When I was taking a break from the blog for a bit this year to focus on some writing opportunities, several things happened in my little world. One of them was that I got to know a fellow named Rick Wood, and my world expanded significantly when we contracted together for Homeostasis Press to publish his next book.
One of the things that grabbed me during some of our early conversations was how much my Father would have enjoyed meeting Rick. They would have had several touch-points to share, and I can just imagine them sitting across the table from one another, telling stories and figuring out how to save the world one passionate conviction at a time.
That thinking directs much of my perspective as I edit Rick’s book. I usually get to interview authors after I’ve finished reading their current work. For me, this interview is a little different, since I’m reading Rick’s work in concentrated pieces as I edit it right now. I’m learning about his writing process through our communications and the editing work I’m doing, and it’s fun to share some of that in the interview below. We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.
Valerie Stein: Rick, what books/authors have influenced your writing?
Rick Wood: I have a definitive list of favorite authors, but not all influence my writing style. I’d say Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, and Bill Bryson are the core set of writers that I took “mental notes” from.
VS: There’s a nice reading list. I’ll have to ask you which Cormac McCarthy is your favorite another time. The Road broke me right apart. What genre do you consider your own book(s)?
RW: Well, nonfiction, obviously. Outside of that it gets harder to pin down. They certainly fit nature and ecology genres, thematically speaking, but they’re also autobiographical.
VS: Hmm. That sounds like a bunch of the books published by Homeostasis Press. Here’s another question I am curious to have you answer for my readers, since I’m learning the answer firsthand… Do you ever experience writer’s block?
RW: Other writers will curse my name for saying this, but no. What’s more, I don’t understand the concept of “writer’s block.” To me, writing is like drawing or painting – you simply do it. Sometimes, it turns out as beautiful as you saw it in your mind’s eye…sometimes it’s complete crap, but I still put words on paper, constantly.
VS: I’m with you. Painting, practicing a musical instrument, or the practice of any craft, requires doing it. Not every practice session yields great results. That leads right into the next question, then, and I love to hear any author’s answer, because they are as different as we are, and as different as the genre, too. Do you write an outline before every book you write?
RW: No, not for the book itself. I do outline the individual chapters, though.
VS: That’s a great approach for nonfiction. I’m still struggling with how that can help me in fiction. Have you ever hated something you wrote?
RW: All of the time. Much of my writing process is fighting a battle within myself between the storyteller and the critic. The critic is much, much louder at times. Only once did I destroy a manuscript, though. It was a fiction story I began writing in 1987. I had hundreds of handwritten pages, penned over the course of 20 years… tossed them into my fireplace in 2010. That time, the critic won out.
VS: That answer totally made my stomach hurt… I always keep my drafts in case I think of a totally new way to approach them. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, though! So what is your favorite theme/topic to write about?
RW: I write about animals, primarily, and have for the past decade. When I discovered my true place in the world, my place among the natural world, there was no other subject captivating me the way endangered species do.
VS: This is so evident in your writing, Rick. Oh, before we go, I have one more question to ask you, since I am all about kids’ books, and I ask all authors this question when I interview them. Can you name two or three favorite books you had as a kid?
RW: That gets complicated (laughs). In my earliest years – I’m talking four and five years of age – I was reading Dr. Seuss books on my own. My mom said I could read quite well as a preschooler, and our house was filled with books of all genres. I think that’s a legacy of my grandfather, my mom’s dad, being editor-in-chief of a major German newspaper when she was growing up. I was challenged to read things that were “above my reading level” by the fact that my folks never said there was anything off limits, as far as books went. So, when I was eight, I dove into Mark Twain, and Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” around that age, too. I think I tried hard to impress my mom with the difficulty of what I picked up and read. The only time my mom stepped in was when I picked up her copy of “Sacajawea,” by Anna Lee Waldo, and started into that hefty tome. Apparently, she said it was just a “love story,” which was enough to turn me away when I was nine. My favorite three books is a hard question to answer. I tended to gravitate towards authors, rather than books. Definitely, “Chickenhawk,” by Robert Mason, became a favorite. The same paperback version of the nonfiction account of helicopter combat in Vietnam that I owned in high school, went with me – aboard my helicopter – into combat, during the Gulf War. Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” was another one I would read over and over. The style of his writing mesmerized me. My first “favorite” book was “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain. The river journey on the Mississippi spoke to me, deeply. I think I was around nine or 10-years-old when I first read it.
VS: Ha! I opened the floodgates with that question! I read Huck Finn and dressed up as him to give an oral book report in 4th grade, so we have that in common.
Thanks so much for sharing a little about your passions and your process with my readers. I look forward to all the next steps of creating this book with you.
RW: Thank you!