Fat Man Blues by Richard Wall
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) I grew up in a small market town in rural Herefordshire, England At age 18 I left to join the Royal Navy. After 22 years in the submarine service and having travelled extensively, I now live and write in rural Worcestershire.
My first short story, “Evel Knievel and The Fat Elvis Diner” (available on Kindle), was soon followed by “Five Pairs of Shorts” a collection of ten short stories, and another short story called ‘Hank Williams’ Cadillac’.
My stories reflect my life-long fascination with the dark underbelly of American culture, be it tales of the Wild West, or of the simmering menace of the Deep South, or the poetry of Charles Bukowski, or the writing of Langston Hughes, or the music of Charley Patton, Son House, Johnny Cash, or Tom Waits.
I’m also a self-confessed Delta Blues music anorak. A few years ago I embarked on a pilgrimage to the USA to visit the Deep South, where a bizarre encounter in Clarksdale, Mississippi inspired me to write my début novel, Fat Man Blues.
“Hobo John” is an English blues enthusiast on a pilgrimage to present-day Mississippi. One night in Clarksdale he meets the mysterious Fat Man, who offers him the chance to see the real blues of the 1930s. Unable to refuse, Hobo John embarks on a journey through the afterlife in the company of Travellin’ Man, an old blues guitarist who shows him the sights, sounds and everyday life in the Mississippi Delta. Along the way, the Englishman discovers the harsh realities behind his romantic notion of the music he loves and the true price of the deal that he has made.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) The idea began after the bizarre encounter in a Juke Joint. My friend (who was with me) said later, “That scene in the bar would make a great opening to a story.” I began writing, and with a little embellishment turned the encounter into Chapter One of the novel.
Writing took place during spare time away from my real job and home commitments. I’m not a planner, and so each writing segment would begin by reading the previous chapter and then continuing the story where I left off – when I get in the “writing zone” (my words) I see the action playing out like a hologram just in front of my eyes.
All in all it took about three years from start to finish.
Having completed the eBook version, I uploaded to Kindle and slowly people started buying it. I managed to secure an agent, but so far a traditional publishing deal is proving elusive. After a few more weeks of swearing and frustration I managed to design and create a cover, sort out the formatting and get a paperback version ready to upload to Createspace. Receiving the proof copy, and actually holding in my hand the result of three years work was immensely satisfying.
Marketing Fat Man Blues has proved to be harder work than writing it. As a self-published author, the onus is on you to not only get the book “out there” and noticed, but to keep it there. Social media has been invaluable for this. I began with Twitter and then FaceBook a little later.
I contacted local radio stations and secured interviews, and my agent approached BBC6 Radio Presenter Cerys Matthews, who mentioned the book on her show (and subsequently invited me as her guest to a music festival she organises in N Wales). Along this journey I have connected with and met some amazing people who have unselfishly assisted me with making my book known.
Two years from first publication, sales remain steady but I’m always looking for new ways to market it, even if it’s just slipping the title into conversation every now and then.
It’s all good.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) Favourite authors are established writers Andrew Vachss, James Lee Burke, and Langston Hughes. My favourite new writer is Ran Walker – check him out on Amazon.
I can recommend any books from the above authors, but one of my favourite ever novels is “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry. Breathtaking.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) As a child I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Spike Milligan was a favourite author, and at one time I had every one of his novels and poetry collections.
One book which stands out from my childhood (and which I still have) is Wild Trek by Jim Kjelgaard.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) I’ve had several favourite moments: I was extremely proud when the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi, offered to stock Fat Man Blues in their gift shop. I was equally proud to receive a photograph of Rita King posing with my book (Rita King is the daughter of blues legend BB King). Meeting, and becoming friends with musicians Tone Tanner and Garrington T Jones, who very generously invited me to read from Fat Man Blues during one of their gigs. Another high-point was giving a talk about my book at Upton Blues Festival in 2017, and being introduced on stage by local blues legend Trevor ‘Babajack’ Steger.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for my wife, Barbara.
RWall Website: https://richardwall.org/
*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.