When I’m writing, I become Stanley James McMillen
by Cymbre Foster
Richard Alan Hall, a former farm boy, whose day job in the medical field, friendships with veterans, and time spent in Hemingway’s Key West gardens have shaped his writing life.
Richard was born in Traverse City, Michigan, at James Decker Munson Hospital on Groundhog’s Day, 1947, and grew up on a farm near Long Lake, just west of Traverse City. For more than forty years, he was a Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist, a career that was never just a job.
In June 2013, his first novel, Remarkable, was released, making the northwest Michigan bestseller list several times. His second novel and sequel Seldom As They Seem was released in June 2014 and it became Horizon Books’ bestselling softcover novel for 2014. He is currently working on the third novel in the Big Bay series, entitled No Gray Twilights, which will be released on September 19, 2015.
Richard writes in Traverse City and Key West. His experiences as a farm boy, critical care nurse, and friendship with war vets from every major conflict since the Spanish American War are evident in his novels. Richard and his wife, Debra, live in Traverse City.
How did you become a writer?
My wife told me, “You are a great story teller. You should write a novel.” I grew weary of saying no. This is pretty much all Debra’s fault. Now I am addicted.
How do you write? What is your process?
I shut the door to my den and play music loud. Then I close my eyes and wait for the first sentence to develop. From that point, it is simply trying to keep up with the movie playing in my mind. Finding the right combination of words to paint the picture is the challenge.
Who are your favorite authors?
John Steinbeck is my all-time favorite. At a young age, he amazed me with his ability to form pictures in my mind. Other favorites include C.S. Lewis, Lewis Grizzard, Steve Hamilton, Zane Grey, Garrison Keillor, and Elizabeth Buzzelli.
What authors have inspired you?
Benjamin Busch, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. Benjamin sends succinct comments from time to time, with encouragements. Steinbeck built the mountain that I am now climbing. And, I frequent Hemingway’s gardens behind the brick walls at Whitehead and Olivia Streets in Key West. A picture of me sitting next to a little table, with a descendent of Ernest’s six-toed cats purring as I wrote, is on the back cover of my second novel. That picture says it all.
What books are on your bedside table?
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, Grand Army Men by Robert J Wolz, Lincoln Life-Size by Philip and Peter Kunhadt, The Roosevelts by Ward and Burns, and Blood Is the Sky by Steve Hamilton.
What writing projects do you have planned next?
I am doing the finishing touches on the third novel in the Big Bay series, No Gray Twilights with an anticipated release date of September 19, 2015.
What advice do you have for young writers?
The greatest gift is imagination. Dare to dream. Dream big. Follow your heart as you write the scenes traveling through your mind. And, rewrites are fun, too. You will be surprised what you didn’t see with the first sitting.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I read Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men while I watched the Holsteins graze, making sure they didn’t break through the fences. I loved those books.
You spent your professional career as a nurse. While you were working, were you writing stories in your head or collecting characters?
I never dreamed that I would someday be an author. Those 42 years of emergency and cardiac nursing have left me with a wealth of memories and experiences, which are evidenced in the fictional episodes in my novels.
A piece of advice often given to writers is to write what you know. Did you follow that advice? That said, what or who inspired your main character Stanley James McMillen? He is a nurse after all…
Yes, indeed! I know the tensions and the sorrows, the great joy and relief, too, associated with illness and sudden medical emergencies. Those emotions are shared in my novels. The name Stanley James McMillen came about this way: My closest friend in college, a fellow nursing student, was killed in an auto accident. His first name was Stanley. (His daughter Faith is a character in my novels.) The middle name is in honor of my running buddy, Dr. Jim Mudgett, who died suddenly on the Tart Trail a few years ago. I was holding a pen in my hand from McMillen’s Framing, when I was deciding on this character’s last name. It fit.
I write in the third person. When I am writing, I become Stanley James McMillen, and see the action through his eyes.
When you wrote your first book, was it with a series in mind?
By the end of my first novel, Remarkable, I knew there was going to be a series. The epilogue is a quote from John Steinbeck, simply stating, “I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.” Then, “To be continued . . .”
The epilogue for Seldom As They Seem reads, “I never really made a book. It’s rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say.” To be continued . . .
I just purchased 10 more ISBN number
You feature a German shepherd on the cover of your books. Is this your beautiful pup?
As a teenaged farm boy, I had a German shepherd named Browny. He was my best friend. I admire their loyalty, and their unconditional love. The dogs on the covers of my novels are symbolic of that unconditional love. Their characters in my novels are named Jimmy, Malcolm, and Little Miss.
You are the master of positive affirmations, as your Facebook friends can attest. Have you ever thought of compiling them into a collection? Where do these words of wisdom come from?
When I sit down at my keyboard in the morning and open Facebook, I have no idea what I am about to say. My fingers just follow the dictation from my heart. I really have not saved those thoughts from over the years. Hopefully, those same feelings and beliefs are shared through the various characters in my novels.
Download a copy of The Writer’s Life: Richard Alan Hall
Copies of Richard Alan Hall’s books are available for purchase at Horizon Books in Traverse City, Michigan.