Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Randy Perkins Interview - Part I

This is an interview with Randy Perkins, author of Herb's First 100 Years & Book of Truths. You can read my review of the book here, but don't take my word for it. I suggest you read it for yourself.

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Shalee: Obviously I truly like the book. I found Herb's First 100 Years to be endearing and convincing. How would you compare this story to other novels?

Randy Perkins: With our world often deep, dark and disquieting, full of images and events that are troubling to say the least, I set out to put together a story that would somehow show that there is always hope. I was speaking to a book club a couple of months ago when a woman said for her the story was a cross between Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook and Robert Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County. I’m not sure I write as well as any of those men, but my ego was certainly caressed by her remarks.

Shalee: I’d be nothing but pleased with that compliment. I was surprised to find you as one of the main characters of your novel. How much of the book is autobiographical?

Randy: I shaped this story around a tour I led to Manhattan in December 1996. Much of what you read in the book was taken from that trip. It felt natural to write myself in because that’s the way it happened. I’m not sure I could have done it any other way.

Shalee: Is Herb Conroy someone who existed?

Randy: His character is based on someone who, at the time I met him, was 98 years old. He was traveling by himself and because he was alone, I asked him to take a few meals with me. That led to some rather philosophical conversations about life and what living a good life is all about. He was the oldest person who had ever traveled with me. I am sure he is the oldest person I have had the good fortune to know. I became fascinated by some of his stories. His outlook and attitude set him apart from the crowd. Whatever was going on, his face always displayed a smile, and on a couple of occasions, his smile was the only smile in my group. I think it was the way he smiled that first sparked the idea for this book. That said, Herb’s character as I have written him is a combination of a few very special people I have known.

Shalee: Did Herb write the Book of Truths?

Randy: Herb would tell you that he didn’t write the truths; he collected them throughout his life. After explaining the concept to me, I also began to collect them. Often people tell me that after reading the story they begin to compile their own Book of Truths. I had more than 300 truths before I sat down to write the story. Only 132 of them made it into the book.

Shalee: Why not all of them?

Randy: I tried to pick truths that were universal. The truth can be a somewhat subjective thing. What is a “truth” for me might not be a “truth” for you.

Shalee: Did Herb know you were writing a story that was based on him?

Randy: No. He died before I sat down to write the book.

Shalee: How long did it take to write?

Randy: The story took eight years to evolve and ferment in my head. I don’t really enjoy the process of writing so even when the story was complete in my mind, I was hesitant to sit down and write. Then in January of 2005, I found myself very unhappy at my place of employment. One morning I had a meeting with the owner of the company and the next morning I no longer had a job. It happened very fast and was an amicable separation. I decided to take a year off, play golf, fish and write the story that had been rattling around in my head. The actual writing took about four months. It went quicker than I had anticipated because on one of my fishing trips, I fell and severely sprained my ankle. For a solid month, I was laid-up and all I did during that month was write.

Shalee: What are you doing with yourself now that your work has made it to print?

Randy: Marketing the story has become my full time job. To be honest, few authors make a living selling fiction. Sales are going well, but do little to support my daily needs. Any money I have made from the book I have put back into marketing. The whole project is really kind of an experiment involving a belief that in order for an idea to flourish, you have to set it free. The experience has been an adventure. I hope it continues, but if I become bored or poverty-stricken, that will signal that it is time to do something else.

Shalee: Like what?

Randy: Oh, let’s see… I would like to have a wood shop where I could design and build custom furniture with secret hidden compartments… places where people could hide their jewels and loot. Or another option might be to join the senior golf tour or become a professional trout fisherman and have my own fishing show on cable TV. Or maybe I will buy a metal detector and search for buried treasure.

Shalee: That is quite the variety of aspirations. Are you any good at golf?

Randy: No. But that doesn’t stop me from playing. I love the game but I am not very good. I did get my first hole-in-one this year. That was exciting.

Shalee: I played golf for the first time this year, if you can call it playing. I kept swinging the club like a baseball bat. Perhaps I shall leave that sport to the experts such as yourself. Do you mind if I ask how old are you?

Randy: Forty-seven.

Shalee: Are you working on another story?

Randy: Another story is looming on the horizon, but the idea is not complete and I refuse to begin until it is. I’m in that fermenting stage.

Join me tomorrow when the interview with Randy Perkins, author of Herb's First 100 Years & Book of Truths, continues.

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