I met Rick through my publisher, Black Rose Writing, and we’ve become friends on Facebook. Rick read and wrote a review for my novel, Betrayed, for which I am thankful. He writes thriller-crime-mystery, the same genre I write, though his slant is more political and cops than I write.
I think that’s why I enjoy reading and writing in this genre. Each author brings a different bag of tricks and experiences to it. Thriller-crime-mystery will never be “old” to because of the variety within it.
Rick’s protagonist is female, which I always find interesting from a male author. While his main characters are on the adult side of life, mine are adolescent with cops thrown in. I make an exception in Blaze In, Blaze Out that comes out January 6, 2022. Readers will find that the main characters are Detectives O’Connor and Eiselmann, though the Evans Family of adopted boys play a significant role.
Rick’s new book, Divided States, comes out June 10th. Honestly, if you haven’t discovered Rick Treon yet, it would be worth your while to check him out. I have and he has yet to let me down.
I hope you enjoy my interview with him.
How did you become an author?
I was a newspaper reporter and editor for about a decade, and during most of that time I was working on a novel. In 2017, I finally felt like I had one that might attract an agent or publisher, so I started querying. Black Rose offered me a book deal after a few weeks, and I haven’t looked back!
What genre do you write, and why that particular genre?
I write in the mystery/suspense/thriller genres. Being an ex-journalist, it was a natural fit. Plus, those were the novels I most enjoy reading as an adult.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be? How did they impact you?
This is a tough one! I’ll list two books that I read in quick succession that helped resuscitate my desire to write fiction: My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni and The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley. They are both suspense novels that were done beautifully and made me think, “I want to do THAT.” That’s when I became serious about studying the craft of writing fiction, as opposed to just typing up first chapters that went nowhere.
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
Lately all I can seem to read are advance copies, all of which are by great authors that I know and like. Apart from that, I always make time for Heather Young, Julia Heaberlin, and Simone St. James. Their novels are always outstanding.
What would be a reason you don’t finish reading a book?
Most of the time it’s an author’s writing style. Even if I like the characters and the plot, if I don’t enjoy the use of language and structure of the sentences and paragraphs, I can’t enjoy the rest. Curse of being an editor, I suppose. But because I’m an editor, I can get past a few typos — even in major bestsellers — because I understand the struggle to get rid of all of them in a book-length manuscript.
What is your writing routine? When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?
I wish I had a better routine, but I wear several hats in addition to novelist, including president of the Texas High Plains Writers and, most recently, Editorial Director of Blue Handle Publishing. So, I pretty much work on new projects as much as I can while getting the rest done. When I write, I’m a plantser—that is, somewhere in between plotting and pantsing. I do use an outline to hit the major beat points at the appropriate times, but I don’t always know exactly how I’ll get to each one. That allows for that writing magic that only comes when you’re in the middle of writing into the relative unknown.
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you? (in terms of writing, or something else you felt was important to you at the time)
I set out to complete and revise my third manuscript on time and that did not work out at all. It’s the first sequel I’d ever attempted (the second novel in my Bartholomew Beck thrillers) and I wrote the first draft while the world was falling into chaos in 2020. The first draft was not great, and it took four rounds of editing and an extra three months to get it to that level. The Price of Silence releases on Aug. 3, after my newest release, despite the fact it was drafted earlier.
What tips do you give to new or even experienced writers?
For new and emerging writers, it’s simple: Keep writing. That’s how you find your voice, which I finally did with Divided States (June 10, Black Rose). For those who are experienced but are still trying to get to a higher level — which I am trying to do as I write this — I often repeat what I’ve been told: Write a better book. Each one should be better than the last, and as they progress, so should your career. It’s the hardest thing for a writer to do, but it should always be the goal.
Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?
I’ve never tried writing outside of my genres, but I don’t think I could ever write YA or middle grade. I was always 13 going on 30 and had a mostly (blessedly) turmoil-free childhood, so I don’t think I could connect to a lot of the problems or angst of that audience.
You are a male who writes strong female characters? How do you go about doing this? How do you “get it right?”
It is important to read fiction — and for me crime fiction in particular — written by women. I also model some characters after women I know well, though they’re always amalgamations. But more than that, I use universal human emotions when crafting all of my characters. That’s far more important than gender, in my opinion. I also have women beta read for me with an eye toward gender sensitivity, and that has been vital.
Tell us about your book?
- How did you come up with the concept?
It may never happen again, but the first chapter — including the main character, setting, and action — came to me whole. I was at the Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve concert in New Orleans on Dec. 31, 2018, and saw it just before the ball dropped in New York. I saw Lori Young there with me, then a mass shooting, and had the context of a post-secession United States. I wrote it as a short story first, but I got the same feedback from everyone: This would make a great opening chapter for a novel.
- How did you come up with the title?
I was surprised Divided States wasn’t taken. There are many that have “of America” at the end, mostly nonfiction but a few fiction. So I just shortened it because I like two-word or four-word titles for whatever reason. And this title, plus the cover Black Rose designed, is a much better hook for readers than any back-cover copy could be.
- From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
My main character, Lori Young, is my favorite. In most cases, I think if your protagonist isn’t your favorite, then you’re probably writing from the wrong point-of-view. But a close runner-up is a secondary, non POV character: Shaye MacLaughlin. Both are kick-ass women and I loved writing them. My least favorite is not either of the two big bads (I won’t name them because, spoilers), but a secondary antagonist, Sgt. Taggart. He’s just a terrible person. I had to have someone like him for many reasons, and I like what he did in terms of the story. But being inside his head was no fun at all.
Links to Divided States:
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/DividedStatesBN
Black Rose: https://www.blackrosewriting.com/thrillers/dividedstates