Robert Kidera is an author whose books include Red Gold (A Gabe McKenna Mystery Book 1) and Get Lost (A Gabe McKenna Mystery Book 2).
Robert Kidera’s blog.
Author page on Amazon
What motivates you to write and how did you get started?
Stories and story-telling have always been a part of my life. From the daily stories my father told, to the books I read as a child, to the stories on TV and in the movies, I have always been surrounded by wonderful tales, unforgettable characters, and the lessons that good story-telling can impart. I wrote my first story when I was about six or seven years old. I first wrote professionally as a unit publicist for 20th Century-Fox in my early ’20s. I retired early from an academic career to become a writer full-time in 2010. It’s something I always dreamed of doing.
What’s most rewarding about writing?
There are so many rewarding aspects of writing fiction. I love creating and living with interesting characters. I love the enjoyment that my readers get from the stories I tell. I love the challenge of making each story better than the last. And unlike Dorothy Parker, I not only love “having written”, I love writing. It’s a daily blessing, not a daily grind.
What’s your favorite genre and why?
I’ve always loved a good mystery. My mind is always curious to know the “how” and “why” of things. And I’ve been a student of history all my life. So I am naturally drawn to mysteries that have an historical dimension to them. It’s no mistake that my protagonist Gabe McKenna is a retired history professor!
Where do your characters come from?
Everywhere. From within and without. My main characters live in my head for a while before I let them see the light of day. I visualize them, listen to their patterns of speech, get to know them as real. I’m one of those fiction writers who does take the time to create backstory for my major characters in some detail. The more I know about them, the better I can write them. Some aspects of my characters may come from real people I have known, or bits and pieces of characters I have read in books or seen on TV. But they have to wander through my imagination for a while before they land on the page.
Who is an author who inspires you and why?
Without question, the author who inspires me the most is Raymond Chandler. Not just that he got a late start in writing as I did, not just because his craftsmanship is unparalleled. Chandler can be said to have created the genre in which I write, the hard-boiled, modern noir crime story. He was not a mystery writer so much as a consummate artist who used words the way a great painter uses color. He brought a sense of time and place to his novels, you could even say that Los Angeles of the 1940s and 50s was his main character. And in Philip Marlowe, he gave us an unforgettable, honorable, slumming angel who lived in a rotten world but somehow managed to remain largely unspoiled by it. What more can you ask of a writer? I read all of Chandler’s body of work – short stories, novels, and essays every two or three years, just for the energy I get from him.
What do you look for in other people’s books?
It’s mostly about the characters for me. I have to connect with the story’s protagonist and antagonist. I look for good pacing, an interesting plot, maybe a twist or two. Interestingly, when I find myself truly enjoying a book, I slow down, take my time, and savor it. And if I am left with a pang of regret on the last page that the book has ended, I know I’ve been in the company of a good story-teller.
What are you writing now?
I am putting the finishing touches on my final edit of GET LOST, the second novel in the Gabe McKenna Mystery Series for Suspense Books. I’ll be turning it over to their editor soon and will undoubtedly get it back slashed to pieces. Then it will be time to get up off my rear end and make it better. I have high hopes for GET LOST. It came more easily to me and I think the story is complex, yet fair to the reader. I get to go into much more of Gabe McKenna’s back story, his earlier life growing up in New York, and we even get to meet some of his old friends. It’s been a wild ride to write, and it should be a wild ride to read. Hopefully, it will be out within the next year.
What kind of book would you like to be known for?
I don’t approach my writing that way. I want to write books that meet my personal standards, entertain and perhaps enlighten my readers. I want to write books that readers will enjoy, filled with characters they will remember. And I’d love to get as much satisfaction from writing them as my readers get from reading them. So I don’t want to be known for any particular kind of book. I hope to write historical fiction once I finish the McKenna series. Most of all, I’d like to be known as a writer whose latest book is always his best book.
What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’m still processing this question! Seriously, I do learn more about myself with each page I write. I’ve had to develop certain skills that have in the past been, shall we say, less than appealing to me. Like the ability to stick to a project and persevere through a long, mean learning curve. Or developing the thick-skin to accept criticism and learn from it. Writing has also improved my ability to concentrate. Most of all, it has exercised and perhaps exorcised creative energy that I wasn’t aware I had. It’s made me who I am now, there’s no going back.
How has your life experience influenced your writing?
My life experience has given me a library of knowledge (personal and anecdotal), an army of characters, the necessary in-dwelling emotions, and the self-assurance to go ahead without giving a damn what people might think about how I spend my time. One lesson that eventually got through my thick skull is that things don’t fall in your lap. If you really want something, don’t sit and make a wish. Jump into the deep end of the pool and go for it. The harder you work toward any goal, the greater chance you have of reaching it. Brach Rickey once said “Luck is the residue of design.” Well, success is the residue of effort. I’m not talking about commercial success here. I mean the success you feel, the satisfaction that comes from pursuing your dreams, no matter what stage in life you’re at. Every day spent in such pursuit is a day well spent.
What encouraging advice can you offer new writers?
At the risk of sounding like Polonius, I might encourage new writers to GO FOR IT. Write every day. Hang out with other writers, especially the most talented ones you can find. Join a writers’ group. Take classes and workshops, Network. Attend conferences. When you are not writing, READ, especially the great writers in your genre. Nobody ever BECOMES a writer. It’s an ongoing process, you don’t stand still as a writer; you either get better or you’re getting worse. Write the story that’s inside of you. All writing is autobiographical in the sense that there has to be something of the author on every page. Being a writer can be a lonely journey, so the more friends you can get to know along the way, the easier it becomes to sustain the journey and avoid getting discouraged. Some specific suggestions: Join a group like Southwest Writers, national groups in your genre, read “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler. Don’t spend too much time on the Internet, except to do research and social media related to your writing. And did I say WRITE EVERY DAY? That includes writing, rewriting, plot development, critiquing, and research. That should be enough to get you started. Bottom line: if you really want to be a writer, approach it as a profession and make it your priority. Make it who you are.