Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Gregory Randall. Greg to everyone, except my wife when she’s vexed. I use the middle initial C. because there areother Gregory Randall’s out there. We all think we are unique until we google ourselves, then it’s just embarrassing. Especially for the guy in the Colorado State prison system with my name.
I’m just shy of my seventieth birthday, but feel like I’m going on forty-five. It’s an age when you have the skills to perform, but the body continually reminds you to order more ibuprofen.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in a small town in northern Michigan (for your UK readers, a state in the Midwest of the United States). Traverse City, even today, hasn’t really changed all that much. It’s grown during the last seventy years, but still didn’t have a Starbucks coffee shop when I was there last May. I grew up in the suburbs of the Southside of Chicago where my father worked downtown in the Loop and later built a small manufacturing company. After I completed my Batchelor of Science degree at Michigan State University, I moved, with my bride of two weeks, to California. We have been here ever since.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My father was a gypsy, or so its seemed. I went to five or six different grade schools. He was trying to find that perfect job that would eventually take care of his growing family. Eventually we landed on the Southside of Chicago. High school was fun, I did well.I then went on to study industrial design at Kent State University and landscape architecture and urban planning at Michigan State.
After college, I worked in a number of professional design firms in San Francisco. Living in San Francisco in the 1970s and 80s, was wonderful. That was before the city began to fall apart (and believe me it has). In 1993, I opened my own urban design firm, Randall Planning & Design. We planned new cities, communities, apartment complexes, commercial, and office facilities. It was a blast. Right now, in 2019, we have essentially closed that company and I have retired to write fulltime.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Fiona, lots of exciting works to add to my twelve published books. I have new four books coming out this year. Chicago Fix was published the first of the year, Limerick For Death (the sixth Sharon O’Mara thriller) will be released this summer. Both of these are self-published under our Windsor Hill Publishing imprint. Saigon Red, will be published on March fifth, this thriller is the second in the series for Thomas & Mercer Publishing.And,if I can get my act together, a World War II thriller will be edited and published toward the end of 2019. Look for at least two more new titles next year.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve written professional project description, environmental impact reports, and other technical journals for most of my professional architectural career. However, in 1991, one early morning as I commuted into San Francisco, I watched a bum panhandling in the BART transit station.People were turned off by his aggressiveness. Then he stole a bag from a woman and ran off. I sat down, wrote out the incident, imagined a scenario of what might have been in the bag, and began the first book in the Sharon O’Mara series, Land Swap For Death. It took me eighteen years to finally publish it (there had to have been a hundredrewrites).
In the mid-nineties, I began work on a non-fiction book about urban planning and post-World War II housing. That book was called America’s Original GI Town, Park Forest, Illinois. It borrowed extensively from British town planning. Johns Hopkins University Press published it in 2000. I brought out a new edition in 2010.
But it was the “Great Recession” that really gave me the time to focus on my writing. When your industry implodes and there’s no work, well there is truth to the adage, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I applied myself and wrote seven novels in five years.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The day I held the hardback of GI Town. It inspired me to up my game and continue writing fiction.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
As I noted earlier, an incident on a train platform. That has led fifteen novels (eleven have been published). The others will follow.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Usually out of thin air. I thought Land Swap For Death was cool. Not a lot of marketing analysis on for this one – that’s changed with most of the others – titles do sell books. Sometimes in the course of the writing the novel, a phrase will appear that just works, I never know. But for some books the title has changed at least five or six times.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I like relatively short and specific sentence structures, and that is hard to do. Early on, it was pointed out—by helpful people of course—that my sentences were too long and had too many commas. I was annoyed, really? But they were right. I rewrite with this in mind. I’ve learned (and still learning), that the reworking of the manuscript is necessary. Brutal use of the delete button is required. There’s lots of guidelines out there, cut 10%, pull out the adverbs, etc. What matters is the flow and the measure of the sentence, the paragraph, and the chapter. Sometimes long is good, sometimes one word is best.
Overall, my style tends to be familiar, not thick and academic. Similar to how a storyteller would describe the action and the characters. I like the right word for the right situation (often changing them until both the flow and intent works). I often tell the story through dialog and conversations between the characters and minimize the narrative and descriptive side.
Fiona: How much of (your books) the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Often, it is said, the first book a writer writes is his autobiography. Not a true autobiography but a story drawn from their life. My young adult and coming of age novel, The Cherry Pickers, is exactly that. Autobiographical by location and setting, I changed the family dynamics to essentially tease out the characters, their stories, and their challenges. It’s won a couple of awards. I quite proud of that effort.
