As if being multi-talented on the creative front weren't enough, he also has a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Carleton University and is a Certified General Accountant. With such different professional interests, it's no wonder he divides his time between Venice, Italy and Ottawa, Canada.
Before we get into chatting, let's take a quick look at Pairs, a book that comes with the recommendation "If you liked Sex & the City and The Celestine Prophesy you are going to love Pairs" and which has been hailed as "engaging and hilarious" as well as "voyeuristic and often spiritual":
In grown-up fairy tales, even the happiest endings have complications. Kayley, the single mother of a psychically gifted four-year-old, squeaks out a living writing and creating greeting cards. Adam is a carpenter doing a favour at the request of a mutual friend. Alexandra is a former stripper making a place for herself in the "straight" world when she meets Adam's sexually ambiguous cousin Henry, a math teacher with nineteenth century values. In no particular order, spiritualism, home renovation, etymology, herbalism, psychic aptitude, quantum physics, Wicca, and Jungian teachings, are all braided seamlessly into a frequently humorous, sometimes outrageous, and often enlightening storyline that explores the nuances of romantic love and friendship between four very different yet equally engaging individuals.
♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one - when did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?
Pairs is actually my second novel and in both cases being in print didn’t register with me as a particularly significant event. With my first novel the excitement and joy of being a writer came when someone I didn’t know bought my book. With Pairs I experienced the same feeling when someone I had never even met rated the novel highly on the social network, Goodreads. I wanted to send her flowers!
♥ Did you deliberately choose a genre for Pairs? Was there something specific that drew you to it, or something you felt it offers that other forms of literature do not? Or was it just 'right' for this novel?
I set out to write a story that I would like to read; humorous, pithy enough to hold my interest and peppered with some eccentric characters. And I hoped others would enjoy it also. The concept of genre is a contentious one for me. Having to market the novel I needed to pick a genre, such is the nature of publishing. My editor thought that Pairs was chick-lit, which is a sub-genre of women’s literature. I, however, felt that if I had to choose, then women’s literature, as opposed to chick-lit, was a better fit. But even now, I’m not sure. Certainly the gay and bi-sexual elements within the storyline added to the debate of the genre of Pairs.
As an author who happens to be gay, I didn’t initially believe that there was very much homosexual content, but some blog critics have found it disconcerting. Should Pairs be categorized as gay fiction? Perhaps yes in Omaha, but not in New York City. There it would be women’s literature. In Toronto it would be women’s fiction as the definition of ‘literature’ is a little bit more uptight here in Canada.
♥ Yes, literature certainly does have a more narrow definition in Canada. You mentioned being an author who happens to be gay - tell me, how does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?
My first novel had quasi-autobiographical connotations to it, but Pairs much less so. However, themes of sexuality and orientation are prevalent in both. I find sexual orientation, particularly when it is ill-defined for a character, an interesting topic and one that has certainly been a significant part in my life. I also find it fascinating how much society ties the sexual component of a relationship to ‘orientation’. In Pairs a ‘straight’ woman develops a homosexual crush.
♥ Your career is clearly varied, so I assume the demands on your time are equally varied. Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?
My schedule is not regimented, but it is disciplined. I don’t seek out a particular place or adhere to a particular time of day, but I do write every day if I’m working on a project. And I always seem to be working on something. In my first novel words came in fits and starts. I’d get up in the middle of the night to jot down a note for fear that the epiphany would never come again. However, by maintaining a loose but regular schedule, I am able to turn the creative process on and off.
When I do sit down to write I focus on the task. Although I’m not absolutely married to the idea of achieving a certain minimum word count per day, it is a useful and bluntly honest metric that helps to fend off any erroneous delusions of a productive session. I’m not done for the day until I’ve reached that minimum. With novels that number is 250 words per day, which is low, and with scripts it is 500 words per day. Lately, I’ve been doing over 1000.
♥ Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?
A: My favourite quote is: “It is the purpose of art to heighten the mystery.” It encapsulates an undercurrent that runs through the storyline to the very last sentence.
Some of my favourite scenes are the least important in terms of moving the narrative forward. They share a common attribute of being interesting vignettes of life that are fully captured in a paragraph or a page of dialogue. Alexandra and Adam standing on the porch in “Pairs” on a hot summer’s day taking a beer break from renovating the house and discussing the word preternatural and how it applies to Kayley’s tomato garden is one such scene.
♥ That is a great quote, and something you can apply equally to any kind of art (even if people sometimes forget that writing is an art). With that in mind, what's the last work of art you read, and would you recommend it?
The last book that I’ve read was called Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I think that guy is going to do alright for himself as a writer. I’m rather eclectic in my tastes, but in the mix I always try to ensure that I keep current on new voices. In that category the last book I read was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows. It was a very sweet story in a lovely, awe-shucks, kind of way.
♥ Wow, that second is quite the title, but I suspect you're right about that Steinbeck fellow. Tell me, is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?
There is no agenda other than to entertain, which I think should be the primary goal of any work of fiction. ‘Possibility’ is a theme which quietly wanders through the story line, and I hope the reader is left a little open to embracing it, however it shows itself in their lives.
♥ I like that - sometimes we get so wrapped up in the 'literature' that we forget the 'entertainment' aspects. If we can turn out attention a moment to the entertained, what is your favourite aspect of the author-reader relationship? Do you actively seek out any formal interaction with your readers?
I love feedback, particularly when it’s positive. Failing that, any sort of response from a reader is nice but is surprisingly difficult to illicit. The unfortunate part of being a writer, as opposed to a stage performer, is the isolation from the audience. After releasing a novel to the world some critics may give it a perusal and give their thoughts. And while I do think critics provide a valuable service, they are not my intended audience. As I mentioned at the start of the interview it is wonderful when someone who has read my book strictly as a form of personal entertainment reacts.
As a writer I do continuously invite interaction on social networks such Facebook (David W. Richards – Writer), Twitter (DW_Richards) and Goodreads (David William Richards), but for Pairs I will also be doing public readings this spring. Also, I maintain a blog called Living Robertly, which is tangential to my formal writing, but nevertheless provides me with loads of entertainment. My partner, Robert, also gets a kick out of it.
♥ What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?
My next novel is further off down the pipe than I had originally projected. The intent behind Pairs was that it would be the first book of a much larger and broader story arc. I had already begun working on the follow up manuscript when a few projects landed on my lap.
At the end of last year I became involved with a company called Ucreate Media to re-work a script for a graphic novel that they believed had potential. Their long term goal for this particular project is to spin it into a movie. In line with that goal they plan to have actors do a read-through this summer and have asked if I could be on set.
Also on the docket, and also taking precedence over the next book, is another graphic novel which I have been working on. The script should be finalized by early May at which time there will be a competition to search for the artist. This is also being done through Ucreate Media. Any artist wanting more information about the competition should contact Ucreate Media directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, again with Ucreate Media, (these are busy people) I will be working on the scripts for a series of short films that will tie together under one story arch. The details are still being hashed out, but they want to start shooting in June!
A huge "thank you" to David for stopping by. You can check him out on the web at http://www.pairsthenovel.com/ or http://livingrobertly.blogspot.com/. Do yourself a favour and be sure to check out both sites . . . as soon as you've picked up your copy of Pairs, of course!