Richard Bush has been reading about, writing about and playing the blues for most of his adult life. His articles have highlighted the careers of blues musicians in magazines such as; Blues Access
, Hittin’ the Note
, Southwest Blues
and the American Harmonica Newsmagazine
. He has also written hundreds of reviews of blues music recordings over the years.
After retiring from teaching high school journalism, English and world geography, his love of the blues and writing fiction met at the crossroads. He began fulfilling his lifelong goal to write a novel featuring the music that he loves. His first book, featuring a couple of blues harmonica playing protagonists, landed him a contract for publication. RIVER BOTTOM BLUES is his crime story set in the bottom lands of Texas’ Brazos River and the blues bars from Houston to Dallas to Shreveport to New Orleans and back again.
EBD: Did you write fiction while teaching or did you concentrate on writing blues articles for various publications?
RB: While teaching, my writing centered around blues related non-fiction articles and record reviews. It’s hard to get away from referring to recorded music as records, so I will probably do so until death do us part. I interviewed a slew of blues harmonica players over the years.
EBD: When did you start writing fiction?
RB: I think I sat down in August 2008 and started hammering out an idea.
EBD: Was this your first manuscript?
RB: Yes. RIVER BOTTOM BLUES represents my first manuscript. The first draft was in long hand on a legal pad and then I typed the second draft. I spell checked that draft and then did a line edit. I read through it once more and then re-placed three chapters with totally different versions. I guess that would put it at maybe three and a half revisions--or something like that.
EBD: Your interest and knowledge of blues music provided the basis of your novel. Did you have to do additional research for your book?
RB: Blues music and I go way back so I needed very little research. My blues library is fairly extensive, so I never had to go far to check facts.
EBD: Tell us a little about your novel. What is the hook? POV? Can you give us a short synopsis?
RB: Mitty Anderson, a self-retired reporter, narrates most of RIVER BOTTOM BLUES in first person as he and his running buddy, Pete Bolden, go after a murderous band of wackos. The POV does switch a time or two, but basically it is Mitty’s story. I move towards third person when a murder takes place in a past decade. Here’s a blurb:
Mitty Anderson and Bobby T had blown enough blues harmonica notes together for him to know that Bobby never allowed anything to interfere with his music. So when he gets the news, in the middle of his blues set at Little Queenie’s, that Bobby’s body was found in a hotel with a syringe of heroin in his arm, Mitty suspects foul play of the supreme kind. He makes plans to catch a killer and clear Bobby’s good name.
“The Wizard,” ex-blues star and now ex-convict, tries to convince Mitty that a vicious Louisianan clan killed Bobby Tarleton. He’s absolutely certain that they’ve been eliminating blues harmonica players since the ‘60s. Mitty shrugs off the wild tales as prison gossip, until he finds “The Wizard’s” stabbed and burned body hanging from a pecan tree.
Every dark road leads to Crazy Joe Badou and his evil sons. Rural legend has Crazy Joe killing blues harmonica players ever since his wife ran off with one. Mitty figures that Bobby just might have been their latest victim. He decides to round up a posse, disguised as a blues band, to flush the wild family out into the open. He ends up playing the gig of his life.
EBD: Do you have an agent? If so, how did you get an agent?
RB: No, whenever an agent did respond to my query, the response normally centered around the blues theme being a little too small niche to have much of an audience. Even within the blues genre, harmonica players tend to lack a bit of respect. Sometimes there’s a Rodney Dangerfield aspect to it all. One agent suggested going the small press route.
EBD: Which company is publishing your book?
RB: Virtual Tales.
EBD: How did they get your manuscript?
RB: The publisher was open for submissions of novels when I submitted my manuscript this past summer.
EBD: Can you disclose any of the details?
RB: They just released my acquisition announcement on their website http://www.virtualtales.com/
. They are a small press, but have been steady at it since 2006. They’ll release RIVER BOTTOM BLUES in print, eBook, and eSerial. Beginning in May of this year, I began to seriously look at smaller publishers. Several publishers showed interest and requested a full manuscript. After contacting several satisfied Virtual Tales authors, I decided that they were the best fit for my work. Plus, they actually seemed to have a bit of enthusiasm for my crime novel permeated with the blues.
EBD: When’s your release date?
RB: Nothing firm on a release date, yet. I’ve been working with my assigned editor, Ti Locke, for the past several weeks. She is wonderful and has an appreciation for the blues, so that helps. We are close to wrapping up the first round of edits. The book will undergo a couple of more edits and a cover artist will be assigned soon. So far I’m pleased with their process. It shows that they care about the quality of the books that they publish.
EBD: Did you submit a marketing plan? If so, what?
RB: Sure. A great deal of the plan revolves around establishing an online presence and getting involved with activities such as this interview here. I started writing a blues blog before I retired from teaching and I have an active Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace account. I don’t do the latter two much. I just opened a Twitter account, but am pretty raw at that. I did win a blues recording soon after I twitted Living Blues magazine, so I guess finally giving into another social network time suck was worth it.
As an ex-journalism teacher, I have a few contacts that may just promote the book on radio and in newspapers, or at least run press releases. I joined Sisters In Crime, and have found the group to be wonderful. They certainly figure into the plan (that’s how this interview materialized) and have great resources. I’ll start the book store circuit locally and spread from there. I do play a mean blues harp myself, so maybe I’ll just set up on street corners and wail away with a table of books at my side. The blues music thread should give me the opportunity to possibly get reviewed in the major blues and musician magazines and possibly swing placing small bits of advertising in them. I plan to bug blues festival promoters and try to arrange book signings at some of those. That should be unique. I may even promote the book at blues society events or blues gigs.
EBD: Does RIVER BOTTOM BLUES have a sequel? Or, are your books stand alone?
RB: My work-in-progress employs the same two main characters, but it’ll stand alone. Call me a glutton for punishment. Here I have two protagonists who are blues harmonica players (who literary agents tell me no one wants to read about) setting off for new adventures and they may not be able to sell their last adventure. Hey, these are just stories that I have to tell. Once they are told, then hopefully a readership will follow.
The blues have sold well for decades, no doubt your book will too! Thanks for the interview. I’ll check back with Ricky when RIVER BOTTOM BLUES is released. In the meantime, check his blog at http://www.bushdogblues.blogspot.com/
for book and blues news.