Author Interview with Rick R. Reed author of IM
Tell us your latest news?
My new book, IM, just hit the shelves last week (May 10)! I’m excited about this one because it’s so topical and fits right in with a lot of today’s headlines. It’s about a serial killer who uses Internet hookup sites to find his victims. The twist is that the killer may or may have himself been a murder victim. I hope readers will find it quite suspenseful.
How did you come up with the title?
IM stands for instant message (and then it became kind of clever to wonder if it also stood for instant murder). The book is about a serial killer in internet chat rooms seducing his victims through instant messages. It was short, catchy, and it gets the point across.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I try to leave messages for readers to come up with. Some people have called IM a ‘cautionary tale’ but I was just trying to write a good story. I guess if there is a message, it’s to be careful out there, especially about inviting strangers into your home when you only have an online conversation to go on.
How much of the book is realistic?
Well, I would say the inspiration for the book came because I have done some of the online mating dance myself and done some stupid things, which led me to think about how easy I could be making it for someone with deranged or violent tendencies to come into my home. And do harm to me and then leave…without leaving much a trace behind. It would be hard to connect him to me.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think I answered that above.
What’s one new way you’ve discovered to promote your work?
Book trailers have become very popular. You can find the trailer for IM on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd_wdQgnPLk.
Where can readers find your books?
Since my work is now small press, it’s much easier to find at the online booksellers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Booksamillion, and the like. If you want to support independent booksellers, I tell readers to order from StarCrossed Productions or Lambda Rising. Any brick and mortar store should be able to order any of my work.
What do you think makes a good story?
First and foremost, having characters that you can care about. Without that, not much else matters because you won’t want to continue reading. You may not necessarily like the characters, but you need an emotional investment in what happens to them. After that, you have to give them an intriguing problem to solve and then it helps to put them in a setting that will interest readers. Regarding themes, you need to hit on something universal, so people can identify.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Where are you from?
I grew up in a small Ohio River town best known for its pottery called East Liverpool, Ohio. It’s right where the northern panhandle of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio come together. It’s quite scenic and is starting to show up in my fiction as Summitville, PA.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing since I could hold a pencil. I remember being about six and writing my first short story; I wrote and produced a play in fourth grade. It’s almost constitutional with me. I have a vivid imagination, which I probably live in as much as I live in real life, which probably makes me sound like a nut, which isn’t far from the truth. But I’ve always thought there was a fine line between insanity and creativity.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
See above. It’s almost always been my sole dream. Or my soul dream…if we want to be poetic.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Professionally, I suppose it was when Dell accepted my first novel for publication, back in 1991. It was called OBSESSED and it too was about a serial killer, one who believed he was a vampire.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was living in Chicago when I started writing OBSESSED and happened one night to be driving along the Eisenhower Expressway. It was raining and I noticed how colors reflected on the pavement and, for some reason, an image of a guy came to me who was on his way home to the wife he loved…but he had just murdered a young woman in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn. Ideas often come that way, from tiny images.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book in high school. It was a comedy called Amazonian Odyssey, inspired by a pair of lesbian math teachers. I’m glad it never saw the light of day! But it was rather infamous around the school. I then wrote a novel when I was in my early twenties called THE DARKNESS WITHIN, which actually came pretty close to being published, but for various reasons, the publisher backed out. Now, I’m kind of glad. It wasn’t all that great, but it let me know I really wanted to write about things that go bump in the night.
Who or what has influenced your writing?
James Purdy, Flannery O’Connor, Patricia Highsmith, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. If one is familiar at all with my work, that won’t seem like such a weird group as it does on first glance.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
I grew up in a small town and was the class sissy…as such I was ostracized and for many years, had no friends. This forced me to retreat into a world of books and my imagination. These were unhappy times, but I’m grateful for them because I really believe they honed my writing ability.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I strive for economy…to use only the necessary amount of words to tell the story. I strive to show and not tell. I suppose my style is clean (at least I hope so) and doesn’t call attention to itself. I want that attention to be reserved for my story, my setting, and my characters.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Although I’m classified as a horror writer, I would say what I write is more psychological suspense. Most of my horror is things that can really happen, which I think make them all the more terrifying.
What books have most influenced your life most?
