“If I could dig down deep in my heart
Feelings would flood on the page
Would it satisfy ya?
Would it slide on by ya?
Would you think the boy's insane?”

  Mick Jagger 

Richard Cornered, and Answering Questions

  • Q: Who are you?
  • A:  Ah, one of my favorites. The Who. Released in 1978, as I recall.
  • Q: No. I mean tell us about yourself, your background.
  • A:  Oh. Well, I worked as a radio DJ and in a record store while I was in college and law school, so my misinterpretation of your first question took me  back there. I was born in Ohio, where my father worked in the oil industry. He changed jobs and was transferred abroad, so I grew up in Lebanon until we left because of the civil war. After that I lived in Massachusetts, then back overseas to graduate high school in London. I went to college and law school in Nashville. I moved to  Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., in the early nineties, and have lived here since. I practice law, and when I’m not doing that I follow the Red Sox and the Buckeyes, cook magnificently, work out feverishly because I eat a lot of my magnificent cooking, and read and write a lot.
  • Q: Trace the arc for us, DJ to lawyer to author. Are they connected in your mind?
  • A: I see them as different facets of the same diamond, if you will. At their core, all those things are about communicating a story. I’d play a record on the air and regale my listeners with some juicy tidbit about the band or the singer to make the song resonate more deeply than it otherwise might. When I did late night shifts, I liked to put together a series of songs by different bands and let the tempos and lyrics play off one another to set a mood, not unlike setting a scene in a story. Practicing law, especially when I litigated, was all about weaving often disparate facts into a compelling true story for a judge or jury. As I see it, writing novels calls upon many of the same skills I honed behind microphones and in courtrooms.
  • Q: Why do you write?
  • A:  It’s a compulsion. I love the power of words and stories. Words always  have been good to me, and I’m good to them. I enjoy making them fly or crawl, scream or whisper  for me in the service of telling a good story. Something I’ve always appreciated in good writing is the author’s deliberate choice of words to engage all the reader’s senses in making the story come to life. I’ve heard that called showing, rather than telling, the reader what’s happening. A dispassionate recitation of facts might advance a plot, but it will never make a reader squirm in her seat or outrage her or make her smile, cry or gasp. To me writing’s about achieving reciprocity between author and reader. I want my reader to feel something like what I felt when I finally got the words right. I read somewhere a while ago there are only seven distinct plotlines for any story, such as man versus man, man versus nature, good versus evil, etc. I write because I admire the way the right words at the right time can make those otherwise staid plotlines into new, different and exciting stories.
  • Q: When do you write?
  • A: A better question is, when do I not write? A writer is almost always writing, whether or not his fingers happen to be rapping against a keyboard at any particular moment. I always carry a pen to scratch thoughts and ideas onto whatever scrap of paper’s in reach. If I can’t find something to write on I send myself voice mails. If you mean when do my fingertips coax sentences and paragraphs and chapters from keyboards, that usually happens during waning afternoons or late nights. No question my best writing likes to come out at night.
  • Q: Who and what are your influences?
  • A:  Everybody and everything. The best cure for so-called writer’s block is to venture out often into the world and look around, listen to life and give it a sharp poke with a pointed stick now and again. Inspiration comes from everywhere. A snippet of overheard conversation, provocative words on a faded T-shirt, pungent smells at a dusty construction site, getting unjustly tossed out of a bar for allegedly egregious behavior which I’ll deny to the end of my days, anything. That said, the person who most fervently urged me to  develop my writing talents was my mother, who was a very good writer herself. The author who most enthralls me is Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Q: Do you outline your stories, or make them up as you go along?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Funny man. How do you do your research?
  • A: Like everyone else, the Internet’s where I start. If I’m trying to get a sense of a place I’ve never been before, I try to go there. For example, one story I’m currently playing with is set in New Orleans. I went to Mardi Gras several times in the 1980s, but I hadn't not been to New Orleans since Katrina, so I returned to see what it’s like now. If I’m creating a character with a job I don’t know very well, I try to find  people who’ve done that kind of work and pick their brains. A major character in "Blood of the Moon" is a retired astronaut, and I have the good fortune of happening to know a retired space shuttle astronaut (thanks again, Scott) who has been outrageously generous in rendering me less than utterly ignorant about astronauts and astronautics. The bottom line is if there’s a reasonably legal way somehow to taste for myself what I’m writing about without risking irreparable injury and/or incarceration, I do it.
