As of July, 2018, Bob has had 17 books published. He has retired 5 times so far, from 5 different occupations. He is still a Professional Grandfather. Anyone under 25 only needs to apply. Many do so by sending him an email of despair. His words often make a difference, and hundreds of young people blame him for now living a good life. Because he passionately cares for all the youngsters everywhere, he has been an environmental and humanitarian campaigner since the 1970s. Everything he does, including his writing, is intended to change the insane global culture, which encourages and rewards the worst in human nature, particularly greed and aggression. He works for one that encourages and rewards the best in human nature: compassion, empathy, decency. Only, he hates being preached at, and won’t do that to others. Instead, he writes exciting fiction his reviewers tell him is gripping. Find out more about him at his blog https://bobrich18.wordpress.com and his writing showcase http://bobswriting.com.
Today, Bob is talking about his book Hit and Run:
84-year-old Sylvia Kryz barely escapes death when a teenage driver plows down six children and a crossing guard. Shaken, Sylvia draws his portrait, creating a connection with this 14-year-old boy that allows the police to locate and arrest him. That night, he appears to her through a supernatural process neither understands. At first, all he wants to do is to murder her, too, but then she helps him to look after his little brother. She is the only adult, ever, to have treated him with decency and respect…
Can one woman’s belief in the power of love make a difference in the life of a boy who wants to change?
Hit and Run was published by Writers Exchange http://www.writers-exchange.com in May, 2018. It’s 198 pages, but since currently it’s only available in electronic format, there are actually no pages at all.
Why did you decide to write this book?
You make it sound like I was in charge. I am an obedient scribe, and do as I am told. Sylvia decided to write an account of her nine months of contact with the young murderer, and she needed someone to put it into a computer. I was elected, and who am I to say no to a lovely old lady?
What genre is your book?
All my life, I’ve had a complete inability to fit into other people’s boxes. One novel, Sleeper, Awake, and one short story collection, Bizarre Bipeds, are clearly SF. All the other works of fiction are healthy mongrels of whatever genres happen to fit.
Hit and Run is inspirational, with paranormal elements, and given all the troubles my young protagonist suffers, probably a thriller too.
Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?
Again you have me scratching my head. It is both. The people in the book are the left wing. What happens to them is the right wing. Flapping both, I fly high.
It all started because I needed to displace my outrage at a real crime, so I could work with the victim in my psychotherapeutic role. So, I invented a far worse crime. Right, that was plot. But this crime had people in it: 14 year old Chuck, who would have blown up the whole planet if he could. So, he stole a car to kill people. I needed a witness, and there Sylvia was.
After this, she took over. Things happened, though I didn’t invent them. New people came along, and introduced themselves. Some were Sylvia’s beloved friends and relations, and she told me about them incidentally, while recording events in her journal. Others were new to her, and we learned about them together.
What makes your book unique?
My beta readers, fans who have read it, and other reviewers have said it’s my best novel so far. Mind you, they said the same about the previous one, Guardian Angel, and the one before that, Ascending Spiral.
Maybe I should do a controlled experiment and get different people to read the three books in different orders. Perhaps the last read will always be the best? 🙂
It’s not unique to this book, and not unique to my writing, but I think it’s noteworthy that what happens in the story has strong scientific backing. I have a PhD in psychology and 22 years of running a counseling psychological practice. One of my interests for many years has been research on the rehabilitation of criminals, especially young ones. Sylvia didn’t have this knowledge, and I certainly wasn’t thinking of it while writing, but the boy’s change is entirely believable in the light of this evidence.
So, the unique feature may be that, after you’ve read this story, you will have learned a set of tools on how to lead anyone, criminal or not, to a good life.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
This kind of question always makes me think of cooking. A beginning cook either has a recipe or a disaster. With experience, you can adapt the recipe to what’s in the cupboard, and what’s seasonal. A chef writes recipes. And a master chef can cook without one. If you analyze the process afterward, you can extract the recipe, but it wasn’t explicitly set out before or during the cooking exercise.
In the same way, a beginning writer either develops a plot or ends up with a structureless ramble. With practice, this can free up and become more intuitive. After sufficient experience, the story comes the way it is supposed to, without prior planning. The plot is still there. You can analyze the final work and set out its plot. It may well be tighter than a beginner’s original plan. But it wasn’t there before the writing.
I wrote a little essay about how to develop a plot in 2013. http://mudsmith.net/bobbing12-7.html#plot
My first organically grown novel was Sleeper, Awake, which won an international award.
How do you develop the names for your characters?
The main characters tell me.
Chuck got his name as a form of abuse: his mother had vomited right through pregnancy. Sylvia introduced herself as “Sylvia Kryz” to the policewoman. It wasn’t until well into the book that she explained her surname to me, in what I find a very touching scene, even now after dozens of re-readings.
There is a 12 year old girl in the story, who is now Jenny. She is an exception. When she came onboard, she was Petra, and it really suited her. But then, I found out that she and her mother were hiding from an abusive man, so she needed a far more common name. It took me ages to get used to the change, but fortunately the characters in the story didn’t even notice.
With some characters, particularly those from a different culture, I may do an internet search. So, Sylvia’s husband became Wotjek. I was puzzled for a while why her son had to be Ron (but they insisted), until I did another search for Polish names and found Hieronim.
How do you decide on the setting?
This story takes place in a geographical and social setting very close to the one I live in, but this is almost a coincidence. My previous novel, Guardian Angel, is in a different part of the same country. When my little heroine told me this, I needed to do considerable research to get the details right, but then I enjoy research.
Sleeper, Awake took place all over earth, but this was 1500 years into the future, so for example southern California was the island of South Calif, and Sweden was the Swedish Islands, and southern Africa was split into Eastrica and Westrica. And I only found out these details as the story unfolded.
Do you have a writing mentor?
When I started out in fiction writing, I paid for an edit of three different novels by three different external editors. That had to be done by posting off a boxful of papers in those days before email. I learned an enormous amount from each, so now I do my best to give the same kind of educational service to my editing clients.
One of my clichés is, “If someone else can do it, I can learn it.” Therefore, my most important writing mentor is Bob Rich.
I have a wonderful team of beta readers who comment on my work before anyone else sees it. Some of them do it from friendship and interest. With others, I have an ongoing trade: we beta read for each other.
Here is a description of a beta reader’s task: https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/bobbing-around-volume-16-number-7/#beta
One of this team is Professor Emeritus Florence Weinberg https://florenceweinberg.com/ who writes historical novels, many of them whodunits. Not only do we give feedback to each other on our writing, but also we are great friends, although we’ve never met. She is my ultimate authority on questions of grammar and word usage.
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
With the luxury of retirement, I spend much of my day in my recliner chair, with my computer on my knee. When I am typing stuff into it, that’s where I am.
However, that’s recording, not composing. That I do during all the many tasks of everyday living. Here is a hopefully amusing little essay that sets out the process: http://wp.me/p3Xihq-Lx
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am part of an informal network of writers, organized by Rhobin Courtright: http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
The funny thing is, I am the only thorn in this bunch of roses.
Rhobin organizes a monthly topic related to the trade of writing, and somewhere between 6 and 20 of us each write a blog post on it (or some modification of her topic: writers are individualistic beasties).
So, this is a treasure trove of insight into writing of a variety of genres, interests and skills.
All my contributions to “Rhobin’s Rounds” are listed at http://wp.me/P3Xihq-Ae and from there you can access past contributions of all the others.
And once more, thank you for having me here. I wish you, and all your visitors, a life full of successfully met challenges, and spiritual growth.
How can readers connect with you?