Roy L. Pickering Jr. ~ Author Interview

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Roy L. Pickering Jr., author of Patches of Grey, Ava Applesawse, Feeding the Squirrels, and Matters of Convenience.


Lets start by talking a little about yourself!

1.  What is your name and do you write under a pen name? My name is Roy L. Pickering Jr. Everything I have gotten published to date has been written under my own name. As I have  witnessed the rise in popularity of fan fiction, I’ve considered giving the genre a shot. I’ve kicked around some ideas for putting real life people into fictional settings, but nothing has struck me as a slam dunk winner yet. If/when I ever come up with something delightfully absurd that I would not necessarily want to associate with the rest of my writing resume, that would be the occasion for me to deploy a pen name. What it would be is not yet decided on. Once I come up with a story, I’ll then decide on a name to associate with it.

2. Where do you call home? At present I live in New Jersey. Home for me so far has been the US and British Virgin Islands, New York and New Jersey.The settings of my fiction tends to be where I have lived. Write what you know, as they say. Write about where you know as well.

3. Do you have any hobbies, other than writing? What do you enjoy doing? I’m pretty obsessed with tennis. Weight training is another hobby. They don’t particularly go hand in hand as the latter bulksyou up more than is ideal for the former. But hobbies choose you more than you choose them, I think. Tennis and writing have a fair amount in common. Both require tenacity to improve from shaky beginner to competent. I can’t get enough of either one, and as much as I have improved since I first picked up a pen and a racquet, I realize there is so much further for me to go. I needonly to stick with it. 

4. What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing? I have been writing since my early teens and inspiration of course came from great books. The earliest novels I read after graduating from chapter books written for children were Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. By the time I was done with them I had decided that coming up with stories of my own for the entertainment of others was what I wanted to do with my life some day.

5. Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks, hard-covers or audio-books? I am Team Print all the way. I don’t have a strong preference one way or the other when it comes to hardcover versus paperback. A shelf full of hardcover books is aesthetically pleasing to look at, but I also appreciate the lighter weight portability of a softcover book, not to mention the lower price point. As for e-books, I appreciate what readers value about them but my personal preference is for ink printed on paper. In some regards print and electronic books are competing with each other, but I have never believed that e-books would cause print to go extinct. Once the initial excitement over deciding whether to go with the Kindle or the Nook or some other platform dwindled down, I expected e-book sales to stabilize and for print to have a resurgence and for a balance to be established in which there is a place for both of them. I have made the books I wrote available in both electronic and print formats to reach the broadest possible audience. But I have not yet fully ventured into the world of audio books. I am not of the opinion that listening to a book is equal to reading a book. As a reader I opt for reading over listening and for paper over screen. As an author, an indie one with a budget at that, I have been contemplating creating audio versions of my books and possibly doing the narrating. We shall see if I get this ambitious project off the ground. To date I have only gone so far as to record myself reading a couple short stories plus excerpts from my longer works. I recorded myself reading a full chapter from Matters of Convenience, though it’s not an especially lengthy opening chapter. It is long enough to make me realize that recording an entire novel would be a massive undertaking. 

6. What is your opinion of novellas? I enjoy all lengths of fiction as both a reader and a writer. Without initially setting out to do so, I am the author of a single novella. When I sit down to write a novel (two of them completed so far and one in progress), I know what it is going to be. Same for short stories of which I have written about 50, give or take. When I began writing Feeding the Squirrels, it was the one time that I did not know what it was destined to become. Starting out as a writing exercise, it is about a man’s single minded pursuit of pleasure with various women. The encounters are not related to each other, so it was written at the outset basically as a series of short stories featuring the same protagonist. Eventually I figured out a way to tie the vignettes together, at which point the individual stories became chapters in what ended up being a novella. 

7. What book are you reading at the moment? And in what format? At present I am reading and enjoying a paperback copy of The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett. I document the books I’ve read or plan to get to at the website Goodreads. Along with giving a star rating because I have no choice, I make sure to write are view. Recently I decided to make the move to YouTube where you can find my BookTube channel Roy’s Book Reviews. If anybody cares to know how I felt about a book, they have the options of either reading or listening to my thoughts. 

8. What genres do you read as well as write in? I read across a wide range of genres. There are a few that I may never check out due to lack of interest, but they are exceptions to my belief that excellent writing and wonderful stories exist in various literary categories. Much of my own writing falls under the umbrella of literary fiction. Upmarket commercial fiction is another label that may appropriately apply. My debut novel Patches of Grey focuses largely on teenage characters. The language may be too harsh for it to be described as Young Adult, so the category of New Adult is probably a better fit. My second novel Matters of Convenience targets a more mature audience, as does the novel I have underway with the working title of Brothers. In a departure from my novels and novella and short stories, I decided to give children’s chapter book writing a shot. It is a family affair, writing by me, illustrations by my super talented wife, and inspired by our daughter. Our goal is to publish The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse in the Fall or early Winter of 2020. Writing for an audience 7 – 10 years of age has been a dramatic change of pace from the rest of my prose. I’m looking forward to wading into uncharted waters and introducing my stories to a new generation of readers.

Lets talk about your latest work…

1. What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or fewer words, what would you say? My most recently published book is my second novel, Matters of Convenience. It’s a love triangle turned into a love rectangle. There you go, well under 20 words. Here is my slightly longer synopsis. When one man seems to be the perfect fit for your heart, and another is the one who picks up its broken pieces and supports pursuit of your dreams, which is the right choice and what are the more acceptable regrets?

2. Is the above book part of a series? Matters of Convenience is a standalone novel, same as Patches of Grey. Prior to taking on the challenge of writing a children’s book, creating a book series is not something I ever had in mind. I conceive of a tale and tell it to completion, and then I move on to a new literary universe. That has changed with The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse which is planned to be a series. I have written the first two installments and will get started on the third book as my wife embarks on illustrating the second. 

