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Interview with Richard Stephenson, author of 'Collapse'

By T Gleichner
Posted May 17, 2013 in Entertainment
Richard Stephenson was born in 1975 in Denison, TX and spent his childhood in North Texas. In 1992, he graduated high school after only three years. He then pursued his degree at Oklahoma Christian University, once again accomplishing the task in three years. Richard then married his best friend before going off to basic training to be a military policeman with the US Army. With his new wife joining the adventure, they spent the next four years at Fort Polk, LA and had two children.
Just before his son turned five, Richard and his wife were told that their oldest child had Asperger’s Syndrome. Nine years later, Richard’s son would become the inspiration for the character of Howard Beck.
After leaving the armed forces, Richard continued his law enforcement career in the federal sector and has been with the Department of Justice for eleven years.
Richard enjoys many things. He reads constantly with the thanks of his trusty iPad. When he can find the time, he can be found playing Mass Effect, Fallout: New Vegas, or Modern Warfare 2. When a friend or a friend of friend needs a computer fixed, Richard is on the case.
1. Why was writing Collapse so important to you?
The obvious and most transparent answer for any writer would be that we just love to write, it’s our passion. Digging a little deeper, I would say that Collapse was important for me to write because it has one very simple message – civilization is fragile. I wanted to illustrate that a series of plausible events could lead to the downfall of America. You might be thinking that my novel is a political soapbox and I’m aiming at one side of the aisle or the other, I assure you that is not the case. I wanted my novel to be realistic, I wanted it to be grounded in reality. No zombies, alien invasion, killer plagues, or supernatural events take place. Just a series of horrible events taking place in close succession. The fabric of our society is can very easily be yanked apart if the right strands are pulled. Call it a cautionary tale.
2. What was the writing/creative process like?
Very, very painful. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know when I started if I was going to finish it. Stephen King wrote in what I consider the Writer’s Bible, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, that before every writer becomes a writer, they read a book that makes them think “I can write better than this.” Well, I found that book. I’ve always looked for that one book that I talked about in the first question: an end of the world/dystopian/apocalyptic book that is grounded in reality and is plausible. I finally found that book and was ready to devour it. I got about a quarter of the way into it and it was just plain awful. I’m a dedicated reader that has faith that the book will get better, you selected this book because it was something you want to read, so you will finish it, you always do! I just couldn’t do it. It was that bad. I told myself “I can write better a better book than this” just like Mr. King said every writer does. So, without having the first clue what I was doing, I gave it a try. I learned more about writing in the five months I wrote Collapse than I would getting a Bachelor’s in English. I didn’t have a choice, I had to teach myself everything. I made tons of mistakes along the way but I kept clawing my way to the top of the mountain. Ten months later I’ve sold seven thousand copies and am a Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It was a lot of hard work, but trust me and this is going to be soooo clichéd, but if I can do it, anyone can do it.
3. How did you come up with the title?
Collapse is a very succinct description of what the book is about – the collapse of the United States from within.
4. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think every writer has the epiphany while they are writing their first novel. It might be after the first few chapters or towards the very end. Something just clicks. All humility and modesty crumbles and you say to yourself “This is good. Damned good. People will actually read this!”
5. What books do you believe influenced you in your life?
I’ve already mentioned one: On Writing by Stephen King. Two fiction books that really just blew my mind at how a book can be a masterpiece of entertainment are The Godfather by Mario Puzo and The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. On a personal/spiritual level, I would have to say A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
6. How much influence did you have in the cover of your book? Did you initially have a different idea of how it would look?
I had practically no influence on my cover. I am a horrible artist. I had to delete Draw Something from my phone because I suck so bad at drawing. I was very fortunate to find a terrific graphic designer by the name of Laura LaRoche. I described what I wanted and she gave me three samples to look at. One of them freaked me out because it was like she read my mind. Give Laura some business and tell her I sent you. ;)
7. Can you describe a typical day for you?
Sleep, work, try to write when life allows me to do so.
8. What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
Read books. One of the only ways to grow as a writer is to study the craft.
9. What do your family and friends think of your writing?
They flatter me. Most of them are convinced that I’m the next Tom Clancy and my book will be a blockbuster movie. I try not to allow them to inflate my ego too much.
10. What do you think is more important – a good plot, or good characters? Why did you choose the one you did?
Characters drive the plot. The characters are the ones that tell you what the plot is going to be. When you create strong characters and breathe life into them, they are in control of the story, not the writer.

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