Today we welcome Richard Paolinelli.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Richard Paolinelli: I was born in Turlock, California and I began my writing career as a freelance writer in 1984 in West Texas. I covered some sports events for a regional magazine and then got my first fiction credit as the lead writer for the first two issues of the Elite Comics sci-fi/fantasy series, Seadragon. But my newspaper career kind if took over and I shelved my fiction writing for a while with stops in New Mexico, Arizona and California. In 2010, I retired as a sportswriter and returned to fiction writing. I’m still something of a sports guy and whenever I can I spend as much time as possible spoiling my two grandsons.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Richard Paolinelli: I have written five novels – Escaping Infinity, Maelstrom, Reservations, Betrayals and Endgames – two non-fiction books – Perfection’s Arbiter and From The Fields – and have written nine short stories for anthologies (all but two have been published or accepted and the other two are still pending a final decision).
Escaping Infinity is my favorite as it is a sci-fi novel that breaks a lot of rules but has been very well received. It is a very unique work. The three books of the Del Rio series (Reservations, Betrayals and Endgames) are a political thriller series. The oddity is Betrayals was originally written as a screen play in 1996 and deals with Russia attempting to take over the United States by placing a sleeper in the Oval Office. I rewrote it as a novel long before the 2016 election cycle even began in 2015, but if you read it you’d think I wrote it during the primaries.
There isn’t an intentional message in my books. I don’t like message fiction. But there is an overall theme of redemption that seems to be in all of my novels. Sometimes for the MC, sometimes for another character. It isn’t intentional either, it’s just my style of story-telling I suppose.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Richard Paolinelli: I actually have two. I am co-writing a western and also finishing a sci-fi/fantasy novel started by an author friend of mine who passed away in September. After I get done with these two, I am editing an anthology and starting a sci-fi/fantasy novel of my own.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Richard Paolinelli: It was in Reservations and it involved the death of a primary character. Without spoilers, it was a character that wasn’t in the first draft but was added by me to help make the story better. As I approached the point when the character dies I found that I had become quite attached to the character and it was very hard to write the final scene. I kept trying to talk myself out of it, but knew deep inside that it needed to be done.
When I finally did finish I actually felt like a close family member had died. My beta reader actually became angry with me when he first read the scene because I had killed off this character. Then 10 seconds later said it was the right call and it was well written. Readers have commented on how this characters death impacted them, as if a real person had died. This told me I had made the right call and done it well.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Richard Paolinelli: As much as I can so that the story is believable to the reader. In novels, I want to make sure I have the culture correct and I am using the way that culture talks in general correctly as well.
In non-fiction, it is even more extensive. I spent 18 months researching and interviewing people for From The Fields. In the case of Perfection’s Arbiter, that book represented over 30 years of researching Babe Pinelli’s career and life.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Richard Paolinelli: Jack McDevitt in both cases. His Alex Benedict series is outstanding and it was after I read Time Travelers Never Die in 2010 and then reading about his life and how his career paths and mine seem to mimic each other. (We both decided to start writing novels at the same age, as it turns out, although we started out 21 years apart.) I’ve always liked the depth Frank Herbert built in his Dune series too.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Richard Paolinelli: Actually my wife Cheryl was the one who prodded me to go ahead and give fiction writing another try after I retired as a sportswriter in 2010.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Richard Paolinelli: My ability to combine a complex storyline while still building three-dimensional characters without losing the reader along the way.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Richard Paolinelli: I try to write every day, either on my work in progress or on my blog. Right now I can’t set a specific schedule where I will be writing at this time on this day. So I just make an effort to make sure I get in a minimum of two hours of writing every day.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Richard Paolinelli: That’s really hard to say. If you had asked me this question in 2012 I would never have guessed where I am today with my writing. I hope I have averaged at least three new published novels a year by the time 2022 rolls around.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Richard Paolinelli: Keep writing. And as soon as one project is done, start the next. And above all, if you can’t see yourself doing anything else but writing, then do it and keep doing it no matter what anyone else says.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Richard Paolinelli: The one I just got for Escaping Infinity: “The fact that I finished the book in one night speaks volumes. I haven’t done that in a very long time. No thinking, just pure enjoyment. For which I offer the author my heartfelt thanks.”
