I shall be engaging in a number of interviews with independent authors. May you find these informative, entertaining, and perhaps even inspiring to go out and locate their books!
This interview is with author RJ Palmer.
Dear RJ, can you offer us a little insight into who you are?
I’m going to make some kind of effort to make this at least a little entertaining but I’m running out of little anecdotes that outline my youthful stupidity. I guess I get to show the youth of the world that hey, they may be rebels without a clue, but they’re not the first and I can verify that.
Let’s see, so far in previous bios, I’ve covered my husband, eight dozen children and school buses being among the few of my favorite things, almost dying my hair purple and blue, beer drinking and singing along with the radio in the car (Oh, the HORROR!). Now let’s see if I can come up with something original. Nope, I guess I’m a writer without a single new idea. That’ll make my career epically short lived.
Truth be told, I absolutely abhor mayonnaise but I’m fine with ranch (which is made with mayonnaise) and could just about eat tomatoes on anything but I’m not a fan of ketchup. I heat up my cold cuts in the microwave which seems a little unusual if you ask me. Since you already did, don’t ask me again because then I’d have to repeat myself and that just reminds me of the kids. They’re at school right now so no one’s allowed to ruin the moment for me.
When I was in eighth grade during quiet reading time in school, I farted loudly enough to rattle the windows. Then, I was dumb enough to actually CLAIM it. In my defense, I thought it was going to be a little, silent one. I guess I was horribly wrong. I kind of earned the nickname “Ripper” that I lived with for about the next three weeks. You can feel free to eliminate this paragraph if you want because the material might be a little inappropriate or immature. Your option.
And on a further note, you can all blame Wodke Hawkinson for my steadily degenerating author bios because they managed to give me the idea.
What is the reason that you started writing? When did you start writing?
I started writing because I was bored and I do mean BORED. I was mind numbingly, eyes watering and “getting excited about trimming that stray thread off the curtains” kind of bored. I had nothing to do, the house was clean and I couldn’t bring myself to play another game of solitaire so I sat down and indulged the urge to write that I’d ignored for so long before that. Two hundred pages and about ten months later, I finished “Birthright” and found my calling in life. I’ve been flat broke pretty much ever since but blast it all, I’ve been HAPPY.
Are you writing under a pen-name, do you use your own, or is your work out in both ways?
I absolutely use a pen-name. Most people know me by Rachel, which is my given name and before you ask, I’m not telling what the “J” stands for because then I’d have people coming out of the woodwork using my full name and that would just get creepy.
If you have published one book so far, what aspect of it do you like best?
My pride and joy is “Sins of the Father” which has been getting glowing reviews. Yay me! When I penned “Birthright” I was applying the advice of my third grade teacher when she said, “You can’t write in too much detail.” Dear Lord, she was WRONG! In “Birthright”, I forgot what it was to shut up and leave some details to the reader to dream up and I can agree with the people who said, “Good God, woman! You can feel free to leave a little to my imagination!” Ah, such is the learning process. With “Sins of the Father” I did my best to take what the critics had said and apply it, reined myself in a bit AND I hired an editor which is absolutely essential for a serious writer. I think I did a fairly stellar job of showing that I’m a professional and not a fly-by-night or a one trick pony. I’m here, I’m serious, I’m talented and I’m going to be somebody of note someday.
Naturally, after the best book, what is your worst, if there is one? And why do you feel that way?
Out of the two I’ve got published right now, “Birthright” is WAY too descriptive but have no fear, it’s in the editing process right now and even though my editor is probably going to be tearing her hair out in frustration at me, she’s quite gifted and could probably get rid of about a third of the book that’s non-essential detail. My sympathies, my dear. I don’t blame her if she falls asleep reading through it a few times. That’s not to say that the storyline is boring or anything, but I’d be worn out if I had to edit “Birthright” too.
How do you think your writing has changed over time? Did it change at all?
Yes, I’ve matured and grown and this has shown up in my writing. I’ve also been willing to take the competent criticisms that I’ve been given and apply them to better my craft. Truthfully, if anyone says that they’ve reached the point in their career that they couldn’t learn a single other useful thing, no matter what career it is, they’re silly and deluded. A person can always find room to learn new things within the scope of their career. Otherwise, they just have a job and haven’t discovered what they want to do when they grow up.
