Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is excited to have as our guest, Richard Ide author of 3 Aces.
Richard Ide has dealt craps in Atlantic City, has been a Wall Street broker, and has driven long-haul trucks nearly a million miles over North American highways. He lives and writes in the Endless Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Good day Richard and thanks for participating in our interview.
When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
I’ve always been interested in books and writing; bits of things, from my earliest days in school--yearbook and literary articles for school magazines. In my college years I was a great reader of the New Yorker magazine and collections of literary short stories. I published and wrote for the Purple Cow at Williams College. I didn’t seriously start to write until retirement at the age of 48. I began my first novel after my Atlantic City adventure. That was 1981. I finished “Baghdad By The Sea” 6 years later. That effort was agented by Anita Diamant, rejected by 6 major publishers, and rests today at a place of honor on my kitchen shelf.
Did you read any special books on how to write and when you do write, do you follow a set plan?
The single best book I ever found about writing (and I suppose I’ve read a half-dozen such works) is Kit Reed’s “Story First—The Writer As Insider,” published by Prentice Hall in 1982. I met Kit Reed at the first summer writer’s conference I ever attended; that was in 1983 at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. Kit was an honored teacher and novelist there.
As to following a set plan, I had none with the first novel. I simply wrote all day long, every day of the week. With the rewrites, I probably wrote a least a million words in producing a 250,000- word tome. When I got tired I’d read another from a list of 200 novels that I’d made. A strange list- I’d decided to read ONLY the best-selling books of notable authors. The selections ranged from those of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Steinbeck to police procedurals like “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” by G. V. Higgins. I wanted to understand just what it was that made certain books popular. The answer: Damned good writing of a damned good story. That combination never failed.
When I started 3 ACES I realized that pre-plotting the structure of my first novel had resulted in a somewhat stilted, wooden story. I had removed some of the life from that tale by twisting the story flow to suit what I “thought” it should look like. I undertook 3 ACES with the idea that I would write each successive chapter only as the story flowed out of my head, and worked to perfect ONLY the story of that particular chapter before I opened the flow that would become the next chapter. I set a goal of winding up with an ending chapter that would more or less happily relieve the general conflicts that would set themselves up in the story as the story developed, without ever knowing what was about to appear. The story developed as a surprise—and that kept it continually fresh to me, no matter how many revisions I made to each page, as I fleshed out each successive chapter. It was a seven-year writing adventure! Sometimes, I was at my keyboard day and night with only a few hours rest. If that sounds extreme, it was. I did it because I loved what I was doing—the developing story had completely captured me.
Please tell our audience something about 3 Aces and did you write this book from your own experiences? How much real-life do you put into 3 Aces? Is there much “you” in there?
All the trucking life is real. I became a long haul trucker to write the book. There was no other way other than to live the life itself. But all the events portrayed are not mine. Some were “war stories” related by other drivers. I got to know a goodly number of amazing drivers—some had been out there long haul for twenty or thirty years. For 9 years I stayed with one company, just to follow their ups and downs, hirings and firings. A driver doesn’t generally stay with one firm that long; disillusionment sets in rather quickly. It’s a harsh business. But I can tell you that anything anyone can possibly imagine HAS happened out there on the road—at least once.
I’m not a vet, so the military side was absorbed through deep research. I visited Fort Bragg, in Fayetteville, N.C., a number of times. While there, I did a lot of reading of Vietnam era writings by vets who had lived the stories. On each visit, retired ‘Nam vets on the base heaped my arms full of books (from the on-base Strategic Warfare Museum bookstore) before I went home. Abner’s character was formed from three such men who helped me—all Special Forces, all recon survivors—and one stone mason from the Endless Mountains area of PA who was a World War II vet. Each of those men left an impression on me, so strong that it was impossible not to come up with a character like Abner Weaver. The Iraq war had not yet closed Fort Bragg to civilians, so I was able to gain some exposure to the weaponry cited in 3 ACES.
What was the most difficult thing about writing 3 Aces and why?
The writing was a joy, as was the research. I had some trouble in wading through the overly long texts by brilliant reporters such as David Halberstam, but only because it kept me from the writing. The combination of research and writing taking 7 years, I read everything I could find in print and on the Internet. I read Russian and Vietnamese (translated) texts, I read Montagnard Indian publications by transplants now living in North Carolina. I cross-checked sources, fretting about my conclusions until I was sure I had the real stories. The truth emerged about what had really happened in Vietnam. You can’t do that with Iraq right now; too much is classified and not enough reportage has yet come out. But I’m sure there’s a real disaster of a story waiting to be told there. The Iraq war was developing as I wrote. Strangely, I began to see parallels with the conflict in Iraq. The recognition of those parallels is left to the readers of 3 ACES.
