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Not long ago I did an author interview with Kerry from Chat About Books (a blog well worth checking out if you haven’t already done so). I thought I’d share the Q&A here. You’ll know me better than I know myself by the end of it.
So, Richie Billing, for those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
My name is Richie Billing, a name of subtle misfortune (my middle name is Edward, meaning my name is also Dick Ed). I’m from a place called Liverpool, known the world over thanks to The Beatles.
Last year I had the pleasure of collaborating with two very good friends of mine, Mark Brooks and Mark Vernall. Together we released The General & The Visitor to raise much-needed funds for my grandmother’s care home, Ranelagh House.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
I think when creating any character we extract a slither of ourselves and place it inside them. One particular trait that we possess. Perhaps one we hide or temper. I like to base characters on people I know or meet too, though.
How do you pick your characters names?
With writing fantasy, it’s sort of expected that names will be different. Nigel the warlock doesn’t have a very good ring to it. I see a lot of difficult-to-read names in this genre. Random apostrophes thrown in the middle and what not. I’m not a fan of that. Instead, I like to keep it relatively simple. I pick a name I’m familiar with and play about with it, inserting letters, taking them away, playing around with the order. As an example, I’m writing a short story at the moment featuring a character called Jhoshan, which came from the name Josh.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I’ve recently had to alter my process because it was a bit slow. I always wrote a first draft by hand, then typed that up, re-read and edited it, printed it out, edited again, then back to the computer and so on. Now I just type things; it’s way faster, though I still brainstorm on paper. I love filling blank pages with a black pen.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
George R.R. Martin. This man, together with the chap immediately below, inspired me to write.
Raymond E. Feist. I’ve never devoured so many books so quickly. Twenty-seven in all in a matter of months. Like G.R.R.M, for me, a master storyteller.
James Joyce. This chap is another master. The Dubliners is one of my favourite books. And being part Irish it was only right I included an Irishman.
Brandon Sanderson. I owe a lot to Brandon Sanderson and the college lectures he made available on Youtube. They’ve helped give me a solid footing in this sometimes mind-boggling world of writing.
Ian Rankin. I’ve always enjoyed reading crime thrillers. I owe the person who recommended Ian Rankin to me a massive debt. I’ve learned so much from his craft. Sub-plots, suspense, plot twists—this guy’s another master.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
George R.R. Martin, I’d say. So I can probe him for Game of Thrones-related secrets.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I devoured books by the dozen. When school reached its business end I stopped, academia shouldering its way into my focus. When I left university I began again and rekindled my childhood love.
When did you start to write?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. I suppose, weirdly enough, I began to fall in love while essays in university. I’d seek out subjects that were purely essay based. I found them easier and I was better at them. Play to your strengths, I say. While the content wasn’t very sexy, (law is a mundane field), I enjoyed the challenge of putting together a literary jigsaw.
When I left university I began to miss the process, so I began to write comedy with a good friend of mine, Ant Campbell, now a successful comedian. That never quite satisfied me either. That hole wasn’t filled until I got an idea for a story about two and a half years ago, which led to my current work in progress.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
This is a tough question. I can’t think of any endings that have particularly rankled. Maybe Frodo and Sam dying at the end of Lord of the Rings? I’m a grim bastard, I know.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s everything I dream of in a fantasy series. Book two of A Storm of Swords is pure mastery. I picked it up one night when I was struggling to sleep, must have been around 12:30 am. The next time I looked at the clock it was 7 am.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
One For Sorrow, or something a bit less depressed-sounding. I have an affinity to magpies I can’t quite explain.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
Tyrion Lannister. For me, he’s a perfect character. Flawed, conflicted, interesting, and forever the underdog, and I’m a sucker for an underdog. I think he may demand wine, though.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I’m beginning the arduous task of editing a forty-seven chapter novel. I’m aiming to have it done in six months or so. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
Tell us about your last release?
My last release was a flash fiction story called Ducks. All of my short stories are set in the world of my work in progress, looking at the lives and stories of peripheral characters who feature in it. Ducks tells the story of a young River Folk girl named Inia. After following some ducks downriver she finds herself running into the last people she expected to see.
Do you have a new release due?
Not as of yet, though I have a few short stories out in circulation amongst publishers so watch this space.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
Have a day off! Do all of the things I enjoy doing to unwind: drink, smoke, and play video games.