And can you say that writing has changed you?
Without a doubt. I’ve discovered a capacity for understanding and reasoning that I didn’t have before. In order to write well, a person has to be not only willing but also able to write with an open mind from multiple different points of view, even if we don’t always agree with said points of view. This means that we have to be able to use our understanding in a way that we don’t necessarily show in everyday life. For an example, I had to write about things in “Sins of the Father” that would make my stomach turn out in the real world but they were integral to the story I was trying to tell. I had to lay down my aversion to the act itself in order to write about it in a compelling way.
What is the most daring thing you ever did or tried in your writing? In which book did that happen?
I wrote from the point of view of an autistic child in “Sins of the Father” which was NOT as easily done as you might think. I could’ve taken the easy way out and just not written from his point of view, but I had to try. My need for a compelling and dynamic story simply wouldn’t let me leave well enough alone.
And, if your feel up to it, what is the most daring thing you ever did in your life? Feel free to skip this one, not everybody is up to revealing much about themselves…
When I was sixteen, I testified against my own father at a hearing. My brothers and I suffered deeply at his hands when we were younger and I knew that the state more than likely had enough evidence to declare that our best interests were served in foster care but it was something I needed to do. I needed to start talking, to tell someone something about what had happened and cinch that part of my past up tight and beyond retrieval. I had to stand up, face my tormentor and let him know he couldn’t hurt me anymore. I had to take away any possibility that he could hurt my brothers ever again as well and I had to take back the power that he’d leached from me. I testified for about four hours, maybe five and by the time I was done, I was exhausted but I felt better and I knew that even if there was some crazy circumstance in which my father had been planning to get his kids back, the things that I told the Courts had now made that impossible.
Is there something you still want to have a go at, in your writing life? Is there a challenge you envision that’s worth pursuing?
I want respect and acknowledgement as a writer. I want to be taken seriously. That NY Times Bestseller list has a certain appeal, naturally but I want to be more than a name and entertainment value. That’s not to say that entertaining people isn’t great, it’s just that I want for people to see what’s under the entertainment and get what I’m trying to say. I want people to analyze my writing, discover their own truth and understand mine.
Has your writing ever been compared to the writing of another (perhaps even famous) writer/author? And do you like that?
It’s been pointed out that my writing has obviously been influenced by Dean Koontz whose novels I’ve been reading since I was thirteen years old. I can’t disagree there and there’s a certain kind of pride in being compared and contrasted with an author for whom I have deep respect, both personally and professionally. It should stand to reason though, that I would show a lot of the influences of my favorite author because I’ve been an eduring fan for more than half my life.
Do you have one or two favourite books (written by someone else)? If so, what are they, and why do they appeal to you so much?
I suppose since I have to limit myself to one or two because I could easily name off five or six, I’d have to go with “One Door Away From Heaven” by Dean Koontz (no surprise there) because of the alien. If I told you any more, it would be a spoiler. You’ll have to read it to find out. I also read “Many Waters” by Madeleine L’Engle when I was in my early teens and a line from the book goes through my head frequently, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” Enough said.
Which book you ever read would you label as least readable book, so far? Feel free to comment as liberally as you want to the why.
Okay, I’m going to be delightfully evasive here and not name any one particular book. Suffice it to say that I’ve read some real humdingers as an Indie with a group of talented colleagues to uphold and help promote. There was one work that I did try reading for which the author was not writing in his native language and there were so many problems with the story that I couldn’t get past the first chapter. I’ve even had trouble getting through some of the fluff pieces from my favorite authors and yes, I CAN tell the difference between a novel that was written based on a good idea and careful planning and one that was churned out to meet a deadline.
Is there a book that you know of that should never have been published, in your opinion?
