26 September 2012 by Published in: Uncategorized 32 comments

R.S. Guthrie is an indie author whose work I’ve enjoyed tremendously. I would put him the top tier of the wordsmiths I’ve read over the last couple of years, and I read a lot, even if not as much as I would like due to my insane writing schedule. I thought it would be fun to have him on the blog before his career went parabolic and he was too busy to mingle with the little people, who I’m sure he’ll forget once he’s drinking champagne out of NY debutantes’ shoes or whatever it is successful authors do these days. I also am hoping to steal some of his secrets for my own selfish use, of course. His latest, Blood Land, should be required reading for every indie author who wants to see how it should be done. And he shares the belief that comedian Louis CK is the funniest man in America. It is therefore with tremendous pleasure that I welcome my guest, the one, the only, R.S. Guthrie!


Russell: Let’s start with some process nitty gritty. How many words do you average when you’re writing a novel, per day? Or does it vary?

RSG: It varies, honestly depending on what other non-writing (e.g. marketing) activities I have to do during the day. I try to always get in 2K (which still sometimes doesn’t happen), but on a good day, free of distractions, I can do a nice comfortable 5K.


Russell: How many drafts do you typically do of a book before it’s “done?”

RSG: They’re never done. I mean that. To answer the question, I usually go back to my first draft at least once, sometimes twice, before sending it to my editor. Then I incorporate most of his edits (he’s good—I rarely disagree with him at all). THEN I send to a proofreader. Honestly, that’s why a book is never done. My last book had at least seven sets of eyes (mine going over it endlessly) including the paid proofreader. Just before publishing the e-book, my wife and I were doing our ritual of reading it side by side in bed on our Kindles. I found a typo on the first page. It’s crazy. I need a software program because Word sucks and is almost no help at all.


Russell: Do you listen to music when you write? Or does it have to be quiet?

RSG: Usually quiet. I’ve tried music because I LOVE music and I need it in almost every other aspect of my life (exercising, driving, airplane while reading, etc.). I think I love it too much and the songs distract me. I have recently found I like ESPN News blathering in the background. I say blathering because if you ever watch that channel, they run the same 30 minutes of footage over and over again all day. I listen once, pick up the news I want, and then my mind tunes it out.


Russell: I would describe your writing style as sparse yet evocative. How long did it take you to find your voice?

RSG: A while. I fuel myself by reading writers that challenge me in my genre. I’ve read many of the great series in Mystery/Detective/Police Procedural: James Lee Burke (Dave Robicheaux, Billy Bob and Hackberry Holland), Tony Hillerman (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee), John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee). MacDonald is widely considered the greatest Mystery writer ever (Stephen King called him the best writer ever). Hillerman and Burke are both winners of the Grand Master Award given out by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and recipients of MWA Edgars (Burke earned two, a rare feat). So I always knew I wanted to write gritty Mysteries.

My wife, however, wanted me to add a little paranormal to the first series. I grew up as a kid reading King, and I love my wife, so the first of my series (Clan of MacAulay)—while still all about a Denver Detective Bobby Mac and the crimes he must solve—also has a historical family paranormal aspect to it. I call it “a twist of paranormal”. That’s why I really sunk my teeth into Blood Land. No paranormal, no zombies, vampires, or any devices: just a deep, big-hearted, flawed hero of a lawman who must battle between delivering justice or exacting vengeance. I love gritty stories about real characters to whom we can all relate in one way or another. All my writing is character-driven.


Russell: Adverbs. What’s your take? Is Stephen King right, and they are Satan’s footsoldiers, or are they a boon to writers?

RSG: Satan’s footsoldiers. Although I like how Elmore Leonard puts it best in his “10 Rules of Writing” (which should be required reading for any writer): “Never use a word other than “said” to carry dialogue. Never use an adverb to modify “said”. And if you have more than 2-3 exclamation points per 100,000 words, it’s too many.”

I make it a point to never have a single exclamation point in my books. Ever. They are Satan’s handmaidens.


Russell: I don’t think I’ve ever used an exclamation point in one of mine, either!!! Although my feelings about adverbs are not as negative, but we can leave that for a bar fight or another day! Tell me what you’re working on now, and let’s cover your latest release!

RSG: Funny thing is, what I’m working on now and my latest release are intertwined. My latest release, Blood Land, is a Mystery/Thriller set in small town America. I grew up in a place like this so I know the people, the tough law enforcement there, and the fact that big crime doesn’t just happen in the big cities like L.A., Chicago, etc. It’s the work closest to my heart and I am preparing to write the sequel—the plan is for it to be series.


Russell: That brings up a good point: you have two series, right? Why write the series instead of a stand-alone book?