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Richard Paolinelli: FROM ESCAPING INFINITY:
I quickly flagged down one of the casino workers—I swear to you that it seemed to be a requirement for employment at this hotel that the women all had to look like they’d just stepped off the photoshoot for the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue—and the platinum blond pixie cut, would make any man quickly forget the throaty beauty in the café, whose name I didn’t bother to read smiled and pointed in the direction of the blackjack tables.
I hurried over, hoping to find Charlie, and grab onto the one lifeline I could count on to help drag me back from the edge and make some sense out of whatever the hell was going on. It wasn’t hard to find him at all once I got to the area; his booming laugh at some joke he’d just heard was a welcoming beacon to my ears.
When I got to his table, the first thing I noticed was a ridiculous number of chips piled up around his area of the table. Much like I had seen at the baccarat table earlier, it looked like everyone at the table was doing well but Charlie’s stack was approaching Mount Olympus in size. He was good at this game, I easily admit, but not that good. No one was.
The second thing I noticed was the enchanting young Carrie—still in her hotel uniform but her nametag was now gone—draped on Charlie’s right arm and looking like she was there to stay. That wasn’t the least bit ridiculous at all. He was good at that too, as I’ve mentioned before, and he really was that good in that arena.
“Hey, Pete,” he exclaimed when he saw me. “Pull up a chair and join us.”
“Not right now thanks,” I said. “Hey, I think they got our bags mixed up and one of mine is in your room. I was hoping you could let me in so I could get it.”
That seemed to me to be a perfectly reasonable explanation to get Charlie out of the casino where I could talk to him without any unwanted eavesdroppers. Unfortunately, my lifeline went and threw me the anchor and sank my plan in less than a heartbeat.
“No problem, buddy, here’s the key.” He flipped his room card in my direction with one of those Friday night goofy grins of his face that I knew all too well. “Just leave it in my room. I don’t think I’ll be needing it.”
Somehow, Carrie managed to snuggle even closer to Charlie than she had before. Even as I snagged the tumbling card out of the air, I tried to come up with some excuse, some pretense to get Charlie up and moving. But something in both of their expressions told me that it wouldn’t matter one bit what I said or did next. Charlie wasn’t moving from that chair anytime soon and when he did, he wasn’t doing it just to go off somewhere with me.
I’d lost my wingman, my lifeline and maybe my only hope of figuring out what had happened to us. Charlie turned back to the table, and his new girlfriend, without so much as another word in my direction and I stumbled away without any direction in mind other than to get away from the creature who’d once been my best friend.
Before I realized it, I found myself in an abandoned area of the casino, empty chairs stacked around a few unused card tables and standing face to face with Liz. How long she had been watching me, how much she had seen, I simply did not know. But there she stood with an odd, sad look in her eyes.
“Aren’t you going to ask me how you can be of service?” And I am sure there was more than a hint of bitterness in my voice, certainly more than she deserved to be on the receiving end of.
“No,” she replied without reproach for my tone. “At this moment, Mr. Childress, you are looking for any exit that will lead you back to the outside world. I simply can’t help you with that. All I can suggest to you is this—perhaps you are looking for the way out of here in the wrong direction.”
“What does that mean?” I asked in confusion.
Something from behind me suddenly caught her attention at that moment. Her eyes quickly flickered to whatever it was for a brief moment before returning to meet mine.
“Your room opens up to the central park,” she said after a moment’s pause. “We see so very few of our guests ever bother to go out and fully explore it. Perhaps you should visit it. You may find it to be peaceful and relaxing.”
She moved suddenly then, as if to walk past me without another word. But just as she drew even with me, her lips just inches from my right ear, I heard her whisper in a tone almost too soft for me to hear.
“You might even find it very enlightening, Mr. Childress.”
Then she was gone, moving on into the casino to engage some of the other guests in conversation. As I turned to watch her walk away, I noticed what it was that had distracted her earlier, what had appeared to make her suddenly cautious not only in what she said but how she appeared while saying it.
Standing out there in the middle of the casino, clearly scanning the crowd for someone in particular, was the hotel’s manager. But before he could look over in my direction and take notice of me, I darted toward a much darker area of the casino and eventually made my way back around to the entrance without him seeing me at all. For a reason that I could not put a logical explanation to, I suddenly had a very strong urge to be as far away from that man as I could possibly get myself and do it as quickly as I could.
Even within the seemingly limited, but very gilded, confines of this nightmarish trap that I found myself in.