3. How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book(s)? As mentioned in previous responses, I happen to be married to a visual artist. Erin is a wonderful painter/illustrator. The cover of my first novel Patches of Grey uses one of her paintings for the cover art. The cover for my novella Feeding the Squirrels uses one of her illustrations that I posed for. When it came time to decide on a cover for Matters of Convenience, I had an image in mind that my wife had not already painted. She brought my vision to life with a new painting created for my book’s cover. Not too many authors out there, whether indie or those published by the Big 5, have the luxury that I do when it comes time to decide on cover art. With The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse we have taken things to the next level as the book is illustrated throughout.

4. Do you have a book trailer?

5. In your latest novel, who is the lead character and can you tell us a little about him/her? I’ll take “latest novel” to mean the one I am currently working on. The lead character is a white, male police officer who kills a young black man in the line of duty. The necessity of the shooting is questionable and it is filmed by a cell phone camera. Video of the shooting goes viral and turns the officer’s life upside down in a climate where accountability is increasingly demanded by the public. Where the story goes from there is something for the world to find out at a later date. 

6. Will readers like or dislike this character, and why? That’s the big question. It’s sort of the reason why I’m writing it. My third book is written from the vantage point of a man who ended the life of another with the pull of a trigger. But if you have killed someone does that automatically define you as a killer? As a writer I am far less interested in absolutes than I am in nuance. My first novel is literally called Patches of Grey because it is usually simplistic to view matters strictly in black and white terms. Sometimes those we call good people do bad things. Sometimes those we call bad people exhibit decency. Sometimes things get so mixed up in the heat of a moment that it is difficult to tell good and bad, right and wrong, justified and unforgivable apart from each other. I believe readers will relate to my book’s protagonist because he is not written as a monster, but as a flawed human being who succumbs to the pressure of a tense situation. Was his motivation garden variety racism, or self preservation, or anger, or fear, or hatred, or an amalgamation of emotions? If unable to like him, can you both dislike him and feel empathy for his plight? We shall see.

7. What first gave you the idea for your latest book? You need look no farther than recent headlines that fall under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. I wanted to write about policing and the thin line between operating by the book and misconduct. I wanted to write about the gun control debate. And about the correlation between mental imbalance and violence. And about the accelerative effect that social media can have on the impact and resolution of events which garner a great deal of attention, even if it is fleeting attention as we quickly move from one tragedy to the next. With these topics in mind I came up with a story that has allowed me to explore their conflicting sides. 

Lets talk a little about your writing process!

1. What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter? Up until the novel I’m working on now, I have been a plotter. In addition to coming up with the overall story arc I would create chapter outlines. This is a useful tool as it informs me on what to write as I get started on each chapter. But this time around I am trying out a different approach. Rather than chapters it is broken up into sections of varying lengths. The order in which the scenesare being written is not necessarily the order that they will appear in the final draft. They can be moved around later as I see fit since the story is not being told to the reader or written by me in chronological order. I decide what a scene will be about and write it. I may have no idea what will happen in the following scene until I get around to writing it. I know how it is all going to end, but the journey to get there is definitely being taken by the seat of my pants. This way of writing, being such a departure from how I have written in the past, has been both challenging and liberating.

2. Are you a self-published/Indie author or did you publish through a traditional publishing company? I am a self-published/Indie author when it comes to my novels. And the plan for The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse is also to publish it myself. I have not decided yet which avenue I will choose to pursue once my third novel is ready. That bridge will be crossed when I get to it. Self publishing gives me control over the timetable that I would not otherwise enjoy, but of course there are various advantages to having a major publishing house behind you that I would not mind experiencing in the future. 

3. What’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing? The summer after I graduated college I worked for a freelance copywriter. My goal was to be a novelist at some point, but at that time writing an entire novel was a daunting notion. He asked me how many pages I believe a novel to be. I answered ‘about 300 on average’. He asked how many pages I thought I was capable of writing per day. I said rather ambitiously ‘about ten pages per day’. So that’s a book per month, he declared. Now just go ahead and do it. I had never thought about it like that before. Even back then, a more naïve version of myself realized that writing a book per month was an unrealistic goal. But TECHNICALLY it was a possibility. The key was to be willing and able to put in the work on a daily basis. And to have enough story ideas on tap to be able to move immediately from one project from the next. As for the laborious, time intensive work of getting my books published and drawing the public’s attention to them, we didn’t get into that. There are A LOT of things an author has little to no control over once a book has been published. How many copies will it sell? What will reviewers have to say about it? But when it comes to crafting our stories, we have 100% control. Nothing to it but to sit down and write. Or as Hemingway ironically put it – There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. I start books off writing longhand and then type it up on my laptop, but the same general principle applies. Look up from the pages every month or so and see how much has been accomplished. So much. Never enough. Get back to writing.

4. What advice would you give someone who wants to start writing? I wrote a post on this topic at my blog – version of what I wrote there is – read a lot, write a lot, rinse and repeat. I don’t see how anyone can be a writer if they arenot also an avid, lifelong reader. One fuels the other. Not that we copy from what we’ve read. We’re simply inspired by the great writing done by others to rise up and see if we are up to the challenge of doing the same in our own unique way. Each time is like the very first. I have no idea how I managed to get it done before and I have no idea how I’ll manage to do it again. I just know that I will try, and past history has shown that when I put my pen to paper, sooner or later it starts moving.

5. Where can your readers follow you? I recently set up this link tree which has links to the various places online where you can find me and what I have written. Among them are…
Roy’s Book Reviews: Line A Day: website: author page: