Saturday, January 10, 2015

Interview with Author Richard Herr

Invasion From Fred!

I'm thrilled to share with you a very funny new book by my author-friend, Richard Herr!

Invasion from Fred is a humorous sci-fi story of a young boy and his friends who encounter an alien in the forest disguised as a fire hydrant. Hilarity ensues as they try to help the alien find its new look and stop an invasion to boot.

Richard and I met through a writing group called The Write Group in Montclair, NJ. We have shared many an adventure with critique groups and workshops along the way.

Richard, can you tell us about yourself?

I like walking on the beach in the moonlight...No, I’m sorry! Wrong frame of reference! Where have I been on my travel through life? I’ve had a number of jobs along the way: actor, musician, stage manager, AV technician, business owner. I’ve got two daughters and four grandchildren. ...and OK, I do like walking on the beach in the moonlight. 

Sounds like you have had lots of experiences to draw from. So tell us, what is Invasion from Fred about?

The main thing that it’s about is the three generations of characters. A grandmother who is a former Flower Power pacifist; a father who’s an investment banker; and a 12-year-old boy trying to figure out what he’s going to do with his life. He’s mirrored by an alien who’s visiting Earth, trying to figure out what to do as an adult. Boy, that all sounds very heavy. This is actually a funny book. 

It is a funny book! And I loved the interaction between the alien and the kids. And the relationship the boy has with his grandmother. What inspired you to write Invasion from Fred?

I wanted to write to young people in a simple, direct way, not preach to them. I wanted to use everyday language. That is, if you include ‘Who’s-On-First-style’ dialogue as everyday talk. 

Have you ever met any aliens? 

Better than that. I’ve been an alien. I’ve also been a mother, a father, several cats, and every character I’ve ever written about. As a writer, you’ve got to know how all of them think. If you’re writing a scene where two people have an argument, you’ve got to argue both sides for them. 

Now that makes for very interesting points of view! Can you describe the genre you write in?

This is a science fiction book. After all, we are getting invaded from a planet called Fred. Its main genre is humor. The sci-fi and the fantasy genres are very good for humor writing. You can have things be totally outlandish and simply explain that’s how things are on that planet.

In the sci-fi genre you have created a whole new world. How did you accomplish that?

You start out asking the question, “What if?” Everything follows from there. What if the planet these aliens in your book came from was a gas giant? I guess they’d have to be made out of gas themselves. What if there were elves, and trolls, and wizards, and humans, and unicorns? I guess there’d be some inter-species arrangements for co-existence. What if an alien came to this planet to decide what to do as an adult? I guess you’d wind up with an invasion from Fred. 

Can you tell us about your writing process? 

There are many writers who carefully outline their books, using 3 x 5 cards, and flow charts, and probably have a form of the outline that’s a PowerPoint presentation. That isn’t me. I usually come up with some overall idea, figure out how things start, then sit down at the computer and start writing. The exciting thing about working that way is that characters will suddenly take the story in a brand new, exciting direction I couldn’t have thought about. 

How long have you been writing?

I started out about a dozen years ago. I was staring at a blank computer screen and decided to fill it with words. 

What about writing do you enjoy most?

I’m enjoying doing something entirely different. Prior to writing, I was a technician. Now that’s changed. It was like washing my brain. 

You have two other adult books as well. Can you describe them?

My second book is the first book in a new series called Dog & Pony. This is Volume I, and it’s called “Aloha.” The Dog & Pony part has to do with the setting for the book. The protagonist has a company that produces corporate presentations, otherwise known as Dog & Pony shows. But the story really involves schemes to take over the worlds, two of them: our own, and the one of the Fair Folk. Harry, the narrator, is a reluctant hero who gets dragged into all sorts of adventures, protesting every step of the way.

And your third book is also a sci-fi humor story. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, Tales from the Starboard Café encourages you to belly up to a bar next to a Spacer in most any location in the galaxy, and you can expect to be plunged into a brawl, or worse. However, you might also find yourself the involuntary audience to a story. The Café holds a yearly storytelling contest, and Spacers love to tell stories. The individual tales in the contest might reveal that strange happenings are stirring the galaxy-wide civilization. These problems might involve that recently-uplifted, disruptive breed known as the Humans; or the vanished Wistrani, the highly advanced founders of the Amalgam? Whatever the stories are about, they promise to be most prankish!

Now that promises to be prankish indeed! Who are your favorite books and authors?

Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt, Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, and Janet Evanovich. 

I think Invasion From Fred is a great addition to the science fiction and humor genres for young readers. Can you offer any advice for aspiring authors? And what advice helped you the most?

Follow your heart--but keep your head in the conversation. 

Wise words. Richard, thanks so much for doing the interview and telling us about your book and writing process.

Richard and his grandchildren reading an Invasion from Fred

You can visit Richard's website here

Invasion From Fred available Amazon and Barnes and Noble

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