Writer Wednesday: Richard S. Brown

I am excited to introduce you to another writing in my own family!

Richard S. Brown is my dad’s cousin, which makes him my second cousin. I thought it would be fun to interview him for my blog here. So enjoy meeting Richard!

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into or felt called to?

Since I was a freshman in high school, I’ve enjoyed writing. I worked on school newspapers and had dreams of becoming a journalist, but my life took a different direction. I’ve always been interested in history and, over the years, often thought about writing a book, but my work took precedence. However, about twelve years ago, after retiring from a civilian career with the U.S. Army, I no longer had the excuse of too much work. I decided to write and self-publish a memoir that I could leave to my grandchildren. After publishing that memoir, the writing bug grabbed me, and I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. I’ve had two novels published since and am working on a third.

What’s your pet peeve?

 I live across the street from a walking trail, and I walk for exercise almost every day. My biggest peeve—and yes, it’s a pet peeve—is when dog walkers fail to pick up after their dogs. Most walkers are very conscientious about it, but there are those few who apparently never learned what it means to be considerate of others.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

 My most embarrassing, and potentially costly, moment was when I realized that the photo cover I’d approved for my first novel about the Korean War had been used on at least two other books. Before publication, my publisher invited me to provide ideas for a cover. I found two black and white photos on-line that I determined to be in the public domain, and I forwarded them to the publisher. He selected what I thought was the better photo and used it for the cover with some minor color tinting. I didn’t think the photo had been used before, but after the book came out, I discovered on Amazon two non-fiction books with the identical photo on their covers. I never heard from the authors, or anyone else, about the duplication, and since the photos were in the public domain, I don’t think there would have been any legal issues. Nevertheless, I felt personally embarrassed by a mistake that I will never make again.

What has been your biggest challenge as an author?

Like other authors who have commented on Susan’s blog, I don’t like the marketing aspect of publishing books. I don’t think I’m very good at it, and what makes the task more difficult for an unknown author is the high price the publisher sets for paperback books. E-Books are an easier sell, but there’s a cost involved for on-line advertising. I’m willing to spend some on that as a cost for a hobby that I like, but there’s a definite limit to what I’m willing to spend. Fortunately, I don’t have to depend on royalties for a living.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

When I started out sending queries to agents and publishers, the rejections were hurtful, because I thought I was a pretty good writer. Then I started taking some creative writing classes on-line, and I joined a writers critique group. I found that I wasn’t as good a writer as I thought. I’ve learned to accept criticism, understanding that my perceptions are limited, and I try to use those criticisms to better my writing. When my first novel was published I received a few negative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but I’ve learned to accept the fact that reading is a very subjective matter and that you’re not going to please everyone. There are many books I’ve read that are considered classics or great writing that I wouldn’t give two cents for.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

Success for me was finding a publisher who would publish my book. If I were writing to make a living, I’d be in the poor house. Fortunately, for me, I’m simply writing for personal enjoyment and satisfaction that there may be a few people who also enjoy reading what I’ve written. I admire those who love to write and commit themselves to writing as a career, knowing that there are so many good writers who never get published or recognized. When I finally found a publisher, I felt, not only that my book was worthwhile, but I was very lucky. In my mind, I compare the search for a publisher like being one of a thousand fishermen dangling lines into a small pond where there are three or four fish. What’s the chance of one of those fish biting on your hook? Not much. I consider myself a decent writer now, but also a very lucky one.

What is your current work in progress?

 I’m working on an historical fiction novel about a family of settlers, the Weavers, who migrate from Ohio to Wisconsin in 1855. A major plot element revolves around the relationships between the native-born white settlers, the white European settlers, and the Native American Indians. It covers the period from 1855 to about 1880.

BIO:

Born in Elgin, Illinois, I moved to Wisconsin at age 8 when my father began working for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. After high school, I served in the U.S. Navy for three years, then attended Northern Illinois University where I majored in political science. After completing graduate school at the University of Hawaii, I began a thirty-year civilian career with the U.S. Army working in civilian personnel human resources.  I’m retired now, married with two grown children, and live in Overland Park, Kansas. My most recent publication is a novel set in Wisconsin during the 1950s titled Going off the Rails. It’s about a train engineer falsely convicted of manslaughter for causing a derailment resulting in multiple deaths.

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