Thursday, October 18, 2018

An Interview with Author Richard Lassin

It's always fun to be in the ground floor of a project, and I think I've been on the ground floor of Richard Lassin's writing projects since the beginning when he penned his first novel, "Matchstick." 

Richard and I have been friends since the 1990s when we met at the WKAR Auction. A geologist in training, he has also worked with children as an elementary school permanent sub and is an avid collector of Mission-style furniture, loving auctions and getting some surprisingly good deals!

He asked me to proofread "Matchstick" and since then, have been one of his beta readers/proofers for several novels, all of which feature some of the same characters, yet are not dependent on one another in terms of sequence.

When he asked me to read "Red Jacket," set in Michgian's Upper Peninsula over the present time and the distant past a century ago, I was eager and intrigued. I knew Richard had spent a good deal of time living and working in the UP and was intimately familiar with the setting of the book and the past time period it covered. 

I wouldn't write this post if I hadn't felt completely satisfied after reading "Red Jacket." But I was. The book follows the story of Evangeline Attwood, who leaves her teaching job and an unhealthy relationship, taking refuge at her brother's cabin in the Upper Peninsula. The book follows two story threads -- Evie's discovery of a rock while diving that may be more valuable than she thinks, something others would kill for, and her inexplicable attraction to a museum in nearby Calumet, the site of a disaster that took place on Christmas Eve 1913. Was that affinity because perhaps she had been part of that disaster?

I asked Richard if he'd share a little about his experiences writing the book:

The book is titled Red Jacket and it has historical significance. Can you explain?
Red Jacket was the name of Calumet before it incorporated. It was named after its primary employer: Calumet & Hecla, a mining company.
You have written several other books before and some of the characters in your previous books return here. How did the plot of Red Jacket evolve?

Reincarnation has been a theme throughout my stories and reflect my own memories of former lives. "Red Jacket" is a fictionalized story regarding the Italian Hal where 73 persons died on Christmas Eve 1913 (Michigan's largest unsolved mass murder).

Your personal background includes quite a history of geological work in the Upper Peninsula. How did that help when building your story?

As a writer, I can only be eloquent about things I understand and/or experienced. Being a geologist has given me a wider view of creation. Essentially I blend science with mysticism in order to explain how things work.

There's a lot of action here and some sounds pretty wild to a reader. How did you do your research to help tell the story of Evie and those who tried to help her out?

The wild story was a balancing act with the violence centered around the copper mine strike of 1913 and use it as a tool to provide contrast. "Red Jacket" is essentially a love story and not unlike the movie "Titanic," it too has trauma incorporated. Enlightenment rarely comes without hardship

A part of this story was inspired by your personal experience. Can you explain what inspired you to actually write the novel?

What inspired me to write this?  think you know this answer as well as I do. It's not something I asked for, and to be perfectly honest, I would of rather not have had those experiences. 

Being trained as a geologist, made it exceptionally difficult to make sense of what happened. Yet, there were so many things I couldn't logically explain. For example, how did I know the two victim's names? There's no logical answer to some of these questions. In the end, I couldn't deny the possibility I lived back then. Not only could I remember it, but I could feel the emotions associated with the tragedy.

When writing about specific locations, how much -- if any -- did you fictionalize (names of places, for example) and if you used real names, how did you pitch the idea to those involved? Was it a hard sell? 

Geographic areas and public places are not fictionalized. There didn't seem to be any need.

How long did it take from your concept until your publication?

It took six months to write a crummy first draft and two-and-a-half years to edit it.
Talk a little about proofing the book. Apart from things like typographical or grammatical errors you found in the proofs, how did your beta readers help clarify some of the content?

Beta readers were essential. I think most people see the world a certain way, and a writer needs to get input regarding style of writing. I got a lot of criticism, and it helped me become a better writer. I accepted 95 percent of the recommendations offered, and I think the story is better for it.

Tell me a little about your experiences with self publishing. What recommendations would you give someone considering self-publishing their own book.

My experience with self publishing? A lot of work! Research and editing take a lot of time. Had it not been for my spirit guides, I would never have undertaken this endeavor. They told me it was time to write this story. Also, I suggest getting proof copies and read the actal book, not the version on one's computer screen. It looks and reads differently. I found literally hundreds of issues. 

