No thanks, I’m fine for now.
Well then, let’s get started. What’s your most recent book? Tell me a bit about it.
My most recent book is The Keys: The Textbook To A Successful Life. It is an 84-page, soft-cover book espousing the K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple and Smart) philosophy using three major keys: thought, choice and action, and a small secret key. The second half of the book is a set of life lessons that support the keys.
I really like what radio talk-show host, John Fleming said about the book. He called it a condensation of the ‘Wisdom of the Ages in an easy to read book with a lot of clarity. The amount of wisdom is astonishing.’ I guess I did something right, the book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 and two Nautilus Book Awards. That kind of recognition always makes you feel really good, and makes you feel like what you are doing is important and valid.
Do you have any other books in print?
Yes, one. It’s called The Train Of Tomorrow. I know that looks incorrect because the ‘of’ is capitalized, but it was done that way for a reason.
Published the year before The Keys by Indiana University Press, this book is the complete history of a concept train General Motors built back in the late 1940’s as a means of promoting Diesel locomotives being build and sold by GM’s Electro-Motive Division. The Train featured the first dome cars built and it was the first train to have an all-electric kitchen. The book has 211 pages and over 200 photographs, drawings and documents. A magazine feature article about the Train resulted in receipt of the David P. Morgan Feature Writing Award…another real honor.
Tell me about yourself, like where you come from, what is your background, how long you’ve been writing, things like that…
I was born in Southern Indiana, lived all over the Eastern United States and now reside in a tourist town called Gatlinburg in East Tennessee. I literally live across the street from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a 525,000-acre wilderness. The GSMNP is the most visited park in the national system, with about 9,000,000 visitors annually. So Gatlinburg with 3,500 year-round residents and 10,000,000 tourists per year, traffic can be bad from time-to-time.
As far as education, I have two earned doctorate degrees. Plus I have been the creator and founder of 20 corporations and three non-profit organizations throughout the years.
But the thing I am most proud of is my career as a professional speaker. I have spoken live to over 3,000,000 people. As a matter of fact, my book, The Keys, comes from a presentation I have been doing since 1980 called K.I.S.S. I just love being on stage in front of a live audience. My smallest audience was three people, and my largest was 30,000 at a rally in a baseball stadium, so as you see, it has run the gamut.
How long have you been writing?
Well, I guess on-and-off since I was an adolescent. There was a nationally distributed magazine for teens when I was 16 called Tiger Beat. By some stroke of good fortune I was able to get a column in the publication for about a year.
But when I got to college, my career as a writer took a major hit. I had several writing classes and got relatively poor grades. However, God sent me an angel in the form of a writing instructor who saw potential in me no one else had seen.
I’ve always had great oral communications skills, and this instructor said to me on the final day of her class, ‘Ric, if you could learn to write the way you speak, you’d be a major hit.’ She was right. Even to this day whenever I finish something I read it out loud to myself and if it sound right to my ear, then it’s right on paper.
Through the years I have written lots of magazine and newspaper articles, plus I have done a huge amount of writing for business…business plans, sales materials, pamphlets and brochures, annual reports and technical writing.
I started one business…an adverting agency called MessageMakers and another…a marketing company call ImageMakers. They both required a different style of writing, so I had to educate myself to become a copywriter for advertising, press releases and other types of commercial writing.
But the fun…or what there has been of it…has come from the variety of writing I’ve had to do. It’s no fun just doing one thing all the time.
I haven’t done any fiction to speak of, so that is the next thing to try.
But here’s a surprise for you: I hate writing. It is painful and difficult for me even though I have done pretty well at it for a long time. But I think there are other successful writers who would say they hate writing, too.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
The Rules. There are just so many of them in English and if you get it wrong you look foolish and stupid. But there times when I know for sure I have broken the Rules and the Lit majors out there are just going to have to get over it. Sometimes its hard enough just to get down the words you want to use to make a point and then have to be boggled down with this long list of Rules.
Admittedly, I didn’t do a very good job of learning all the Rules in school. I could have done much better, and would probably be a much better writer because of it, but my teachers were excited they had a student who liked to write, so they encouraged that more than they did the Rules.
Yes, I am sure I make a lot of mistakes, but I get complemented all the time by just my daily writing, like e-mail and messages. I read them over several times, and try to be as correct as much as possible because all of that represents me. Some of the messages and e-mails I get from others who are trying to attract my business are just horrendous.
