Career Pursuit: An Interview with Doug Richardson
Doug Richardson is an American screenwriter and novelist who writes action movies and thrillers. He is best known for writing movies like Die Hard 2, Bad Boys, and Hostage, and was the first Hollywood writer to sell a spec script for a million dollars. He’s the author of the Lucky Dey thrillers.
How did you begin your writing career?
After film school, I took up writing screenplays as a route to directing. The writing part stuck, and eventually evolved into fiction.
Are you with the same agent you started out with?
Uh, no. I’ve hired and fired a number of reps. My first agent, a big literary kahuna, told me not to quit my day job until I was on the New York Times bestseller list. When I finally wrote a novel outside my original publishing deal, he asked, “What took you so long?”
I reminded him of his advice.
Other than your agent, have you put together an outside team? Do you recommend doing that?
When I first started writing novels I had a publicist. Cost a fortune. And was never able to quantify if it translated into anything more than stroking my own ego, let alone exposure or sales. I haven’t since. At least not yet. When I spend my own money, I want to have a clue how it’s going to help.
What amount of time per week do you spend on social media?
Hard to calculate. Probably not near as much as I should or could. Plus it feels soul poisoning. Once again, I haven’t yet been able to calculate how to make it translate to increased readership.
Have you written multiple series/genres? Has it been successful? Tell us anything you found beneficial in renewing your audience/reaching a new one.
For me, screenwriting has been the big success, although nothing has been as satisfying as my Lucky Dey series and the connection I have with readers. For a screenwriter, that’s a whole new deal because the dirty secret of movies and TV is that, despite the quality of your writing, the readership isn’t seeking to be entertained. They are looking for reasons to flush it or push it to the next level in the food chain.
Have you ever explored self-publishing?
I have and I still do. Hard work. Haven’t necessarily licked it yet. But I don’t have a publisher telling me to kill my character.
What’s the one decision or change you’ve made that’s been most pivotal to your current career?
Mine was to stop evenly splitting time between the movie and publishing world. The result was me half efforting both versus fully efforting one. Screenwriting is still in my life, but no longer front and center.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known starting out that you know now?
Hmmm. Perhaps that my first publishing deal was too rich. My book was auctioned. Considering my lack of experience, I was grossly overpaid. When the two books didn’t sell through the advance, I had a bit of a black mark.
But how’s this? Something I’m glad I DIDN’T know before I wrote my first novel. Both my agent and publisher said they were shocked to discover I was a screenwriter. When I asked them why, they informed me that screenwriters made for lousy novelists. Had I known that before first sitting down to try, I might not have ever tried to have a go at it.
What’s the one biggest fallacy about being a writer/the publishing industry you wish would go away?
The romantic/glamour image of life as an author. I think most folks don’t want to write. They want to have published so they can claim they’re writers. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about wanting to write, finish, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until the thing is great, putting it out there in the world, rolling up my sleeves, and having at it again. Like the very next day.
What’s your next book?
The Family Butcher. It’s my seventh Lucky Dey thriller and my 10th novel.
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