Randy Rawls lives in Delray Beach, Florida, slap-dab in the middle of paradise. Not only is the weather perfect, but the writing environment is wonderful. In fact, it’s so good you can’t cross the street without bumping into an author. Before retiring in Florida, Randy grew up in North Carolina, then spent a career in the Army. After retirement, he went back to work with the Department of Defense as a civilian, the aspect of his career that led him to South Florida. Somewhere along the way, he fell in love with writing. The writing was a natural progression since he has always been an avid reader.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Dating Death, and what compelled you to write it.
Randy Rawls: Beth Bowman, a PI in South Florida, is contacted by and invited to a meeting by the Chief of Police of Coral Lakes. They have a history from the kidnapping case Beth called Best Defense. There are other places she’d prefer to be at nine AM, but such an invite can’t be ignored. Chief Elston explains that his department has the goods on Roger Adamson, a dirty politician; however, he knows Adamson has additional information that could bring down a drug lord and disembowel his organization. He asks Beth to assist by becoming Adamson’s consort/bodyguard while Adamson parses out data. Beth agrees, not realizing multiple homicides, a kidnapping, a tight frame for murder, and the loss of the man she loves await her. If not for Beth’s homeless friends, all might be lost.
M.C.: What is your book about?
R.R.: Essentially, it’s about a female PI in South Florida who finds herself caught between a crime lord and the police. Initially, Beth is allied with the police against the crime lord, but circumstances turn that around. Beth’s guns are identified in the death of a prominent businessman, putting her on the run from the police. While she hides from the authorities, she must continue to look over her shoulder at the criminals who also pursue her. There is only one solution—bring down the killers herself while proving herself innocent. Fortunately, she has her homeless friends to assist her.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in the novel?
R.R.: Dirty politicians who are adored by their public. Homelessness. This is viewed through the eyes of some of Beth’s homeless supporters. There are those in our community who have real needs. These are the type people in Beth’s homeless group.
M.C.: Why do you write?
R.R.: I write because I enjoy it. It is similar to reading a good book. I can’t wait to see what is waiting around the next corner.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
R.R.: There is no set time. I don’t work on a schedule. I write when the mood strikes me. Sometimes, this might be 3 in the morning, but usually it is afternoon or evening. Then I might write one page, one chapter, or several chapters. The story drives me; I don’t drive the story.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
R.R.: Very, assuming you mean gutter language. I think it’s a shame that modern writers rely on gutter language to make their points rather than learning to express themselves without it. I teach a class discouraging the use of gutter language. To prove it is not needed, I quote from Micky Spillane’s Mike Hammer. If you read any of his books, you’ll have to agree that Mike Hammer might be the meanest private investigator ever written. Yet, Mickey Spillane got his points across with NO gutter language. Strong writing substitutes very nicely for gutter language.
The other problem I have with gutter language is that it has become the most overused cliché in our language. The F bomb in all its configurations is nothing more than a weak cliché. It’s everywhere—the mall, McDonalds, most movies, most books, on the sidewalk, almost everywhere. Why do authors chose to throw such an overused cliché at the public? They should find a better and stronger way to say whatever it is they want to say. It does not appear in my books, and never will. If I do a good job of presenting the character, you will know what kind of language he uses—I don’t have to slam you in the face with it.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
R.R.: Not from afar, but from close by. My characters take over and try to manipulate me. For example, there is a scene in Dating Death where Beth is kidnapped. That wasn’t my idea. I had never considered it, but out of the blue, there it was. Not only that, but Beth reached back into book one (Hot Rocks) to find the kidnapper. Yes, something/someone is definitely looking over my shoulder and manipulating me.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
R.R.: The saggy middle. That point where you’ve gotten past the boom-boom opening and it’s way too early to start wrapping things up. The middle must be interesting enough to keep the reader engrossed. I refuse to resort on the clichéd approach of “throw in another body.” To me, that’s lazy writing. I struggle to find something that will drive the story forward while keeping the reader on my team. I mentioned Beth’s kidnapping in Dating Death. That appeared to keep the middle from sagging. Then it turned out to be a major player in the story as it turned Beth into both a victim and a fugitive.
M.C.: Your best?
R.R.: The opening or the climax—take your pick. Those are the two areas that I control. The opening, of course, is the part I have plotted out in my mind several times before sitting down to write. It flows quickly because I know it. The climax is somewhat the same because it has developed in my mind during the year I’ve been working on the book. I’m anxious to get to it and put the villains away. For me, these are the two “fun” parts of the book.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
R.R.: Only if I were forced to select between reading and writing. I would quickly agree to never write another word. Please don’t take away my reading. It’s far, far too precious. Other than that, I can’t think of anything. The stories are inside me and need to come out.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
R.R.: The acceptance of a book for publication, followed by the release of each book has been a happy time. Being asked to speak before other writers is always a happy time. Writing THE END after a year of effort makes me happy. Being asked to run for President of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America made me very happy. I’ve had so many wonderful moments in my writing life I can’t narrow it down to one. Every day is a happy moment for me.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
R.R.: No, I don’t think so. I write because I enjoy it. If something happened to keep me from ever writing again, I don’t believe I’d have withdrawal symptoms. I’d miss it, yes. But am I obsessed by it? I say no.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
R.R.: Yes . . . and no. I have the utmost respect for our policemen across the nation. So, I never treat them in a negative. Yes, there might be a smart mouth or sceptical detective, but, overall, I treat the police gently. The same goes for the military. As a retired Army officer, I would NEVER disparage our soldiers, sailors, and marines who put their lives on the line for us. So yes, these aspects of my stories are connected to me. Do they represent my life? No.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
R.R.: No. In fact, I believe that reality drives my writing. We live in a world filled with mystery and thriller plots. All it takes is a twist of imagination mixed with the headlines of the day, and you have a plot worth pursuing. So, instead of staying drunk on writing, I stay drunk on reality, knowing it will support my writing.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
R.R.: I have a website, but I have to admit it’s not on the cutting edge of websites. However, I love to hear from people, whether they read my books or not. So, I invite anyone to email me at RandyRawls89@gmail.com. I promise to respond. And if you’re read one of my dozen books, I’ll be even happier.