Even though it can be hard and quite challenging, I love to see how far I can go using my vocabulary without the use of word lists and a Thesaurus. It’s a personal demonstration of my abilities as a writer as well as the level of vocabulary I have reached.
What inspired you to write The Keys?
That is a really difficult question to answer. Let’s just say it was pure inspiration. One morning, as I was taking a shower, the thought came to me that when I finished bathing, go to the computer, open a blank Word document and start writing. But what? Then the words of a hundred writing teachers passed through my mind. ‘Write what you know about,’ and thus was the birth of the book. In just six weeks the book was completed and went to press.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?
I sort of cheated on that. I own a publishing company called SimpleWords Press, so I guess you could say the book is self-published by a publishing house.
How do you do research for your books?
There was very little research for The Keys, but the Train Of Tomorrow took several years of research, lots of lucky breaks and a lot of money. To me, research is detective work…you discover one thing, then the next, and the next, until all the pieces are finally revealed and you can solve the ‘mystery.’
The Train Of Tomorrow is a fine piece of research and writing and I am very proud of it. When I was told I had a book that was being considered for the Pulitzer Prize I originally thought it was that book.
What are you reading now?
I’m primarily a magazine and newspaper reader, so I am always reading the most current editions.
What types of books do you like to read?
As far as books go I like short stories and mysteries.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is just masterful. When I read books, I like Agatha Christie, Lillian Jackson Braun, Rex Stout, Janet Evanovich, Tamar Myers, Joanne Fluke, Joan Hess and Elliott Roosevelt. If I want something really different, I look to P.G. Wodehouse.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I don’t know if I have a book in me right now. I am exploring fiction for the first time in a serious way to see if I have a voice. Fiction is a whole other ball game and I don’t know for sure whether or not I can produce what readers will want.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Gee, another hard one.
I know as a publisher that a lot of people who want to write fail at writing in a linear fashion, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. They probably talk the same way. Unless you are using flashbacks, you have to be able to organize what you want to say so what you’ve written moves from Point A to Point B without detours. And I think flashback writing is very hard, because you have to have the ability to keep the reader on track and not get lost. I believe it takes a certain type of writer who has developed a particular talent for it.
As much as I hate writing I write. For about six months I wrote a daily column for a blog. Although it’s now closed I am thinking about reactivating it. I have always wanted to be a columnist and I wanted to see if I could do it on a daily basis. So my advice to writers is to stretch yourself. Go places and write things you’ve never imagined. It may surprise you.
Writers love their words and don’t want anyone to mess with them. But there are times when you have to let go of that bad ego, and concentrate on the customers: the editor and the readers. There have been times when I thought an article was perfect, but was forced to do a complete rewrite by an editor if I wanted to be paid for my work. You feel like you’ve poured your heart and soul into something, only to be told it’s not good enough. That’s hard to take, but if you want to get published and paid, then you have to do whatever is necessary to make that happen.
Finally, NEVER give up. It took sixteen years to find a publisher for The Train Of Tomorrow. Then one day I met someone, who knew someone, who knew someone and the next thing you know a book is being published. But you have to take it all very seriously…it can’t be a hobby you want to turn into a way to make some money and gain instant fame and fortune. If you are a serious writer then you have to consider the business side as well. Just realize, everything you write will not get published and be able to put it aside when that happens and move on to the next thing.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
I use radio as much as I can to promote my books. Everyday I contact two or three radio stations by e-mail about getting interviews based on my work, but I am also open to talk about whatever the host wants to talk about with just a bare mention of my books at the end. On average I do two to three radio interviews a week, and have become a regular on several shows when the host needs a guest at the last minute. That’s when the ability to talk on a variety of topics pays off, and there have been many times when my books or speaking didn’t get mentioned, but the airtime is worth it. It helps build your reputation, and you get a lot of calls from hosts and producers who trust and rely on you. That’s building your brand.
I also buy radio-advertising time. It is very inexpensive right now and you can get into some pretty big markets for very little money during this economic downturn. Radio stations are having just as many problems making sales right now as everyone else, so you can even get prime drive-times at a good rate.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
For The Keys the best place to go is the book’s own website where you can get discounts and packages at good rates. The site is http://thegreatkisser.com.
However the book, and all of its editions, including the new audio book CD are also available on Amazon
The best place to purchase The Train Of Tomorrow is on Amazon.
Personally, people can reach me at email@example.com or (865) 384-6198, after 7 P.M. Eastern Time only.
Thanks for stopping by to see us.
It was my pleasure.