photographing everything I can. I have a dozen or so pirate movies from the 30s and 40s (and a few modern), just so I can watch how people move on a ship (plus the sword fights are fantastic in those old movies).
So, now, when I work on any swashbuckling tales, not only do I have a reasonable baseline on how ships worked, what the towns might have been like back then, etc.; I also have a reasonable baseline of what my audience might expect from reading swashbuckling tales and watching those types of movies. Sometimes, you have to deviate from the absolute truth to make it a better story, but as they said in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Mitzi: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Richard: Sleep? *grin*
Richard White is a science fiction/fantasy author, but he has also been known to do dark fantasy, new pulp, historical adventure, fantasy noir, and non-fiction. As a media tie-in writer, he’s written for Star Trek, Doctor Who, and The Incredible Hulk.
Rich is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. He also serves on SFWA’s “Writer Beware” committee.
You can find Richard at his website, http://www.richardcwhite.com/rcwwp/, as well as his Twitter – @nightwolfwriter, Livejournal – nightwolfwriter, and his Facebook – Richard C. White. You can contact him at his email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also watch Richard’s interview on Youtube posted August 24, 2017.
Mitzi Reinbold writes as Mitzi Flyte. She received her first rejection when she was 12, but that didn’t stop her. She’s been published in poetry, short story, and nonfiction. Her first published novel, The Guardian’s Prophecy, about a werewolf is available on Amazon. She’s now working on a collection of short stories, a nursing memoir, and several novel-length projects. A retired RN, she lives with her husband, daughter, dopey dog, and assorted cats in the wilds of Berks County. She’s waiting to see Bigfoot walking through the neighboring cornfields so she can interview him.