I know you have revisited some of your earlier books and edited and re-edited them. Do you think you'll ever be satisfied with them?

Writing is an artistic expression and it takes time for inspiration to come. Yet, it is rewarding, writing something personally satisfying. "Red Jacket" isn't for everyone. It's just a story about going home and karmic justice. Things do work out eventually.

How do you plan to market your book? There are a lot of books out there!

For many authors, it's difficult to make cold calls and ask a stranger to market one's book. Yet it's absolutely necessary if one wants their book to be noticed. Amazon alone offers millions of titles on their website and without a marketing strategy, your book will never get noticed. I started my marketing plan by targeting stores in a specific geographic area. My novel is based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. So, I called just about every place that sells books and asked how I could get my book into their store.

As of September 2018 my book is in 13 stores. Another seven are reviewing the book before purchasing it. A part of my story is located in Escanaba and I mentioned Rosy's Diner in the book. I stopped in at Rosy's for lunch the other day and before I knew it, I had three customers headed to Canterbury Books to buy a copy. Several of my retailers want me to come back and give a talk/reading, which I plan to do. I told them I'm there to help them sell books. Essentially, they are my business partners.

In the near future, I plan to have newspapers do a book review for publication and have branded my name on Facebook to have a platform for my readers so they can interact with me. (Look for Richard Lassin, Author on Facebook).

Brainstorming ideas is the food that drives my marketing platform and any new author needs toput as much energy into marketing as they put into writing their book.

What's next?
I've been reworking the prequel to "Red Jacket," "Reflections." It's a story about a guy who goes home. He's still in love with his ex-wife but she dies, leaving him with a bunch of regrets. What's next? Not sure. Marketing, most likely!

Richard's book is available in 13 Michigan bookstores, mostly in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, and the State of Michigan Museum store. It is also available online at Amazon here.

The video above features photographs from the region in which it is set as well as archival photographs from the period and is set to original music, written for the book.

I'm sorry I won't be able to reply to comments or visit for a few weeks. I will be offline getting all sorts of great photos and inspiration for posts to come. But please do leave a comment if you like -- I read them all and they make me smile more than you know. We need all the smiles we can get!


Marilyn Miller said...

I am going to send the link to this post to my son. There are good ideas for marketing. The book sounds fascinating too.

Iris Flavia said...

Oh, I do like the concept of same characters but time-independent projects.

Actually I don´t read fiction but this one seems very well researched and does sound interesting, the mix of science and mysticism is attractive!
I also like the way he sees criticism - I have met too many people who put it down and feel like they have to defend themselves rather than seeing it as help (I was a beta reader for a fellow student and she got rather mad at me).

Great photos. Must´ve been hard back then, but reckon in the future they´lll think so about our lives today ;-)

Also the idea of adding local real places is great. I have many a Braunschweig crime-thriller and find it great to just know exactly where the "person" is right now :-)
The amazon link doesn´t work (here) and I didn´t find the book by hand, either (Hit#er showed up, though, what else?!) - will it be available for kindle?

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Good morning Jeanie! How exciting to be so established and circulated around the world as such....

Victoria Zigler said...

Great interview. I shared it on Twitter, to help spread the word about his books.

Kitty said...

Interesting that you planned ahead for while you ae gone! I am intrigued by this writer and your stories. Will probably buy the book - you are a great advertiser for him!

Love to yo nad Rickl

Lynne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AnnMarie aka Vintage Junkie aka NaNa said...

This book sounds so intriguing! The background of it and the questions and answers really help to want to read it.

Jean R. said...

I'm putting that book on my Amazon Wish List. It sounds interesting on so many levels at intrigues me.

Jean R. said...

P.S. Some of my Italian ancestors worked in the area where this book is set back at the turn of the century. Also, your link to Amazon for this book doesn't work right now.

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Joyful said...

Me again, Jeanie, I guess this is the only post I didn't get notification of yet. I see I commented on the first two posts you made while away on holiday. Richard sounds like a marvellous man and the books sound interesting so I'm going add to my now very long list of books I want to read. Thanks for introducing him to us!

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