My other books, almost all of them, come out of my own personal experience. I understand the planning profession and used it in two books, GI Town and Land Swap For Death. I’ve been to the locations in the stories, Mexico, London, Venice, Paris, San Francisco, and Chicago to name a few.
I do rely on travel guides, maps, histories, other author’s work, Google and other search engines. Youtube videos put you right on the streets of the locations, they are handy. Some of my characters are based on real people I know, have run into, or have seen on television or found in other books. Who they are is my secret.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
In most cases I write about where I have been. I have an extensive collection of photos and videos I’ve taken. These are extremely helpful. For the Alex Polonia thriller, Venice Black, I walked every scene of the story, shot video, described the site conditions, and tweaked the final manuscript to fit the exact conditions. The first review published in Amazon self-righteously said that I’d never been to Venice, they went on and on about how wrong I was. I guess I destroyed their illusion of the city and they wanted to get even or something. On the other hand, many of the scenes, using online research, information, and photos, formy O’Mara thriller, Diamonds For Death, take place in Cuba. One review complimented me on my attention to detail and wished they could have travelled, as I did, through the countryside. I’m not a big fan of Cuba, and will probably never go there.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
With the exception of Venice Black and the newest Alex Polonia thriller, Saigon Red (out March 5, 2019), I have done all the artwork for all the covers.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The silliness and often cruelty of people. How history can directly affect things in our modern societies even fifty years later. I’ve used backstories of WWII, Vietnam, the Bosnian War, the gangland days of Chicago in the 1930s (the Detective Tony Alfano thrillers). Even in today’s world, these events still have impacts, and probably will for the next hundred years.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I like the obvious writers of the day, Michael Connelly, Don Winslow, and Martin Cruz Smith. But there are some new writer’s I enjoy: James L’Etoile, Robert Dugoni, Tim Tigner, Les Egerton, Michelle Cox, Alan Furst, the list could go on and on. Recently, I’ve been writing some science fiction and fallen for John Scalzi and Jason Anspach and Nick Cole.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
One of America’s current bestselling authors, Robert Dugoni. Years ago, I took a few writing classes (they were more about story structure) from Bob. Since then I have considered him a mentor. He’s been kind enough to read my manuscripts (why, I don’t know), offer suggestions, and been an inspiration. I like his style, his characters, and when he was signed by Thomas & Mercer, it was my goal to someday be in the same publishing house – and now I am.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see writing as an obsession.If you love it, you can’t walk away. I’ve had a very successful professional career outside of writing that now allows me the freedom to write what I like and about subjects that interest me. Do I “make a living” doing this? No, but maybe someday. But then again 95% of serious writers don’t either. But if you don’t go to the dance you can’t find the right partner. There are hundreds of examples of writers turned down by publishers and then, suddenly, became an “overnight success.” Mark Sullivan is a good example. Unlike me, who came late to the dance, Mark wrote for years, teamed with other writers, probably made a few bucks, then hit hard times. His historical novel (and true story) Beneath a Scarlet Sky, was turned down many times until it was picked up by Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing. It was the right book at the right time. It’s sold millions, has over 25,000 reviews, and I would guess has regenerated Mark’s belief in his story telling abilities. Some will call it lightning, I call it perseverance.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Saigon Red, out March 5, takes place in Ho Chi Minh City, the old Saigon. I wish I could have spent time there, breathing in the atmosphere, seeing the city, tasting the food. I relied on research and friends who had recently visited the city. Nonetheless, like my Venice Blackcritic, this is one place I would have liked to have experienced. I do not think anything would have changed in the story or the structure, but maybe the texture would have been a little richer.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
DNA, how interconnected we really are as a species, the treatment of the bastard children of American servicemen left in Vietnam after the war, the guilt that some vets still suffer fifty years later, the massive extent of the modernization of this war-torn country, the fact that 75% of the Vietnamese people have been born since the end of the war, and that they bear almost no ill will against Americans. Where to stop?
This is why my books almost always have an historical component or back story. I write to learn.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
My character Alexandra Polonia, with her Cleveland cop backstory, and her new life as a security agent working for a private international defence and security firm creates some challenges. She is forty-two, blond, athletic, yet carries an Eastern European (Polish) heritage. Maybe Jennifer Garner (without that Affleck guy), or Jennifer Aniston, or any other actress named Jennifer.Maybe Scarlet Johansson. There’s Sharon Stone, she would be great – playing the mother role. Mary McCormack would kill the roll, but she’s just a little too old.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Never ever: stop writing, thinking about writing, reading about writing, reading other writers, or think of quitting.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Please go out and buy all MY books (currently you can do that for less than $20 USD), and spend your summer reading the million plus words I’ve written—and I picked only the best words. And thanks. But to my readers, please understand thatwriting is an art, it must be nurtured, studied, and most especially practiced. Pick up a cello, run the bow over the strings, and tell yourself you are Yo-Yo Ma—then, through practice, spend the next twenty years proving it to yourself.
