Saturday, 19 November 2016

Meet super sleuth author Randy Williams as he talks to Sarah Jane today #RPBP

Super sleuth Randy Williams


Welcome to my Saturday author interview. This week I have a real treat for you. Please welcome Randy Williams, the author of Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror, who is about to reveal some interesting facts about his work, his Jack the Ripper theory and himself. So grab a coffee and enjoy!

Author bio:

Randy Williams is a Pennsylvania-based private investigator and describes himself as follows.  “I’m a fighter... AND a lover.  Lover of martial arts, lover of true crime novels, lover of word puzzles, lover of things Italian, lover of wine, lover of horses, travel and foreign languages, lover of women, lover of Chinese culture and above all, lover of a mystery.”

He is the owner of Black Stallion Security and Investigations and the founder of the Close Range Combat Academy, a worldwide martial arts organization with branches in the US, UK, Europe and Asia.  He has written nine books on the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun Gung Fu, and Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror is his second venture into fictional writing.
Through his association with Doctors Baden, Lee and Wecht, he has been able to apply all of the analytical skills instilled in him by his lifelong martial arts and criminology training into solving the age-old Ripper enigma.

Hello Randy and thank you for joining us today.
Let's start at the beginning, what were you like at school?
Probably not the teacher’s favourite.

Were you good at English?
Yes, that was my strongest subject.  I remember being marched into the Principal’s office when I was in Kindergarten because my teacher could not believe the level of reading I was demonstrating at that age.  That was thanks to my mother having taught me how to read well before I began school.  I only wish I could read that well now.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To be honest, I’d love to go down in history as the man who solved the Ripper case, or at least whose solution was the most widely accepted as being the correct one, since it would be impossible to get everyone to agree, even with a DNA match or its equivalent.
Which writers inspire you?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of course, George MacDonald Fraser and his Flashman works, and Anthony Horowitz; particularly his Holmes books.  I also enjoy true-crime books, particularly those written by the late, great Ann Rule.

What are you working on at the minute?
The Theotokos Murders; Jack the Ripper Unveiled

What’s it about? 
The process and results of my actual investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders without Sherlock; just the facts, ma’am.

What genre are your books?
They are sort of all over the map; martial arts instructional, crime fiction/mystery and true crime so far.

What draws you to these genres?
Lifelong dedication to the martial arts as well as a lifelong interest in true-crime, mysteries and puzzle-solving.

How much research do you do to add depth to your books?
Well, I did 40+ years of martial arts before writing my last series of 3 books on Wing Chun Gung Fu and about the same before writing about my real-life solution to the Ripper murders.

Have you written any other books in collaboration with other writers?
No, Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror is my first collaborative work.  But I must say, I really hit it out of the park scoring a dream team like I did (Dr. Michael M. Baden, Dr. Henry C. Lee and Dr. Cyril H. Wecht).

Why did you decide to collaborate and did that affect your sales?
Because they are the world’s top forensic pathologists and criminologists with three lifetimes of experience that helped me solve a case that has puzzled investigators and amateur sleuths alike for over 125 years.  As for the sales, I can’t help but think that having them involved would add a lot of credibility to my solution and therefore boost sales accordingly.  Only time will tell, but I’m very optimistic.

When did you decide to become a writer?
My first venture into writing for an international magazine was way back in 1982, and those instructional articles continue to this very day.  I decided to write my first book in 1987, when I was living in Singapore.  That turned out to be a series of 6 volumes on the martial arts.

Why do you write?
Mainly to leave some sort of mark on this Earth and make some sort of contribution to the fields I find most fascinating.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
In the martial arts, the realisation that I had access to information that very few non-Chinese in the world had, and wanting to share it.  In the case of my latest book, the fact that I knew that after 40+ years of investigation I had actually solved the world’s greatest unsolved murder mystery with evidence no one else had managed to uncover in over 125 years.

