Featured Interview With Author Richard R. Becker
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
My grandparents raised me for ten years, splitting our time between Milwaukee and Minocqua, Wisconsin. We were poor, but my grandfather kept up a family lake cottage by mortgaging their house every summer and then paying off that mortgage with his seasonal job. When my grandmother began to lose her battle with cancer, they decided to reunite me with my mother, who had remarried and started their family in Burnsville, outside Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The transition was sold to me as a summer vacation, but the stay never ended. It was traumatizing, especially after my grandmother died. Eventually, we moved to Las Vegas in the early 1980s.
I moved away from Vegas as soon as possible after graduating high school. But fate and circumstances led me back, and I made a home there, started a business, and became part of the community. Since my son went off to college and graduated, my wife and I have been raising our teenage daughter, now a high school senior. She's a travel softball player, so we don't have pets. But, you know, I think we all want pets, eventually. My son already has a cat, and I work with an online pet records company.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
My fascination with books began as far back as I can remember. My grandmother would take me to the library every few weeks to check out books. I wasn't interested in reading them as much as looking at the pictures and using them as source material for drawings. I fancied myself as an artist and used pictures to tell stories. It was a practice that landed me in what my elementary school called "the barracks." It wasn't until I was pulled from public school to repeat the third grade that I learned to read.
Writing came much later for me, too. While my first story, a serial, was published in a junior high school newsletter, I didn't become a competent writer until college. After a year at Whittier College in California, I transferred to the University of Nevada, Reno, and entered their journalism program as a pathway into the advertising field. I learned to write because it was the only way to survive the program's required reporting classes.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
Some recent favorites include Pierce Brown, S.A. Cosby, Joe R. Landsdale, Jandy Nelson, and Haruki Murakami. So my reading is like my writing, eclectic. Frank Herbert deserves some credit for that. My seventh-grade teacher introduced me to Dune to expand my literary interests.
Ernest Hemingway and John Updike have been influential to me in their ability to write straight, honest prose about human beings. I've also learned a great deal from Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, and David Mamet by taking their online classes.
Oh, fun fact. W. Somerset Maugham is back on my reading list. Not only did I enjoy The Razor's Edge, but I recently discovered he is a distant cousin by way of my first cousin (6x removed) Mark Lemon, founding editor of Punch. Crazy, cool.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
Third Wheel is a debut coming-of-age novel about belonging, betrayal, and breaking away in Las Vegas, 1982. The story follows teenage protagonist Brady Wilks as he makes a series of bad choices that eventually spiral out of control.
Specifically, his friends want to cash in on a small-time drug-dealing operation by selling cartel-supplied heroin. Without the benefit of a role model or confidant, aside from a taboo love interest, he has to figure it out on his own, and he doesn't have much time to do it.
The early reviews, including Kirkus, have been excellent. They've said Third Wheel is “exhilarating,” “engaging,” and “dark, skillful, with plenty of heart.” It's very encouraging for a debut novelist. While my first book, a short-story collection, called 50 States, received several awards and accolades, there is something decidedly different about releasing a novel. Like the author, readers invest more in the characters. So, you want to get it right.
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