By Riley Banks
Randy Attwood grew up on the grounds of a Kansas mental hospital where his father was the institution’s dentist.
The state provided free housing on the grounds for its professionals.
Randy started writing in college and that whole “write about what you know” made it easy for him.
He wrote about Larned State Hospital, where he also had his first job as a dishwasher in the cafeteria for its 1,500 patients.
Now with more than sixteen works of fiction — novels, novellas and short stories – spanning a number of genres, Randy speaks to Riley Banks about his journey.
Randy wrote Crazy About You in the first person after taking a class with classical science fiction writer, James Gunn.
Gunn said 1st Person POV was the hardest in which to write, but when done well was the most successful.
“Crazy has connected with so many readers; I think, in part, because of that point of view but also because it takes place over a short period of time. One week in the protagonist’s life that will grow Brad up faster than he could have ever imagined. Or wanted.”
How much of it is real?
“People often ask that question when they finish Crazy and the question used to offend me. It seemed to imply that I had no imagination and simply had to describe what had happened. Then I realized it was a great compliment. What I had created in words seemed real to the reader, and so that made the prose successful.”
Randy did draw upon his experience of the mental hospital and its grounds, patients and workers. The book is also set in 1964, an era Randy is very familiar with.
“That’s when I was in high school.”
“The most amazing thing happened in the writing of Crazy. I learned the extraordinary power of the subconscious. Brad thinks he is in love with a schizophrenic teen patient. Her name is Suzanne. But he starts to date a town girl who hates her name, Gladys, so he suggests she pick out a different name that she likes, and he will call her that name. She picks Suzanne. I didn’t realize how important that name was until I wrote the end of the book. I don’t want to give away a spoiler here, but when I realized why I chose the name Suzanne, it blew me across the room. A lot of readers have told me they hit that point in the book and start crying.”
Randy has been pleased with the feedback he’s gotten from readers.
“One reader said that if she were a writer, this is the book she would want to write. I’d like to have more sales, but a comment like that is worth the whole effort. My words connected with another human being. Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
Randy donates $1 from every sale of Crazy About You to Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence, KS who work the suicide prevention hotline for his area of the country.
“I’m retired now and glad epublishing has come along. Marketing self-published works is a fulltime job.”
Though not all of Randy’s books are self-published.
“I have one work, a very dark/thriller, Blow Up the Roses, that is published by Curiosity Quills, a small press near D.C. One of my works, a comedy called SPILL is agented, so I still have hopes that a traditional publisher will pick it up. They still have the marketing muscle that would be nice to see flexed on my behalf.”
Right now, Randy is working on a new novel.
“Stop Time is a future alternative history set in Kansas City. The main character is a student painter, a realist painter, who finds one day that time has stopped and he is the only one moving in his world. Think about it. This is perfect for a realist painter. The light doesn’t change and models stay still.”
Randy says he realized something about his writing a long time ago.
“I have many sides of myself I seem to show people – family, friends, co-workers, bar acquaintances – but I only feel integrated as a person when I am working on a fiction project. Somehow, I guess all those different sides come together when creating works of fiction. I have gone through long stretches of time when I didn’t write. I was miserable.
And that’s the advice Randy leaves aspiring writers with.
“Don’t write unless you are miserable not writing.”
Immerse yourself in some Navajo culture with Mark Combs’ review of Attwood’s Heart Chants.