Do you write full-time or part-time?
What for me would equate to part-time might be considered full-time by some people.  But I also have a full-time career as a private investigator and another as a martial arts instructor ha ha.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I do my best work very late at night, and that is when most of my UK colleagues are up and about and free to have online discussions with me about various items they might be researching or assisting me with.  But I’m also at work most of the day doing the mundane revisions and corrections that don’t require quite as much creativity.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
Over the weeks and months I’ve been working on Sherlock, it’s been 7 days a week, all day and most of the night.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
When the book was not yet completed, I would refine one chapter per night and create one new one per night as well.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
All on the computer with a notepad beside me to jot down random thoughts or phrases that occur to me for use in other areas of the book than where I happen to be working at that time.  I also awake often with a thought that I then email to myself using my mobile before going back to sleep.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
So far, all my books began with chapter headings over blank pages that I then went back and filled in.  They would then sometimes be re-ordered and supplemented with new chapters inserted in between as needed.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Slowly enough that Darwin might have used me as an example.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
I hate to admit it, but I think it’s doing what you believe to be the absolute best work you could possibly put forward in a field of expertise and then having people who haven’t made a single contribution to that field rip it to shreds, usually also involving the need to personally insult you in the process.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Finally accepting that the work was done and no longer trying to improve it.

What is the easiest thing about writing it?
Making it interesting; there are so many fascinating aspects of the Ripper case and of the Sherlock Holmes character that the only difficult part is deciding which items and details to leave out.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A lifetime of research, a year to complete it and another three to perfect it.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?
Only from potential publishers and agents.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
It’s a bit hard to advise on this point as I have never myself experienced it.  But I will say, I got myself into the mood for writing each night by making sure my office was neat and tidy, particularly my desk, setting myself up with two monitors so that I didn’t have to leave my page when I needed to do any internet research and having the music of the Victorian period playing softly in the background while I worked.

If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
Well, as of now, it’s a stand-alone work.  But I have already had requests to write a sequel, a prequel and even to pick up and write another of the “unfinished” Sherlock stories alluded to by Doyle, just as I did with The Bogus Laundry Affair, a story-within-a-story featured in my current book.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
In a sense, I’ve already done that twice, but not in the fiction genre.  I’m sure that I’d love to do that someday, if I were ever to develop the right character and storyline to support a series without becoming repetitive.

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
As above MacDonald Fraser and Horowitz.  And in the last 4 years, I’ve read everything written by Doyle I could get my hands on, particularly his work on life-after-death and the paranormal.  My favourite besides his Holmes stories was Round the Red Lamp – an 1894 collection of short horror stories set in and around the medical profession.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I’ve only just begun reading eBooks, and thus far, I still prefer the old-fashioned method.  Particularly when on a plane, where you might run out of battery and be unable to read your book the entire flight.

What book/s are you reading at present?
Baa Baa Black Sheep (1958) by Gregory “Pappy Boyington.  My father was part of his squadron in WWII and I am enjoying reading about their exploits in an old, yellowed paperback I found in my dad’s footlocker recently, a few years after he passed away.  There was a TV series that ran here in the USA briefly about the squadron starring Robert Conrad from the original 1960’s Wild Wild West program.

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
Due to the peculiar nature of my book being written partially in modern-day US English and part of it in 1880’s British English as used by Doyle, I ended up doing my own proofreading.  But I must recommend the “Speak” feature in Microsoft Word which allows you to choose from a variety of accented voices that read back your text to you.  In this way, errors that even spell check won’t find are noticeable.  For example, if you have typed “that’ for “than” or “the,” spell check won’t always spot it.  But you do notice everything when you listen to your work being read back to you.

Do you let the book rest – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
No, neither my deadline nor my conscience would ever let me leave off my work for any great length of time.

Did you format your own book?
Yes, but not because I wanted to, ha ha.

In what formats is your book available?
As of now only in eBook format.  But audiobook, soft and hard cover versions are coming soon.

If formatted by someone else, how did you select them and what was your experience?
I initially solicited the help of a friend from Australia named Steven Seeley.  But he was far too busy to continue, so he taught me all I needed to know to do my own formatting for the rest of the book.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
The cover is an actual London Illustrated News drawing showing two men that look (to me) remarkably like Holmes and Watson pursuing a cloaked figure purported to be Jack the Ripper.  The twist - I had a professional artist brush out the figure’s face and replace it with the face of the man I now know to be the head of the group that came to be known as Jack.   The font used for the title is called “Baskerville Old Face” ha ha.

