Interview with Ronald Barak
RB: [See https://ronaldsbarak.com/about for the longer version.] I write because it forces me to think, to hopefully be creative, to grow. I write for those who also want to think, and to be entertained. I think both of those goals can be met at the same time. I want people to read what I write because I love to connect.
TSM: Do you have a favorite genre in which you write and/or read?
RB: I have always read political and legal thrillers. I know the law because I’ve been a lawyer for a long time. I know politics because . . . I’m a political junkie. I wrote my first novel on a dare from some friends. It just made sense for me to write what I was already reading. So, I did. And it stuck.
TSM: How do you choose your stories? How do you write them? Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter.”
RB: I demand (of myself) that my stories be very timely. “Ripped from the headlines,” often preceding the headlines. I find a real world burning issue (at least in my mind) and then make up a piece of fiction to address the issue. That’s easier to do in my novels when I can control the outcome than in the real world where I can’t. I like to have my way. I’m strictly a “pantser.” Once I identify the issue and have the corresponding make believe story vaguely in mind, I just start writing and count on my characters to carry me along. In my current novel, Payback, I wanted to write about the arguable moral decay in our country today, you know, the college admission scandal, lack of corporate transparency in church, in the colleges and in our governments. But I didn’t want to preach so I pursued the topic in the context of a writer wannabe serial killer who goes to a famous weeklong writers conference to kill off literary luminaries not paying him the respect he thought he was due. Back to the real world, this forced the organizers of the retreat to debate whether to tell the conference participants what they realized was going go. My idea was to mix a genuine whodunit murder mystery with a little bit of preaching about ethics, morality, politics and the law.
TSM: That sounds pretty creative. Do you think you think you bring creativity to your writing?
RB: Well, I think it’s ultimately for my readers to decide whether I’m creative. But what I write never finds its way to my readers unless I first think what I’m writing is creative, worth being written, hopefully not just run of the mill stuff.
TSM: Are you also involved in the marketing of what you write and do you try to be as creative with that marketing as you are with your writing?
RB: Every writer today has to be involved in the marketing of what he writes if he wants to rise above the noise. I do and I don’t, meaning I do want to rise above the noise but I wish I didn’t have to be involved in marketing. I find writing to be a lot more fun.
TSM: Can you give me us an example of the creativity you try to bring to the marketing of your novels.
RB: Well I thought you’d never ask! Let’s take the marketing of Payback as an example. Marketing is more than just saying “Buy my book, please buy my book.” That’s embarrassing, and it really doesn’t work very well today, if it ever did. Readers today are just too sophisticated. And they have way too many choices. You have to find a way to pique their interest. Payback is about a writer wannabe who is also a . . . serial killer. So I thought it would be clever to create a series of online video interviews of a real world author and his serial killer subjects.
RB: Seriously. You and your readers can see for yourselves, right here https://ronaldsbarak.com/videos/ And then tell me if you think I’m serious.
TSM: Well, I don’t know about serious, but I will give you that you are creative with your marketing. I can’t help but now ask you the inevitable question, whether authors pattern their characters after themselves. Are any of the characters in Payback patterned after you?
RB: Good question. It is very common for my stories to reflect my real world experiences, if not sometimes me as well. I will confess that my Brooks/Lotello thriller series main protagonist is somewhat autobiographical. He and I are about the same age, married to similar wives for fifty plus years, heavily versed in the law and logical thinking and encumbered with the same dreams of grandeur, and insecurities. What I won’t do is confess to any similarities with the wannabe serial killer writer in Payback, although I do consider myself a wannabe writer.
TSM: Well I don’t know. After all, you are a former Olympian so maybe sometimes dreams do come true. But I’ll come to your rescue in terms of being a wannabe serial killer writer. Your novels demonstrate that you’re beyond a wannabe writer. Speaking of writing, are you working on anything to follow Payback?
RB: I am. It’s called JK’s Code and it will release in Spring 2021. It’s about Lotello’s lawyer wife’s college dropout kid brother who goes off to make his fortune in cybersecurity and gets in trouble with a cadre of Eastern European cybercriminals engaged in U.S. voter fraud.
TSM: That’s pretty exciting. If it’s half as good as I’ve found Payback to be and if our readers agree, JK’s Code will be quite a read. Perhaps will have to have another go around next Spring. In the meanwhile, where can our readers learn more about your novels?
RB: More about me and my books can be found at https://ronaldsbarak.com/books. Thanks for the visit. I found it very . . . creative! I’ll look forward to catching up with Strand Magazine and its readers again next year.