Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Author Interview - Rich Bullock, Author of Perilous Cove
Good morning Rich. Something a lot of folks want to know after they've read a book like this is, what inspired you to write a story like this?
Rich: I got the idea for Perilous Cove after overhearing a conversation my wife had with a childhood friend. Her husband suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and nearly died (in the book, Jack Clayton does die). When our friend had to take over the finances to pay the bills, she found thousands of dollars hidden in cans in the garage, bank accounts she didn't know about, a child he fathered with another woman, and a huge life insurance policy on her life that she didn't know about. It looked VERY suspicious. That was the germ idea, but I took it and ran off in a dozen directions (all at the same time) before the story coalesced into what it is now. By the way, our friend read the book and loved it.
Anne: I really love the West Coast of the United States, and I've visited most of the towns along the 101 corridor--Perilous Cove is NOT one of them, despite some familiar descriptions. So---Is the town Perilous Cove real or fictional?
Rich: PC (as us locals call it) is fictional, but based on sort of a combination of California coastal towns. Morro Bay brings the harbor, Cambria adds the quaint streets and businesses, and the lighthouse is Piedras Blancas Lightstation, which is located just north of Hearst Castle and San Simeon. I grew up in San Luis Obispo, so these are all very familiar to me, and I knew Sam would love living there.
Anne: Your characters come very much alive on the pages of this book. How do you do that? I know some writers have a document describing their main characters. Do you do that? If so, how many pages did it take to describe Addison and Sam?
Rich: For Perilous Cove, I used a little application called Notebook. It's a "tab" design, so I created a tab for each character, each town, etc. Looking back at it, the character tabs for Addison and Sam are embarrassingly sparse—less than a page total—and my notes are mostly keeping track of injuries!
I've found I have to get to know the characters by writing about them in the story for a while. I discover their history, motivations, and weaknesses as I go. Then, after about a quarter of the book is complete, I go back and clean up the mess. I admit it's not a very efficient method, and I truly am trying to get better at planning and plotting. But by the end of the book, I have a pretty good friendship developed with all the characters.
Anne: I know writing a book takes a lot of time. Some authors are able to write a book a year, some as many as three or even four books. Some are even able to balance "real" jobs and families along with the stress of trying to complete a novel. So, Rick, tell us: Is writing your whole job, or do you balance it with a "real" job?
Rich: I had a couple "real" jobs that lasted over 30 years. As I transitioned out of career mode, I wanted to do something creative, so I began attending writers conferences and workshops. For a few years—especially when I began writing Perilous Cove—job and writing overlapped. Since I'm terribly undisciplined, that was hard. Now I'm still terribly undisciplined, but writing takes a more prominent role.
Anne: How long did it take you to get Perilous Cove written? Published?
Rich: I wrote Perilous Cove over a four-year period as I learned the writing craft. I've compared learning to write fiction to going back to college for a master's degree. It takes time to learn; you take tests by submitting your work to critique partners and editors. The next time, you do better. Over the four years, there were a lot of rewrites and changes, but the thing that helped most was having to write a synopsis that told the whole story in two to three pages. That forced me to figure out a lot of details regarding motivation, conflict, and conclusion.
While Perilous Cove was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Zondervan First Novel Contest, it never caught the interest of an editor willing to commit. So I went rogue. I hired a graphic artist, and dived into a self-study program on Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords publishing. Inside of six weeks, Perilous Cove was on the market and I was interacting with dozens of readers. That is super fulfilling, and I'm having a blast. The second book in the series, Storm Song, is with an editor and the graphic artist.
Anne: One last question. I can see your faith coming through strong (although not overwhelming or "preachy") in this book, and Sam (the heroine) goes through so many crises that you would think it would kill any ember of faith in her heart--yet instead it grows. Can you describe a crisis of your own where you doubted God?
Rich: I think the toughest time was when my dad died from a heart attack at age 57. I was 26 years old. My dad never expressed any interest in God or faith, and I really struggled with why the point of death is the line in the sand after which an eternal soul no longer has a choice to believe. The ultimate answer that I'm comfortable with is that God is good, that he loves us, and that he went so far as to give his son for us. If that's true, then he's also just, and I can rest on that, knowing he'll do the right thing.
I strive to keep the faith element organic in my books, elemental to the story and character(s), and never sounding tagged on.
Anne: Thank you so much, Rich. Readers, be sure to check in tomorrow to find out a little about this amazing book.