RSG: Yes, I have two Mystery/Thriller/Police Procedural-type series. I grew up reading the recurring character series (John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee, James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux, Dennis Lehane and the Kenzie/Gennaro books). I write character-driven stuff. I love great characters, so when I finish a book about a character I can really relate to or love reading about, I never want it to end. You miss them as a reader, so there’s just nothing better than knowing they’ll be back.


Russell: I notice you have several “genres” listed when you categorize your books. Why is that?

RSG: I find it hard to categorize these days. Technically, my books are Mysteries—people are dying and someone is trying to solve the crime. Mysteries to me, though, used to be Agatha Christie whodunnits, kind of a class in and of themselves. I think now they’ve grown more into an overlap with the Thriller category and with the forensics and investigative techniques being of more interest now, “Police Procedural” comes into play in all my novels. So how do you stick it in one category? I like to give my readers a rollercoaster ride.


Russell: I would think the newer, non-paranormal-tinged books like Blood Land would be harder to write with the forensics. How much does research play into your writing?

RSG: Great question. I think research is one of the top three items on writer’s checklist (just behind characters and plot). Even if it is for a sentence or two, or a reference to a device or a procedure, I want it to be as accurate as it can be. This way I learn something and so does the reader. There is a fine line, however, because I am writing a great story, not a manual on police procedure or forensics, so I don’t want to put my readers to sleep either. I keep it relevant, to the point, and interesting—but the key is accuracy. After my first book a writer who is a full-time cop and one of only twenty certified forensics processors in the state of Pennsylvania said my accounting of a crime scene was one of the most accurate she’d ever read. I told her I do my research.


Russell: Changing gears; when did it hit you that writing fiction was something you wanted to do for a living?

RSG: Well the first memory I have is in the 4th or 5th grade. We had an assignment to write a short story, so I thought about these hikes my buddy and I always went on where we crossed this railroad trestle (bridge). Now the real trestle was only maybe ten feet in the air and very short. But I wrote a story where two little boys were caught in the middle of a HUGE span with the train pinning them and they were forced to hide in the timber right beneath the roaring train as it rumbled across, nearly shaking them loose and dropping them hundreds of feet to the rocks below. Unknown to me, she submitted it to some kind of scholastic children’s writing competition in NYC and it received an honorable mention. I don’t think I actually considered doing it for a living until much later, when I saw all the other options.


Russell: I have been both a plotter and a pantser. I know you take a certain amount of pride in being a pantser. Talk about that.

RSG: It’s not really pride so much as a belief: personally I feel that if I the writer doesn’t always know what’s coming next, and writes twists as they occur, based on intricacies he or she knows about approximately where the story ends up, how can the reader not be surprised? Honestly that’s really just me rationalizing my own style. Every writer is different.


Russell: Pantsing can be risky, though,  don’t you think?

RSG: Yes. Especially if the victim has embarrassingly skinny legs.


Russell: Do you set deadlines as to when a book will be finished and/or how many words to write a day?

RSG: I do, and then the daily chores of everything from answering adoring fan mail to doing author spotlights (ahem) keeps me from making them. In all seriousness, I do set goals—the amount of words per day is a little softer than when I want to have the book finished. In college I learned a very important skill: cramming.


Russell: You’re a dog-lover like me and a lot of other people. Do you find that makes you a more compassionate person?

RSG: Not necessarily. I consider my dogs my entourage. They keep me centered and when I am the a-hole in the group, their unequaled friendliness, unconditional love, and constant bright outlook helps mask me and my human failings. I will say this: although I try really hard with people, I many times find that I like my dogs more than a lot of the humans I run into out there in the rat race.


Russell: One place in the world you must go before you die.

RSG: There’s actually two. Scotland, where my ancestors are from, and Amsterdam. No explanation required.


Russell: What advice would you offer other authors, if you only had thirty seconds?

RSG: Write. It’s the most important thing. You have to hone the craft. And READ. Read and write, just like your teachers always told you.


Russell: You have a minute to sell yourself. What do you say?

RSG: Reviewers have compared me to James Lee Burke, Tony Hillerman, and Dennis Lehane—three of my own literary heroes. My books have been described as sparse yet elegant; gritty yet emotional; hard yet comforting. I write human stories no matter what the genre; paranormal twists or none, it’s my human characters that distinguish them. And if you love the edge of your seat, good, because that’s where you’ll be.


Russell: Well, that wraps up this episode of the Author Spotlight. And here’s the shameless plug, although amazingly not for my own books this time. I would encourage everyone to check out Blood Land, which is available at a special sale price at Amazon for a limited time. As always, feel free to comment or ask any questions of the guest author using the comments section, and thanks for dropping in and checking out this very special interview. Until the next time, stay safe, and don’t let the clowns boogarize you.



