Welcome, AR Simmons.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in Chicago where my mother’s family (recent German immigrants) lived. Dad was a country boy from the eastern Missouri Ozarks. After moving back to the hills, we worked a subsistence farm. My home today is on land cleared from the native forest by my grandfather. I worked as a carpenter and factory worker before entering the army at nineteen. I served a tour in the Far East. If I ever grew up, it was then.
My service experience gave me three important things: an appreciation of the cultural diversity of my country, an introduction to a world far different from my own, and the G. I. Bill, which paid for my education. In college (I was able to get Bachelor and Master degrees in four years), I majored in history and met a wonderful teacher from New Zealand who made my writing bleed. I refer to the red ink she used for corrections.
I also met my wife and partner in college, where we had Art and Spanish classes together. We’ve been friends for a long time. She’s my first beta reader, my first copy editor, my illustrator, and my muse. She can be brutally honest. In fact, she told me (correctly) that my original draft of Bonne Femme was both over-crammed with scenes of dubious value, and totally unbelievable. While writing, I sometimes think Richard and Jill as us. Although I’m hardly Richard, she is close to being Jill.
What were you like at school?
I was smart and capable in elementary school, totally lost in high school, eager to get on with my life after a stint in the armed services in college, and a passionate teacher of history and spanish during my career in public education.
Which writers inspire you?
For simple style and setting, you can't beat Tony Hillerman. For passion of place and culture, you can't beat M.M. Kaye. Being an American, I have to mention the writer of the great American novel, Mark Twain.
Do you read much, and if so, who are your favorite authors?
I read a lot, but not as much as before I started writing. A body has to sleep sometime. Favorites? Mark Twain, Francis Parkman, Tony Hillerman, M.M. Kaye, Kipling ... There are so many.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I like them all, but I'm really fond of reading my Kindle with white text and black background.
What is your favorite quote?
Life does not consist mainly—or even largely—of facts and happenings.
It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts forever blowing through one’s mind.
What book/s are you reading at present?
The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke
What genre are your books?
What draws you to this genre?
I like mysteries because I think that the human mind is a pattern finding thing. It’s why we see pictures in inkblots and clouds. We like to figure things out. I like suspense because we all like to be scared. (Think roller coasters and bungie jumping.) I like to have the reader emotionally invested. I want some of my characters to become precious to them. Then, when they are put in peril, the tension increases. I guess I’m a vicarious adrenaline junkie. I think most suspense readers are. I always try to have an intense climax scene.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To gain a loyal readership and to entertain them. I just love doing an “Aw shucks” when someone tells me how much they enjoyed one of my stories.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Well, not after my first English Comp class. I had just started college after returning from the army. I was asked to stay after class to discuss my first essay assignment. My professor, a wonderful lady from New Zealand whom I consider to this day as the best teacher I ever knew, had some unkind things to say about my efforts. She also suggested that I drop her class and take “bone-head” English. I remember explaining that it had been some time since I’d been in school, and that I was “just rusty.” “No, this is more than rust,” she said. I stuck it out, and she made my writing bleed. It was the first time I knew that blue pencils were filled with red ink.
I decided I wanted to write fiction seriously sometime during graduate school while writing research papers in history. Come to think of it, maybe that research work is where I developed a passion for the investigation which is the heart of mystery novels.
Why do you write?