Who designed your book cover/s?
Three people – Pablo Benavides and Asgard Paniagua in Mexico, and Vincenzo DeVirgilio in Italy.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
It must, although we’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover.  I’ve been told that most do, however.

How are you publishing this book and why? e.g. Indie, traditional or both?
My eBook was published through Rukia Publishing.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
With self-publishing, you have to become an expert in all aspects of producing a book.  When my previous works were published, all I was responsible for was the content and to ensure they had laid out all the photographs and captions correctly.  With self-publishing, there is no one there to do any of that, nor to market the book.

How do you market your books?
In the martial arts, I have written for so many international publications and produced so many instructional videos that there isn’t much marketing necessary, outside my publisher advertising them in said magazines and on the internet via their own website as well as Amazon.  As for this book, interviews I’ve done and will continue to do for entities such as the AP, Reuters via The Lineup, radio shows like George Noory’s Coast-to-Coast and Podcasts such as Mike Huberty’s Paranormal podcast @othersidetalk should help with that.  I’ve also created a Facebook page for the book and continue to contribute to Ripper- and Sherlock-themed pages as well as mystery and true-crime pages.  I suppose it helps to have lots of friends on Social Media to help spread the word as well.

Why did you choose this route?
It sort of chose me.  In the past, I was approached by publishers in the martial arts after some little success in the magazines.  As for my current book, it was remarkably more difficult than I expected to obtain a publisher.  But now that I have, and with the publicity my theory is now receiving around the world, there seems to be no shortage of publishers interested in my Ripper work.  Ironic that some are the same ones that turned me down initially.

Would you or do you use a PR agency?
Most definitely.  I haven’t yet, but would certainly consider it, as they are specialists in a field very important to an author trying to get his work out through as many outlets as possible.

Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
None of those, but I did have the book featured one chapter per week on the website of the English Informer in the UK, and the English Informer in France, an online magazine for English expatriates living in France or other places abroad.  That, I believe, helped stir up interest in the book.  The website interviewed me as well.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Approach every possible site with even the vaguest connection to the subject matter of your book via Facebook, Twitter, etc.  That seems to have helped me a great deal.

What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
Almost none until I had finished the main part of the work.  That may or may not have been a mistake.  Time will tell.  But now all day every day.

Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
I approached a site that markets new Sherlock Books and asked if they’d like to see and review mine.  It turned out that the site was run by the author of most of the books they featured and his brother.  He returned a horrible review to me which I was surprised to read, not only because of its vehement negativity, but because he had managed to read my book in just a few hours.  But after I found out who exactly had reviewed me, I googled his own work and lo and behold!  I found a very negative review of his latest Sherlock book.  And it was (drum roll) word-for-word the negative review he had sent me about my own work ha ha.

What do you do to get book reviews?
The book has only been out for 5 days, so I’ve only had one review so far.  But I have asked a number of people I know to be reading the book to do a review of it for me when they’ve finished.

How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Those that I have asked to do so have tentatively agreed, but there is only one that was done so far (a very good one, I might add, but it was done in German on the German Amazon page) and only one other that is actually in progress that I know of at the moment.

Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
Yes, as a private investigator and martial artist, I have special strategies for finding those that write bad reviews, running them to earth and then using ancient combat techniques for exacting my revenge upon them.  That was what you meant by the question, wasn’t it?

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Well, to paraphrase the great Oscar Wilde, “Any publicity is good publicity.”

Which social network worked best for you?
So far, it’s been Facebook.  But Twitter seems to be the biggest trend in book publicity now that I’m really looking into it.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
Write the book in the way you believe is best.  Do not let others convince you that you should change from the concept you envision and believe is best in the long run.

Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch? 
Yes, quite a number, too many to list here, but here are a few of my favourites:

Links to all of the various interviews I did can be found on my Facebook page:

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?

I think being fortunate enough to have had my theory featured on the cover of Ripperologist Magazine’s October 2016 issue, which was released on the same day as the Kindle version of my book (31 October, 2016).

