Exclusive Interview with
Richard R. Becker
When did you start writing?
I was more of a storyteller than a writer when I was growing up, creating backgrounds for anything and everything from stuffed animals to plastic soldiers. I was also an artist, using visuals to tell stories — sometimes sketching out enormous murals on butcher block paper.
Other than poetry, my first published work was a science fiction serial written for my junior high school newspaper. But I didn’t become a serious writer until college, writing articles and advertisements. I have been writing professionally ever since and have taught university classes about it.
What makes writing your passion?
As a kid, I always thought art was a superior medium — like the cliche, a picture paints a thousand words. But then I came across this quote that in a thousand words, you can write the Lord's Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, the Hippocratic Oath, a sonnet by Shakespeare, the Preamble to the Constitution, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and almost all of the Boy Scout Oath.
Words are powerful. They elicit profound thoughts and feelings that can last lifetimes. For me, it’s an opportunity to explore the human condition to help people see the world from different points of view.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing professionally as a commercial writer and journalist for 36 years. I've been writing fiction for almost as long, but nothing I felt was worthwhile until publishing my debut short story collection, 50 States.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
My first book began as a project to write 50 short stories in 50 weeks. It was as challenging as it was rewarding. Seeing it in print and watching it enter the market was an exhilarating experience — a sense of accomplishment and great anticipation until the initial reviews came in.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Most of my characters come across as real people, even those who might possess extraordinary attributes. I want them to feel like someone you've passed by and didn't think twice about. Their pains. Their triumphs. We all have them, but most people will never know they exist.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
Writer's block is something that's never been a struggle. Sure, there are days when you won't feel as inspired as others, but those are the days that it's even more important to get something down on paper.
You learn this as a journalist and copywriter because everything is tied to a deadline. But it's not much different from writing fiction. Who cares if you have two or three false starts to the next chapter? Get something down.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
The best advice I can give new writers or aspiring authors is to worry a little less about writing tips and worry a little more about writing something that is accurate, clear, concise, conspicuous, and human. If you can capture these five elements in your work, the rest will take care of itself.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
I would tell myself to save a few thousand dollars and buy as much Amazon stock as possible in 1997. If I had done that, I might have written fiction a little sooner.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I read every book review, and the bad ones don't bother me. A bad review simply means that it didn't work, for whatever reason, for that reader. That's one person, one opinion. There are likely dozens of more readers who have written glowing reviews.
Writers have to understand that readers often get out a book what they bring into a book. Sometimes it syncs. Sometimes it doesn't. All you have to do is read the reviews attached to classic literature to understand it. Those reviews are as different as the people who write them.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
A good review always feels pretty good. I especially enjoy the ones that pull something out of the work and share an observation than transcends what I wrote. It demonstrates that there was a connection on a different level because they were paying attention.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
It's almost impossible to write without borrowing from our lives and experiences. I tend to incorporate little bits of my life, here and there, but not always in ways that people might expect.
There are a couple of stories, one in 50 States and one in Ten Threads, that are set in Wisconsin. Those two stories are fiction but probably closer to the truth than any others.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I do enjoy chatting with readers at book signings, and I am also very accessible on many social networks. I'm always happy to answer questions and consider it a gift when they tell me what they think about this or that.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I was elated when I won first place for short stories in the Spring 2022 BookFest Awards and first place for literary fiction, psychological thrillers, and short stories in the ABR Book Excellence Awards. The first one was thrilling, but the second provided a real sense of validation. It's an honor to be recognized.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
When people ask me this question, I always include Earnest Hemingway and John Updike because they have done such a splendid job writing straight, honest prose about human beings. From there, I tend to mention a potluck of writers whose work recently stood out. Lately, those authors are S.A. Cosby and Walter Mosley.