The Horror Tree Presents – An Interview with R.B. Wood
The Horror Tree Presents – An Interview with R.B. Wood
By: Ruschelle Dillon
Ruschelle: Thank you for taking time from celebrating the release of your forthcoming novel from Crystal Lake Publishing, Bayou Whispers, on April 29th. How about we pour ourselves a finger (or two) or bourbon and chat about all things booky, beasty, and boooozy, shall we? Your novel, mostly, takes place in New Orleans. Did you set out to write a story set in NOLA or did the story come first and NOLA just seemed to be the perfect backdrop?
R.B.: NOLA was always going to be the setting, but what I started with was a very different idea for Bayou Whispers. Initially, I was going to write a more historical, purely Southern Gothic Horror story. Some of the horror elements are still there, as are some of the initial characters (modernized, of course). But there is something so special about New Orleans that I had to make it my “locale of choice.”
Ruschelle: Many authors would love to visit the locales of their novels or they write what they know and pen their tales from a view from out their own backdoor. Were you lucky enough to hang out with Papa Legba while researching the bayous, culture, parishes and beignets? Mmm…beignets.
R.B.: Sipping a Blackened Voodoo while enjoying some of the best seafood is not a wrong way to research a novel. I spent a lot of time in New Orleans back in the days I traveled for business. Work hard and play hard was my motto, and if I was anywhere near a good airport, playtime meant NOLA.
Ruschelle: When doing research for Bayou Whispers, was there anything mind-blowing you discovered, be it about NOLA, voodoo, your own writing?
R.B.: As Bayou Whispers evolved into more of a survival story, I learned more and more at the sheer willpower of a city like New Orleans to survive all tragedies that have befallen her. The people are the toughest yet sweetest citizens of any city I’ve been to, and I’ve been to hundreds of cities during my corporate and consulting past work.
Ruschelle: Are any of your characters based on real people from your life? And if there are, do they know it?
R.B.: My Main character—Jeannine La Rue, is based on one of the strongest people I ever met. A dear friend of my wife Tina and mine fought and unfortunately lost her battle with colon cancer.
Ruschelle: There is one question I need to know since we are sitting down with some delicious bourbon, what’s your favorite amber beauty? I’ll tell you mine after you tell me yours.
R.B. Makers Mark is my go-to sipping bourbon. Neat. No ice, no mixer. Just bliss.
Ruschelle: Very nice choice.You’re making me thirsty. For ten years you hosted Word Count Podcast where you and a gallery of authors crafted almost seven hundred flash pieces. What made you create the podcast all those years ago and why did you decide the 100th episode would be the last?
R.B.: It was a good run with The Word Count. I learned a lot, met some fabulous writers, made some good friends through the show. Ten years is a long time to do a show like that, and I was honestly beginning to feel restless. One hundred was a good, round number, and that seemed a good time to stop and contemplate new projects. I haven’t sold my Podcasting gear, so stay tuned.
Ruschelle: You’ve written flash or micro fiction, short stories and novels. Of everything you’ve penned, which form of writing do you find the most challenging?
R.B.: Writing a novel, by far, is the biggest challenge for me. I’m an outliner, so I plan multiple characters and plot threads carefully. With shorter stories, I can keep all the details in my head to play with ad nauseam. But Novels require far more research and a copious amount of notes. Post strokes, my memory is a bit of a disaster, so constructing a fast-paced thriller is a challenging but rewarding game.
Ruschelle: For each one of the above forms, do you approach them with the same discipline, or do you treat each differently?
R.B.: The same discipline has gotten me to a very happy place, writing-wise. I’ll continue to learn and grow my process, of course, but for me, for right now, it works.
Ruschelle: A few years ago, your novel, The Prodigal’s Foole (The Arcana Chronicles Book 1) was published. Where did you mine the idea for this book, and will there be a book two, three- or more? And I hear the opening line of this novel is a gripper. (Searches and finds the opening) Oh yeah, I will attest to it. It definitely I.S. a gripper! Love it.
R.B.: Thank you! I’d always planned on expanding Symon Bryson’s story. About the time TPF came out, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was happening, and it gave me some other ideas for a connected set of accounts. If you read Bayou Whispers very closely, you’ll see a connection to The Prodigal’s Foole. Think of the connection as the “Nick Fury” moment from the end of the first Iron Man movie or the Robert Downey Jr. cameo at the end of The Incredible Hulk.
Ruschelle: Fun question. There are no right or wrong answers. Maybe… Godzilla vs. Kong. In this film, both beasties are the same size. So…who would, or should win? Defend your answer.
