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Richard Roux has a variety of interests outside of his career. He enjoys hiking, fishing, hunting, playing ice hockey on an adult recreational team, binge-watching TV shows, and experimenting with his outdoor grill and smoker.
He has served the boards of several organizations, including the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Kern County Historical Society.
A Bakersfield, California, native, Roux has been teaching high school history for more than 24 years and is an adjunct professor of history for a local community college.
In addition to historical fiction, Roux has written some non-fiction history books, including Bootleggers, Booze, and Busts: Prohibition in Kern County, 1919-1933.
Roux is the author of A Good Stock. He is the next author to be featured in my interview series focusing on historical fiction and historical romance authors.
Richard Roux on Writing
How long have you been writing?
Roux: I’ve been writing most of my adult life. Whether it was poetry or songs, research papers, short stories, or just diatribes that were never meant for publication. But I started to write for the purpose of publication in 2014. After I finished my master’s thesis in United States history I thought, “Well, I’ve put this much work into it, why don’t I try to flip it into a book?” So, I did. I edited it to make it more appealing to the casual reader, and then acquired historical photographs to liven it up, and then published it as a micro-history of Prohibition in the county I live in.
From there, I decided to try my hand at writing historical fiction as a way to blend my profession as a historian with my desire to be a creative writer. Two books into a historical fiction series centered around the California Gold Rush, and I’m still enjoying the process.
What is your writing process like?
Roux: Typically, I map out the idea I have for a book. For each chapter, I create a skeletal outline loosely detailing how I want the story line to flow, and what I anticipate will happen with characters and the plot. Of course, it is pretty rough, and not set in stone. As the story unfolds through the writing process I often divert from my original ideas. In fact, I sometimes surprise myself with twists and turns in the plot that I never planned for. They just…happened.
But the actual process of writing follows a certain pattern: early morning on a Saturday or Sunday (between 4:00 and 5:30 am), coffee, and westerns on the TV. I think I’m at my best early in the morning, so, I try to achieve my writing goals as the day is beginning. Occasionally, I get to write in the evenings, but my career and family life tend to take precedence.
Traditional publishing, self publishing, or a combo? Why did you take the route you did?
Roux: I am a self-publisher under the imprint of Greenhorn Mountain Books. My first attempt at publication was a non-fiction book on the history of Prohibition on the local level. I loved the process of researching and writing, but when it came to dealing with traditional publishers it was an in frustration. The company that wanted to publisher my book mandated that all of the citations be removed from the book, rendering it a book on history with no way to verify any of the claims or information included. As a historian, I had a real problem with that. I wanted my readers to know that they could access the same resources I did, and they could see that my claims were based on scholarly research.
After that sour experience, I began to poke around the internet to educate myself about self publishing. I found that it didn’t look too difficult, so, I gave it a shot. Just like most things, it is all about trial and error. However, I enjoy the challenge of doing everything myself–writing, editing, formatting, and publishing. I think that I’m able to produce a work of literature that I’m pleased with and proud of.
What was your biggest publishing struggle or lesson learned?
Roux: By far, the thing I struggle the most with is marketing. It is maddening! I’ve paid to advertise a book, and it doesn’t really sell, but one of my other books will experience an uptick in purchases. In order to stimulate interest in a book, I’ve made Book 1 in a series free for a short period of time. Hundreds of free copies were downloaded. I hoped that people would read it and then leave a review on Amazon, but nothing! Not one single review was left. I have yet to crack more than five reviews left for a book. That’s nowhere near the magical and mythical fifty that writers shoot for to get notice on Amazon. And, I cannot justify the expense of hiring somebody to market my books for me.
How much research do you do for your novels?
Roux: I have only written two historical fiction novels as of this moment, but both required a great deal of research. I routinely consult works of historians (books, articles, interviews), as well as museum collections and actual locations I write about. As a historian, I want to paint a factual picture of a historical era. My series centers around the California Gold Rush, as well as the future County of Kern. I wanted to make sure that the actual places and people represented in the novels were correct. I drop in quite a bit of social and political history throughout my books. It’s as much for me as it is for the reader. My hope is that readers will learn about history, even if that wasn’t their original intention.
Tell me about your latest release.
Roux: A Good Stock is the second book in The Golden Empire series, following the first book A Branch Too Weak. Without revealing too much of the plot, A Good Stock continues on where the first book left off. It largely takes place in what will be Kern County, California in the early 1850s, and it is a tale of revenge, guilt, personal doubt and consequences, choices, friendship and family, and maybe even the beginning of a love interest.
A Good Stock, in my opinion, is a bit different from the first book in the sense that I experiment more with dialogue and paragraph structure. I think I grew as a writer since the release of my first novel.
What was its inspiration?
Roux: Book one, for sure. There were loose ends that needed to be wrapped-up from A Branch Too Weak. And, just like the first book, A Good Stock was inspired by the history of the Gold Rush and the Greenhorn Mountains. I have walked many of the same paths and trails depicted in the story, as well as spent time in many of the locations I describe in the mountains, in the Kern River Valley, and along the north fork of the Kern River. It was a way for me to explore my experiences with the story line.
What’s next for you?
Roux: Too much! And not enough time. Soon, I will start working on Book three in The Golden Empire series, but there are a few other books I need to finish or begin work on. I have a companion book on Prohibition in Kern County that explores additional stories and anecdotes about the impact of that event in history on the local level (I’d like that to be ready by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the enactment of Prohibition). I’m also researching for a book on homesteading in the Greenhorn Mountains, but that is just in the beginning stages. Additionally, I’m kicking around writing a few books on various topics–a novel based on the 1920s in California, and a book on saloon culture in Bakersfield, California during the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are many ideas I have, but the lists is pretty long.
What advice would you give aspiring writers or novelists?
Roux: Write with passion and purpose. Practice writing and editing. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail. Deal with setbacks through perseverance. Ultimately, if what you produce is satisfying, then it’s a success.
Richard Roux on History
What is your favorite historical era and why?:
Roux: That one is too difficult! How about this? I love American history, plain and simple. I’d choose reading about American history over the history of any other people. I can find something intriguing about every era in American history. So much about American history is a history of a diverse group of people with a plethora of wants, desires, and goals.
What historical figure would you like to spend a day with and why?
Roux: Thomas Jefferson would be interesting to spend a day with, largely to try to gain a better understanding of the complexity of who Jefferson was. The man was an American Renaissance Man, but full of contrasts. He embraced liberty, republicanism, and the meaning of freedom, yet, he was a slave owner and had a relationship with Sally Hemings. He was an idealist of sorts, but pragmatic. He’d be an interesting fellow to talk with if he were to be candid.
Theodore Roosevelt would be interesting, too. He was such a ball of energy and action. But if I spent a day with him it’d have to be in the woods.
And then there is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I admire Dr. King, what he stood for, his charisma and leadership, and his willingness to sacrifice himself for a cause. His thoughts on our world today would be enlightening.
Name three historical events you’d like to witness if you had a time machine?
Roux: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1863), the Invasion of Normandy (1944), and the March on Washington (1963).
Do you enjoy genealogy? If so, what’s the most interesting story you discovered in your family tree?
Roux: I do enjoy genealogy. I think the most interesting thing that comes to mind is that I have ancestors that date back to the Mayflower and 1600s Virginia. So, I love the fact that the roots of my history can be found at the beginning of what would eventually become the United States.
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The Fine Print
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