Somojo Magazine

Judith Richards has written five novels.
Her recent novel Too Blue To Fly was on the short list for the Lillian Smith Award.

When and why did you begin writing?

As soon as I could get my fingers around a pencil I began to make squiggles and hoped that I’d said something important.  Writing was a window into my own head and heart … therapy.  But I got serious when I was 30-something and had the opportunity to work with a pro.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I’m always interested in real people and events.  My first book, Sounds of Silence, was inspired by my visits to schools for the deaf when I was working in a public relations program on animals that was offered to all schools.  My lectures were interpreted in sign language.  I soon realized there are many aspects of deaf life that are intriguing, and difficult.  I wondered how the deaf feel about being deaf and struggling to live in a hearing world?  How do they cope?  What do they hate about the rest of us who blithely charge through life battering our ears, and their sensitivity to vibrations? 
For my story, I conjured Southern mansion in dire need of a handyman, and a deaf man to fill the job for an eccentric heiress who had a dark secret, and ulterior motives for keeping the deaf man long after his work was completed.  Using a suspense format, I tried to show the world from the deaf man’s point of view as well as the other side, and the misunderstandings that developed because of those differences.

What type of books do you write?
Are your books based upon personal experiences, from your imagination or a combination of both?

My books are always about people who passionately want or need something and the relationships and situations that either hinder or help them. 
Two of my novels, Summer Lightning and After the Storm, are barely fictionalized stories about a red-headed, freckle-faced, cigarette-smoking truant who is the little boy my husband used to be. 
He is six years old (in the first story), extremely intelligent, irrepressible, and a bit of a liar.

When writing do you have a ‘plan’ of the book already set out as you start or do you let the shape of the content evolve as everything comes together?
My husband, C. Terry Cline, Jr, who is a suspense writer, and I work together on our books.  He’s a genius at plotting and I’m pret ty good with characters.  Together we plan the end of a book before beginning the novel, but plans can go awry.  The story often changes in the process of writing.  Sometimes research on a subject will lead us in another direction, but more likely changes occur as the characters take on life.   The strongest characters can want to take over a story and the writer must work hard to keep them in line, and the story on target.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging when writing?
Everything is challenging.  Keeping to a routine.  Trying not to put all my research into a book.  Knowing when to listen to criticism and when to ignore it.  Rejection is the most difficult to face and even very successful authors are occasionally rejected.  But I am lucky to have my husband as a partner every step of the way.  We edit one another’s work and that other perspective and support is always helpful.

As an established author, do you see the challenges for having a successful book different now to when your first book was state?
When I was first state the literary agent was becoming a much needed connection.  He was a sales person, a cheerleader, and a buffer between the writer and the publisher/editor.  This is still true, but agents have almost all had to become editors as well.  That fact makes the choice of agent extremely important.  You must have faith in one another and wor k in close harmony. 
Publishers don’t edit or proofread manuscripts in the meticulous way they used to.  That puts all the responsibility on the author.  I’m shocked at the number of writers who imagine that an editor will correct all their errors. 
Publishers also expect their authors to have some ideas and/or experience in marketing their work.  If you’re starting to wonder just what will the publisher do for you…it’s a good question.  One hopes that he will guide you, advertise your work, set up a promotional tour, and generally give the book the push it needs to get going.  Payment on time is appreciated too.

Do you think new authors should try to get their work state by a traditional book publisher first or do you think it is ok to go straight to the self-publishing route that is now available?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question.  We’ve all heard stories about the author who couldn’t get state, did it himself and sold the book from the trunk of his car (John Grisham); was later discovered and became a best-selling author.  It does happen.  You must believe though that there was talent, and a great story…something that captured the imagination of readers and they in turn told their friends.  That builds momentum.  You must also recognize initiative and luck. Luck is always a part of great success, but luck is made by pu tting yourself in position for it.  Go where your heart leads you, I say.  There are no rules.

How do you feel about books now being available in an electronic format?
I’m excited!  Good books should not disappear after a few weeks just because the big chain bookstores will no longer handle them. New books today can have the shelf life of a snowflake. The run of a book is now extended through electronic publication.  That’s good for the writer.
Readers are thrilled I believe at availability and price.  EBooks will soon be purchased from online stores by readers around the globe. 
Nothing makes this writer happier than extending her readership. 
I hear chatter from traditionalists who say they will not give up their real books.  They could never get used to reading a book on a computer or small electronic device, they say.  I believe the youngest generation will always try new media and will lead the rest of us in new directions.  I’m confident that the electronic format will become huge and I want to be a part of it.

What is your favourite book?
I really like the works of Scott Turow, Anita Shreve,  Ken Follett, and C. Terry Cline, Jr.  There are many others.  I just read a new writer, Brenda Rickman  Vantrease, author of “The Illuminator,” which has become my new favorite book.

What are your current writing projects?
Right now I’m working to convert my previously state books as eBooks.  My novels, Summer Lightning and After The Storm, were very popular round the world when first state.  I think they’re ready for a new generation of readers.
I’m also converting suspense novels by my husband, C. Terry Cline.  We’ve just launched Missing Persons and The Attorney Conspiracy through iPhone Apps and Kindle.  This is very exciting.
My newest work is scheduled for next Spring…a story of music, adventure, and drama set in the time of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  It’s titled “Ninth Ward Down,” but there’s a rumor the title could change.

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