R.B.: Godzilla, hands down. I’ll always root for the radioactive lizard, given a chance!
Ruschelle: Excellent answer. You pass. We can continue on with the interview. Lol. Your work has been featured in themed anthologies. What types of anthologies do you gravitate towards, be it writing or reading?
R.B. I like a challenge, so something new and exciting are my favorite anthologies to write for. Last year, I sent a couple of stories for a noir and a high fantasy anthology—both forms I learned on the fly. I wrote another companion short for a role-playing game company where I had to know many background rules to craft a story within their world. I tend to like reading the darker anthologies myself—a bit of horror, a bit of dystopia…that sort of thing.
Ruschelle: Even writers have ‘children’ that are their favorites. Is there a piece or book you have written that’s your favorite? Don’t worry, I won’t tell your other ‘kids.’
R.B.: A short story I wrote called Thanksgiving in the Park was the first piece I wrote after being in the hospital. I sold it to an anthology called Offbeat Nine Spins on Song put out by Wicked Ink Books. They wanted two stories and received hundreds of submissions. I’m pretty proud that mine made the cut.
Ruschelle: Here’s a great question. I can’t take credit for it, but I’ll try. LOL. You recently received your MFA from Emerson College and started writing full- time only AFTER you gave up your corporate career of thirty-three years. Please explain. Inquiring minds want to know.
R.B. Well… it’s a long story. Basically, in 2015 my body had had enough of the decades’ worth of stress it was under. I had a Pulmonary Embolism, a heart attack, and a series of thirty strokes. I ended up in a coma for a week and in rehab for four more. After I got home, something all my doctors saw on one of my many scans and surgeries popped out at them. It turned out I had papillary thyroid cancer—which is 90% fatal to men. So back in to have a complete thyroidectomy. It took me a while to speak and walk, but I relearned what I had to. The multiple strokes impacted my executive functions and memory, so not only did I not want to go back into the fire, I couldn’t function in a corporate environment anymore. The writing was a way to retrain my minor motor functions, and I decided that to focus on regaining my health, I would do what I love, full-time. Thus the MFA and where I am now. Thank the Universe for how supportive my partner Tina is.
Ruschelle: You have been through a lot! It’s wonderful to see you healthy and doing what you love. Now-Beta readers and editors -How do you absorb and wade through their constructive criticism? How do you decide which critiques are worth editing and which ones to politely ignore?
R.B.: Two different criteria. I’ll listen to an editor make a point, and if that point is detrimental to the story, I won’t use it. It’s a more professional relationship, and there is a give and take, and that’s what it should be. My editor, Becca, gets what I’m trying to achieve with my writing and helps me toward those goals. With beta readers, the relationship is a bit less formal. If I have eight betas, and one mentions something, and the other seven do not, I table the lone suggestion. But if three or more betas point something out, I have to take a hard look at what they say.
Ruschelle: If you could go back in time, like Marty McFly in the Back to the Future films, what would you tell your younger self? Oh, and no becoming the creator of Google, because Hot Tube Time Machine already did that.
R.B.: Even the worst times taught you something and made you a better person each time. Keep going, don’t give up, and eat a salad once in a while!
Ruschelle: Does fruit salad count? Lol. Is there a piece of writing advice you would give to anyone wanting to quit their day job and eek their living as a full-time writer? You can give em two pieces if you want, it’s your interview. LOL
R.B. It is frustrating that there are so few who can make a living solely with their art. You have to write and read all the time. But networking, learning the “business side” is important too. And since it is my interview, I would say a personal finance course wouldn’t go too far a miss.
Ruschelle: After Bayou Whisper explodes online for everyone to read, what’s your next project?
R.B.: I have two going because one would obviously not be abuse enough! The first is a historical supernatural thriller—think Caleb Carr meets The Night Stalker. It’s called The Illusionist & the Wizard and casts Harry Houdini and Nicola Tesla in the titular roles. The second is a post-pandemic, near future straight-up horror story. I’m exploring what would happen after the world reopens when the serial killers are allowed out.
Ruschelle: Thank you so much for hanging out with me here at the Horror Tree! It’s been a pleasure. So, will you please tell your newfound fans how they might find you on the www?
R.B.: It’s been my pleasure! My site is www.rbwood.com, and I can be found on Twitter (@rbwood) and Instagram (@r.b.wood). I also have an Amazon author page as well as a Goodreads presence. Hope to chat again sometime!