Title: Fun with Dick and James
Author Name: Rich Barnett
Publication Date & Length: July 1, 2016 – 170 pgs
You’d think a Delaware blue blood with a talent for shaking cocktails and a penchant for obscure historical biographies would lead a quiet life, but Dick Hunter seems to face one crisis after another. Whether it’s locating the right hors d’oeuvres for a hurricane party or just trying to take a nap, nothing comes easily. Add a fussy ex-wife, a flatulent basset hound, and the flamboyant heir to a fading french fry empire, and things get downright complicated. But Dick’s nemesis, the vengeful society dentist Red Snapper, is proving to be the toughest challenge yet. Fortunately, Dick’s young boyfriend, James, is more than just eye candy, even though his problem-solving tactics aren’t always by the rules. Together, Dick and James navigate the shifting sands of life in Rehoboth Beach in this Jeeves and Wooster meet Tales of the City romp.
1) Can you describe in detail what your writing environment is like?
My writing environment is a bit schizophrenic because I’m always on the go between my salary job in Washington, DC, and my writer’s life in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
In Washington, I always look for time to write when the muse strikes. I haul around my Macbook so I’m ready, be it on a city bus, in a coffee shop, or even at work. I probably shouldn’t say that….
In Delaware, I’ve created my perfect writer’s retreat. In the summertime, I set up a desk out on my screened front porch. In the fall and winter, I move inside and set up my desk beside the fireplace. I love to sip some bourbon beside the fire and write away.
2) Is there one of your characters that you relate to (from any of your works)? Why?
I think the Fritz Wilmerding character in Fun with Dick and James. He’s a true bon vivant, despite the fact that his money is dwindling away. I’ve always wanted to be a bon vivant, but I’m a bit too repressed to fully wave that flag in public.
3) If you couldn’t be an author, what would you do instead?
As a boy, I always wanted to be a tennis pro, but the fact of the matter is I wasn’t that good. Being on the high school tennis team was the height of my tennis career. Today, I often think about running a bar/book store and creating a stimulating atmosphere combining four things I like to do: read, write, drink, and tell stories.
4) Is there anything that you learned during the writing process that you wish you had known before hand?
To be more systematic about labeling versions of drafts and more disciplined about filing old ones away. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself working on old drafts.
5) Is there anything that you wish you could change about your book now that it is out?
I would give more space to the “Pie Ladies,” because people have responded well to the characters and want to know more. Next book!
6) How do you come up with new ideas for your story?
Good question because I tend to be a character-driven writer more so than a plot-driven writer. Frankly, I mine my life. I think back to things that have happened or that I’ve heard about and then try to make them more entertaining. I play the “what if” game with myself all the time.
7) What’s next for you as a writer?
A sequel for sure. I’ve already got about a half dozen good stories for Dick and James, including a good one involving the “Pie Ladies.” I’ve got a couple other half-baked novel ideas floating around in my head.
8) Where do you live? Do you think this influences how or what you write?
Rehoboth Beach definitely influences my writing. It’s this one square mile of eccentricity, a blend of urban and rural, north and south, highbrow and lowbrow, gay and straight. It’s sensory overload sometimes and there’s no place quite like it.
9) What is your favorite genre outside of the one you write in? Why?
I love historical biographies because I’m a voyeur at heart. Seriously, though, I studied history in college. I appreciate the perspective of reading about people and events that impacted our world. I learn and I’m entertained, which is what I try to do in my writings.
10) Do you have any vices? Shoes, coffee, shopping…etc?
As Abraham Lincoln said: “Folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” I have plenty of vices. Off the top of my head I would count: bourbon, European eyewear, lamps (I hate overhead lighting), and fried food. I could go on…
I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains but always knew I belonged by the sea. I now shuttle between my salary job in Washington, DC, and my writer’s life in Rehoboth Beach, DE, where I explore what’s quirky, historic, inspiring, and, yes, even tawdry about my adopted home town.
I’ve been writing a regular column in the magazine Letters From Camp Rehoboth since 2006. My writing has also appeared in: Shore Life Magazine; Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival 2014; The Beach House: Rehoboth Beach Reads; and No Place Like Here: An Anthology of Southern Delaware Poetry and Prose. I’ve been fortunate to have been recognized several times for my writing, photography, and blogging by the Delaware Press Association.