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
Not so far – that I know of, at least.

Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
There could be many reasons.  Lack of public interest in the subject matter would likely be the first; if one wrote The A-Z of Rubber Band and Tinfoil Collecting, I doubt it would matter how well it was written.

What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I think that would be the best way to transport large quantities of them.

Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Yes, but only to a certain extent to get the ball rolling and to get people talking.  For an example, back in the 80’s, I gave a set of my 6-book series on the martial arts to one of Bruce Lee’s top students.  As it turned out, he was reading them on the set between takes of a movie he was doing stunts for that featured a new, up-and-coming action star.  That star happened to see my friend reading the books, and asked him about where he could get a set.  My friend contacted me immediately and told me he thought this guy was going to make it big, and advised me to send him a set of my books, which I immediately did.  That, in turn, led to my meeting, and then working for Steven Seagal in the years that followed.

How do you relax?
I love nothing better than a pipe and a good glass of dry red wine in my armchair with my Saint Bernard Brewster asleep at my foot next to a roaring fire with a good book.

What is your favourite motivational phrase?
“There are more old drunkards than old doctors.”
As for motivational music, it’s usually classical or operas such as Tales of Hoffman, Carmen or Aida for writing and for martial arts practise, the music of a band I train and am friends with called Five Finger Death Punch.

What is your favourite positive saying?
“Learn to do the things you hate.  That is the sign of a strong person.  Weak people only do the things they like to do.”
Dante Benedetti – beloved USF coach and famed San Francisco restaurateur

What is your favourite book and why?
Probably The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser.  Fraser called it “a burlesque fantasy on every swashbuckler I ever read or saw.”  It is a hilarious farce that intermingles action and comedy with real-life historical figures and events that teach the reader a little bit of history along the way while entertaining them immensely.  I tried to capture a little of that spirit in my newest book, and even included a couple of tips of the hat to my favourite author.

What is your favourite quote?
“God is dead” – Nietzsche, 1882
“Nietzsche is dead” – God, 1900

What is your favourite film and why?
It’s hard to name any single film, but I love all the old 1940’s detective film noir movies such as the Boston Blackie, Charlie Chan, Thin Man and Crime Doctor series’ as well as the Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe movies that capture the intrigue and glamour of a by-gone era.

Where can you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Oddly, I don’t really aspire to having any more in life than I already have.  So in five years, I’d like to have had enough success with my books to be able to remain here on my ranch in the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania, writing away happily, surrounded by my three dogs, six horses and my donkey, Deuce, otherwise known as “The Zonk.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?
“You’re going to live to be at least 60.  Take better care of yourself.  Only drink on days that end with a Y.”

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Bruce Lee.  He was the single greatest martial arts innovator of all time.  Everything I have and everything I have accomplished is in some way related directly to him and to the martial arts he inspired me to pursue.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
It is said that journalism (specifically sub-editing on a journal) is the best training for an author.  In my case, writing countless instructional pieces for magazines and then nine books on the martial arts are what I believe prepared me for the momentous task of writing Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror – certainly the Magnum Opus of my own literary career.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?
Although so many people in the industry keep telling me that eBooks are the wave of the future, my own experience tells me different.  About 9 out of 10 friends tell me they aren’t interested in reading an eBook and that most people (including myself) prefer the feel and weight of an actual physical book in their hand.  In fact, most of my friends are waiting for hard cover copies of Sherlock for me to sign that they can add to their libraries.  And so I predict a great decline in eBooks in the years to come.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I think by now, any reader that hasn’t fallen asleep by this point knows more about me than my mother does.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?  
Here are my Social Media & Website Links:
Twitter: @CRCAWC

Book Links: 
Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror

So, what other books have you written?

Close Range Combat Wing Chun – Volumes I-III

Where can we buy or see them? 

Martial Arts books:

Wow, thank you Randy that was a great interview I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to join me today.

Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper fans be sure to check out Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror and don't forget to leave a review.
If you have a question for Randy please post it in the comments below.
Have a great weekend,
Sarah Jane