Author Interview with James L. Rickardinterviewed on Jan 3, 2021 West Virginia, USA
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James L. Rickard lives in West Virginia. After studying Journalism and Photography, he worked in customer service while continuing to dabble in both fiction and non-fiction in an effort to find the best fit. After several years of dabbling with paid blogging, ghostwriting, short stories, and novels, he continues to dabble.
His latest book "The Windmill Portal" in the "The Charlie Hobbs Saga" released recently.
His latest book "The Windmill Portal" in the "The Charlie Hobbs Saga" released recently.
Q. You've been associated with different forms of writing like paid blogging, ghostwriting, short stories, etc. for several years. What set the foundation of your first novel and motivated you to write and get it published?
I had a novel rattling around in my head for years. After discovering my grandfather was born in 1870 it all came together.
Q. When did your writing journey actually begin and what kind of writing did you start with?
I began writing when I was 7 or 8. It was thinly veiled fan-fiction and often dealt with the programs I had watched on TV the night before.
Q. Charlie is out on an adventure in "The Charlie Hobbs Saga", and you've revealed his story in four books so far. Give us an overview of what is it like to be in Charlie's shoes.
Charlie is moving from one era into another. At heart, he is a good person but often falls victim to his dark side.
Q. Book one in the series, "Grandpa Wore A Six-Gun" begins with Charlie leaving the farm and finding himself in bordellos, saloons, stage robberies, and more. Tell us about his expedition, in this coming of age story.
At that stage of life, Charlie has NO expectations. He just wants to get away from his abusive father and takes life as it comes. The story is taken from his diary and allows for a first-person Western which you usually don't find.
Q. This "sort-of" Western continues the saga of Charlie Hobbs in book two, "Treasure of the Ant People". Charlie battles not only outlaws but underground dwellers while searching for Pancho Villa's hidden treasure. Where does this take his journey?
The story begins AFTER he is released from prison and moves into the 1900s as opposed to the 1800s of the first story. Still, it has a Western flavor and makes reference to Poncho Villa.
Q. You bring the story of Butch Cassidy, John Wayne, and Wyatt Earp in the same universe in book three, "Once Upon a Time With Grandpa". How does the story unfold from here?
I really enjoyed writing that story. In fact, I basically wrote it for myself after watching Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It's amazing how many "Once Upon a Time.." books and movies are out there. Again, I tried to tie it to the Old West via the references to Butch Cassidy. BUT since we're in the late 1920s, I brought in John Wayne, Wyatt Earp who knew Wayne, as well as Director John Ford. Then, I asked, "What if?" and came up with some alternative history.
Q. "The Windmill Portal", which is the latest in "The Charlie Hobbs Saga" has recently released. Where does it take the story from Book three?
Charlie's older--58 now and unemployed. Despite this, he marries a woman mentioned in the previous book and wants to put his wild ways behind him.
Q. "The Windmill Portal" is set in the year 1928, and talks about Charlie's encounter with a UFO. Tell us more about it.
The 1928 encounter is totally made up, but history is tied in by linking the encounter to an actual alleged UFO crash in 1897 Aurora, TX. He and a partner start investigating the two and, as they say, the madness ensues.
Q. Have you had any personal experiences with UFOs? Would you like to share about them with us?
Gosh, yes! I'm a big believer in UFO, ETs, and all that. Whether you believe in the Bible or science, they HAVE to be out there! I had my first personal UFO encounter when I was only 8 and I've been hooked ever since. I should have been scared but I thought it was fascinating and it led to my first totally original story. My mom still has it somewhere.
Q. How much impact do real-life incidents, people or situations have on the storyline of your books, or are they more of fiction?
Not a whole lot but SOME. I collect stories, characters, and incidents to make my own world whether it's the Old West or flying saucers.
Q. Is book five in "The Charlie Hobbs Saga" on the cards? If yes, give us a hint on what shape can the story take in the future?
Yes! I have to hold off a while and come up with an idea because, let's face it, he's getting a little old to be fighting off bad guys and aliens! I'm figuring on something like a sword-cane or one of those canes that hide a gun--it's all in the air!
