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Author Interview: Richard Sutton, also writing as W.T. Durand

Born in California in ’52, the son of a semi-itinerant photographer, Richard Sutton lived all over the Western states growing up. After college, he wore lots of hats from sign-carver to guitar picker, illustrator, goat-herd and tree-planter before leaving an Oregon commune to hitch-hike to New York City in 1972. He made it his home, meeting his future wife on Canal Street. After serving in the trenches of advertising design and copy writing for many years, they founded a new company to trade in American Indian arts in 1985. The trading business remained active until 2007, and kept them busy traveling in Arizona , New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma and Colorado until retirement gave him time to begin writing fiction seriously. His first book, The Red Gate, an award-winning historical fantasy set in Ireland was published in 2009.

  • : It was always the stories. My brain has always been full of circulating snippets of ideas and sketches of people and places. Some of them are comforting and some are disturbing, but I never really know how they truly affect me until I sit down and create a story to tie them together. I suppose there must be therapy in that. Having the time finally, when I retired in 2007 gave me the chance to seriously enjoy the ride as far as it would lead. Books grew out of short stories and short poetry, memoir from having had the pleasure of a full and somewhat crazy life of re-invention.
  • : On Parson's Creek is a YA Mystery tale that grew out of some experiences during my Junior Year in HS in a tiny logging town in the Oregon Cascades. The new kid (guess who?) finds some strange things in the forest near his new home in a dark, cedar grove. There's also an ancient logger who fires his chainsaw up at all hours, living nearby and something living in the woods that nobody wants to talk about. It's better for 16 and over as there is some teen grappling in the back of a car. Some of the story is real, some is pure fiction as are the names and location. It has been my first move into YA. It may not be my last, but there are stories in the way that need to be written in the mean time.
  • : Creatively? High School and College, but there was a thirty year hiatus with only a bit here and there until I got closer to retirement. During the hiatus I wrote ad copy, corporate market-speak and funding proposals until I was sick of it.
  • : My childhood was spent in constant upheaval, often moving every year, sometimes more frequently. As a result, I was the "new kid" perpetually through grade school, which taught me how to adapt. The need to spin one's own reinventions according to the prevailing winds every time we set down, gave me a headstart on learning to listen to the little voices in my mind. They told me lots of "what-if" stories, which later became my work.
  • : Mornings are best for me as my eyes get tired by afternoon.
  • : My wife, Candy and I were on Royale Street in New Orleans a couple of years ago. It was early in the morning and the barkeeps were still hosing off the sidewalks, but we heard live music from a block over and walked up to listen. Set up in the corner doorway of a bar undergoing renovation, a couple of street musicians were performing folk and blues songs. We listened a while, and stuck around as they took a break. There were some speech styles in their singing that motivated my wife to ask where they were from. Turned out, they were from Red Hook, Brooklyn. A workman came out and overheard them talking about their teaching jobs back in NYC, and he asked my wife if she could tell where he was from from the way he pronounced "water"... she guessed he was also from Brooklyn. He laughed and told her he was born and raised in the NOLA Irish Channel. One of the performers began speaking about the reason why the speech is similar. There was an actual history of Irish seamen who had lived in both places, following their profession, and many families have members in both locations. This really caught my interest as one of the reasons we were in NOLA was to track down the house in the Marigny District where my wife's grandfather lived when he wasn't in NY. He was a ship's captain from Red Hook, Brooklyn who, it was said in hushed tones in family gatherings, that he had two families, one in both ports. My current book in progress, River Traffic, came directly from this chance meeting.
  • : Design work, home repair, gardening, paddling, guitar picking, home repair. Until recently we also made six or so cross country road trips each year and a lot of travel around Indian Country in the Four Corners States, home repairs...
  • : Strange, vaporous and unknowable. I have been a pantser (seat of my pants) writer since the very beginning, with a lot of input from various muses. They have been known to argue, but I try to keep them in line until the draft is committed to hard drive. Then, I'll listen to their suggestions until I'm happy with the book. Next, I involve my editor, my wife and a core of four beta readers, in that order. If the holes they find can be patched I fix 'em. If they disagree on suggestions, I listen to the similarities in their comments. I follow my editor's advice in almost every case and give the work one or two proofreading passes before publishing. One big thing I learned with my first book is to rename each version with a new filename to prevent situations where the wrong file is uploaded.
  • : I'm a fan of John Irving's lesser known books, such as Until I Find You and Twisted River; The one-off SciFi book A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller; Asimov's Childhood's End; Bradbury's Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes; Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle; Centennial, Chesapeake and The Covenant by James MIchener and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry; All of Tony Hillerman; All of Tolkien; Most of GRR Martin; Dickens, Conrad and Gabriel Marquez. The very first book (novel) I read, that inspired me to think about writing myself was Tik-Tock of OZ by L. Frank Baum, read when I was nine. I still have the first edition hardcover. I could go on...
  • : I've been an Art Director/Designer and copywriter, a cannery worker, a tree planter, a sign carver and cabinet maker, a guitar picker, a ski mechanic and most recently, an Indian Trader with both an online and bricks and mortar gallery (1985 until 2007). My design work continues as I now specialize in design for publication including book covers, media kits and marketing tools for both print and online use.
  • : I'm torn between my Nook Tablet (now unsupported...) and my Windows Phone Kindle App. I am unable to read on a monitor, more than a couple of pages before eye fatigue knocks me out...
  • : Book Covers are Consumer Product Packaging. They have a specific job to do and should solicit specific responses from a potential reader. It requires a process and really good communication. Each genre has certain angles that the covers that are effective generally take, so it's important to be as conversant in those existing styles and how to use them while designing something that will stand out in the crowd. I approach each as a unique project and don't provide a one-size-fits-most kind of service, but one based on the best bang for the buck spent.
  • : I sometimes make notes, outlines and style guides, which are generally lost and never referred to. I wrote the ending of the current project first, but I'm still figuring out how to get there. I'm such a slave to my own odd process I can't usually think it through too much ahead of the writing.
  • : Completing a draft so I can find out how the story ends.
  • : My website is http://www.SailleTales.com, and I have author pages on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I can be followed on Twitter @richardlsutton and maintain a single page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/richard.sutton.583 I don't use an emailing list as I made a decision a while back to never be a spammer.
  • : Thanks! Your engagement and interest in my work means a great deal to me.
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