Indie Author Interview with Richard I Levine - Author of the Action/Adventure Ray Silver Trilogy.
From the time of youth Richard I Levine is a native New Yorker who grew up in the shadows of Yankee Stadium. "I fondly remember the days of sneaking into the Stadium through the bleacher seat entrance to watch Maris and Mantle play, sipping egg cream sodas at the corner candy store and playing (surviving) Bronx style sidewalk games until mom called out from our fourth floor apartment window that dinner was getting cold."
After working in the auto parts business for several years and a one year wanderlust trip that took him coast to coast and back again, this one time volunteer firemen, auxiliary police officer and bartender eventually returned to school to become a chiropractor.
He lives, maintains an active wellness-based practice, and continues to write in the beautiful Pacific Northwest (although he confesses to a strong desire to dig his toes into the warm white sands of Lanikai while sipping on an ice-cold Pipeline Porter and munching on fresh Mahi Mahi Poke).
Interview with Richard I Levine
|Author Richard I Levine|
Richard I Levine: Outside of having indie published three novels since 2012 I really have none. When I was in high school and college I took some creative writing courses and played around with writing poetry and song lyrics but I never took myself seriously. When I wrote my first book Eye of the Redeemer I had never intended it to become a novel. It started as a simple way to entertain myself because I had become bored to death of television. It wasn’t until the characters started coming to life and a coherent storyline began to develop that I decided to continue on. At no time, however, was I writing with the thought of having it published. But once I had the finished product I said, why not?
Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who and what are your writing influences?
I’m a history buff and I like biographical accounts. I also love historical fiction. Last year I read Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken which chronicled the true ordeal of American Olympian Louis Zamparini and what he went through surviving for weeks in a raft after his plane crashed into the Pacific and then as a prisoner of the Japanese during the second world war. I think it’s great that Angelina Jolie is bringing that story to the big screen. My all time favorite book is a science fiction tale called Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. I first read it when I was a teenager and I think I read it a dozen times since then. Being an introvert, I was intrigued by the events and challenges that the protagonist, Isherwood Williams, had to face in a world in which almost all of the population had succumbed to some sort of virus. Back in the 80s I read a lot of Joseph Wambaugh and Stephen King. I also like W.E.B. Griffin and Tom Clancy. The Genres are different but the writing styles of each of those authors easily captured my attention. I often felt as if they had written specifically for me.
"I wrote it for me [...]"
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
Ever since I was a kid I had always been writing something at one time or another. Because of a lack of discipline, focus, intent, whatever, I can come up with a number of excuses as to why I never saw a project thru to completion or why I never took my writing to that next level. Perhaps it was out of a fear of being judged. But when I finished Eye of the Redeemer, just knowing that I wrote it for me, I really didn’t care if someone liked it or not. Don’t get me wrong, praise is a wonderful thing. It gets the juices flowing just like a good piece of dark chocolate or when reading a Lelani Black novel. And having my first two books be finalists in the 2012 and 2013 Indie Reader Discovery Awards Competition were unexpected surprises that had me on cloud nine.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I had a writing assignment in my eleventh grade English class. It was a short story and we were told to write about something in the classroom. It had to be a narrative without disclosing what the object was. If the story was read in class then the audience was tasked with figuring it out. The teacher simply said “let your imagination run wild, take us on a journey we’ve never been on before”. So I turned to my right and I saw Vicky Gottron, and yes, she was beautiful. And as ordered, I let my imagination run wild. Wouldn’t you know that my story got picked to be the first one and the teacher herself did the honors. I was embarrassed while she fanned herself and blushed as she read the piece. The girls in class were swooning as well, but not Vicky. She somehow figured out that she was the protagonist. And although she threatened to have her boyfriend meet me after school, she did ask for a copy.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
I never force anything. It’s either there or it isn’t. I guess when you’re an Indie author you have the luxury of walking away from the computer because there’s no agent reminding you of a deadline. When I sit down to write the first thing I do is put on music. In “Redeemer” a number of the scenes were influenced by what was coming out of the iPod. When Leigh Anne was at a critical time in her life and she had made the decision to move on, I was listening to the title track from the movie An Unfinished Life. When the protagonist Ray Silver was searching the terrorist ship while he and the guys he was with were in a fierce battle I was listening to some of the songs from the movies Pearl Harbor ,The Last Of The Mohicans, or the Patriot. Tender moments between Ray and Leigh Anne were influenced by Mindy Smith’s One Moment More. I listened to a whole host of similar tunes while writing the sequel Beyond Redemption. The battle scenes in my third book, The Last Angel In Hell, were created with the aid of Hans Zimmer’s music from Blackhawk Down and his original score in the Call of Duty gaming series. Another aid that I used for book three was to watch a lot of real footage from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But whenever I sit down to write I’ll always start off by reading what I wrote the night before. As I’m doing that, I find that I’m adding descriptions, adding to the dialogue, or even cutting out passages that seem way too wordy or even out of place. I never allow myself to be married to anything that I’ve written. In “Redeemer” as well as the other books there were excellent exchanges between characters that I was really proud of. But as each story progressed I realized that the content of those conversations were irrelevant and I ended up deleting them. I’ve tried story-boarding but that process hasn’t worked for me. I tried to do that in the first two books and when the manuscripts were finished I looked back at the storyboards and saw that the finished product were very different.