  • Q: How would you describe your muse?
  • A:  Depends on her mood. If she’s being good to me, then I would describe her in the most glowing terms you can possibly imagine. If she’s being surly and uncooperative, or if she just plain abandons me for reasons unknown and unknowable, then my description of her would be unfit for inclusion in a wholesome family interview like this one. Truth be told, there have been many midnights I’ve had to get on my knees and beseech her from the depths of my soul to shine her light on a paragraph or some piece of dialogue or a character’s motivation, or even a major plot twist. She can be  unduly fickle. Still, she always comes back to me, sooner or later.
  • Q: She sounds like a keeper. How did you come up with the idea for "Blood of the Moon"?
  • A:  At the time I started writing the book, I was caring for my elderly, widowed mother. I was losing her slowly but very certainly to Alzheimer’s disease. Watching her fade from me a little more each day with nothing I could do to stop it was the most gut-wrenching experience of my life. When her condition worsened to the point I had to hire people to help with her care, I read even more voraciously than I usually do to find some respite from the hurt and anger I felt at being so powerless to help her. I came across a fascinating nonfiction book detailing Soviet research into the origins and nature of petroleum. The Soviet scientists cited in that book espoused opinions about oil wildly divergent from those I was taught growing up. I also read a lot about oligopolistic practices in the early English coal industry, and about the gasoline combustion engine and the machinations by which it came to virtually obliterate competing electronic technologies in the nascent American automotive business. My mother’s illness, and the reading I was doing at the time, gelled into the ideas underlying "Blood of the Moon."
  • Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?
  • A:  Reading and writing are as inextricably intertwined as inhaling and exhaling. Never stop breathing. And do it over and over again, with a good editor who’ll never lie to you. My third draft of "Blood on the Moon" was better than my first, and my seventh was better than my third. At some point, you’ll finish a draft and be absolutely dead certain your research and writing finally have come together so completely another rewrite’s not going to make your story any better. That’s your second-to-last draft.
  • Q: Besides reading and writing, what else do you do for fun?
  • A:  I like traveling. I enjoy sports, weightlifting, and beating the hell out of the heavy bag I keep in my basement. I’m addicted to all kinds of music. Did I mention I cook magnificently? And I avoid things I don’t like. There’s a lot of fun to be had in that. If you do it right and well, it's like a superpower.
  • Q: You're an author, so I have to ask, what are your favorite books?
  • A:  I have lots of favorite books. And authors. I read the same way I listen to music, open to pretty much anything. It’s hard to get bored that way. To attempt an answer to your question, I savor almost anything by the good Doctor Hunter S. Thompson. "Atlas Shrugged," by Ayn Rand. "In Cold  Blood," by Truman Capote. I have a book containing all of the scripts from the old Monty Python TV shows, and that’s always amusing. The book Vincent Bugliosi wrote about the Manson Family, "Helter Skelter." Woodward and Bernstein’s "All the President’s Men," Nikki Sixx’s "The Heroin Diaries." My friend since boyhood, Raymond Khoury, writes some very good stuff. Michael Crichton. James Rollins. Ambrose Bierce. Georges Simenon. Alfred Bester. Carl Hiaasen. Dan Brown. Dashiel Hammet. And while it’s not a book, “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe never fails to move me. And there’s more. There's always more.
  • Q: We're almost done. My last questions is, do you have anything you'd like to say to your readers?
  • A:  I do. Thank you, to each and every one of you.

Author Interview -- The Eerie Digest

 “If your life is touched in any way by the oil economy, which it inescapably is, then you’ll find “Blood of the Moon” very relevant in the current economic, social and political climate. For example, that oil and gas supplies and prices remained pretty static during the entire recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is fascinating. The book’s central message is there’s an incessant conflict between perception and truth in every significant human endeavor. It behooves us all to embrace this fact, ask hard questions, and then scrutinize the sources and biases behind the answers we’re given or denied.” 

Richard, in an interview with The Eerie Digest.    

Author Interview -- Malcolm Holt's Sunny Side of the Street

Q: "Have you ever been mistaken for someone else?"
A: "I've had old Partridge Family memorabilia thrust at me amid fevered cries of "Mr Bonaduce! Mr Bonaduce!" Other than that, my children occasionally confuse me with Lucifer, but they swear they're joking." 

Author Interview -- authorsinterviews

"As for the events, the book’s set against a corrupted American presidential race in 2016, so the events in it aren’t based on particular life experiences so much as extrapolated from current events we all know well from the evening news."