Author Interview: Rick R. Reed

How long have you been writing or when did you start?
I’ve been writing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Or, to put it in less cliché terms: I wrote my first short story around age 6, my first play in 4th grade, and my first novella, about a kidnapping, in 5th grade, which I read aloud to my class in installments. They were enthralled and that was a turning point for me, a shy kid, to realize I could entertain and make people think with my words. I also got verification of my ability in 7th grade when my English teacher was floored by my short stories and encouraged me. Also, in 10th grade I wrote a story about the conflict in Belfast, Ireland. I can still see the A+++++ the teacher put at the top of the story.

But I suppose when I really felt validated was when I got my first literary agent in the early 1990s and she sold two novels (Obsessed and Penance) over the next couple years to Dell in New York. The line went on to be lauded for its originality and quality and was praised highly by none other than Stephen King himself.

Since then, I’ve published over 50 novels in multiple genres, including romance, horror, thriller, and psychological suspense. My work has been translated into French, Italian, German, Russian, and Spanish. Nearly all of my books are available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

My Amazon author page can be found at:

At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?
I think there’s no specific point a person can define themselves as a writer. If you have a passion to create via the medium of words in print, then you’re a writer, whether you write for yourself, a few friends, or an audience of millions, what defines you as a writer is that need to convey thoughts, ideas, emotions, and actions on paper. Now, I would define author as someone who’s been published and considers their work to be professional, i.e. in the marketplace.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured in your work?

Yes, I proudly consider myself an #ownvoices writer, which means I’m part of a marginalized community (LGBTQ+) and I write about things I’ve encountered as a gay man in my life. I have dealt with AIDS, substance abuse, hate crimes, same-sex marriage, online relationships, and more in my work. I write about what’s meaningful to me and what I hope will be meaningful, and universal, to readers (and that includes queer and straight people because we have so many more commonalities than differences).

What theme pops up in your work a lot?

True crime has always held great fascination for me. I have a real hunger to understand the motivations behind the darkest sides of human nature, which I believe exists in us all.

I’ve used crime as a basis for several novels, including Third Eye, IM, Bashed, and Dinner at Jack’s. The true-crime book I’m most proud of, though, is The Man from Milwaukee. It dives deep into obsession by sympathetically portraying a closeted young gay man in 1991 Chicago, who sees in Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal killer, as a victim himself of his own irresistible murderous impulses, likening them to our main character’s own self-loathing toward his same-sex desires. The book is set at the time of Dahmer’s arrest in Milwaukee.


By Rick R. Reed

2021 Rainbow Awards Winner
* Best Gay Book of the Year
* Best Gay Mystery/Thriller

It’s the summer of 1991 and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in Chicago who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to Dahmer in prison via letters.

The letters become an escape—from Emory’s mother dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.

Dahmer isn’t Emory’s only lifeline as he begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him and, just like Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory’s desire for love leads him to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own peril.

Can Emory discover the roots of his own madness before it’s too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of the man from Milwaukee?




Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

It’s quite simple, really. If you’re really dedicated to your craft, writing and reading—a lot—are essential. I’ve been a reader since I was old enough to open a book and through the years and thousands of volumes, I’ve learned a lot about what to do right, what not to do, and how other writes convey meaning and emotion.

How do you develop your plot and characters?
I am what some call a pantser, which means I write the seat of my pants. I go with intuition, heart, gut, whatever you want to call it. Every piece of fiction I write is a journey for me almost as much as for my readers.

At the start of any project, I do have an idea of where I want to go and where I want to end up. But then my characters will come alive and take me where they’re going, which may or may not be where I thought they’d go. This process has helped me be a more intuitive and spontaneous writer and I think that translates to the page.

Who has been your favorite character to write and why?

Probably my main character, the sex-addict, Bobby in Raining Men because he was so hated and hateful. He first appears as a narcissistic and back-stabbing best friend in my novel, Chaser. It was quite a reward for me to know I succeeded in taking someone so reprehensible and, through his journey, making him a character readers would not only root for, but also come to care deeply about.


The character you loved to hate in Chaser becomes the character you will simply love in Raining Men.

It’s been raining men for most of Bobby Nelson’s adult life. Normally, he wouldn’t have it any other way, but lately something’s missing. Now, he wants the deluge to slow to a single special drop. But is it even possible for Bobby to find “the one” after endless years of hooking up?

