The Writing Life with Dr. Randy Overbeck, Author of 'Blood on the Chesapeake'
Dr. Randy Overbeck is a writer, educator, researcher and speaker in much demand. During his three plus decades of educational experience, he has performed many of the roles depicted in his writing with responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent. His new ghost story/mystery, Blood on the Chesapeake, will be released on April 10, 2019 by The Wild Rose Press. As the title suggests, the novel is set on the famous Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, home to endless shorelines, incredible sunsets and some of the best sailing in the world. Blood is first in a new series of paranormal mysteries, The Haunted Shores Mysteries. Dr. Overbeck’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind, a thriller about the terrorist takeover of a Midwest high school and one teacher’s stand against the intruders, won the 2011 Silver Award for Thrillers from ReadersFavorite.com. Dr. Overbeck is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and an active member of the literary community. You can follow him on Twitter @OverbeckRandy, friend him on Facebook at Author Randy Overbeck or check out his webpage, www.authorrandyoverbeck.com
What got you into writing?
I’ve been writing most of my professional life—lesson plans, grant applications, newsletters, professional articles, etc. In the last decade plus, I decided to return to a love I had as young man and channel my writing toward more creative pursuits. I found that I enjoyed it and, after several hundred thousand words, have started to get better at it, I hope.
What do you like best about being an author?
That’s easy. I write for myself, because I have something to say. But nothing in my writing life has brought me more joy than seeing how much my readers LOVE my work. After my first book, Leave No Child Behind, was published, I received scores of emails from readers telling how much they enjoyed it and how it scared them to death. (It’s supposed to scare them.) Several years later, I still keep re-read those emails.
When do you hate it?
When I’m stuck. Writer’s block is not usually a problem for me. But occasionally, when I’m at a certain point in the narrative, I’ve been stymied at just how to get my character to do A or how to get him/her to B. Most of the time I’ve been fortunate. I can usually work on another part of the manuscript and my mind subconsciously works out a solution. I’m able to work through it, but while I’m in the midst of the problem, it can be pretty thorny.
What is a regular writing day like for you?
I don’t often have a “regular writing day,” and that’s okay because I thrive on variety. I’m fortunate that I’m able to control my schedule most of the time, so I can choose when I want to write. That’s most often in the late morning and midafternoon, but the muse has also struck me in while watching a movie, in the middle of the night as well as at the break of dawn. I thrive on these differences and find I get different inspirations at different times.
Do you think authors have big egos?
I can only speak for me and I can tell you the members of my writing group keep me humble. My guess is that writers are just like the rest of the population and come in all colors and flavors. I can tell you that I’ve been moved by the several famous writers I’ve met and learned from at writing conferences. To a person, they have been genuine and generous with me.
How do you handle negative reviews?
I’d be untruthful if I said I didn’t care or wasn’t concerned with them. I was fortunate with my first novel that I didn’t receive many negative reviews. But, after I gave myself some time and distance, I try to go back and revisit any negative comments to see if there is something I can take from them to benefit my future writing efforts. Also, I try to remember people are different and my writing and my treatment of subjects is not for every reader.
How do you handle positive reviews?
As I mentioned above, positive reviews—whether from critics, fellow authors or readers—buoy me and keep me writing. I still have a letter, almost twenty years old now, from my then agent apologizing for not being able to place my first manuscript. He was saddened by the fact that he hadn’t been able to find a home for a writerwith such potential. When I begin to doubt myself, I pull that letter out and read it again.
What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
This introduction has never failed to draw an interested response. They always want to know what genre I write, do I have anything published, would they likely to have read my work? Such an exchange is both gratifying and humbling. Even though my first book earned rave reviews and won a national award, they almost never have heard of me or my work.
What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
Those days I call brainstorming days. In each book I write there are always sections where I’m struggling to decide how to resolve a conflict, catch a suspect, lay a trap and I often use these off days—while I’m physically engaged doing something else—to brainstorm options to move the story forward. Usually I find such “off days” can also be very productive.
Any writing quirks?
I’m sure I have plenty of quirks, writing and otherwise, though nothing that would fall into the suspicious category. (Strange, I know for a guy who writes ghost stories.) How about this? I really enjoy revising and editing. Like other authors, I’m never thrilled to have to “kill my darlings,” but I actually enjoy the process of revising and editing—usually with some good help and input—and watching my best writing appear on the page. I don’t know if that’s quirky, but that’s me.
What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?
No problem. Although I certainly care about what my readers think of my writing, the rest I try not to concern myself with. In participating in writing conferences, I’ve met authors in all stages of readiness from full time commitment to hobbyist. The literary world is a huge tent and there is plenty of room for writers of all stripes.
Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?
Sure. Most of the time I really love what I’m doing when I’m writing, when the words are flowing, the plot is unraveling, the characters are talking. But the rare times when the characters won’t talk to me, when I can’t decide the next turn of the plot, when the words just won’t come, those time I hate. Fortunately for me, this doesn’t happen often.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m currently finishing the second installment in the Haunted Shore Mysteries series—tentatively titled Crimson at Cape May, another ghost story/mystery, this time set in the beautiful, historic resort town of Cape May, which also happens to be the most haunted seaport on the eastern coast. The Wild Rose Press already has first rights to the book and I expect this second novel in the series to be released sometime in 2020. Also, a third book in the series is in the planning, this time with nefarious happenings and help from beyond at a sunny resort in the Bahamas. At the same time, I’m working on a stand alone mystery about a drug dealer and murderer who preys on middle school students. You could probably say, I’m keeping busy.
Leave us with some words of wisdom about the writing process or about being a writer.
Many writers say that writing is a solitary act, just you and the computer. While I can’t argue with that, I need to add that my writing would never have risen above the minimum without help from outside. I’ve participated in several really good writing conferences—Killer Nashville, Midwest Writers’ Conference, Sluethfest—and have found these experiences invaluable for “priming the pump” and getting me to think beyond my boundaries. Not to mention all the connections I’ve made with fellow writers. But I have found the greatest asset to my writing has been my regular participation in a really great writing group. These fellow writers have been both kind and cruel to my words and my writing has improved as a result.
Blood on the Chesapeake—Wilshire, Maryland seems like the perfect shore town on the Chesapeake Bay—quiet, scenic, charming—and promises Darrell Henshaw a new start in life and a second chance at love. That is, until he learns the town hides an ugly secret. A thirty-year-old murder in the high school. And a frightening ghost stalking his new office. Burned by an earlier encounter with the spirit world—with the OCD scars to prove it—he does NOT want to get involved. But when the desperate ghost hounds him, Darrell concedes. Assisted by his new love, he follows a trail that leads to the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Klu Klux Klan. Then, when two locals who try to help are murdered, Darrell is forced to decide if he’s willing to risk his life—and the life of the woman he loves—to expose the killers of a young man he never knew.