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Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review: Small Town Problems


Interview and Review


Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Chris RitcheyChris Ritchey has written the book, Small Town Problems.   


You can find his unpublished writings and other musings on his author website, www.jesterslibrary.com. You can find him on Twitter @AuthorCRitchey, and Facebook and Instragrma at @AuthorChrisRitchey. And you can find his book, Small Town Problems, via Amazon and retailers at https://books2read.com/SmallTownProblems.


Chris, I think like me, you were inspired to write from your experience in the classroom as a kid. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing? 


I distinctly remember two creative writing assignments in elementary school that I had a blast writing and I got a lot of praise for. Those stuck with me, but I didn't really do much beyond them for a long time. The next time I delved into it was 11th grade when a buddy of mine asked me to join him on this Star Wars fan site to help fight off a troll. We successfully got rid of him and I met some great people there. In the course of having fun we accidentally started a fan-fic that was a crossover from Star Wars and Sailor Moon. 


Over the course of the next two years, about six of us co-wrote this fan-fic that was about the length of two novels. The first part was pulled and edited into a proper book by one of the authors and the second half was lost to time as the site went away. During this time I engaged in other projects and even took a creative writing class my senior year. I also began my own attempt at a novel, which I kept planning out for many many years. 

So how did that progress once you graduated?


Fast forward to 2019 and I'm encouraged enough by my wife to get to it. I start out with some short stories for some writing contests, to get something actually completed and get my feet wet. Once those came back to me, since they didn't place, I decided to make a website and share my writing that way. From there, one of the short stories turned into a novella and here we are.


And I have read your work, Small Town Problems. Compliments to a well told tale. Where do you draw from for ideas and inspiration?


I'm not picky about where I get inspiration or information from. One example is Merphy Napier's YouTube channel and her Dear Author series. I highly encourage any author to watch it. Just experiencing life and thinking about the what ifs of any given situation can provide enough material for a scene or whole story.


I always struggle with answering where I get ideas from. Some stories start with me thinking about some common trope and thinking about what spin I could put on it. Other times I practice free writing and just see what happens. 


Tropes can be a great place to start for a writer. After that, it takes time, effort, and doing it.


Writing is like anything else, if you want to get better at it, you need to practice. But you also need to get feedback from others and learn to grow from constructive criticism.



Feedback is key. For so many writers they never put pen to paper. Many of those who do, never let the work find a reader. To do both sets you in the elite few - or at least that's what I am told when I attend conferences and such. One issue I have is finding time to write. How do you schedule your time to write.


I write around another job and a family. I use Google Docs, so I try to write a few words when I have any spare time. I try to set aside time in the evening after the kids have gone to bed for that much needed uninterrupted longer span of time.


Are you able to get in a lot of writing this way? How many hours per day?

Normally, I've been lucky to get in one to one and a half. If it's not busy at work, I get more in during my lunch break.


What is your favorite part about writing? 


I love the feeling when an idea pops into my head and I've got that excitable urge to get it written down as quickly as possible. And before I know it I've been writing for 30 minutes non-stop. It's exhilarating.


What does literary success look like to you? 


I think having a complete stranger discover your work and give you a compliment on it is euphoric. How did this random person on the other side of the world come across this and why do they like it? They have no reason to even let you know that they came across it. It's still mind blowing to me.


Let's hopefully help that happen! Please tell us about your current release. 


Small Town Problems started off as a short story, but I really felt something more was there. I posted it in sections on my website as I wrote it and was able to get beta readers and critique partners as it developed. I went off of the trope of aliens seeming to always visit small rural towns. While I just played out a discovery scene for the short story (which later turned into chapter 1), for the book I liked the idea of an alien coming to a small farm town and being well received as well as representing a small town in a more realistic way than I feel is often portrayed


Can you read / provide us with a small exert? 


“Well, maybe it’s time we pay a visit to Ms. Wilton? She’s the science teacher at the high school. I’m sure you could run everything by her and see what she suggests for stable metals.”

“Wobewt, don’t you think she’d be a bit suspicious?” He gestured to his general appearance.

“I don’t think your face is too off from human and as for the fur… we’re going to have to shave it off?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, it’s not too much of a fuss. We haven’t had sheep here in about ten years, but I still have my shearing equipment.”

“I don’t like the sound of this.”

“I promise it won’t take long. I still hold the state record from my 4H days, well Katie Horning does but I know she cheated somehow… but I digress.” At the rate he was shedding all over the house, I was planning to do it anyway, but it was nice to have an excuse. “I’ll ring her up and then we’ll head out to the barn.”

Har’elday stared into the mirror for an age before he turned and went up to his room.


What exciting story are you working on next? 


I am working on Book 2 of what I hope is a Small Town Problems novella trilogy. I've had the plora in mind for a while now and I just need to get to writing.


I'm a big believer in the fact that the best authors are readers.

Honestly, buying and reading other books and studying them has been of great help. I didn't read a whole lot every year before I started on this recent venture, but I've got 21 under my belt this past year.


Who are your favorite authors?  

Currently, my favorite is Brandon Sanderson. It's not just his books, but his general attitude and eagerness to share his knowledge with other hopeful writers. 


What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? 


The Timeline Wars by John Barnes is a book I came across many years ago and enjoyed thoroughly. My alien's tool in this book is actually inspired by the weapon the main character used in that book. It's a well done time travel story.


Our readers will be reading this in February based on my blog schedule, but for you and me, it is CHristmas. Any plans for the holiday?


We normally stay close to home for Christmas. We go to my parents on Christmas eve, do our family thing Christmas morning, and then go to her parents for lunch on Christmas day. Next year is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary and since it's on December 15th, they want a destination party in Florida for it.


Major accomplishment to them! Family is very important and it sounds like your wife is supportive of your endeavor. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Even with that support, do you ever find something to be hard about writing?


Not setting goals for myself. If I don't make commitments to myself, then it's too easy to make excuses.


During the writing process, finding a good pace and maintaining my self imposed word count range for each chapter. During publishing, the marketing aspect is the hardest.


Marketing can be very difficult. I know my writing group and I talk about it all the time. Are you involved in any writer groups? 

I am in a few, but I don't find them very helpful. O may just be in the wrong ones. Most of the helpful people I found were from Twitter.


Anything additional you want to share with the readers?  


 Just that I'm grateful for all of the people willing to explore the works of new authors. I know there are so many out there due to the ease of self publishing and it can be a gamble.



One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book? 


Add your links here again 



Small Town Problems is reminiscent of my memories of E.T., The Searchers (a fun goofy comedy), and a little bit of X Files. On the book side it reminded me a book I read as a teen: Quozl by Allen Dean Foster. In Foster’s novel a whole colony of alien bugs bunny type rabbits arrive whereas here it is a smaller invasion and ultimately a very small circle of characters. In both there was a fun worldbuild where country folk deal with the extraordinary… the same way they deal with everything. Ingenuity, placing friends and family first, and with a bit of humor.  From the opening (“I hope the chickens aren’t too spooked to lay”) we are introduced to everyday people encountering an advanced alien species. As someone who grew up “country” I enjoyed the bear traps, Christian burials, Randy Travis songs, moonshine stills, unsettling animal heads mounted on home walls, and a general fear of federal agents. The story is well paced. I’ve seen some reviews regarding the simplicity of the plotline, but I feel this is applying expectations of a 500 page book to a 150 page book. I’ve said in other reviews I wish more authors wrote in this length: longer than a short story but not the deep commitment of a long novel.

Yes, there are aliens. One In particular, Har'elday, who Robert befriends. The result is an excellent first book by the author, whose short stories are worth checking out also. I was given a copy for review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

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