When Bobby’s father passes away, Bobby finally examines his rocky relationship with the man and how it might have contributed to his inability to find the love he yearns for. Guided by a sexy therapist, a Sex Addicts Anonymous group, a well-endowed Chihuahua named Johnny Wadd, and Bobby’s own cache of memories, Bobby takes a spiritual, sexual, and emotional journey to discover that life’s most satisfactory love connections lie in quality, not quantity. And when he’s ready to love not only himself but someone else, sex and love fit, at last, into one perfect package.




How do you use social media as an author?
I’m quite active on Facebook and Twitter (over 21,000 followers) and a little less active, but still maintaining a presence on Instagram. The important thing for me is to engage with readers as a person first and an author second. People don’t want to be sold to; they want to know the person behind the image. To that end, I share a lot of my personal life with readers/followers and only bring up my books as a part of my life that I’m proud of. I tweet, post, etc. when there’s something my author world that’s newsworthy—new release, great review, an award, a bestseller rank on Amazon, etc. I think the reason I have such a good following on social media platforms is because I’m a human being. I always cringe when I see an author use a logo or a book cover as a profile picture on Facebook. Who wants to “friend” a logo or a book cover? People want to connect with people.

What’s a surprising piece of advice you want to offer other authors?

Let go.

It takes two to tango. And it takes at least two to make a book. Just like a play needs an audience to fully come alive, a book needs a reader for precisely the same reason.

One thing I have to constantly remind myself as a writer is that, once I have written the words, ‘the end’ to a story is that I must let go. As much as I labored over the book, dreamed about it, had conversations with myself about it, agonized over word choice, character hair color, continuity, repetitive words and phrasing, the time comes when the book meets the public which signals that it’s time for me to step aside.

A book is a conspiracy between a reader and a writer. The reader has to bring it to life through his or her imagination. The wonderful thing about that whole process is that my story can become so many different stories when filtered through each reader’s unique frame of reference. I have no doubt that no matter the care I take in describing characters and setting, each reader sees them differently because each of them come to the table with different experiences, biases, and memories. All of those things have a bearing on the triggers my words pull in a reader’s mind.

It’s really quite a lovely process when you think about it. And maybe the readers out there reading this never really considered the vital work they play in every book’s success or failure. Writers provide a roadmap, signposts, but it’s really up to the reader to run with it, to make of it something real, a mind movie for one.

What’s my point? I guess it’s to share with you a little of what motivates me as a writer and what, for me is both a blessing and a curse. See, when I am working on a book, which is almost always, I am alone with those characters, immersed in their little world, consumed by their passions, their fears, their desires, their comedies of errors. I have never been one for sharing much of my unfinished work with anyone else. That would somehow be wrong, at least for me. In order to create, I need to be able to slip into a world inhabited only by my characters and me. It’s always a bittersweet moment when I write the words, ‘the end’ and know I am moving on. Sure, there will be editing, the thrill of seeing the cover design, the agony of trying to help craft the blurb, but once you type ‘the end’ it means just that. You’re giving your characters and their world away.

I think it’s very difficult for some writers to realize that once they’ve ‘given birth’ to a book that it really no longer belongs to them. It belongs to the readers, the reviewers, the world. If you create with publishing in mind, it’s a harsh reality to accept—your book no longer belongs to you alone, but it’s gone off into the world, much like a child finally moving out of the house. Once you let go, you also must let go of trying to control what happens (same for books, same for kids).

And that’s hard. You hate to see your book suffer at the hands of people who don’t understand it, you celebrate it when someone ‘gets’ what you were trying to say.

But you must let go. The book is a piece of the world now and takes on a life of its own. Remember what I said earlier? A book is a conspiracy between a writer and a reader and the reader, each in his or her own way, makes the story his or her own.

I guess what prompted all this was a discussion recently at one of my publishers’ forums wherein authors were discussing, once again, how to respond to negative reviews and downright nasty ones, and the prevailing wisdom, at least to my mind, was with silence. I agree.

It’s harsh but true: writers must let go. Your stories are no longer your stories. If you’re very, very lucky, they are many people’s. Take comfort in that.

What is your writing process?

I’m a morning person so that’s when I work. I’m usually up at 4, and at the gym shortly thereafter. I come home, eat a little something and have coffee, and then I go to work. My goal is to write at least 1000 words per day and, at that pace, I can usually finish a novel within four months. I need complete silence, so no music. And I don’t share my work with anyone until it’s finished and polished.

I generally write from my heart—I need to love my characters! They take me on a journey that usually has a lot of unexpected twists and turns—that’s the joy of the process. I have an idea where I want to end up, but getting there is an adventure.


Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their rescue dogs, Kodi and Joaquin.





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