I Love My Job: Writer Richard Lange
Posted by Grady Miller on Jun 9, 2013 - 4:57:38 AM
HOLLYWOOD—Hey, if you want to check clean out of this world and taken on an adrenaline ride that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go, you couldn’t do better than “Angel Baby” by Richard Lange. Lange, an LA-based and nourished writer, with a following in France and a Guggenheim to his name, wallows in a doomed gritty world where hope sprouts like scruffy weed between sidewalk cracks. In other words, it’s thriller heaven: realism and escapism, both 100 proof.
After a reading at Book Soup last week Richard Lange offered his savvy slant on the writing life:
I write in longhand. I use everything I cross out and every stray word that randomly appears on the page, and that way I can take everything in at once. I use it all. I write using two notebooks, and that way there are two passes. That same day I will input for one hour on the computer. My handwriting is so terrible, I cannot read it myself if too much time goes by. If I wait too long, darn, I had the perfect word and then lost it. I stare at the scribble and wonder what it was.
Author, author, right to left, Richard Lange and Grady Miller.
I worked day jobs for 30 years and wrote at night. Seven years ago, precisely when I got the deal for my first book of stories, Dead Boys, Billboard absorbed the magazine where I was managing editor for ten years, and I was without a 9-to-5 job. Then I started to write for a living. People said, “You can do anything you want now.” I set for myself a rigid routine: Two hours writing in the morning. I have lunch and write for another two hours. After dinner I’ll input for one hour. It’s another iteration of the draft. I do that five days a week. I have my weekends like anybody else, though sometimes I’ll go over the writing a little on the weekend.
I don’t mind being called a crime novelist if that’s what it takes to get the book out. I don’t know who came up with the label ”˜cinematic’ for “Angel Baby,” but if that works, OK. I have never sold out or written anything to please somebody else. I do not see what I do as crime fiction, I’m writing about people and places I want to write about. When I published by first book of stories, they said I needed to have a novel to sell the book of stories. It turned out to be true. I had never written a novel before; my background was in short stories. My publisher wasn’t interested in the novel I was working on at the time, so I had only an idea that I pitched over the phone, kind of murder mystery. I knew basically how that worked: start with a dead body and at the end find out who did it. That was “This Wicked World.”
I need a plot. The plotting in “This Wicked World” became somewhat involved. When I was young I could read a plot less book by Beckett and appreciate it. Now the plot helps me, it’s something I need as a writer to carry me along. With “Angel Baby” my aim was a simple plot. It’s a chase. It can’t get any simpler than that. I always knew where it started, with Luz’s escape from her drug lord husband and her search to find her daughter. I always knew how it was going to end up. Only one person lives who wasn’t supposed to. (chuckles) And it surprised me how this simple plot opened more possibilities to focus on the things I love.
Tijuana, the border and
Compton I wanted to write about, and in the LA Times I had read an article about a white guy employed as a coyote or pollero, smuggling people across the border in the trunk of his car, because a white guy would be least suspicious. I had that article to guide me, and other that that, notes just one or two words long. That kept me going for 200 pages. When the two “teams” in the chase meet up, I had to stop and think it through.
My first book of stories were all in this male voice. “This Wicked World” was a mostly male world. After that, I decided to do something different and wrote a story in a woman’s voice. I thought the transformation would be so difficult, but it wasn’t. It was somebody, who happened to be a woman, thinking what I would think, feeling what I would feel in those circumstances. My new book has a female point of view, as my agent has pointed out, and 70% of book buyers are women.
I don’t mind being lumped in with crime novelists. If somebody wants to call me the best crime writer of my generation, that’s OK if it gets the book to readers. And I like the pressure of making a living as a writer. These professors, who spend ten years on a book, bless em. They can afford do that. This “Wicked World” took two years, “Angel Baby” a year and a half.
“Angel Baby” is my third book in these seven years. I’m just starting out; I have a lot left to learn.