If there is one thing I admire in an author is hard work and integrity. That is what you’ll find with David Richards, author of Letters to the Virgin Mary. Richards is a business professional, life coach, yoga instructor, and self-development speaker. That is a lot to manage on top of being a successful author of a contemporary religious fiction novel. David finished this piece over the course of the pandemic and is fascinating to hear his story of being an author. Enjoy!
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What inspired you to write a book?
Since I was a teenager, I had always wanted to be a writer. I had some success with my writing in high school, majored in English with a writing option in college, but didn’t know how to translate th
at into a career, so I joined the Marines. Eleven years after leaving active duty, I published my first book. Writing for me is a discovery of my Self, through the medium of storytelling. My most recent book, Love Letters to the Virgin Mary, was a huge psychological and spiritual challenge. The concept initially came to me way back in October of 2019, before the pandemic became a thing. Then, in the Spring of 2020, I was inspired to take the story in a specific direction. The challenge was…how to pull it off?
Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?
Love Letters was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In high school, I had an idea for a story where the creature was still alive in the modern age, hanging out in the docks and taking shelter in abandoned warehouses. It was the idea that the creature had an eternal soul that would not rest until he found his bride.
It is often said that to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?
100%. If you aren’t breathing life into the characters you’re creating, it’s going to show in the writing and the story. For eleven years, I tried to write horror stories. I’d write about a hundred pages, but then the story would lose steam. When I look at it now, I wasn’t creating believable characters. In a way, it’s like acting. The reason actors get paid so well is that their job is to convince us that the characters they’re playing are real. As a writer, you want your characters to be relatable.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
It’s evolved with every book. I wrote my first book mainly on the weekends, when I wasn’t working. My second book was written early in the morning before work, with a few hours put in during the weekends. In working on my third book, I journaled for two years, writing when the inspirational thought or idea came to me. Once I had a sense of how to tell the story, I took time off from work and wrote for a few hours every morning until I finished the first draft. The second draft was then written at night. In general, I’m writing now at night. I’ve started work on a sequel to my last book but am writing without any sort of expectation. I have a very loose sense of the framework, so just sit down, and let things flow. What I’ve written is very powerful so far…I’m excited to see where it takes me. Once I have a sense of the whole of it, I’ll start working on the first draft.
Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
I write a lot with pen and paper. I journaled more than a thousand pages of journal entries while working on Love Letters. It was like a sculptor, chiseling a block of marble, whittling away all the things that weren’t part of the statue underneath. I believe, if you want to sculpt your mind as a writer, a pen and paper are how that sculpting takes place.
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the most natural aspect of writing?
Like anything, writing takes practice. I didn’t have a great appreciation for this for about ten years; I was so busy with work and everything else in my life, my sense of writing as if I’m taking the time to sit down and write, what comes out must be golden. It was a naïve position. With that said, the hardest part for any writer is finding your authentic voice. Before I published my first book, I envisioned myself as the next Stephen King, but King has a very distinct style that he has honed with razor-sharpness over the course of his incredible career. My writing has matured tremendously between my first book and my most recent one because I focused on finding what made me unique.
The most natural aspect of writing is writing from your voice. By “your voice” I mean the voice that creates all your characters. It creates your settings, it sets the mood, and the atmosphere for the places you create. While my first book was a #1 international bestseller, it was poorly written in my opinion. I was grateful that it changed people’s lives, but I struggled with my voice in its writing. My second book, The Lighthouse Keeper, stretched me as a writer, and I started to find my voice with that book. The biggest challenge in writing Love Letters was finding the voice of one specific character, a Roman General from nearly two thousand years ago. Finding his voice was very much a path to finding my own. Once I found him, my writing took off. Now, whenever I sit to write, regardless of what I’m writing, it’s very easy to write from my voice.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
YES! I wrote what amounted to a hundred-page outline early in April of 2020 for Love Letters. It was very cerebral…basically a conversation between two different colored pens in a journal. One was the voice of conditional love, the other was unconditional love. It was spectacular. I may publish it at some point. The following weekend, I rewrote it, but the story expanded a bit further than the original outline. I ended up rewriting the outline four weekends in a row before the story started to take a shape in a way that had real substance to it. I was elated but also intimidated. I had never imagined a story of this scope before.
By mid-May, I was ready to start writing…but when I sat down to write it, nothing would come out. In fact, trying to write and take the story in the direction I wanted it to go induced palpable anxiety. I stepped away from writing for a few weeks before trying again in June. The same thing happened again. That’s what led me down the path of journaling…I wanted to sort out my thoughts. I journaled until November of 2021…almost two years. That was an extreme case, but Love Letters was a grand undertaking. The biggest tip for overcoming it is to journal. Journaling allows you to pour your thoughts out onto paper, without expectation or judgment. No one is going to read your journals unless you decide to share them. You can write whatever comes to you at the moment. I’ve written some things that I thought might be useful in the story, and then there were times that what I wrote was just garbage. In a way, journaling is like sorting out the clutter in your mind, allowing you to focus, and eventually, the story takes shape. Trust the process.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Make time for writing, and silence the internal editor. One of the biggest struggles I faced early in my writing career was thinking everything had to be perfect. I might spend an hour trying to fill a page. Just write. There’s a wonderful book called, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. A great technique she recommends to connect with the writer within is to set the timer on your phone for three minutes. Have a pen and paper nearby. Once the timer starts, don’t let the pen come off the page until the timer goes off. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, etc. Don’t even worry about the margins. Just write. It’s amazing what you can produce when you get your mind out of the way.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
Yes, I’m currently working on a follow-up to Love Letters. The working title is, The Silence That Whispered. I’ve written around a hundred pages, sketching ideas, and seeing what life they have in them. There’s some incredible content so far. I’ll keep writing to see where it takes me. Once I see the whole story, I’ll get to work.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
If you’re an aspiring writer, take the plunge. Make the commitment. There are universes within you, waiting to be discovered. No one on the planet sees the world as you do. Share your view with the world.
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