Please describe your desk/workplace.
I have two places that I like to write. During the day when I’m at my real job I’ll sit at my desk during the lunch hour and review/edit a passage I did the evening before. My writing environment at home is still a work in progress. I sit at simple writing desk that has my laptop, a bowl filled with sand from Hawaii, some lucky bamboo, a few pictures of my kids, and a coaster to place an ice-cold Pipeline Porter. The room itself is filled with majesty palms, white bird of paradise, and mass cane.
"You’re going to win fans and you’re going to make some people very mad."
What do you find easiest about writing? What’s the hardest?
As I write, I’ve found that as long as I’m in the mindset that I’m simply writing to entertain myself then my imagination is free to be expressed without reservation. When that happens, if I’m working with a character or with several characters, it seems as if they come alive. There have been many times during the writing of Eye of the Redeemer, as well as the other two books and still now as I currently work on my newest project that the characters actually take over and influence the direction of the story. There have been a number of times where I’ve completed a long section of dialogue and felt as if I wasn’t even involved in the conversation. The hardest part comes when I second guess what I’ve written with questions such as “will this be believable?” or “Will this be offensive?” When that happens, then the creativity turns off. I’ve had friends, who’ve read all three books and have loved them, or at least that’s what they tell me to my face (laughing), but then say things like “Ya, know, if you really want to sell more books you should try to be more politically correct.” Sorry, but that’s just not me and I’m not going to compromise. You’re going to win fans and you’re going to make some people very mad. That’s life.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I never really thought about that before…I don’t think there’s any one specific thing. The whole process from starting with a blank page to typing the figurative “the end” to holding the first copy that comes off the press…the whole thing is a roller coaster thrill ride with ups and downs, but in the end as the color returns to your knuckles you can’t wait to go around again.
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
Richard, please tell us about your just released Action/adventure novel, The Last Angel In Hell and the Ray Silver Trilogy.
The Last Angel in Hell is the third book in the Ray Silver series and as Beyond Redemption was the sequel to Eye of the Redeemer, The Last Angel is the sequel to Beyond Redemption. First I think it’s important to get to know Ray. In doing so you get to understand his mindset and his motivation and then hopefully the reader becomes his advocate. The way each book is written allows you to start with either one and you still get a feel for who he is ( although book one does provide the most details of this character) Ray is, for all intents and purposes, the average guy next door-- maybe a little below average. He admits he’s not a Hollywood action hero hunk and he’s certainly had more than his share of self-inflicted injuries whenever he uses hand tools. But he works hard, wants to enjoy his life and most importantly he wants to be a provider for and a protector of his family. He has his flaws like all of us. He hates hypocrites yet there’s a bit of hypocrisy in himself as well. But where most people will solve the world’s problems with boisterous bravado at a social gathering of like-minded friends (or in this day and age by posting something about it on Facebook—as I’ve been known to do), Ray’s an activist and he’s the type of guy who will take subtle action steps within the community by writing an op-ed piece , by speaking his mind at a city council meeting, or by giving lectures at his clinic, things like that. But when something or someone crosses the line and the welfare of his family is threatened, that’s when we see the Ray Silver that I think each one of us wishes we could become.
Coming on the heels of Beyond Redemption (which Kirkus Reviews described as a political thriller --thank you, Kirkus) Ray promises to his young wife Leigh Anne that he’s ready to hang up the cape and focus his energies on his natural healthcare clinic and living the laid-back Hawaiian family life that he promised her. Unfortunately his past involvement with the NSA proves a deadly obstacle that may be too hard to overcome. Especially since Ray holds a secret that could damage the President. Now he’s got some difficult choices to make and lives, possibly his own, hang in the balance.
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
What inspired you to write the Ray Silver trilogy?
Just like with my first novel Eye Of The Redeemer, I didn’t set out to write a book. I was just entertaining myself because I was bored with television and at the time, my half-hearted effort to find a novel that could penetrate the barriers of my attention deficit had been unsuccessful. Not that there aren’t tons of great Indie novels out there, I just didn’t know they existed at the time I began this journey. The thing that inspired me to write the sequel, Beyond Redemption, as well as The Last Angel In Hell was the desire to see what happens to Ray and the others as each book has loose threads that need to be resolved.
"Action, adventure, romance, intrigue, conspiracy, internal struggle. Ray is a guy who I think people can relate to."
Who do you see as your target audience?
All three books have a little bit of everything that a wide demographic would be able to relate to: Action, adventure, romance, intrigue, conspiracy, internal struggle. Ray is a guy who I think people can relate to. He’s an ordinary guy. He can be klutzy but he’s genuine. He has a moral and ethical code that he lives by and we see that he also has flaws. I mentioned earlier that he does have a little bit of hypocrisy in him as I think we all do. In Ray’s case he’s owns a multidisciplinary natural health care practice and yet he enjoys a good cigar and an ice cold beer. People like him and they want to see him get the girl at the end of the story.
How would you describe the success of the trilogy so far?
I still have my day job.
How long did it take you to write the books?
On average from the very first sentence to actual release the process for each book was about twelve months. The latest book that I’m working on will definitely take a bit longer.
"[...] five drafts later it was ready to be edited."
Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
I’ve only been writing since 2011 and after three complete novels I still consider myself a newbie at this whole thing and I’ve got a great deal to learn. If I can pass along anything it would be to have patience. Enjoy the writing process, take your time with it and know that what you first put down will probably not look the same by the time you are ready for publishing. Just write. Get it down on paper (or computer) and then worry about cleaning it up. When I completed Eye Of The Redeemer a friend congratulated me on the quickness with which I completed my “first draft”. I laughed at him. Well, five drafts later It was ready to be edited.
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m currently working on a whole new Ray Silver adventure. It takes place three years after The Last Angel in Hell and Ray now finds himself in a new war with corrupt politicians and the pharmaceutical industry. The back drop of the story comes right out of today’s headlines of falsified research data, whistle-blowers, cover-ups, payoffs and the industry insiders who are working at the FDA and how dangerous drugs are fast-tracked into the market place.
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will bookstores disappear like record stores disappeared?
I hope to God that physical books don’t disappear. If small Indie book stores go the way of record stores or small town barbershops then we will lose one more piece of Americana. I really think that these big box stores and all this internet shopping, while convenient, are just more ways that we are alienating ourselves from our neighbors. And yet, I rely on websites like Amazon to sell my books. I have a kindle that I received as a present a few Christmas’ ago and I’m downloading books onto it, and I will take it along on the plane but I have a hard time using it. Not because I’m electronically challenged but because I just love the feel of a book in my hands. I like being able to feel actual pages with my finger tips and having the satisfaction and the sense of accomplishment when I close the rear cover at the end of a good novel. And besides, if you get really mad at a something you just read in a book, it’s too expensive to throw an e-reader across the room.
"In my real life I’m a chiropractor, just like Ray Silver."
Do you write full-time or do you have a day job? When you’re not writing how do you spend your time?
In my real life I’m a chiropractor, just like Ray Silver. However it is now in my five year plan to retire from practice in order to devote more time to writing as well as other pursuits. Now that I’m single I want to get out and do more things such as biking, hiking, kayaking etc. oh and uh…looking for my own Leigh Anne McMillen.
How do readers connect with you?
I’m on twitter @richardilevine and I have a facebook page called Richard I Levine—fiction novelist. Feel free to stop by, leave a message and tell me what you think of the books.
Thank you very much for the Interview, Richard.
About the Book The Last Angel In Hell
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
It is during this mission in the jungles of Luzon Ray spies two CIA agents meeting with a contact who looks like his brother Frank—a former Navy SEAL thought to have been killed many years before. In book two (5-star Kirkus reviewed BEYOND REDEMPTION), Ray’s search for his brother continues, even as his new wife encourages him to surrender to the simplicity of their Hawaiian family life. But his innocent search is not so innocent and he’s not the only one interested in the outcome. Red flags arise at the CIA, NSA, and with powerful San Francisco congresswomen Francine Manetti—preoccupied with Frank and a package of documents he supposedly had…documents, if in the wrong hands, could derail Manetti’s quest to become the most powerful woman in America. Ray and his family soon learn how far reaching and painful the effects of a vindictive power-hungry congresswoman can be. Francine Manetti also learns how far Ray will go to protect his family.
THE LAST ANGEL IN HELL finds Ray physically and emotionally spent as he tries to recover from two back-to-back life threatening adventures he never imagined could ever happen to someone like him. His progress is slow but steady and as he tries to finally enjoy the warmth of the white sands of Lanikai and a laid-back family life with his beautiful young wife, Leigh Anne, and their twin baby girls, he continues to struggle with the guilt of having been the catalyst for attacks on his loved ones. Just when Ray thinks he’ll be ok, his past involvement with the NSA comes back to haunt him—especially since he holds a secret that could damage the president. Because of that secret his two eldest children are being used as pawns in a cloak and dagger war being waged by two NSA advisors competing for the top post in president Jack Walkers National Security council. Will Ray abandon the promise he made to Leigh Anne and allow himself to be drawn in to the fray? If he honors his promise to her will his children become collateral damage? If he jumps back in will it cost him his marriage? Will it cost him his life?
"Dr. Levine finishes this trio of novels with a bang! Action-packed and thought provoking! I want to see the movies!!!"- Reader Review
Links to the Books
Link to the eBook Eye Of The Redeemer with Excerpt on Amazon
Link to the eBook Beyond Redemption with Excerpt on Amazon
Link to the eBook The Last Angel In Hell with Excerpt on Amazon
|Ray Silver Trilogy|