Ricky VernioThis week’s interview is with Ricky Vernio who has written several novels. Ricky Vernio writes across a variety of genres, including historical fiction.

Interview with Ricky Vernio

1. How long have you been writing for and what made you start writing?

About fifteen years, give or take. I use a dozen different pseudonyms because of all the genres I work in. I believe that writing is storytelling first and foremost. It irked me that authors were somehow losing sight of that fact.

2. Do you write for a living, or do you also do other work?

I write for a living. Lately, with the sales down for everyone, and the publishing industry unable to support as many authors as it could earlier, I’ve been augmenting my income by painting portraits and cityscapes, lecturing, and giving painting and music lessons.

3. How did you get into being a professional writer, and how much effort did it take to be able to write full-time?

The usual way. You need to jump through a few hoops, prove that you’re “safe” and reliable, talk to the right people, and so forth. It’s a tedious process. The reason I don’t go into details when people ask me this is it’s just boring.

4. Were you always good at telling stories, or has it come to you as an adult?

I’ve always had the urge to share stuff that excites or delights me, or both. I noticed very early on that when I talk, folks tend to listen. That’s a gift, but also a huge responsibility: one must respect one’s audience. They’re your friends, your equals, your colleagues, in fact. There’s a huge difference between literati, folks who focus on technique, genre, “message,” and what not, and “pure” storytellers.

To a “pure” storyteller, the format is hardly important. No matter what I’m doing – writing a novel or a play or a screenplay or a poem – I’m always telling a story. The story comes first. Even my cityscapes, oil on canvas, are stories. The trick is to avoid talking about yourself. That’s selfish and stupid. Whoever came up with the idea that art is a form of self-expression was an idiot. Art is about other people, not you.

5. Were you good at English in school?

About average.

6. What do you read for enjoyment?

I follow William Faulkner‘s advice: I’ll read anything. Classics, modern literature, sci-fi, historical adventure, porn, Elizabethan poetry, early American poetry, mystery, whatever. I don’t read “free verse,” though, mostly because I don’t like philosophical stuff. If there’s no story, it’s just depressing.

7. What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

Chekov gives the best advice, I think. “Once a baby is born, you need to bathe it thoroughly and then, once it has rested from taking in the first impressions, whip it forcefully while saying repeatedly, over and over again “Don’t you ever write! Don’t you ever become an author!” I’m not sure I’m quoting him verbatim, but that’s the gist. Close enough, I think.

8. What is the most useful advice you’ve been given?

Love thy neighbour, of course. It’s from the Bible. It’s cruel, and an iniquitous waste of time, to ply someone who’s only interested in himself or herself with stories about other people, and hardly practical: folks who are only interested in themselves hardly ever buy books.

9. What is the strangest advice you’ve been given?

All advice is strange.

10. How do you deal with the stranger reviews?

That depends. I’m not a stoic or anything. I love flattery, and I loathe criticism. That’s pretty normal, isn’t it?

11. Who do you write for?

I always picture a bunch of friendly faces, like a dozen of them. We’re sitting around a table at some cafe, and I’m telling a story.

12. What sort of things do you write?

I like history, but I’ve written plenty of contemporary stories as well. My method is to focus on the dialogue and action, and keep my own comments and thoughts and observations and what not to the minimum. A good story includes men, women, money, corruption, loyalty, sex, conflict, faith, cuss words, love, revenge, a bit of ass-kicking, a conspiracy, and lots of humour.

13. Do you do much research? If so what is your favourite source?

When I’m writing a historical piece, yes, plenty. The trick is to know ten times more than what you put on paper. It reads a lot better that way.

14. What do you have in the drawer? (i.e. what have you written but not yet published)

A novel about antebellum New Orleans.

15. Describe your writing process, what, where, when and how please?

I always write the first draft by hand. I’m a very quick typist, and sometimes I type faster than I think. I’ll write anywhere: at home, on the train, in a cafe. Then I edit as I type.

16. What is your best method or website for promoting your books?

All methods are good that don’t involve tricks, gimmicks, etc. One must never treat one’s audience as a bunch of retards. That’s just uncouth. Your readers are your equals: you shouldn’t try to swindle them. Just tell them what the story is about, warn them about the sex scenes, and leave it at that.

17. What question do you wish I’d asked you?

“Do you play any musical instruments?” Actually, I have a soft spot for verismo opera. But that’s a story for another day.

18. Where can we read your words?

I have two new novels out. Nowadays, it pays to sell on your own. As I may have mentioned earlier, the publishing industry can no longer support as many authors as it used to.