“Restless City.” It’s not my book exclusively. I was fortunate to be chosen to write a chapter for this collaborative serial mystery novel that takes place in Las Vegas. Essentially, each local author wrote a chapter and left a cliff-hanger for the next author to pick up the thread. This concept has been done in other cities before (“Naked Came the Manatee” is one notable example, featuring Florida writers Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry and others) but this is the first time for Las Vegas.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Detroit and grew up in Southern California in the 60s and 70s (back when it was the Promised Land). I’ve lived in Las Vegas since 1981, which makes me a long-timer by local standards, and I know where the bodies are buried (so to speak). I’ve been a writer pretty much my entire life, primarily in the field of advertising/marketing. But in my mid-forties, I decided to become a novelist. It’s how I handled my mid-life crisis; safer than a Harley and cheaper than a divorce. I wanted to write about Las Vegas from an insider’s perspective, because I was annoyed by the superficial fluff written by folks on the outside looking in. I believe my two Vegas-based novels, “Dice Angel” and “Money Shot,” accomplish that goal.
How did you choose the titles?
“Dice Angel” came from a classified ad in our local alternative weekly. It was placed by a woman claiming to bring gamblers luck at craps. “Money Shot” is sports-related but it sounds X-rated, which I thought would be good for sales. “Restless City” was chosen by the publisher.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
It’s challenging for an unknown author trying to break into the business. Publishers are less willing all the time to take a chance on someone with no track record, especially in fiction. After 18 months of hitting my head against the wall, I started my own publishing company, Hardway Press (because I’m doing it the hard way). The success of my two self-published books eventually led to a traditional publishing deal and other opportunities, including paid speaking engagements.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
Even in grade school, writing came easy to me. (Unlike math.) I seemed to have a flair for it and received encouragement from teachers and my parents. I’m lucky, because I’ve always been able to make a living from writing, whether freelance, journalism, ghost writing, ad copy, fiction, screenplays or any combination of those categories.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I like to write very early in the morning, usually for three to four hours a day. I start with a super-sized iced tea. When I’m on a roll, an hour can seem like five minutes. When I’m not, it can seem like a week.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I think names are really important. They help make the character (and the story) memorable. If the character is ethnic, I use that. (Irishman Jimmy Delaney from “Dice Angel,” for example.) Sometimes the names come to me while I’m sleeping. I’ve learned to trust my subconscious and the whole creative process.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
“Restless City” was a tremendous learning experience. I shared the platform with other, more experienced writers. It forced me to step up my game. I also learned that I’m capable of collaborating.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
Probably nothing. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t have waited so long to write my first novel. But things happen when they’re supposed to. I needed to wait until I had something to say. As a character in the movie “The Music Within” said, “You have to earn your point of view.” Also, as an older writer, I don’t get too caught up in other people’s opinions. I probably couldn’t have handled negative comments when I was younger.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
Mainstream fiction. I’m a big fan of Elmore Leonard. I enjoy his quirky characters and odd sensibilities. He’s also the master of writing realistic dialogue. Growing up, I was influenced by Tom Robbins, another guy who marches to a different drummer. Lately, I’ve discovered Michael Chabon. I can only hope to become half the writer he is.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Yes, but I’m superstitious. I don’t like to talk about a project until it’s done.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Write for you. Don’t try to time the market or catch the latest publishing trend. If you like what you’re dong (and it’s the best you’re capable of), there’s nothing more satisfying, no matter the final outcome.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
People who enjoy entertaining page-turners with a dose of humor and cynicism. There are messages in my books, but I don’t want to hit people over the head. Someone who likes coming to Las Vegas is an ideal reader.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
www.brianrouff.com. Also, www. Amazon.com.