Interview with Richard Long: Author of "The Book of Paul"
Tell us a bit about your family. I live in New York with my wife and two children. My wife, Ariane Zurcher, is an incredibly talented jewelry designer and writer. She’s also an activist and advocate for autistic people, like our daughter Emma. She’s doing incredibly important work to connect other parents of autistic children with autistic adults who can help mentor and guide them. Her blog, http://www.EmmasHopeBook.com has a huge following and she speaks at autism conferences around the world.
Emma is probably the happiest girl on the planet. She loves to sing and dance, a born performer and budding rock star. Our son Nic is just hitting his teens, but he’s already planning a career as an artist, writer and video game designer. We’re in the early stages of writing a book together – the ultimate zombie/vampire/werewolf epic. We’ve come up with a really cool explanation of how zombies are created. I can’t wait to get that out in the world!
What is your favorite quality about yourself? My curiosity. I want to know everything. Especially the BIG questions: Why are we here? What is the point of it all? What is this thing we callreality?
What is your least favorite quality about yourself? Perfectionism. Drives me and everyone else crazy.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why? “Buy the ticket. Take the ride.” Hunter Thompson. Once you commit to something…commit to it. We so often second-guess ourselves, regret what we consider to be unfortunate choices. How do we know what’s really in our best interests? Make a choice. See what happens. Learn from it.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? If I could live forever – and I fully intend to – I’ll never create anything else as perfect and beautiful as our two children.
What is your favorite color? Raspberry.
What is your favorite food? Raspberries.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? New York, New York. The town so nice they named it twice.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? I write a lot about pain. Redemption. Corruption. Enlightenment. I’ve experienced all that, though I’m hoping to learn a lot more about the last item.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? From reading. I was a voracious reader from a very young age. Stories took me away to all these incredible places. I really needed that escape so I holed up in my room for hours at a time, reading everything I could get my hands on.
When and why did you begin writing? I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was younger I thought of myself more as a visual artist, and I drew and painted constantly. But there would always be words. Cartoon speech bubbles. Random thoughts. Narrative.
How long have you been writing? I started writing more seriously in my twenties. Poems. Dialog. Eventually, I dabbled in playwriting and screenwriting. I made a living as an art director and a copywriter in advertising. Then I became a Creative Director. But it wasn’t until I tried the long form that I found my voice. I like to tell looooooong stories.
When did you first know you could be a writer? I always knew I could write clever lines, which is the epitome of creativity in advertising. I had a good ear for dialog as well. So does my son. He writes the most incredible dialog: kids, adults, men, women…he just nails it all perfectly. I was insecure about my narrative writing when I started. I guess I knew I could really write when my narrative didn’t suck.
What inspires you to write and why? My curiosity is unquenchable, so I never run out of things I want to write about. Having a curious mind is the greatest gift any artist can have. Otherwise, you can easily get stuck in your own ego. When you enjoy looking outside yourself, there’s always something interesting to see.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I write fiction. Though, now that I’ve embraced the sordid world of social networking, I write a lot of blogs and posts and tweets that could be loosely termed non-fiction. In my case, very loosely. With The Book of Paul, I’m writing in a baker’s dozen of fiction genres: horror, occult, dark fantasy, erotica, humor, mystery, thriller, historical fiction, sci-fi, mythology, philosophy, religion. My reviews usually start with: “Wow! That was…different.”
What inspired you to write your first book? I pictured a character – he had been so traumatized as a child that he had completely cut himself off from his emotions. I wanted to explore whether someone that damaged and flawed, who had done all these horrible things, could possibly find redemption through love. The first line of The Book of Paul is: He practiced smiling.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began? I like crazy Irish and British playwrights. Enda Walsh. Martin McDonagh. Jez Butterworth. They are so courageous, go so far out on a limb, never play it safe, or write to be “liked” – at least it feels that way to me. When I see any of their work, I know I’m going to be taken for a ride. A wild ride. That’s what I want my readers to experience.
Who or what influenced your writing over the years? When I was younger, I loved horror. Then sci-fi. Then mysteries and thrillers. Then literary fiction. I always loved the classics. My writing is very research-intensive so 95% of what I read now is non-fiction related to various topics in my work: science, mythology, history.
What made you want to be a writer? I write stories that I want to read – more than once. I write to entertain myself, first and foremost, but I want to entertain other people too. If I ever start wanting to entertain other people more than myself, I better straighten that out quickly, otherwise I might end up back in advertising, whoring myself out that way.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? I love to write. If I could be left alone all day long to write or do my research, I’d be the happiest man on the planet. But I have a wife and children and friends and family, so I need to balance my time with the people that matter me to me even more than the work. The hardest thing about writing is not doing it, particularly when all the marketing work that constantly demands attention has to come before the writing itself. If I don’t sell books, there’s no writing career – and no more Happy Richard.