Today I’m chatting to Richard Wall, author of Fat Man Blues, about his influences, his writing, and his plans for the future.
Hi Richard. Tell us a little about your writing to date.
I have a bunch of short stories as ebooks on Amazon Kindle, which I have vague ideas of compiling into a paperback collection at some point. I also have some poetry on my blog: rawall.wordpress,com. My novel, Fat Man Blues, made it to #1 bestseller on Amazon and it’s still selling – which is not bad going for a book that I self-published 3 years ago, and which I have marketed single-handedly. I’ve recently contributed a short story to a music project, and my next novel is a crime thriller set in New York in 1962, the working title is ‘Last Rites at Sing Sing.’
What is it about the darker side of American culture which intrigues you as a writer?
Great question! Everywhere you look in the USA you can see poetry, be it in snappy dialogue, cool-sounding place names, or beautiful old cars with names like Pontiac, Chevrolet and Cadillac. I grew up with all these influences courtesy of the TV. Add to that the soundtrack of country and blues music with their murder ballads and legends of deals with the devil, and you have the setting for countless dark tales. Writing in this genre allows me to indulge my passion for American art in all its myriad forms.
Do you listen to music as you write, or do you need silence?
I NEED music! When I begin a writing project I compile a playlist of songs with connections to the plot. Very soon, playing the songs as I begin writing puts me straight into “the zone” and the words begin to flow.
Personal writing choice: pen or keyboard?
Keyboard, all day long. My handwriting is atrocious, mainly because my hand can’t keep up with my brain.
When do you know a story is complete?
Either when you’ve taken the plot as far as it will go, or you get fed up with writing it 🙂 Writing Fat Man Blues was an indulgence. I didn’t make any plan for the plot or structure of the story, and so I just kept writing. About 2/3 of the way through I still had no idea where the story was going and so I had a think, came up with a final scene and then tailored the writing to arrive there. With my next novel, I’ve written a proper synopsis, which broadly speaking is taking me from start to finish.
What are the different challenges when writing a novel as compared to writing short stories?
Writing a novel, you have to stay on top of the plot and keep track of what the characters did/said etc. The longer the novel, the more arduous this can be. With short stories, the challenge is to be concise. Different forms of writing altogether, but for me it means I have to think in different ways, and that can never be a bad thing.
What is the best part of being an author? And the worst?
The best part is making stuff up, and then meeting a bunch of people who tell you that they enjoy reading it. The worst part is submitting to agents/publishers/editors who don’t have the good manners to even acknowledge your submission. Impolite scumbags, in my opinion.
Who are your writing heroes?
Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke and Charles Bukowski are among my writing heroes. New authors that have captured my interest are Ran Walker and Stuart Ayris. I would have to say that my all-time favourite author is Andrew Vachss. He writes sparingly, never wastes a word, but his writing is breathtaking.
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with three fictional characters, who would you choose, and why?
The character ‘Burke’ from Andrew Vachss’ novels is a dark, complex character, living off the grid in a shadowy underworld of ne’er-do-wells who live by their own moral code. I would love to spend some time with him.
James Lee Burke’s Robicheaux crime novels are set in Louisiana and feature a flawed character called Clete Purcell, ex-soldier and hard-drinking hell-raiser with a vulnerable side.
Finally, my own character ‘Travellin’ Man’, from my novel Fat Man Blues. Travellin’ Man is a streetwise black bluesman from the 1930s Mississippi Delta. Either one of these characters would make the time on a desert island pass very quickly.
My next novel, Last Rites at Sing Sing, is taking up a lot of my writing time. In addition, and together with my agent, Kizzy Thomson, and a film director in San Francisco, I’m also trying to pitch the screenplay adaptation of Fat Man Blues, with a view to a feature film, or streamed TV series. All we need is funding…
Thanks for taking time to chat, Richard, and I hope we see Fat Man Blues on our screens soon!
Born in England in 1962, Richard grew up in a small market town in rural Herefordshire before joining the Royal Navy. After 22 years in the submarine service and having travelled extensively, Richard now lives and writes in rural Worcestershire.
His first short story, “Evel Knievel and The Fat Elvis Diner” (available on Kindle), was soon followed by “Five Pairs of Shorts” a collection of ten short stories, and another short story called ‘Hank Williams’ Cadillac’.
Richard’s stories reflect his life-long fascination with the dark underbelly of American culture; be it tales of the Wild West, or the simmering menace of the Deep South, or the poetry of Charles Bukowski, or the writing of Langston Hughes or Andrew Vachss, or the music of Charley Patton, Son House, Johnny Cash, or Tom Waits.
A self-confessed Delta Blues music anorak, Richard embarked on a road trip from Memphis to New Orleans, where a bizarre encounter in Clarksdale, Mississippi inspired him to write his début novel, Fat Man Blues.
Literary Representation by Kizzy Thomson – firstname.lastname@example.org