And to my readers, these are my stories. I write what interests me, and I hope that they interest you. Sometimes what I write will make you uncomfortable and challenge you and your beliefs. Sometimes they will support your dreams and aspirations, sometimes you will not finish my story. But thank you for at least giving me a try.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Doing research for a couple of new novels, so they are non-fictions works about the south of France during WWII. A couple are memoirs of the occupation of France by the Nazis. Just received Max Hastings Vietnam, An Epic Tragedy, will be digging into that. Matt Farrell’s What Have You Done, Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, and Bleak Harbor by Bryan Gruley. I’m a book junkie, what can I say.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first “big” novel I read was Leon Uris’s Battle Cry. I still admire and love all of Uris’s books. If I could write like that . . .
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Ironic stories well written that play with the imagination. A friend of mine, Philip Donlay writes these incredible thriller fantasies using natural elements, hurricanes, weather, meteors, etc. as the bad guys and his characters get caught up in the disasters that ensue. Phil was a private jet pilot so his books have aircraft as the primary tool. Imagine flying through the mountains of Austria in a Boeing 727 at 400 miles per hour in the dark in the rain, chasing the bad guys in a car who have kidnapped your wife. That’s what make me laugh.
The last chapters of my novel, The Cherry Pickers, still make me cry.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Ann Rand, she would be an interesting person to talk to for a few hours.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Gardening, photography, now it’s book design and travel. At one timeI built boats (real ones not models), once played a respectable game of golf, and oil painting.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Man in the High Castle, Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, The Rookie, NCIS, Blue Bloods, shows with good story lines. The Thin Man films, most Humphry Bogart movies, good noir films, etc. My favourite is movie is the 1996, Independence Day – go figure.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Italian pastas, red, all types of music – quite eclectic.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Take up trout fishing in Montana.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Not nice. I’ll wait and see what’s left on “to be completed” list.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
He Gave It His Best
(My father’s reads: ‘Bah Humbug,’ really it does.)
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Amazon Authors Page USA https://www.amazon.com/Gregory-C.-Randall/e/B001K91MF2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Gregory C. Randall
Gregory C. Randall, Michigan born and Chicago raised has made the San Francisco Bay Area his home with his wife for the last 48 years. A graduate of Michigan State with a degree in landscape architecture, Mr. Randall has 48 years of community design and urban planning experience. He has his own design firm, Randall Planning & Design, Inc., and has designed hundreds of residential, commercial and retail properties throughout the western United States.
Mr. Randall is represented by the Kimberley Cameron & Associates, Inc. and is published with Thomas & Mercer Publishing and Windsor Hill Publishing.
However, his early childhood on the south side of Chicago was the inspiration for his first book, a non-fiction work titled America’s Original GI Town, Park Forest, Illinois. This is the account of the creation of the first town designed for the GI’s returning home after WWII. It was first published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2000 and updated in a new edition in 2010. He is considering a new update to this book to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the village’s founding.
Mr. Randall has enjoyed writing for almost thirty years, but it has become a more serious vocation during the last twenty years. Greg is the author of the five book series, The Sharon O’Mara Chronicles. He also has just published the third book (Chicago Fix) in the Detective Tony Alfano noir thriller series set in 1933 Chicago. The first book Chicago Swing won a silver medal in the 2016 Global Ebook Awards. His young adult novel, The Cherry Pickers has won acclimation and awards from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Northern California Book Publishers Association (BAIPA).
In the spring of 2018, Thomas & Mercer Publishing released the first book in a new series, Venice Black. The main character is a women detective, Alexandra Polonia, from the city of Cleveland, Ohio. The second book in the series, Saigon Red, is to be released in March 2019.
Two World War II thrillers are to be published during the next two years with Windsor Hill Publishing. These are tentatively titled This Face of Evil and Pawns in an Ancient Game.
Mr. Randall is represented by the Kimberley Cameron & Associates, Inc. and is published with Thomas & Mercer Publishing and Windsor Hill Publishing.
Mr. Randall and his wife have their own independent publishing company, Windsor Hill Publishing. He is a book cover designer and artist and is well versed in the ebook conversion process. All of his books are available through the usual sources, but most specifically Amazon Book
Thank you Fiona, I enjoyed this immensely.