Q&A w/ Richard R. Becker: "Third Wheel" Author

Amanda K. (BookBuzz)

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Richard R Becker and his book Third WheelPhoto byBookBuzz

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Richard R. Becker, an accomplished American author, gained widespread recognition with his debut collection of literary fiction and psychological thrillers. Originally conceived as a project of crafting weekly stories for 50 weeks, the collection swiftly climbed the ranks to the top 100 literary short stories on Amazon for three consecutive months in 2022. It secured top honors in the Spring 2022 BookFest Awards, the 2023 Book Excellence Awards, and the ABR Book Excellence Awards, while also being a finalist in the IAN Book of the Year Awards.

Adding to his literary success, Becker's debut novel "Third Wheel," a gripping coming-of-age thriller, arrived to critical acclaim in August 2023, earning finalist recognition in the Global Book Awards. With a prolific journalism background, he has contributed to major publications like the Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, and works affiliated with Simon & Schuster and Paramount Communications. As President of Copywrite, Ink. and with two decades of teaching experience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Richard is a driving force in both literary and academic domains. Alongside, he serves as a devoted community volunteer, while his speaking engagements include prestigious events such as Wizard World Comic Con and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Author Q&A

What inspired you to write your debut novel? Third Wheel grew out of a short story I had written as a follow-up to my first book, 50 States, a collection of short, short stories. What made Third Wheel different from other short stories is that I went a little further than borrowing and bending bits of my life as I sometimes do, and gave the protagonist a framework that mirrored my early childhood and move to Las Vegas in the late 70s and early 80s. Third Wheel is still very much a work of fiction. The protagonist, Brady Wilks, and I are different people. But I think our shared similar life experiences compelled me to keep writing. I could see the first four chapters so clearly that I knew this would be my debut novel. In some ways, Third Wheel chose me more than I chose it. Can you share a little about Third Wheel with us? Third Wheel is a coming of age thriller set in Las Vegas, 1982. It’s a story about Brady Wilks, a 14-year-old transplant from the Midwest, navigating life in the dusty suburban outskirts of the town before it became a major metropolitan city. Because he has an unstable home life, he gravitates toward an older friend group being influenced by a nefarious teenage drug dealer named Alex. Alex convinces the group to join him in securing harder drugs — heroin — from a supplier. The drug deal and consequences add an exhilarating element to the book, making it a thriller. But at its heart, Brady’s story is about belonging and how far someone must go to belong. In the novel, he develops a taboo love interest, meets members of the Mob, and tries to make the right decisions despite being disastrously ill-equipped. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Like Brady, I grew up with a perpetual identity crisis and moved from one trauma to another. While I always worked hard to succeed in my career, it was always under a cloud of confusion and uncertainty, especially when I was younger. Since some of Brady’s framework mirrors my own, I had to relive some uncomfortable events and the feelings those memories carry with them. Most notably, I lost the grandmother who raised me for ten years to cancer and then some psychological abuse I endured after being reunited with my mother. I’m resolved with the past, but the resolution doesn’t make it any easier to honestly write about some of it. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to takeaway? Mostly, readers get out of books what they bring in with them and the writer's job is to engage and entertain them. However, there is a lesson for Brady in the book. As a transformative character, he must learn that it’s never too late until it’s too late. He is moving in the wrong direction and must break free. But the question left unanswered is whether or not he will realize it in time. I’ve been in similar circumstances in my life, and I think most people have been as well. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I never imagined myself becoming a writer, but I’ve enjoyed a successful career as one. Growing up, I had a passion for art and storytelling through that medium. My grandfather would sometimes bring giant rolls of butcher block paper that painters use to cover windows, and I drew endless murals that told elaborate stories that weren’t all dissimilar from Native American wall paintings, except with more detail. My mother discouraged me from pursuing art. So, I enrolled at Whittier College to study psychology and then transferred to the University of Nevada, Reno to study advertising. The school encouraged me to enroll in its journalism program with an advertising track. They literally taught me how to apply storytelling to writing. I’ve been a professional copywriter, journalist, and communication strategist for more than 30 years. I also taught writing for public relations and marketing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for 20 years before retiring from teaching classes in 2020. What authors have influenced your writing? There are so many. Let’s start with Frank Herbert. My seventh-grade teacher encouraged me to read Dune after I had chosen the book with the skinniest spine for a book report. Dune helped me fall in love with reading and diversified my literary interests. This was no small feat, given I learned to read so late in life. I couldn’t read in the third grade. Aside from Herbert, I’ve always appreciated Ernest Hemingway and John Updike for their ability to write straight, honest prose about human beings. More recently, I’ve taken some online classes from Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, and David Mamet. These are immensely talented individuals who are remarkably direct about their craft. They lay out plainly and make writing so much more accessible for people who have a passion for it. Do you have any advice for other writers? Everybody approaches writing literature differently so what might work for one might not work for another. I’ve always felt the process is so much more straightforward for copywriters, journalists, and communication specialists. Writers must learn how to be clear, concise, accurate, human, and conspicuous. If a writer can infuse these qualities into their writing, it’s hard to ignore. It doesn’t even matter what they are writing. It could be a blog post or memoir or a debut novel. Aside from that, always keep in mind that conflict is what holds a reader’s interest and the protagonist’s intention is what makes it possible for a reader to care. For your own reading, do you prefer audiobooks, physical books, or e-books? Why?

I love them all! I’m always reading four books at a time so having multiple formats is very important to me. I listen to an audiobook when I’m working out or cleaning the house. I read an ebook when I’m caught up in lines and waiting rooms. I read a physical book, most often nonfiction, after lunch for a few minutes every day. And I also read a book with my daughter. We alternate paragraphs. Right now, I’m listening to Demon Copperhead on audio. I’m also finishing Down to a Sunless Sea by David Graham, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and Winners by Fredrick Backman. I’m looking forward to some new releases by Pierce Brown, Stephen King, and S.A. Cosby. What are you working on right now? I’m currently working with Emmy-award winning voice actor Brian Callanan to produce Third Wheel as an audiobook. I’ve listened to several chapters. He is a fantastic voice talent! I’m three chapters into my next novel, which is a psychological thriller with a literary fiction bent. It takes place in Maine. Readers who are familiar with my short story collections have already read the first two chapters because they appeared as short stories first. I have another idea to pursue after that novel, but there is also much more to the Brady Wilks story! How can readers discover more about you and you work?

First and foremost, thank you for asking me these great questions. I had a wonderful time answering them!

If readers would like to discover more about me and my work, they can visit my bio site at https://bio.site/RichardRBecker. The biosite lists a number of places you can find me and my work, including my author page, blog, newsletter, and social networks. The can also Google “Third Wheel” and “Becker” to find other articles and interviews. I hope to see them around!

About Third Wheel

In 1982 Las Vegas, Brady Wilks, a Midwest transplant, navigates the enigmatic outskirts of a 24-hour town crafted by the Mob. Amid the dusty suburban landscape, Brady forms a deep bond with Mick, an older neighbor, and his friend Brett. Yet, as Brett vanishes and a new kid enters, the trio's connection unravels, leading them into a world of cartel-sourced drugs and irrevocable deals. "Third Wheel" is a potent coming-of-age thriller, exploring belonging, betrayal, and the pursuit of an independent future against the backdrop of a city defined by the Mob. With a raw and gritty narrative, this debut novel by four-time award-winning author Richard R. Becker captures the essence of transformation as Brady Wilks grapples with identity and stakes his claim on the precarious relationships shaping his destiny.

Third Wheel is available at several online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books.

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Amanda is a PR manager and book lover from Georgia. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and two doggies.

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