Q: When did you begin writing stories?
I dabbled here and there when I was in high school. This never amounted to more than a collection of unfinished meandering thoughts that I attribute to a combination of ADD which, at the time was unheard of, and a total lack of life experience. It wasn’t until 2011 when a series of personal challenges brought me to a crossroads in my life and writing became my therapist.
Q: What inspired you to create your thriller suspense novel, To Catch the Setting Sun?
It was a confluence of several separate, yet simultaneous, sensory experiences that triggered images which ignited the creative foundation for this story. Please allow me to explain. Since 2018 I’ve been involved with acting. In 2018 I was on my way to the set of a Hawaii 5-O episode where I was cast as a background NCIS agent. On the way to set I employed a technique from acting class; mentally becoming this agent—giving him a name, a history, habits etc. I pictured him being uncomfortably hot while driving to an investigation because his car air-conditioner didn’t work. So, I shut mine off, rolled down the windows which caused a blast of hot air to rush in along with the smell of trash left in piles beside homeless tents along the roadside (the image of paradise that tourists typically don’t see). Then I began to play some music from the John Dumas CD Kohola Dreamtime and that’s when HPD detective Hank Benjamin came to life. Playing the right background music has always helped to stimulate my imagination. I repeated this ritual for many many weeks when I was in the car and a story began to develop in my mind. That’s when I knew I had my next novel.
Q: How did your various careers help shape your writing?
It is true that I have had a number of different vocational experiences throughout my life. I often wonder if it was because of my ADD or because I want to have many different experiences during short time here on earth. Through these many experiences, I’ve been blessed to have met many interesting people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and socio-economic realities. It has allowed me to draw from this vast pool of personalities to create characters and composites of characters, and how they act and/or react to situations based upon a myriad of factors that include, but are not limited to, a belief system that dictates the true north of their moral compass.
Q: How would you describe your hero, detective Henry Benjamin?
A walking contradiction. While he’s long dreamed of living in a beachside grass hut while being lulled to sleep each night by the sounds of a slack key guitar and the gentle waves kissing the shoreline, he’s a take-no-prisoners aggressive ex-New Yorker frustrated with the laid-back slow-paced style of his island-born colleagues on the Honolulu police department. He’s a law-and-order by-the-book detective who will circumvent the law and/or throw away the book if it helps him crack a case and put the bad guys in jail. And he’s a hopeless romantic—hopelessly in love with, and devoted to, his wife Maya and will do anything for her.
Q: What themes will readers find in your novel?
In no specific order; Family, devotion, honor, revenge, justice, integrity, redemption.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write to entertain yourself and nobody else, and definitely do not write for the approval of others. There are too many critics in this world (friends, family, co-workers etc.) who, while well-meaning, can easily hijack your project, along with your hopes and dreams when all you wanted was a simple affirmation. Keep your work to yourself, but don’t look at it as work. It is, and should be, entertainment. It is your entertainment, so have fun with it and let your imagination take you to places you never get to go to. You’re the creator so you be your own critic. The only one you need to please is yourself. If the end result of your adventure happens to be a short story or a novel, then celebrate it. You created people and a world that never existed until it developed within, and moved out from, the deep recesses of your brain. And while positive feedback of the finished product is the icing on the cake, I would still enjoy eating the cake whether it had icing or not. At the end of the day, it really is only your opinion that truly matters.
Q: What other projects are you working on that you can share with us, readers?
I’ve already begun working on my next novel. This one will be a complete departure from my past work as we follow a highly decorated U.S. Marine war veteran with PTSD who returns to his small town after many years away to find the Rockwell-esque “hometown” that existed in his memory has changed so much he begins to question if it ever existed at all.
Q: How would you describe your writing style in three words?
LOL! That’s like asking me to only pick three items at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Q: Where can readers find you and your books online?
Readers can find me on Facebook: at Richard I Levine-Author, Twitter: @Your_In8_Power, and Instagram: @rilevinedc. To Catch the Setting Sun can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both paperback and ebook and in Apple ibooks.