Meet Ronald S. Barak
Hi Ron! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Bio here. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Attended USC undergraduate, majoring in Physics, and then went to law school. Couldn’t change a light bulb, which was why I went to law school. Was a several time NCAA gymnastics champion and a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team while at USC. Have practiced law for 50 plus years. Started writing novels on a dare from some friends. It wasn’t anything I set out to do and as a Physics major I knew nothing about literature or creative writing. I persevered because I’m competitive and couldn’t walk away from a good challenge. Besides, I discovered I loved writing. So, I’ve worked at it. To come up with a story, which is now a series, I called upon my legal experience and my political interests. It was the kind of fiction I enjoyed reading and it beat having to do research. Another example of writing about what I know: Cassie Webber, the 11 year old kidnap victim who is the granddaughter of the Supreme Court Justice with the swing vote in The Amendment Killer is diabetic. So am I. So are 30 million others in the U.S. today. One in ten Americans today is diabetic. My wife and I donate 50% of the proceeds of The Amendment Killer to diabetes research and education. To learn a little about my latest, The Puppet Master, check out the description of the story on Amazon.com and watch the one minute trailer:
One Minute Puppet Master Video Trailer
Write a political thriller in 10 words. Go!
“Have you ever killed anyone? I have. Will again.” That’s from my latest, The Puppet Master, and only nine words, but who’s counting? “We have your granddaughter. Here’s what you need to do.” That’s from my first, The Amendment Killer, ten words right on.
“Fiction can be made to resemble the truth.” Adore this from your bio. How do you shape the facts into your novels without blurring the lines too much?
In The Amendment Killer, the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case to decide the validity of a Constitutional Amendment criminalizing political corruption. The procedural approach that is at issue in the case was first debated by our Constitutional founders. “Fiction can be made to resemble the truth.” In The Puppet Master, the story is not “ripped by the headlines,” it actually precedes the headlines: A vigilante serial killer killing prominent but corrupt politicians. Not a credible storyline? Shades of the recent pipe bomber who followed the writing of this story. Blurring the lines too much? More blurring: In reality, justifiable homicide arises on immediate threat of harm to the killer or his family, for example a burglar breaking and entering a home and stumbling upon a family member. In The Puppet Master, an arrest is made. The defendant says he didn’t do it, but if he did it was justifiable homicide because the politicians are threatening the defendant’s family of man with financial chaos.
From lawyer to writer. What inspired the change? How does your career support and or corrupt your writing?
The dare. See above. Support: I have the background without having to do research; I had to do enough of that as a lawyer. Corrupting my writing: I have to be careful not to get to technical with legal “stuff.”
Does writing a novel get easier with each book you complete?
For me it does because when I wrote the first one I didn’t know the difference between point of view, voice, pace, etc. Now, I do. I particularly like writing the Brooks/Lotello thriller series. With each successive story, I have more backdrop to draw upon in terms of the characters. I also never seem to run out of storylines. For example, I’m now writing the third in the series, titled Payback. Brooks’ wife is tired of Brooks constantly getting into life threatening situations as a criminal trial court judge and as constitutional lawyer surrounded by legal fanatics. So, for their 54th wedding anniversary, she sends the two of them to a week long writing conference to learn how to be a novelist. Lotello and his wife tag along for the holiday at this Mediterranean island. As Brooks’ wife put it, “What could possibly go wrong at a writing conference?” Nothing, before taking into account a sociopathic writer wannabe skulking around killing those in the industry who rejected him. Where’s the legal and political issues? Corporate transparency, the conference’s organizers not revealing to the 2,000 attendees what they learn is going on, ala the Catholic Church, the sports organization that concealed the doctor sexually abusing the young female gymnasts, USC executives looking the other way in the face of the student health center gynecologist doing likewise. I never seem to be at a loss for fun stories that blur reality and fiction.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of writing advice, what would it be? Undertake writing 50 years earlier than I did, when the field was less crowded with so many talented writers, when being a good writer was enough. It isn’t today. You have to be good and lucky today, and you have to learn how to market, which I detest, but have to do.
Do you find yourself struggling with writing about politics with how touchy the subject is in current society?
Not at all. I pretty well manage to separate my real work political views from my fiction. I’m actually pretty apolitical, I dislike politicians on both sides of the aisle. I speak to groups from high school students to senior citizens. I love the debates, no matter how touchy, and pride myself in being able to always play devil’s advocate and take the other side, politely. The other day, an enthusiastic 95 year old woman in the course of a presentation I was making to her book club at a senior citizens residential home asserted that the Electoral College was indefensible. I argued why it was sound and drew lots of smiles from the audience. Had she defended the College, I would have pointed out why it’s indefensible. The touchier the better. That’s what makes it fun. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, which I don’t.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
Good books are fun, to read and to write. I know some really good writers; they bring a lot to the table. I hope to become a good writer some day when I grow up, and to gain one of the seats at that table. And, I love interacting with my readers, whether in person when the occasion arises and by email. Writing is a one person job, but it’s not really a job, and it doesn’t get any better than interacting with readers, which is my reason to write.
Thank you for asking such terrific questions! They were a pleasure to answer.