A Confederacy of Dunces, A Shallow Grave, and Strangers on a Train. I just tried to go with what popped into my head first.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Milton White. He was my creative writing professor back in Ohio at Miami University (and author of CRY DOWN THE LONELY NIGHT, A YALE MAN, and LISTEN: THE RED-EYED VIREO). He taught me to write simply and to have something to say.
What book are you reading now?
SNOW MOON RISING, by Lori L. Lake. It’s a wonderful, brave story about two women, one German and one Roma, surviving the Holocaust.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
There’s a woman named Dawn Scovill, whose paranormal debut novel is really good, IMMORTAL BONDS. Otherwise, I would say Lori Lake, Victor Banis, and P.A. Brown.
What are your current projects?
I just finished a new novel and submitted it to my publisher, so I’m on pins and needles about that. I’m about to start revising a YA book soon.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My partner, Bruce. But I consider him family, so I don’t know that I really answered your question.
Do you see writing as a career?
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
A few continuity details.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I can just remember being a little boy and always wanting to be read to. I think that interest in stories just developed into wanting to tell them myself.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I guess that would be the novel I just finished. But you know what? I just submitted it a few days ago and I feel a huge jinx hanging over me if I talk about it in a public forum like this.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Getting started! It’s always sitting down and getting going that’s hard. Once I’ve conquered that, the rest is a lot easier.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
James Purdy…his unique use of language and his characters which border on the grotesque, but whom you always come to love and care deeply about.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I’m with a small press, so they don’t have the budget for big national tours. Right now, I only have plans to attend the Golden Crown Literary Society convention in Atlanta in June and hopefully, I’ll be doing Chicago this fall.
Who designed the covers?
She’s a wonderful designer who does a lot of the covers from my publisher, Regal Crest and her name is Donna Pawlowski. She’s great to work with and is very open to input from authors.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Letting go at the end. You come to know the characters and sometimes, it’s like saying goodbye to old friends.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I suppose I learn something new each time and it’s usually about myself, which I don’t usually even see except in retrospect.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Make sure it’s what you really MUST do, because it’s a very difficult and often lonely road to travel. Make sure you’re good with rejection and realize there are much easier ways to make a living.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Give me a chance…I promise not to let you down.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It really depends on the book. The one I just finished I wrote in four months. Others take six months to over a year; it all depends mostly on what else I have going on in my life and how much time I can devote.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I’m a morning person, so my best work comes early in the morning. I usually roll out of bed and head for my desk and work the morning away…then save the afternoon for other tasks, like editing, promoting, and personal stuff.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I believe that when I write I undergo a form of self hypnosis. It’s truly like another state of consciousness.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Years ago, I used to have to do library research. The internet has changed all that and Google makes finding so many things quicker and easier. I do, on occasion, talk to professionals in the field I’m writing about.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read a lot and it’s one of my biggest loves. Otherwise, I love the outdoors and doing things like biking. And I love to travel.
What does your family think of your writing?
They’re very proud of me and very supportive.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That characters take on lives of their own and often do and say things I totally did not expect.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
So far, I’ve written about ten novels, seven of which have been or will be published soon. One I doubt will ever be published because it was my first and can be chalked up to a learning experience, but I have high hopes for the other two. I’ve also started and not finished several others.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Trust your instincts; they’re usually right. Make sure you know the craft of writing as best you can: things like spelling, grammar, and punctuation do matter—hugely, not just in selling your work, but in properly getting your message across.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
They usually ask where I get my ideas (number one) and two, can I help them get published.
Do you like to create books for adults?
Yes…other than the young adult book, all of my work deals with mature themes and situations.
How do you feel overall about self-publishing?
I feel it’s a huge uphill battle for fiction writers and probably not one they should attempt. If your work is good, you should be able to find a publisher, even a small press, for it. If your book is non-fiction and you have lots of outlets to talk about it, it could be a smart choice, because you retain all control and keep most of the profits.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of promotion for self-published authors?
I’m not sure, since my novels aren’t self-published.
What do you feel is one major benefit to self-publishing your book?
Again, my book is published by a small press, not by me.
Would you encourage or mentor someone to become self-publish?
No. As I said, I think it’s an uphill battle and you’d be better served using that same energy to find an agent or publisher to champion your work.
Be sure to check author Rick R. Reed’s website and myspace page: