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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

[AUTHOR CHAT] One-on-One with author Randy Richardson

by Cyrus Webb

Randy, it has been great following your journey since your book CHEESELAND. What has it been like for you to share your love of storytelling with the world?

It has been a journey unlike any I’ve ever taken. I write small stories that both entertain and hopefully make you think. You get thrown on an emotional roller-coaster where you’ll be laughing at one moment and then crying or screaming at the next. In the end, I hope they are stories that make you think and stick with you for a while. 

Because I write stories that are inspired by real parts of my own life, I like to think that they’ve given me a fresh perspective on my own life. Ultimately, I write the stories that I like to read. When you put them out into the world, you have no idea how others will react. It can be exciting. But it also can be frightening. 

It is the best feeling when someone who reads your words is moved by them. When I was looking for blurbs for the back cover of my latest novel, HAVANA HANGOVER, I took a leap of faith and asked Catherine Lanigan, who has written dozens of romance novels over a long career, including ROMANCING THE STONE and JEWEL OF THE NILE, under the penname, Joan Wilder. I’d met her at a book fair several years ago, and she was super nice. But I had not seen her or heard from her since then. I had no idea what to expect. Well, she agreed to read my book. And a few weeks later, she sent me what is probably the best email I’ve ever gotten. She wrote: “Your fascinating novel has kept me spellbound… Yours is some of the best writing I’ve read in years.” Needless to say, I was over the moon. Little things like that make it all worthwhile.

When did you realize writing was something you wanted to do?

I’m probably considered a late-bloomer when it comes to creative writing. I studied just about everything but creative writing in college. I earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, a master’s degree in journalism, and finally a law degree. Never took one creative writing class through all those degrees. While working as a lawyer, at the ripe age of 33, I got this seed in my head for a novel. That seed grew into my first novel, LOST IN THE IVY, a murder mystery set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.  But I think I’ve always been a writer… it just took me some time to accept that and, obviously, I took a circuitous route to becoming one.

You are not only a gifted author yourself. You have used your platform to encourage aspiring writers as well. Why has that been so important to you?

My personal story goes back to 2005 when I had just finished writing that first novel. I felt a little like the protagonist in my story: lost and confused. I started looking for writing groups and stumbled upon the Chicago Writers Association (CWA), which was then just a Yahoo! group. The more I became involved in that email group, the more I saw that I needed more of a real community. When CWA became a nonprofit in 2006, I became its president – a role I still have today. In that time, we’ve grown from a steering committee of 13 members to over 800 dues-paying members. I think we’ve made a real difference in creating a community of writer that didn’t exist when I started as a fledgling writer. 

When I wrote that first novel, I didn’t have a community to support me. That all changed because of my work with CWA. My second novel, CHEESELAND, was written with the help and guidance of a critique group whose members I found through the CWA, and the book’s editor was someone I met through the organization. All the blurbs on the back cover came from people with whom I’d developed relationships through this community. Even its publisher came out of this network of writers I’d helped to create. It was just a better all-around experience that is 100 percent attributable to having a community around me that I didn’t have before.

Renegade Press, the publisher of my latest novel, HAVANA HANGOVER, I learned about by listening to the Chicago Writes podcast, which CWA launched about a year ago…you get the idea. I now have a whole network of people around me who help me to make this journey much less daunting. 

I feel that as writers we can and should all work together and support one another. You’re still going to make mistakes but hopefully not as many and the whole process can be just much smoother and easier to navigate. I’ve found that if you give a little, it comes back to you tenfold. 

Your newest book HAVANA HANGOVER shows how easily things can go wrong in friendship and life. Where did the idea for the book come from?

HAVANA HANGOVER is my third novel. Like the two that came before it, LOST IN THE IVY and CHEESELAND, HAVANA HANGOVER is inspired by my own personal real-life history. HAVANA HANGOVER begins in November 2016, which was the first time I traveled to Cuba. Two historic events occurred during the time of my travels. On the same morning I left for Cuba, my favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs, won their first World Series in 108 years. On the same morning that I returned to the states, the U.S. presidential election results had just been decided. Those two events served as a springboard for the story that becomes a runaway adventure with many twists and turns where little is as it seems. The characters behind it were mostly inspired by real-life people, including me and my travel companion, a friend who I’ve known since law school, and our tour operator and our tour guide. But the real seed for the story was planted on our second trip to Cuba, the following November. It was on that trip that my friend and I had been out on the town and at some point, we were separated. I went back to our casa particular, a Cuban bed-and-breakfast, and went to bed. The following morning, I woke to a string of text messages from my friend, the last of which read only: “Help Me!” So that served as the inspirational trigger for the disoriented protagonist who is telling the story. From there, the story is all fiction, including the back story of the complicated history between the protagonist, Tanner, and his missing friend who might not be his friend at all.

You seemed to stretch yourself in this one, Randy. I was surprised at how much suspense there was in HAVANA HANGOVER. Was that part of what you enjoyed about writing it?

To a large degree, it was my editor who pushed me to the make the story more vivid and suspenseful. But I wrote the story mostly during the pandemic, when I, like most everyone else, was stuck at home. So writing it became an escape for me and a way to mentally go back to a place that I wasn’t able to travel to any more. In many ways, it became my love letter to Havana, and to the people whom I had befriended there. 

Social media is a big part of how authors like yourself share your work with the world. Can you tell us about how you approach it in connecting with your readers?

I can’t say that I’ve ever felt truly comfortable on social media. There’s a very fine line between sharing too much about yourself and also being too self-serving. I try to keep my social media posts positive and inspirational, to not only promote my work but to also promote the work of others and to hopefully guide them in the right direction when I can. 

What advice do you have for authors beginning their own writing journey or considering it?

I guess my first piece of advice is to be realistic about writing and your writing goals and expectations. If you think that you’re going to be the next Stephen King or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling, you’re probably not being realistic. You have much better odds playing the lottery. At the outset, define what success as a writer is to you. Creative writing, for me, is a hobby; it’s not my profession (I have a day job as a lawyer). So I don’t measure my success as a writer by money. I also don’t define it by sales, or awards or other kinds of recognition. To me, success is writing the story I wanted to tell the way that I wanted to tell it. Simple as that. By that measure, I feel that I have achieved success as a writer, because I’ve been able to write three novels the way that I wanted to write them. 

My second piece of advice is to understand that writing isn’t easy. It’s a lot of work to do it well. The first draft is never going to be good enough. Not even for Stephen King or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling. I wrote four drafts of HAVANA HANGOVER before I was ready to put it out into the world.  It took me over two years to get to that final draft, with a lot of help from my editor along the way.

My third piece of advice is to read. You can’t be a good writer if you’re not a reader. 

And my fourth and final piece of advice is connect with other writers. Writing can be a lonely endeavor. But it doesn’t have to be. Get involved in your local writing community. Join writing groups and attend writing conferences and book and live lit events. Build a network of support around you. A writer’s best friend is another writer. Believe me, you can’t be successful as a writer if you try to do it all on your own.

How can our readers stay connected with you?

They can go to my website at They can find me on Facebook @RandyRichardsonWriter and on Instagram @randman61. 

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