Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Richard R. Becker for an author interview with The Reading Bud.
About The Author
Richard R. Becker
Richard R. Becker is an award-winning American writer. His debut collection of literary, psychological, and speculative fiction began as a project to write one story a week for 50 weeks. He continues to expand many of these stories for inclusion in a second collection, and expects some will evolve into larger works.
When he is not writing fiction, Richard works as a creative strategist for Copywrite, Ink., a 30-year-old strategic communication and writing services firm with clients that have included government agencies and Fortune 500 companies. He has also been very active as a community servant, previously taught classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for 20 years, and has been a featured speaker for organizations such as G2E World Gaming Expo, Nevada Recreation and Parks Society, Regis University, U.S. Small Business Administration, and Wizard World Comic Con.
As a journalist, Richard has written hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, with his byline appearing in the Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, and publications for Simon & Schuster and Paramount Communications. He also scripted a documentary produced with PBS and contributed to five books, including “Beyond Generation X: A Practical
Guide for Managers” and the American Ambulance Association’s “Public Relations Handbook.”
Aside from his writing, he enjoys a broad range of activities, including travel, hiking, exercise, photography, and illustration. He is married and has two children.
You can find author Becker here:
Author Page | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Blog
Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.
Thanks so much for including me on TRB! My name is Richard Becker, and I’m the author of 50 States. Until recently, I was best known as an accredited business communicator and president of Copywrite, Ink., which is a writing services and strategic communication firm based in Las Vegas.
For more than 30 years, I’ve developed campaigns for clients all over the world, including the City of Henderson, Fidelity Investments, McDonald’s, National Emergency Number Association (NENA), U.S. Air Force, and Volkswagen. Concurrently, I’ve worked as a journalist, magazine publisher, and university instructor. I’ve also been very active in my community, helping out on nonprofit and professional organization boards. Right now, for example, I’m serving as a city council-appointed parks commissioner for the City of Las Vegas.
Over the years, I’ve refocused my work with those who aspire to make the world a better place or seek to advance humankind. Along with this, I’m investing more time into writing fiction.
Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?
50 States is an eclectic collection of stories that explore the human condition, filled with characters who face or cope with life-changing moments, both real and surreal.
It’s especially suited for people who enjoy many different genres: literary fiction, psychological fiction, speculative fiction, and historical fiction specifically. One reader described it as a box of chocolates because you never really know what’s next. There is some truth to their description. The diversity of the stories has been called out as one of its greatest strengths.
What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?
As different as the stories are, they are much like life — an infinite series of intersecting stories, paths that cross, divide, and double back again. While it isn’t necessarily apparent in this collection, all of these stories are connected in small or significant ways.
Independently, I hope readers find whatever they want inside each story because I don’t believe in forcing a message. Collectively, however, I hope they find we are more alike than different, all of us experiencing life with our collection of joys and pains, triumphs and tribulations.
Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
This is a very tough question because there are so many stories, each with its own set of characters. So, for this interview, I think I’ll call out Ellen Williamson from ‘A Beautiful Day.’ The story takes place in Pennsylvania in 1990.
Ellen is an older woman, a grandmother, near the end of her life and resolute in knowing it. She isn’t afraid of death. Instead, she embraces its eventuality, content in her life’s completeness, lighter in what she has let go of, and only mildly remorseful for those she leaves behind.
I identify with Ellen because I was raised by a grandmother very much like this and experienced a similar feeling when I was diagnosed with cancer years ago. Except, in my case, I was fortunate enough to beat it.
What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?
I was a storyteller all my life. My grandmother used to tell me that I should be a lawyer because I had a story for everything. It wasn’t until much later in life, in college, that I learned to channel storytelling into writing so I could write other people’s stories.
A couple of years ago, on the advice of a friend, I finally committed to putting my stories first by creating a self-imposed deadline to write one short story a week for 50 weeks. Everything else, the different locations and states of mind, evolved naturally from being immersed in the project.
How long did it take you to write this particular book?
The book took 50 weeks to write ‘first look’ drafts that I started sharing on a social network every week in September 2019. Once all of the stories were finished, the collection took a few more months to edit again, on my own and with editors, and put it into production.
