Author Roy L. Pickering Jr. discusses his love for writing, his passion for interesting topics and his 3rd novel titled Brothers.
RL: Tell me about your latest book and why you wrote it?
I am working on my third novel. The working title is Brothers. The lead character is a white, male police officer who kills a young black man in the line of duty. The necessity of the shooting is questionable and it is filmed by a cell phone camera. Video of the shooting goes viral and turns the officer’s life upside down in a climate where accountability is increasingly demanded by the public. As a writer I am far less interested in absolutes than I am in nuance. My first novel is literally called Patches of Grey because it is usually simplistic to view matters strictly in black and white terms. Sometimes those we call good people do bad things. Sometimes those we call bad people exhibit decency. Sometimes things get so mixed up in the heat of a moment that it is difficult to tell good and bad, right and wrong, justified and unforgivable apart from each other. I believe readers will relate to my book’s protagonist because he is not written as a monster, but as a flawed human being who succumbs to the pressure of a tense situation. Was his motivation garden variety racism, or self preservation, or anger, or fear, or hatred, or an amalgamation of emotions? If unable to like him, can you both dislike him and feel empathy for his plight? We shall see. As for why I am writing it, you need look no farther than recent headlines that fall under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. I wanted to write about policing and the thin line between operating by the book and misconduct. I wanted to write about the gun control debate. And about the correlation between mental imbalance and violence. And about the accelerative effect that social media can have on the impact and resolution of events which garner a great deal of attention, even if it is fleeting as we quickly move from one tragedy to the next. With these topics in mind I came up with a story that has allowed me to explore their conflicting sides.
RL: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have been writing since my early teens and inspiration of course came from great books. The earliest novels I read after graduating from chapter books written for children were Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. By the time I was done with them I had decided that coming up with stories of my own for the entertainment of others was what I wanted to do with my life some day.
RL: What advice would you give other authors who are just starting out?
Read a lot, write a lot, rinse and repeat. I don’t see how anyone can be a writer if they are not also an avid, lifelong reader. One fuels the other. Not that we copy from what we’ve read. We’re simply inspired by the great writing done by others to rise up and see if we are up to the challenge of doing the same in our own unique way. Each time is like the very first. I have no idea how I managed to get it done before and I have no ideahow I’ll manage to do it again. I just know that I will try, and past history has shown that when I put my pen to paper, sooner or later it starts moving. Put down your phone and pick up your pen.
RL: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I am the author of the novels Patches of Grey and Matters of Convenience, along with the novella Feeding the Squirrels. Currently I am working on my third novel (working title is Brothers) and I am also approaching the publication date (Fall or early Winter of 2020) for my debut children’s book. With the target audience for The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse being 7 – 10 year olds, it is a significant departure from my previous writing. This book, which is the first in a planned series, is a collaborative effort with my talented wife Erin who provides the illustrations. Among my books I cannot say that I have a favorite. Patches of Grey holds a special place in my heart, being that it is my first novel. It showed me that I was capable ofwriting a book. Feeding the Squirrels started out as a writing exercise and ended up as a novella, teaching me the valuable lesson that if you just get the words down, you can eventually figure out how to shape them into a cohesive work of prose. Matters of Convenience features writing that has matured from earlier efforts. The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsase is a labor of love and partnership with my wife, inspired by our daughter, so that makes it especially dear to me. And the novel I’m currently working on is the one that has a chance to be my masterpiece due to the fact that it’s still a work in progress, therefore possessing that wonderful quality called potential.RL:
RL: What’s your favorite line from any movie?
“Do you say the night was humid? Or do you say the night was moist? That’s writing.” “The night was sultry.”. From Throw Momma From the Train. A hilarious movie, and also an insightful one about the writing process and how agonizing it can be to search for just the right word.
RL: What are your favorite hobbies?
I’m pretty obsessed with tennis. Weight training is another hobby. They don’t particularly go hand in hand as the latter bulks you up more than is ideal for the former. But hobbies choose you more than you choose them, I think. Tennis and writing have a fair amount in common. Both require tenacity to improve from shaky beginner to competent. I can’t get enough of either one, and as much as I have improved since I first picked up a pen and a racquet, I realize there is so much further for me to go. I need only to stick with it.