  1. Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 12:46 am

    Russell, thanks for bringing Rob’s book, Blood Land to my attention – I read it in a single sitting (actually I was lying down most of the time, but a “single lying” didn’t quote well).
    I dl’d it free, read it, and left a review; something I only do for books I really like – or in this case, loved. I’ll buy the next one for sure.

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 9:45 am

      It is rather good, isn’t it. He’s a goodun.

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks, Simon. I really appreciate you “lying” for my book! (Down, that is.) And in my estimation there is no compliment greater than taking the time to write a review. Much appreciation all the way around.

  2. Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 9:32 am

    Hi Russell,
    Thank you for this great interview with the author; it felt like a visit with him. I became acquainted with Rob through his Read a Book Make a Difference site (http://www.rabmad.com/). Besides being a prolific writer, R.S. Guthrie is a REALLY nice person and great to deal with. Just ordered Blood Land, and looking forward to reading it! Sometimes those exclamation points serve a purpose. 🙂

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 9:45 am

      I think you’re in for a treat!!!

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Hi, Valerie! You are too kind, but I will unabashedly take it! Seriously, though, you and Russell are both RABMAD writers and that will always put you in a special place in my heart. Thank you for giving Blood Land a chance; I am sure you won’t be disappointed! (BTW, I use exclamation points all the time in blogging, comments, ramblings, etc. !!)

      Thank you again for the read and comment! 🙂

  3. Mark
    Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Re: music, I’m the exact same way, and similar word count per day too. I’m a big fan of ambiance, new-age/electronic stuff, like Steve Roach. You’d think a sci-fi writer could really get into a productive groove right? Wrong. I have to have dead silence. No music, or I’m distracted. It’s not that I can’t write at all mind you, it’s just I can be sooo much more productive in my writing without it. And thats just the new-age stuff. Rock, Pop and the like? Forget it!

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Hey, Mark. Good point—I *can* listen to music but it really slows me down. Silence really is the best creative environment for me. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  4. Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Just want to throw a huge shout to Russell for having me on here. I honestly respect the man so much (the man AND the writer) that his invite to be in an Author Spotlight slot really made my millennium. If it were anyone else, I’d gush more, by out of respect for my compadre, I will just say, with all heart: thanks, man.

  5. Robert Jones
    Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Russell and Bob,

    I think both of you guys seem to be on a par with the best of the indie authors…and seem genuinely willing to help out by answering questions concerning craft and publishing. I wish you both continued success. As someone who is planning to join the ranks of e-authors, probably the highest compliment I can think of is that you’ve both given me encouragement and hope.

    “Keep on hammering those computer keys!” he exclaimed enthusiastically. (I agree with Elmore Leonard 🙂 )

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks much for reading and commenting, Robert (and good luck as you enter the ranks—looking forward to seeing what you are writing). And yes, Elmore Leonard would be smiling!! <~(Two and I still have a hundred thousand words to go) 😉

  6. Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I enjoyed this interview, especially hearing about the practical matters of how you like to write, Rob. Keep up the good work!

  7. Kim stapf
    Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Awesome interview gentlemen . Rob I agree with the people verses dog interaction . The interview really tells about the author. Great questions, great answers.

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 6:18 pm

      Thanks, Kim. I agree. You can read a hundred books but hearing the author answer a few questions can tell you a lot about him or her. Uh, not too much I hope {scratches chin}. Take care! 🙂

  8. Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Great interview!!! I am a ‘pantser’ as well. Perhaps we need a support group! Confession…I love exclamations!!!! (Who knew?!) My friends understand my illness and help me edit it out as much a possible… (love ellipses too!!!)
    Rob, will Blood Land be available for Nook readers soon? I’m really looking forward to reading it. I’m going to check out Leonard’s “10 Rules for Writing”. Sounds very helpful (!!!).

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 6:22 pm

      Hey, Robin! Great to hear from a fellow Parkerite! (See, I have no issue whatsoever with exclamation points in and of themselves—in fact I would argue that in the expressionless, toneless, email environment (sans body language, too) that they, like the dreaded smiley face, can be quite important). Look for an email from me very soon…:D

  9. Stef
    Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Yes, I also dl’ed it for free on Russell’s endorsement. It’s my current car park read. Some great turns of phrase, thus far – “A paucity of adverbs, though,” Stef teased, avoiding the ‘said’ locution, uncharacteristically.

    Thanks for the free copy RS 🙂

  10. Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 4:42 pm

    A terrific interview. I bought the book based solely on the interview. Well, that and the fact that someone is a pantser and a dog lover. It’s like the perfect storm for me. Great job!

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Dogs first, pantsing second. 😉 I like that: a perfect storm (which, BTW, was a great book, though I couldn’t comments on the paucity of adverbs therein). Thank you much for the comment and for giving my book a chance!

