Richard A. Lester, whose book, The Check Out, is on sale today. Pleasure to talk to you. Please tell us about The Check Out.
The Check Out is a satirical thriller about a group of degenerate grocery store employees who decided, independently of each other, to heist $10,000 worth of prize money. They are each mired in their own circumstances, and see the money as the only way out. There is plenty of action, humor, and even some emotional weight.
That sounds great. But it also appears that this isn't the first tale you've ever told. You have also written the short stories Dinner For One and Father McKenzie. Can you tell us the difference between putting together a novel and a short story?
I have written a few short stories, as well as the novel. The stories that I write are usually confined to a single main character, and generally take place in few locations. I can finish a first draft of a story in a matter of hours. I don’t normally outline a short story, as the plot isn’t that complex. For The Check Out, I spent months gathering ideas, outlining events, and writing it. At this point, I am steering away from the short stories, in favor of novels. I like spending more time with the characters, and delving deeper into the plot.
A novel does have a certain quality to it that a short story can't match, and vice versa.
But you have other talents outside of writing. Can you tell us about the trailer you made for The Check Out? It's really cool.
The trailer was a lot of fun to do. I have worked in independent films for a while now, and have lots of friends who are active in the local scene. My very talented friends at Azbest Films did the shooting for me. We spent a few hours driving around town, getting a few shots. We filmed everything else in a backyard. It’s amazing how you can do a few simple things to make a wall look like a jail cell. As for the style, I wanted it to look like a 1970’s exploitation film. That was a huge influence on the actual book, and I wanted the trailer to convey that idea.
Sounds like fun. Outside of telling stories, you've also done some very noble things, such as taking donations for the terrible tornadoes that struck Oklahoma. What led you to decide to get into such a cause?
As a human being, I believe it is my duty to do as much as I can to help those in need. Taking donations and sending the profits from my short stories was a very easy way to do something positive. I have plans to do more for my own community in the future. I believe that anyone who is lucky enough to earn money by entertaining should use it to benefit others who need it.
Again, that's very noble of you.
Back to your creative side. According to your Amazon page, you are also an independent director. Can you tell us about that?
I have worked in independent film, off and on, for the past ten years. I wrote and directed a movie called “Night of the Snakehead Fish,” which is actually celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Since then, I’ve worked on a number of shorts for other people. I shoot and edit; sometimes I write. After writing script after script that I couldn’t afford to film, I decided to turn my attention to novels. I don’t have to get a crew together, or hire actors. There are tons of scenes in The Check Out that I’d never have the budget to film.
One interesting anecdote about film making: After I directed Snakehead Fish, I was working at the record store I was employed at. I heard someone say "Aren't you the guy that directed that independent film?" I looked up at the person, but didn't recognize him. I looked around, trying to see if he was talking to someone behind me, and realized he wasn't. So, I said that I was that guy. He asked me how I got it released on DVD (this was before everyone was making digital films left and right), and we chatted for a while. He told me that he was working on a new film with Ludacris and Terrance Howard. Turns out, that guy was director Craig Brewer. At the height of his fame, I used to tell people "Brewer? Oh yeah, that's the man who asked if I was the director of a film!"
Whoa. That's pretty cool. I love Black Snake Moan. What do you want readers to get out of The Check Out?
I want readers to have a damn good time with my book. It’s meant to be a quick, entertaining romp. There’s not really a message or deeper meaning here. It’s just supposed to be fun.
Yeah, I agree. Books should be fun. Is there anything else that you would like to plug or talk about?
For readers that are curious about my interest in film, I also run a movie review blog entitled A Reel Indication. I tend to focus on more obscure fair, but there’s new stuff up there, as well. I’m always looking for contributors!
Cool. I'll make sure I stop by. Thanks for your time.