There are several though I’ll decline to name them outright here. I mean, come on people. If you just want to publish a silly little idea with pie in the sky notions that you’re going to skyrocket straight to superstardom and easy wealth based on the “best book ever written” with no plot or depth, please give the rest of us that ARE working hard and putting our life’s blood into words on paper a break. I write because I can’t give it up and because it’s a part of who I am, nothing less. I love my writing, each novel is a piece of my soul. If you can’t string two words together in a cohesive or coherent way, stop making my job more difficult. If you have no humility and can’t accept a poor review with taste and professionalism, you have no talent. Bear in mind, you should read this answer whilst forgetting about the blatant lack of both taste and professionalism in my author bio. Just forget about that part while you’re reading this.
Is there a writer that you would love to co-write a book with? And what genre would you like to write in then? Something you’re familiar with?
I’m going to say no. I’m a jealous and horribly controlling woman when it comes to my writing. I know what I want to write and I’ll write it my way and the rest of anyone else be damned. I can’t have that kind of devil may care if I’m collaborating because then I have to allow for someone else’s opinion. Perish the thought!
Let’s see… is there something in the realm of ‘wise words’ you once picked up that you would like to share? This does not have to be limited to writing, there is more to life than writing. At least, I heard there is.
You heard that there’s more to life than writing? Great Scott! I’ve been living a lie and doing it all wrong! Let’s see…My Grandmother once told me, “No matter where you go, you take yourself with you.” When she told me this, I was sitting there thinking, “Well, duh…” And I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn’t learn what she was saying for another few years, right about the time I learned what it was to love myself despite all my failings and pitfalls. Thanks, Gram. You just had to get that one in, didn’t you?
And as a last question, what is cooking with you? What’s your work in progress? Is there a tip of a veil that you can lift for us?
There are a couple of works I’ve been starting to compose in my head and since my ability to outline is dismally in deficit, I’m going to lose some of the ideas I’ve had before I ever start. It works out for my benefit because the lost idea is replaced with something better. One book I’m gearing up to write is a continuation of “Birthright” since so many people have told me that it needs to be turned into a series. The twins’ story needs to be told. I’ve also got an idea for another kind of novel that I’m thinking I might title “Dreamweaver” but I haven’t gotten the finer details worked out in my head yet. I had a great thought when I was kind of tipsy the other night that I can’t remember now so I’ve got to dig into my memory and see if I can pull that great idea out. It’s too good to be lost amid a slightly drunken haze and no, I can’t stop composing stuff in my head even when I’m trying to take a break. This is my blessing, this is my compulsion.
If there is anything else you would like to share, for example a thought, some promotion for your book(s), then here’s your chance!
I thought I’d share an excerpt from “Sins of the Father” because I’d like to tickle your imagination and get you to buy and enjoy the book.
From Sins of the Father:
As Aaron watched in fascination and awe that changed quickly to horror, Lucian sat straight up on the couch and abruptly stopped screaming. His eyes, normally of that purest amethyst color and staring fixedly to the upper right met Aaron’s for the first time. They darkened with intense anguish before they turned as black as ink in the space of a second and Lucian opened his mouth.
The voice that came from him could not have been his for it was not childlike or sing song and it was not the high pitched voice of a boy of six. It was low, cold and hateful and it vibrated with fury, awareness and suppressed power. It crawled along Aaron’s skin as if it had a life of its own and made him feel nauseous and weak. Its cold caress could be felt reverberating from every corner of the room. Aaron fought for strength and control of his stomach as the voice that came from Lucian but was not Lucian’s was also accompanied by a sickening stench like that of rot and decay. There was death and agony and bitter, undiluted hate in the chilling quality of that voice and Aaron’s eyes watered and he gagged with the putrescence.
“Mae yn byw gwarcheidwad. Mae giât wedi ei agor. Mae bechodau y tad a gludir ar y mab. Thirsts Dialedd ar gyfer gwaed. Rhaid i’r aberth cael eu gwneud.”
Aaron was bitterly cold and shaking with terror as the power of that voice carried him to a place of utter despair and he knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that he was no match, was not equal to the task of helping Lucian no matter how he tried. No matter what he did, he would lose and he knew keenly that he should just give up now. What could he do against a voice or presence of that magnitude? It was a fools’ errand and the effort was lost before he’d ever begun.
For more information about Sins of the Father, please visit http://rjpalmer.blogspot.com or find RJ Palmer at the following places:
Thank you, RJ, for your time, and for sharing your words with us!