Q. You've also written short story books, one of them being "The Old West, The New West, The Weird West: Twelve Stories Of The West", consisting of a dozen stories. What kind of stories can the readers expect to read in the book?
To be honest, the title is a BIG hint. I have three sections, four stories each. The Old West is just that--horses and six-guns. The New West section may be looked at as Neo-Westerns. They're set in modern times but may include ranch and farm life, horses, a rural backdrop, or pick-ups. The Weird West is just that--weird stories. Maybe scary--maybe not, but you all always smell the road apples while you're trying to escape the terror.
Q. Tell us about your Martin Carter short stories, "Mission to Mexico" and "Left Handed Gringo".
Here's a scoop for you--although I never mention it, Martin Carter is a Black guy. I never mention it because it just doesn't matter. I'd like to use him a bit more but he just hasn't fit into any ideas I've had. I'd like to write a few more short stories using him and then incorporate them into an anthology.
Q. What is your thought process when you start writing a new book, and where do you get your ideas from?
That's a toughie! I may get a basic idea but events and people from my life may fit into the story. Without a little realism, the idea just hangs in my head.
Q. Did you incorporate any life messages in your books? If so, what are they?
I like to have fun with my stories but I don't preach. Personally, I think Charlie Hobbs is an optimist but, I don't like to come out and say that.
Q. What genres do you enjoy the most- both for writing and reading?
I like action-adventure and westerns. Although I'm venturing into the genre, I'm still not too crazy about SF. Too many SF writers want to bog you down with descriptions and details.
Q. What all forms of writing do you pursue, and where do you publish them?
Right now, I'm just sticking with Kindle.
Q. What else do you like to do apart from writing?
I like movies and, believe it or not, cooking, and leather-craft.
Q. Talk to us about your growing years and your home. How all did it influence your writing?
People often ask how I live in West Virginia and write Westerns. All I know is that I grew up when there were a LOT of 30 minute Oaters on TV--maybe that's it. AND I still watch The Twilight Zone. I saved it all, stirred heartily, and the rest is history.
Q. What role has your family played in your writing career?
My parents and even cousins show up a New West story. My sister and our dog was the basis for a passage in Grandpa Wore a Six-Gun.
Q. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? Tell us about it.
We sort of touched on it. It was from what I call a UFO encounter when I was eight years old. I saw a rectangular UFO with a light on each corner passing the moon. It spawned a story, "Why Didn't I Report It?'"
Q. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
(laugh) COVID makes it tough! I'm still searching. For what it's worth, I'm pretty active on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and have a blog.
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
Some people say a good cover, but I don't go for that. I think you gotta get out there, do some interviews or readings, and let people know the real you. Maybe they dig your attitude. For instance, Steven King writes some weird stuff but he's funny as heck!
Q. What’s the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
This caught me off guard--I didn't read ahead to set this up. I said Grandpa Wore a Six-Gun was first person--a reader left a review and said I did a decent job of using first person in a Western which is hard to do. I appreciated that--especially since it was my first book.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
It varies--right now I'd say The World According to Garp, Little Big Man, and The Catcher in the Rye. The all have strong characters and I like that.
Q. Which authors have influenced your writing the most and how?
Steven King and Elmore Leonard taught me not to go overboard with details. Kurt Vonnegut taught me how to be off the wall, and F. Scott Fitzgerald how to make things sad.
Q. Tell us about your publishing journey and how did you decide to self-publish?
Everybody has at least one good story in them. Self-publishing can REALLY help them. I like self-publishing because I can work on my time-line, make my own deadlines, and go from an idea to finished book in a short time as opposed to two or three years for traditional publishing.
Q. What challenges do you think are faced by writers, what’s the worst thing about the book industry according to you?
What really bugs me is the way the industry is changing and the speed of that change. You may think you have things figured out today, but a year later it's a new ballgame.
Q. At QwertyThoughts.com, we are trying to bring authors and readers on the same platform, to connect, discuss and socialize over books. What's your take on this?
Not because you're interviewing me--I really like it. The website is easy to use and I'm looking forward to good things!!!! I know that sounds like an insincere sales pitch but, I wouldn't have come this far if I thought it was a bunch of crap.
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
Pay attention to EVERYTHING because you never know how or when it may fit into a story.