Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Randy.
1. Tell us about Thorns on Roses, your latest book.
THORNS ON ROSES is my first thriller. After six Ace Edwards books, I thought it would be nice to see if I could write a story with a harder edge. A picture of Tom Jeffries, a South Florida PI, parking in front of the morgue came to mind, and I was off. Tom was an interesting character to travel with, and his negative-positive relationship with Abby Archer one fun to follow.
Tom has good reason not to trust the justice system so when the teenage stepdaughter of his best friend is found dead in the trunk of an abandoned car, Tom vows to find those who did it and exact revenge. What follows is his hunt for the Thorns on Roses gang and their fates as he tracks them down one by one.
While it is a vengeful story, I keep most of the gore off-page—mainly because I don’t enjoy writing or reading it. It’s suitable for thriller fans of all ages. And yes, there is some romance along the way.
2. Sounds great, Randy. I love thrillers and look forward to reading this one. What’s next?
I’ve been working on another South Florida PI. She is Beth Bowman, another transplanted Texan. The first book, DEATH BY DIAMONDS, finds Beth as the pigeon in a bad frame for murder. She takes off to prove her innocence and ends up between two gangs. Beth is not a nasty character, but she’s not one to mess with. The finale proves a woman can be as tough as a man, when necessary. DEATH BY DIAMONDS is in the queue as I wait not-so-patiently for a decision by a major house to publish or not.
The second in Beth’s series is DEATH BY VENGEANCE. This time Beth is hired to recover a five-year-old girl who has been kidnapped. Time is of the essence, and the kidnappers are diabolical in the extreme. This story is in the latter stages of self-editing. It will follow DEATH BY DIAMONDS into the publishing chain. DEATH BY VENGEANCE was a tough write for me. It seems like every time I sat at the keyboard, the incredible evil of those who kidnap children almost overpowered me. I will never understand people who can do that. I’m glad I wrote it, but won’t go there again.
One of the things I’m enjoying about writing Beth Bowman (among the many) is that she teams up with an unlikely group of people—the homeless of South Florida. Anyone who meets Dot and doesn’t love her is a hard, hard person.
My third project—yes, I try to stay active—is a sequel to THORNS ON ROSES. It is early in the writing, but features Tom, Abby, and a young runaway teen. We’ll see a softer side of Tom in this story, but he won’t lose any of his determination to protect those he cares about. It has no title yet.
3. My favorite characters are strong women with a big heart. She sounds intriguing. Tell us about your Ace Edwards mystery series.
Ace is a fun series. I started it while living in Dallas. In those days, I did bicycle rides almost every weekend. Many of those events were held in and around small towns. One weekend I was in Cisco and rode the 100 kilometers circuit through Eastland County. I was so struck with the countryside, I decided I wanted to base a book there. Thus, JAKE’S BURN was born.
With the theme of “small towns in Texas”, I set out to find other towns that were so engaging I needed to write about them, and I found many. While writing the series, I moved to South Florida, but continued to return to Texas to do research on other small towns. After book five, though, I realized the expense was a backbreaker. So, I closed the series with book six, set in my hometown in North Carolina.
But don’t think Ace is gone. He’ll make significant contributions in the sequel to THORNS ON ROSES. In many ways, Ace and Tom are opposites. I think it’ll be fun to have them play off one another.
4. Good to know Ace is going to be around for awhile. He’s a great character. I had to laugh when I read your first book was about as long as War and Peace and has never been published. That happened to me, too, and it’s still sitting in a closet. Do you ever think of pulling it out, polishing it up and submitting it?
You’re talking about DAVID’S GAME. Yes, it was looooooong, but you forgot to mention it was also TERRIBLE. It was my first effort, and when I went back to it a few years later, I was appalled I had written such an incredibly bad book. Not the story, mind you, the writing. Think of any “rule” and you’ll know one I violated. It would be far more difficult to find a “rule” I didn’t violate.
But, I still like the story. It’s Young Adult wrapped around high school and travel soccer. I’ve worked on it a few times, culling out tons of bad writing, but it’s still not ready. Maybe someday . . .
5. I know the feeling! I like that you place each book of the Ace Edwards series in a different small town in Texas and divulge historical anecdotes about each one. Do you actually travel to those towns to research them?
Oh, yes. For each town I wrote about, I probably checked out ten or more. I can’t tell you what drew me to a town, but there was something dragging me in. I’d stop in a town, walk the streets, hit the library, visit the museum, talk to a few people, and make a judgment call. Some of the towns simply did not grab me while others screamed, “Write about me.”
