Back in September, I got to present at a couple of panels at Hub City Comic Con in Lubbock, TX alongside some really amazing authors, including a guy named Rick Treon. Rick's first book, Deep Background, available from Black Rose Writing, an indie press out of Texas, has gone on to be featured in multiple publications as well as win a PenCraft Award for Suspense.
I told Rick that I wanted to interview him for my blog, and he jumped at it. His next book, Let the Guilty Pay, is due out July 2020.
Me: Your first book, Deep Background, came out last year. How long did you work on it before it was released?
Rick Treon: About three years. I had written several first chapters featuring a journalist, but I didn’t get serious — coming up with a rough outline, studying craft, researching the business of traditional and self-publishing — until sometime in early 2016.
Me: The story is set, mostly, in and around Amarillo. Was the story influenced by this area or was the setting influenced by the kind of story you wanted to tell?
Rick: The story and characters are what came first. But as I developed those, I realized the character and plot worked best in this area because it’s where I’ve spent most of my adult life. That’s no coincidence, obviously. But I also feel like anyone who’s spent time in small towns and cities can relate to the setting and story.
Me: You were a journalist for many years. Tell us about how that prepared you to write thriller fiction.
Rick: Being a reporter taught me how to write concisely and hit a deadline (which becomes more crucial when you’re under contract for future books, as I’m learning now). Editing for years has been invaluable when it comes to the self-revision process in fiction writing. As it relates specifically to thrillers, I spent a decade reading, writing, and editing stories about crime. I don’t rip cases from the headlines like Law & Order, but I feel like I gained a unique perspective into criminals, investigations, and justice (both when it’s served and when it’s not) through my career in newspapers.
Me: You just signed a new book deal with Fawkes Press. How did that come about?
Rick: When Deep Background was published, I began to learn about and get invited to attend writing conventions and workshops. I met the Fawkes Press publisher, Jodi Thompson, at one of those events and got to know her a little bit. When my second novel, Let the Guilty Pay, was ready for submission to agents and editors, I asked if she would allow me to include her on my list despite my lack of representation at the time (they don’t accept open submissions). Jodi remembered me and invited me to send my manuscript directly to an acquisitions editor. That’s one reason going to writers’ conventions and workshops is something I recommend to any writer who’s not already doing so — published or not.
Me: What can we expect from you in the future?
Rick: Let the Guilty Pay will release wide on July 4, 2020, as the first book in the Bartholomew Beck series. Before that, though, we are planning to release a prequel novella as an ebook sometime around the first of the year. My deal with Fawkes Press was for two novels, so I have a sequel to Let the Guilty Pay coming, though we don’t have a release date yet. I have several other ideas in addition to the Beck series, including a private investigator series set here and a near-future dystopian thriller.
Me: Coffee or tea?
Rick: Tea. English Breakfast and Chai, for the most part.
Me: Beer or whiskey?
Rick: Whiskey (Scotch and Irish when possible). But I also enjoy good beer, especially stouts and porters in the winter and wheat beer in the summer.
Me: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Rick: Writing the third act of a novel for the first time. That’s when I tend to have characters reveal their hidden agendas to me, in addition to finally putting the climax and planned big reveals on paper. A close second is revising, because I get to see my story really take shape and start picturing the words as a book, not just a manuscript.
Me: Any advice for aspiring authors?
Rick: As I said earlier, my top one is going to writers’ conferences and conventions. Google is your friend here, along with other writers. There are big ones and small ones in whatever genre you’re interested in. You’ll learn about writing craft and improve your writing. But more importantly, you’ll make connections that will help you further your writing career. I also recommend reading or listening to an interview related to craft or the business of publishing at least once a day. Writer’s Digest, Publisher’s Weekly and LitHub (and LitHub’s varying genre sections), are good places to start with articles. I also listen to a lot of podcasts, including the New York Times Book Review, Writer’s Bone, Public Display of Imagination, Unlikable Female Characters, and Write or Die. There are many others that I peruse and listen to episodes that seem interesting to me. And, of course, there’s no better way to improve your writing than to write more. Nothing is ever wasted, even if it doesn’t get published.
Me:What are some of the pitfalls to avoid?
Rick: Don’t treat lists of “10 things all writers MUST do” or “EVERY writer needs to follow these rules” as actual rules for writing. I’m not saying you should ignore grammar and punctuation, but ideas like “you must write every single day” or “always avoid alliteration” are not universally true, despite the memes you see on social media. Writers write because we have a unique story to tell, and only we can tell it. In fact, to my surprise, I had two prominent, bestselling, millionaire authors offer me the same piece of surprising advice at ThrillerFest in New York this summer. Both told me to be wary of critique groups and partners because they may try to strip away your creativity and voice and replace it with theirs because — surprise, surprise — they like their own better. Gain as much feedback on your work as you want before submitting for publication, but make sure you trust your own instincts more than your beta readers or critique partners. You’ll know what will help your story and what won’t.