Writer’s Voice interview with Author Zackary Richards
Tim Raleigh You are a former Writer’s Voice award winner, aren’t you?
Zackary RIchards Yes. I won it with my first book Frostie the Deadman
Tim Raleigh How did the award help your career?
Zackary RIchards The publicity from the award garnered me an agent and a publisher. I had been trying to get a publishing deal for years and receiving that award made that happen. The first book did very well thanks to them both. Unfortunately both the publisher and the agent are no longer in the publishing business.
Tim Raleigh It that when you decided to go indie?
Zackary RIchards I had little choice. When it all fell down in 2008, everyone was affected. I even lost the day job I had at the time. So I had to either create a publishing company and sell my books from there or file bankruptcy and lose my house.
Tim Raleigh Rough times! But you seem to be doing quite well now. I notice that in addition to your fiction books you’ve written a good number of non-fiction as well. What brought that about?
Tim Raleigh The government downplayed it but the Great Recession hit guys over 50 especially hard. Guys with mortgages and kids in college couldn’t get arrested. With money so tight businesses were cutting back and guys who needed a living wage were being shut out. And since I had been able to create my own business and make a living with it, I felt it necessary to tell others what I had learned. I’ve even taught a class on how to do it.
Tim Raleigh I’m curious. What sells better, your fiction or non-fiction?
Zackary RIchards My non-fiction book Divorce: The Middle-Aged Man’s Survival Guide is my best -seller followed by the Revolution in America series.
Tim Raleigh Let’s talk about the basics. Where were you born? Schools, early jobs, that sort of thing.
Zackary RIchards Okay, I was Born in The Bronx, New York. Attended Catholic grammar and high school. Didn’t go to college as I was already working in Greenwich Village as a singer/songwriter. Even as a kid I was always the creative type, When I was nine I used to write and draw my own comic books. Taught myself guitar and piano and learned to perform in front of a crowd.
Tim Raleigh Was you music career successful?
Zackary RIchards I made enough to pay the bills and keep body and soul together but although I had a number of nibbles from record companies, nothing of substance ever came of it. Got out when hip-hop entered the scene. Which I thank God for now because the thought of traveling the country playing one night stands in these small venues that most rock and roll bands from the seventies and eighties do now horrifies me. I much prefer the life of a country gentleman that I enjoy now, than playing the same songs night after night.
Tim Raleigh So publishing your books independently is giving you the life you want?
Zackary RIchards Yes, but that not all I do. I also narrate and publish audiobooks, videos, design work and publish books for business professionals who have written about their profession and want a book to help forward their career. I have learned the hard way never to place your financial future on just one or two income streams.
Tim Raleigh So your career entails more than writing books.
Zackary RIchards I love writing books. It is my passion in life. But like most people in the arts I have other interests as well. I write at least one thousand words a day. Some days a lot more but I have developed a keen interest in learning too. Psychology, entrepreneurship, design, painting, self motivation and business management as well as a number of other interests that I never would have had the time for, had I not lost my job and been forced to start Ari Publishing which has now evolved into Ari Communications.
Tim Raleigh Do you consider yourself an artist doing business or a businessman doing art?
Zackary RIchards I find labels to be counter-productive. Each one of us is unique and has something to offer that no one else has. Business and Art should be married, not at odds . The problem is ego. Artists want no financial restraints or artistic restrictions when following their muse. I get that. You can’t have some accountant demanding input on an artistic project. On the other hand business people need to make a profit and should have a say to make sure it pays off. Both sides have valid points. Both side can get greedy. Art needs to understand that if they want financing to create a project, that project needs to be commercial. And Business needs to understand that you can’t replace talent. Talent is unique. It’s when they work together that the magic happens. You need only look at the late Steve Jobs for an example.
Tim Raleigh What advice would you give to someone looking to become a writer?
Zackary RIchards Oh, I love that question! I would advise him or her to first learn the craft. Write all the time, perfect your artistic voice. Learn from others but it’s not until your writing style can be recognized solely by its uniqueness that you’ll be ready to turn pro. Stephen King is a great example. When he released books under the Richard Bachman name readers recognized him immediately. Next step, find out what sells. Figure out what genre fits you best. Don’t waste time on odd topics. Publishing houses are in business to make money not to spread the word on your particular flight of fancy. Lastly, get writing jobs. You’ll need to network to get your name known, build up a rep, then hawk your wares at writers conventions. Those are great opportunities to rub shoulders with those who have connections. AND get a reputable agent.
Tim Raleigh Tell us a little about your fiction books and what led to you to write them.
Zackary RIchards I wrote Frostie the Deadman after my kids built a snowman in the backyard that deteriorated to the point that when I finally saw it, it was seriously creepy. Half Moon Falls because Frostie had done so well and my publisher wanted a similar follow up. I enjoyed making the girls the heroes in that one. When my publisher went under and I created Ari Publishing, I wrote The Messiah Complex which is where I believe I really hit my stride. Then the first of the Revolution in America series, then the second. Followed that with my collection of short stories Storytime. That did well as did The Dead Machine. Which is a book about demonic possession but nothing to do with religion or exorcism. The question I asked myself was; What if a scientist created a machine that made it possible for him to talk to the dead? What if the dead he was talking to were the damned? That one, as they say, nearly wrote itself. Then the following third and fourth of the Revolution series and my first sentimental book Whateverland. I received a lot of email from readers who said that one really touched them.
Tim Raleigh What’s in the works now?
Zackary RIchards The fifth in the Revolution series. It’s a prequel called The Corporate Wars. It’s set in the decades leading to the situation that brought about Noon’s revolution.
Tim Raleigh What would you like to happen next?
Zackary RIchards I would like Whateverland made into a movie staring Tom Hanks and for Netflix to pick up Revolution in America. Dreams of course, but you never know.