Every little town in Texas—and probably every town across the country—has its own wonderful historical anecdotes. My problem became which stories to include and which ones to skip. I didn’t want my books to become history lectures, so I had to choose. But for every one that I included, there were several others just as interesting, just as amusing, that I had to leave on the hard drive.
6. I think historical anecdotes really add flavor to a book. You’re a prolific writer. Do you have a specific writing regimen?
Oh my, no. I often wish I did. But then I think, if I wrote to a schedule, it wouldn’t be half as much fun. I write when I feel like it. That’s the pleasure. It’s an avocation, not a vocation. And we don’t have to be slaves to our hobbies, do we?
It seems, though, that my brain is always looking ahead in the WIP or to the next book. I often awaken at the proverbial three in the morning with a plot line or a twist or something significant to include in the story. And yes, they hit so hard I remember most of them when the sun rises.
I’m a seat of the pants type. Outlining has always been a discipline I can not master. I remember those years long ago when the teacher demanded you hand in an outline with your paper. I would write the paper, then write the outline.
While I admire those who can outline, then follow it, I wonder if they don’t miss some of the fun of writing. I love the feel of my stories rolling out in front of me, of my characters taking on a life of their own and going where they please. And when the case resolves itself, I’m always as surprised and satisfied as I hope the reader will be. It’s like reading a really good book, except it takes a lot longer to get to the end. Of course, I say really good because I enjoy my stories.
8. Love that answer, Randy. I completely agree. You also have several short stories published. Which do you prefer to write, short stories or novels?
I enjoy both, but prefer the challenge of the novel. However, the beauty of short stories for me is the discipline it takes to write one. As I work my way through an 80,000 words (plus or minus) story, I fear that I might lose some of the crispness in my writing. So, when I finish one, it’s an excellent drill to write one or more short stories, forcing myself to keep it under 4,000 words. It helps me recapture that necessity to write tight, tight, tight.
9. Short stories are so much harder for me to write and your answer is the reason why. What works best for you in regards to promoting?
This is my Achilles heel. I am not a good promoter. I’d much rather stay inside my writer shell and leave the promotion to others. Unfortunately, there aren’t those others to do it when you’re a small-time writer.
For THORNS ON ROSES, I’m in the process of hiring a publicist to help me push it out there. It’s expensive, but necessary.
10. I’m interested to see how that works out for you, Randy. What inspires you as a writer?
Simply stated, the fun of doing it. I love to read, and I love to write. There comes a certain exhilaration to reading back through a chapter and finding that I’ve written it exactly as I wanted it. And of course, there are no sweeter words than, “I read your book and enjoyed it.”
Second to that is the pleasure of helping others. I know that sounds phony, but I do enjoy working with those who truly want to write. I feel almost as good as they do when they finish a book that is well written. I offer my services as an editor, but only to writers with a very thick skin and a true desire to write a good book. Those who have the “perfect” book don’t need my input. Throughout my life, I’ve always believed I can help anyone who doesn’t know everything.
Very soon, I’ll be starting a writing class here in my development in South Florida. I expect it to be fun.
11. Congratulations on your writing class. If you could sit and chat with one literary giant, dead or alive, who would that be and why?
Harper Lee, or maybe, Margaret Mitchell. From both I’d want to know why only one book. But I’d also want to know how they could walk away. Both of them wrote blockbuster stories, then quit. Didn’t they have the poison in their systems that drive us to keep writing? And third, I’d want to know how they came up with such fantastic ideas. I know this has been explored by many a lot smarter than I, but I’d love to hear their stories in their own words. Incidentally, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is on my list to re-read every couple of years. Each time I read it, I find more to get excited about. Thank you Harper Lee.
12. Harper Lee is one of my favorite authors. I read where she has written more but has instructed her nephew, who is her agent, not to publish them until after her death. Tell us about your neck of the woods.
South Florida—Palm Beach County now, and previously, Broward County. I love this area. The weather is as close to perfect as you can find. Yes, we have the six months media panic about hurricanes, but I grew up in eastern North Carolina where hurricanes were not history, they were the present. I’ve been here 13 years, and we have not been hit hard during that time. Check those same years in my youthful neighborhood. Sure, a hurricane can come along tomorrow and blow us away, but there are earthquakes and tornadoes and floods and droughts and catastrophic snowstorms, etc. everywhere else.
I’ll always be a Texan at heart, but I love living in South Florida. As an author, it’s perfect, although the writer who wants to find that special plot is doomed to failure. There is no fiction in South Florida. No matter what you write, it happened yesterday, is happening today, or will happen tomorrow. That’s a promise and part of the fun of living here.
Thank you, Christy.
Thank you, Randy. For more information about Randy: http://www.randyrawls.com