What is your secret in keeping the intensity of the plot throughout the narrative?
I think it comes from my personal editing. I’d say I rewrote every page of that 529- page manuscript at least 17 to 20 times. As I said before, each chapter stood alone. So I concentrated on making that chapter sing before I even started on the next one. That meant tightening sentences, thoughts, character descriptions and motivations, or any rhetorical devices employed. I would also go over each paragraph for sentence rhythms. I wanted the result to flow quickly and easily for the reader. That is not to downplay the value of the professional editor who, later, marked up every page and helped me improve my work even further! If the book has a professional feel, it’s because the work of a professional editor went into it. Our work never dulled the heart of the story that beat under the writing. From the start I had been fearfully conscious of how easily the heart of a story can be lost through careless editing.
Do you agree that to have good drama there must be an emotional charge that usually comes from the individual squaring off against antagonists either out in the world or within himself or herself? If so, please elaborate and how does it fit into you novel?
You’ve hit the nail on the head there. A good example is the character of Tracker, the chief of the crossroaders conducting the crooked poker game in the Montana truck stop, Chapter 21. I had a run-in with a driver like that in California. That guy seemed to follow me all over the U.S.A. It was uncanny where he’d show up next. He might have pulverized me if we’d every duked it out, but we managed to back out of any direct conflict. Tracker was the result, and there I took it one step further. I turned over my stress and fears to Dawn as she confronts Tracker. I knew how she would feel as a result of what I had experienced and slipped those feelings into her mind. Conflict induces action!
There are any number of instances throughout 3 ACES where I’ve used this same technique. In Chapter 28, Abner’s erratic behavior and worrying while hospitalized at the Meyer Clinic in Phoenix, came from several bouts of bone surgery I had personally endured a few months prior to writing those scenes. Here the fears are expressed by Abner as internal dialogue, even while Dawn, Johnny, and Miriam are conversing with him. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, I use internal dialogue as a basic tool throughout the novel, even in the middle of misleading sentences (spoken by the characters) thus exposing the reader to the true nature of what that character is thinking. Internal dialogue is also useful implying back-story.
How did you find a publisher for 3 Aces and were you satisfied with the publisher?
I never found a trade publisher in New York. 46 top agents refused to take on the book—none of them even so much as desiring to read any more than a sample of the first chapter and the synopsis. I am Button Top Books, the publisher. I contracted for the cover, the book design, plucked a freelance editor out of the New York trade publishing scene, obtained the services of a digital printer, and am responsible for sales and promotion. I did all that simply because I didn’t want to go with a Vanity Press or packager like BookSurge or Author House—I had the time and money. My goal was to improve on what they might offer.
How did you celebrate your novel's completion?
The celebration came when FEDEX pulled up to the door and I put my hands on the first printer’s proof of 3 ACES. I know now how a mother feels when her first born is placed in her arms. That was all the celebration I needed. (And I haven’t had a drop to drink in the last forty years.)
How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career? As a follow up, how will you be promoting your book?
I spent three months with Monkey C Media carefully constructing a web site. I think the results speak for themselves. I did the best I could in lining up local publicity when I released the book on May 26th of this year, 2008. I had two local book signings, one of which was at Barnes & Noble’s University Book Store in Wilkes-Barre, PA. At least five local news publications did interviews. I have a page on Amazon.com and am slowly gaining reviews there—all 5 of which have been 5 star. I have an active blog on my web site. I’m hopeful that my WordPress powered web site and blog will increase my exposure via social networking—that’s what we’re doing here today. It’s too soon to judge the effects of viral marketing (word-of-mouth) but I’m hopeful that will play a part over the course of this year and next.
Other than the single Barnes & Noble store appearance and a page on their BN.com sales site, I have not spent any effort courting the bookstore chains. The local Borders store, on viewing my finished, printed book was pointedly hostile, commenting they would have nothing to do with ANY self-published novelist. Most small bookstores in my area are defunct. The chains have done them in.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers and where can we find out more about you and 3 Aces?
www.3acesthenovel.com or www.richardide.com will take you to my web site. That’s my billboard; full of information. Check out my web site BLOG page. I post weekly on a variety of subjects. On every page of my web site a BUY THE BOOK button takes you to my Amazon.com page where it’s an easy purchase. If you must have a signed copy, contact me from my web site, or send a $20 check to Button Top Books, P.O. Box 827, Tunkhannock, Pa 18657-0827, and I’ll mail you, post paid and tax paid, a signed copy.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
To read a review of 3 Aces by one of Bookpleasures reviewers CLICK HERE
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