  11. Thu 27th Sep 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Great questions, Russell, and equally great answers, Rob. So nice to see what has gone in to making someone who is, in my mind, a writing legend.

    I totally agree with your take on Series vs. Stand-Alone books. You have an incredible talent for creating rich characters and bringing them to life. With your Clan of MacAulay series, I am really looking forward to your third book, Reckoning. While it may be the conclusion of that trilogy, I am stoked to know Detective Bobby Mac will live on into the next series. And Blood Land is a dynamo. You’ve given us Sheriff Pruett – strong yet flawed, full of raw emotions behind a tough exterior, yet, I have a feeling we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I hope to see both of these series continuing and evolving for many years to come.

    Lastly, I think you make a great point to list several genres in characterizing a book. The days are passing where fiction can be classified into one particular genre. We see Horror/Paranormal, Mystery/Thriller – like music, books are now crossing over into multiple genres and sub-genres, allowing authors to pull in larger audiences. I am often asked what type of book I’m writing. I use to reply simply, “Romance”. Invariably the next question after that became “what kind of romance”. Now when asked, it’s “Contemporary Romance/Drama”.

    These are exciting writing times we live in and with you and Russell setting the bar, they are only going to get better!!

    • R.S. Guthrie  –  Fri 28th Sep 2012 at 11:09 pm

      Thanks for reading and for the humbling compliment. I think you’re right about genres crossing, morphing, combining, etc. all of which makes it even more difficult for authors to nail down the exact wheelhouse of a series. 🙂

  12. Mon 01st Oct 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I’ve been meaning to read Mr. Guthrie’s books. This interview will make me do so much sooner. Ah, that is after I read one of Russell’s books. Thanks for posting this.

    • R.S. Guthrie  –  Tue 02nd Oct 2012 at 6:19 am

      Hi, Dana. I tell you, the first part of Russell’s latest, JET, is impossible to put down. You can’t go wrong with the rest of his canon, but that one is my first recommendation! And thanks for the comment. Cheers! 🙂

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 03rd Oct 2012 at 12:09 am

      I’d second the recommendation on JET, if you’re in the mood for one of mine. A good second choice would be King of Swords or The Geronimo Breach.

      You will not be disappointed with Blood Land. I guarantee it.

  13. Robert Jones
    Thu 04th Oct 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations. I, for one, like to know what books an author feels they did their best work on. Mr. Guthrie, which are favorites, or recommendations, that you would single out of the pack? Feel free to plug away. Now that I’ve asked, you and Russell can both do so shamelessly 🙂

    • Rob Guthrie  –  Thu 04th Oct 2012 at 6:34 pm

      Hi, Robert. First, call me Rob! My dad was a Science teacher…I had him twice; each year he made me call him “Mr. Guthrie” and my friends never stopped riding me about it! Second, thanks for commenting and for asking.

      Blood Land is my best book so far, but with three out there, I am not disparaging the other two (the others are in a series, Black Beast being #1 and LOST #2). I am going to be coming out with the next in series for both (Money Land being the sequel to Blood Land and the first I am working on), so you will have more to read in both or either.

      I am going to make my plug for Russell’s new JET series. Wow. Action-packed would be a huge understatement. In fact his wicked-paced action MAKES the statement!

  14. Tue 18th Dec 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Fantastic interview!
    Mr. Blake, your questions were exactly what I would’ve asked if I had been gifted a chance to pick Mr. Guthrie’s brain about his craft. Thank you.

    Mr. Guthrie,
    I really enjoyed your responses to Mr. Blake’s queries. Elmore Leonard’s “10 Rules of Writing” will be read within 24 hrs, and I am going to go “exclamation point hunting” this evening. I have started Blood Land, and look forward to your other material.

    Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time, so “young” writers like myself can learn a little bit more every day. It is appreciated (I just deleted an adverb).

    ~Chris Shawbell

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 24th Jan 2013 at 12:58 am

      I missed this one whist on vacation. I hope you enjoyed Blood Land. I particularly think you will appreciate Leonard’s book. I’ll clarify one thing: I believe Leonard gives you 1-3 every hundred thousand words. As a personal challenge (and I suppose, now, a trademark) I try for zero. I also use them all the time in personal conversations, responses, blogs, emails, etc.!!! 😉

  15. Peter Prasad
    Wed 23rd Jan 2013 at 11:10 pm

    John D. MacDonald was my neighbor. He would welcome you both into the neighborhood. Together we could Crime Watch with a bottle of scotch. Huzzah!

    • R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie)  –  Thu 24th Jan 2013 at 12:54 am

      Peter I am envious to an exponential degree. A great man, a superb author. One of the best of the latter in his own century. Thanks for sharing that.


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