Crazy About You: A Discussion with Author Randy Attwood
I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity on a number of occasions, to discuss many subjects with author Randy Attwood. We’ve covered lots of ground, from Navajo spiritual traditions and the impact of the Great Plains geology on the migration of the original Americans, but also in many areas of literature and science. He’s really a Renaissance man, with many interests and his written work reflects that.
Attwoods attended The University of Kansas during the troubled 1960s, getting a degree in art history. After stints writing and teaching in Italy and Japan, he enjoyed a 16-year career in newspapers as reporter, editor, and column writer, winning major awards in all categories. He next turned to health care public relations and served as director of University Relations at The University of Kansas Medical Center. Attwood finished his career as media relations officer of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Now retired, he lives in Kansas City and pursues publishing his works of fiction and creating new ones.
Randy Attwood has published eight books and a slew of short stories in several genres that have all been awaited anxiously by his many readers, including me. Today, we’re speaking of one of his most popular works, Crazy About You, a novel which in many ways, mirrors his personal experience growing up.
Here’s the pitch copy: Service brats grow up on military bases. Asylum brats grow up on the grounds of mental hospitals where their parents work. Both juveniles and adults will be riveted by the story of high school asylum brat Brad’s week in 1964. that tests his sanity and grows him up faster than he ever wished.
Q: Randy, Crazy About You is set on the grounds of Larned State Hospital, an insane asylum in Kansas where your father actually was the institution’s dentist and your family had housing on the grounds. Your main character is also a high school junior in the same situation. How much of the novel is real or biographical?
Randy Attwood: I get that question a lot. It used to upset me, as though I had no imagination, and that what is going on in Crazy is just reportage on my part. Then I realized that the writing seems real, and that is the greatest compliment because that is what I am after in fiction: using with words to create a world that readers enter and believe is real. But to answer your question: the settings, the atmosphere, many of the patients, yes, those are drawn from reality. But the events and the characters are of my invention.
Q: Crazy seems to be cross genre. In which genre would you place it?
Randy Attwood: I’ve never started any work thinking it belongs in any specific genre. I’m very much against that. I think that if you set out to write in a particular genre, it becomes formulaic and false. I start with a scene or an idea or a character and see where it goes. The plot usually discovers itself. And I usually discover something about myself. I hope that sense of discovery happens for the reader, too. I love creating characters and letting them live and seeing what they do. It makes finishing the story very poignant for me. I miss my characters. “Crazy” is coming-of-age, young adult, mystery, thriller. There are several emotional bangs at the end. And a particular unexpected one came when I realized why my subconscious had given one character her name. It blew me across the room.
Q: The novel is written in the first person. Is that your favorite writing point of view?
Randy Atwood: I took a creative writing class from James Gunn at the University of Kansas. He is a great classical science fiction writer. He talked about point of view and said that the first person was the hardest to do, but when done well was the most effective. That stuck with me. And that old saying, “write about what you know,” also resonated. I knew what it was like to live on the grounds of an insane asylum that housed 1,500 patients. So I endeavored to create one amazing week in the life of high school junior Brad Sanders. I did add a twist. Often, an older Brad looks back and comments on what happened and what it meant to him.
Q: Tell us about your other published works and their niches.
Randy Attwood: As I said, I’m all over the genre map. If a reader likes Crazy and wants to read another book like that, they will be disappointed. I did have a couple of asylum-based short stories in me. But the point is: if the reader gets into Crazy, I think they will get into my other works of fiction. They will find themselves immersed in the character and the story and the writing. I think my writing style is “in the background.” You get involved without knowing why. I very much believe that words are like notes of music and that when you get them in the right order they resonate in a receptive reader’s brain.
Q: I know for a fact that you have some very interesting new titles coming out, soon. What can we expect this year?
Randy Attwood: Curiosity Quills, a DC based small press will be publishing this year the first two mystery/suspense novels from what I call the Phillip McGuire series: Tortured Truths and Heart Chants. I like them both. But Heart Chants is really different. It involves a half-Navajo, half-white character who believes he is a witch. Phillip McGuire is a burnt-out foreign correspondent with a dark past who quits journalism to return to his university town of Lawrence, KS where he buys a bar and runs it. Haskell University, the Indian college, is located there and two Navajo female students are missing. In research for the story I learned that Navajos were the largest native American group at the school, so I chose for the missing girls to be Navajo. That turned out to be a blessing for me because it meant researching the Navajo culture, these amazing people, and their incredible creation story, which is as complicated and beautiful as Greek mythology. I hope, and think, I have created the best retelling of this story that exists in any work of fiction and does honor and respect to the Navajo and their creation story. It dominates the novel, but I think to a tremendous end.
We’re all going to be looking forward to your new work, which ever direction the stories take you.
Randy Attwood’s Crazy About You and his other books and short stories are available from booksellers everywhere, including…
- Amazon.com (Print and Kindle)
- Barnes & Noble (Print and for Nook)
- Apple (iBooks)
- Smashwords (all eBook formats)