Author Kevin Riley is a writer with too many hobbies who resides in Sidney, Ohio with his wife. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.
Hello! I am Kevin Riley, a 40-year-old writer and freelance designer from Ohio where I live with my wife. I have three adult kids and recently welcomed grandbabies #3 and #4. When I’m not writing or designing I’m usually woodworking and/or building something, from guitars to furniture, I love to keep busy. I also operate the Keyboard Monkeys blog (https://keyboardmonkeys.blog/ ).
When and why did you begin writing?
I first started writing when I accepted a new position an hour’s drive from my house. I had a lot of time to fill during those two hours of commuting. I used the time to start thinking about a main character and soon other characters started joining him. After a while, they just all started interacting in my head, so eventually, I had to tell their story.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I secretly considered myself a writer after I finished my first novel (The Dark Genesis of Daniel James) but I still didn’t feel right calling myself a writer to others until I’d finished by 3rd book (The Consciousness Puzzle). But even then, my career as a designer really started to get busy and I considered myself a designer first and a writer second. Last year I left the company I’d worked for since I was 19 and started freelance designing and writing. I still spend a bit more time designing than writing but my passion has definitely shifted to where I feel I am equally a writer and designer.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
My current work-in-progress is actually my favorite (isn’t it always?). The title is “My Life As Death” and the premise is basically:
On the eve of his senior year, almost-eighteen-year-old Nathaniel (Nate to his friends) gets into a drunken accident, totaling his car and ending his life, or so he thought. In the darkness of death, a face appears and offers him a deal; agree to become a Grim Reaper (yes, there’s more than one Grim Reaper), send a select number of well-deserving souls to the afterlife and he will get to finish out the life he was meant to live. Fail to reap all of them and Nate will forever be a servant of death.
Now Nate’s not a homicidal maniac; to the contrary, he actually doesn’t like the idea of having to kill anyone, but he’s guaranteed to only have to reap the truly evil, the murderers, rapists and child molesters. How could anyone have a problem with getting rid of those people? Right? Upon touching the guilty party, Nate will even see their evil deeds and know the punishment is deserved. Then he just has to decide how they’ll die. But not everything is as simple as it seems, especially when everyone has secrets.
What inspired you to write this book?
The title My Life As Death actually came to me first while mowing one day, immediately followed by the idea and an image of a teenage grim reaper. I loved the question of how a teenager would handle being responsible for dealing with death. I mean, high school is tough enough without being an angel of death. How would he handle the added responsibility? What would happen with his friends if they find out?
Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing style has gently evolved with experience. Dark Genesis and My Life as Death are young adult books and 23 Hours and The Consciousness Puzzle are more Adult Action/Adventure so my style probably changes a little between them, but I think the best way to describe my writing style is “fast-paced”. I like to read shorter, action-packed books and I think my writing reflects this preference.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
The phrase just popped into my head one day while mowing. I always listen to music while mowing and I’m sure it was triggered by a song but unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you which one.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
This book really seems to hit on many themes such as friendship, responsibilities, redemption as well as others, but I think the overall message is personal strength and accountability. Nate is tasked with a horrible responsibility and doesn’t always make the right decisions, but he keeps going.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?
This book, more than any other, draws on a lot of my own teenage experiences and feelings, besides the whole “Angel of Death” part. There are some of the deep friendships like you develop in those years, as well as the teacher/parent/authority-figure conflicts. There’s also the whole idea of figuring out who you are and where you fit in this world, it’s just complicated by the fact that he has a unique obligation to send people on to the after-life.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
I grew up going to the library all the time, and probably read every “Hardy Boys” book published before I turned 14 or 15, so I’d have to say Edward Stratemeyer and the collection of writers known as Franklin W. Dixon probably had the most influence on me becoming a writer. I think both JK Rowling and Dean Koontz, especially his earlier stuff, really pushed me to explore deeper possibilities with character development in storytelling because of the complexity and flaws of their characters.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
If I were to choose one writer as a mentor, I think it would have to be Dean Koontz because of his diversity and how prolific he is as a writer.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
As a designer by trade, I have designed all my book covers. While it’s a different application than what I was used to in my day job I loved the unique challenge, though I’m also probably my own worst customer.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
“Just Write”. My first attempt at writing a novel stopped after 15,000 words when I realized that the story wasn’t any good. But the characters were good, and my second attempt with them went much better and became my first novel. If I can do it, anyone can; it just takes time, practice and persistence.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
To my readers, I would probably say – I’d love to know what you think of any of my books. I appreciate anyone who takes time to tweet at me, email me, or especially to leave a review, even the less than flattering ones. I don’t mind criticism at all, that’s how we grow as people and as writers, though I welcome positive feedback as well.
The Consciousness Puzzle