I originally slated six months for editing and production, but a family crisis and tragedy postponed publishing the book for another four months. This also made the initial launch a little haphazard, but things are moving along nicely now.
What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?
Eventually, I will focus exclusively on writing fiction. I have so many writing projects in the works or waiting in the wings — several collections of short stories and at least five novels. Most of them involve or intersect with characters or locations that exist in 50 States because many of these characters and locales have so much more story to tell. Time will tell how much I can wrap up in the next five years, but I’m hopeful more and more people will enjoy what will become a body of work.
Are you working on any other books presently?
I’m currently working on several projects at once. I’ve written about eight stories that connect with or continue some of the stories in 50 States. I’m working on a much longer story set in Goldfield, Nevada, in the 1950s. And I’ve outlined what I think will be the first novel. So we’ll see how it all shapes up. I treat writing fiction a little bit like someone might garden. I tend to what needed to be tended.
Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?
I’m a very eclectic reader, so I suppose it’s only natural to be a very eclectic writer. I write in multiple genres or cross-genres because, for me, I go wherever the stories want to take me.
When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?
I was always a storyteller, but I never expected to become a writer. I was even held back in the third grade because I couldn’t read very well. I wanted to be an artist, and then a psychologist, and then an artist again. My stories were often told with pictures.
When I realized I didn’t want to become a psychologist, I transferred schools with this idea to combine art and psychology so I could find a job in advertising. But when I arrived at my new school, they told me they had an advertising program through their journalism school. So that’s what I did. They taught me how to write, and I built a career as a writer after I graduated. What the challenge became, for me, was never having time to write my own stories. I was a slave to everyone else’s deadline.
What is your writing ritual? How do you do it? And how do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
I wake up early, work out, and settle into writing first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee. I usually read whatever I wrote last, edit a few things, and then find my rhythm to carry it forward. On the best days, I see and feel the stories unfold in my mind’s eye. Then I write what I see and feel.
I might add that working on 50 States with the self-imposed deadline of a new story every week did talk me out of this comfort zone on occasion. Sometimes I would have to thumb the story out on my phone while I was at the softball fields with my daughter.
Who are your 5 favorite books or authors?
Oh, I’ll have to go with authors because it’s too hard to pin down my favorite books.
I always start with Ernest Hemingway and John Updike because they were so very good at writing straight, honest prose about people. After those two, it becomes more of an ever-changing potluck. I love the rawness of Zora Neale Hurston’s work, the poetic descriptiveness of Peter Heller, and, recently, the developing work of S.A. Cosby.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
50 States would have never happened had I not listened to my friend Geoff Livingston. Geoff had a heavy marketing deadline schedule as I do, but he managed to write several books and later transform himself into a photographer. So I asked how he found the time.
He said you have to put your projects first. This really clicked for me a couple of years ago, and I set Monday mornings aside to start a new story every week. I also carved out time to take online classes from writers who are masters of their craft so that I could bridge the gap between commercial writing and fiction writing. This immersion and commitment to the work became its own inspiration. If you want to be a writer, then writing your stories should be the most important thing, not the least important thing like many of us make it (until we don’t).
Thank you, Richard, for your insightful answers!
About the Book
50 States: A Collection Of Short Short Stories
50 States is a debut collection of short stories that reflect on the human condition. The book spans several literary genres, moods, and situations across the American states between 1955 and 2020.
Two runaways cross paths in a Tennessee bus station with only one ticket between them. A middle-aged man in Illinois eyes the daily grind of a young basketball player who never boards the school bus. A family sees looters racing toward their home as they escape an Oregon wildfire.
These and 47 more stories make up the collection. Together, they provide a sampling of the American experience over the last 60 years, similar to the Spoon River Anthology by Edger Less Masters or The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer with more diversity.
You can find 50 States here:
Amazon (Print) | Amazon (Kindle) | Barnes & Nobel | Books-A-Million | Apple (with graphics) | Apple (with aoutflow) | Google | Google (with aoutflow) | Target | Blurb | Kobo | Odilo | E-Sentral | Ciando
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