Monday, March 5, 2012
INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD FERGUSON
Please welcome Richard Ferguson to the Interview Session. A little background--I have known Richard for many long years and we are close friends. When I was writing my first novel in Houston, Texas back in the wild 1980s, Richard and I belonged to the same novel-writing club. It was simply called the Houston Novel Club where a group of us met every two weeks for 2-3 years. Out of the regulars of about 20 people, at least 3/4ths of us went on to become published writers. It was indeed a talented group of people. Richard and his wife, Ann, lived in Galveston during those years and now have moved to Mexico. He still writes and is new to the digital Indie scene. He has one book of short stories for the Kindle and is working on a second collection and getting his novel ready for Kindle. He's one of the most intelligent men I've ever met. He taught a college writing course at one time and, because he is well-read with a great sense of good storytelling, he has always been a beta reader for my novels. Now let's see what Richard has to say for himself...
When did you start writing and how long was it before you were published?
I still have my first short story written when I was six. It was about a boy who finds a wounded prairie dog and nurses it back to health. I apparently already believed in surprise endings because he throws it into the ocean where it swims away and lives happily ever after. I differentiate between being published, having fiction published, and being paid for fiction. It was about thirty years before I was paid for fiction.
Tell us about your latest book and what inspired it.
My inspirations come from things that have happened in my own life. The genre doesn't matter. I could be writing about living on a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri and I'd still use the emotions and sensations from past experiences. Love, hate, danger, sex, fear, happiness, death are all universal and timeless. The book I'm working on now is about a spy who should have been a poet but instead is involved in the darkest of black operations. It's also a love story.
What genre do you write in, if any? How do you feel about the genre, the future of it, and the authors in it?
My latest book is a spy thriller which, at the moment, doesn't have a name. I choose to write in that genre because I enjoy it. I try to write something that I would enjoy reading. There will always be an audience for great spy thrillers. John LeCarre rises above the genre in the way that Larry McMurtry made Lonesome Dove more than a western. There is always room for exceptional writing in any genre. When I write short stories, they sometimes are horror tales, again because I enjoy them.
What/who do you read for pleasure?
I've read most of your books. Other authors who I admire and enjoy have been and are: Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry, Anne Rice (but only Interview With The Vampire). Actually, I read a lot of non-fiction too. I think it makes good ammunition for writing fiction.
Is writing pleasure or work for you?
When I write, I practically go into a trance. I'll realize that it's hours later and stop. It's more like another dimension than pleasure or work.
If you had to exchange your writing life with another writer, who would that writer be and why?
If I had to . . . maybe Lord Byron. His adventures with Mary Wollstonecraft and Percy Shelley sound very entertaining. He wasn't a slouch as a writer either.
How do your friends and family cope knowing you have such dark or unusual thoughts?
I am what I am. Some think I'm weird and it's true. I create fantasy worlds and live in them when I'm writing. If I weren't writing and I spent the same amount of time imagining monsters and murderers, I suppose I'd be considered insane.
How supportive is your spouse and your family?
My spouse is very supportive. As a rule, I only see the rest of my family on holidays.
What inspires you? Or triggers a story idea?
I'll give an example. I read a book by the man who actually was the first designer of special weapons for the CIA. In his book, he mentioned that the Soviets had trained women from an early age to be more than just operatives, but lethal weapons. From that, I built the story of 57J, a young girl who was taken from her parents, then trained and educated by the KGB.
What has been the most difficult/painful/surreal story to write, and why?
There have been times when I hit a blank wall in a story and simply didn't know what happened next. I was stuck. I learned to solve that by just writing anything for a few pages. I quickly found where the story was going, then could go back and remove the meaningless pages.
How do you see the story in your mind as it's created? Is it like making a plan, seeing a mental movie, or do you just write down what the voices in your head tell you?
I start with a plan of some kind although that can change as the story sometimes leads me. It's a little like a movie except I usually put myself in a situation I've experienced somehow before so I'm in it rather than watching it.
Now that traditional publishing vs digital publishing has taken really different turns lately, how do you feel about authors going the small press or traditional publishing route over the digital route? Indie or Traditional for you or both and why?
I like the idea of controlling the sales myself and seeing what is happening as it happens.
What's the best book you ever read?
That all depends on your definition of best. I'll define "best" as liked the most. I loved the characters and plot in "Sweet Thursday" by John Steinbeck. Another great favorite was "The Little Drummer Girl" by John LeCarre.
Who are your influences in literature?
I'd have to say every author whose work I've ever read has probably contributed in the way that even a grain of sand adds weight to a load. However, if I could write spy novels as well as LeCarre, I'd be happy.
Do you feel traditional publishing may become a niche?
My guess would be that people will always want a library of favorite books. I do because I like the feel and the smell and consider them to be artworks in their own right. In general, I think digital publishing will become dominant though.
What is your education and job, other than writing?
I have written most of my life. I wrote for the school newspaper from junior high through college, then the Stars and Stripes in the Army. I wrote for various newspapers and magazines and sold a couple of industrial film scripts.
Do you ever, like Truman Capote confessed doing, take from real life, friends, and family situations or characters to use in your fiction? If so, do you tell them or keep it secret?
I almost always use someone as a model for a character. It could be someone like a well-known terrorist, but many times it's a friend or acquaintance. I enhance them and sometimes combine more than one person into a character. I've never told anyone that I patterned a character after them.
Do you belong to any writer's organizations? If so, which ones, and how do you feel about professional organizations?
I don't belong to any. I don't have anything against them.
Do you think networking on social sites has helped your career and sales?
I know it helps but I haven't done much networking yet.
Writing fiction is important to all authors, but how much does it mean to you? If there were no outlets for fiction of any kind, how would that feel? If for some reason you could not write anymore, what would you do instead?
They'd find out I talked to myself and acted out fantasies anyway so I'd probably end up in the loony bin.
What three things should our world have that would make it a better place?
More nymphomaniacs, great wine, and more readers who like my books.
WEIRD TALES by Richard Ferguson