Interview with Humor Author Richard Arneson

Richard Arneson’s thirteen years working in corporate America drove him up a tree―literally. Once he escaped the telecommunications industry after ten years of service, he built a tree house―ostensibly for his two young sons―installed electricity and cable TV, and set out to fix himself, deciding that dealing with the memories of working in the goofy-as-hell world of corporate America could only be accomplished by getting them down on paper. Citizen Dick is the result.

He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, a two-time cancer survivor who can’t remember why she married him, and their two young sons. He plans on building a second story on his tree house in the summer of 2010, one large enough to accommodate a baby grand piano and two dental chairs.

Find out more about Citizen Dick by visiting its website at http://www.citizendickthebook.com

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Richard Arneson. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: I’ve been creating stories my entire life, and have always known it was one of my strengths. I have four older siblings, and when I could make them laugh I felt like a million bucks, like a celebrity. I remember embellishing dreams that I’d had, then telling them over the breakfast table. Hearing everybody laugh made me feel like nothing else did. I remember gauging success at school based on the amount of good lines I had, ones that got laughs. I still take a lot of pride in being able to make people laugh. If you can get something to come out their nose, you’ve entered bonus territory.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: Writing Citizen Dick was a project that I’d outlined long ago, and when my mother died (my father passed away several years earlier) I felt like there was no more buffer between me and death. So I knew it was time, that you’re not going to be around forever. I fear the day when I regret not having done some of the things I always wanted to do but didn’t get around to doing. I’d love to believe that I won’t have any, but I know that’s highly unlikely.

Citizen Dick is about a fairly hapless guy who backs his way into a huge corporation lead by executives who can’t see past anything other than the stock price. Their jobs—and bonuses—are totally tied to that one number, and they go to great lengths to make sure the stock price rises, even if that means trying to make Wall Street believe they’re re-inventing themselves by branching out into another industry. Of course, they know nothing about the meat industry, their new foray. You guessed it—it’s a farce, but I think it does say a lot about huge corporations and how those high level executives are so far removed from the users of their products. They’ve long ago lost focus on the things that built the company in the first place.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A: Finding time—I have two young sons, and my wife was battling cancer for the second time in five years. There were a lot of early mornings and late nights responsible for Citizen Dick, most of the time writing in the tree house I built for my kids; for them originally, that is. I ended up getting a little carried away and put cable TV, Ethernet connectivity and a phone line in. I’d love to get a small piano up there someday, maybe put in plumbing…at least a urinal that’ll empty into my neighbor’s pool.

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it? Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A: Absolutely; here’s the link to it – http://www.citizendickthebook.com/downloads/Citizen%20Dick%20Media%20Kit%202010.pdf.

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV? What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A: I actually had a feature done about me on the Dallas CBS affiliate. Here’s the link: http://cbs11tv.com/video/?id=42059@ktvt.dayport.com It focused on my having been a telecommunications executive who dropped out of the rat race, built a tree house, then hunkered down to write a novel in it. It was cool, well done, and, best of all, they put the huge, telescopic satellite truck in front of my neighbor’s house. He turned me in to Dallas Code Compliance in an attempt to get the tree house project shut down—a whole other story.

I’d like to speak to some groups that cater to the unemployed, especially if they’re the product of downsizing and can appreciate the humor and examples in Citizen Dick. And I’m hoping it’d be inspirational, proof that they can still do things, accomplish stuff even if they’re not currently holding down a job. When I began Citizen Dick, I wasn’t working, and thought this’d be the perfect opportunity to begin the project even though I felt a little guilty about it at times, that I should have been more focused on get resumes out, making calls and interviewing.

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: I had an agent when I was writing a lot of screenplays, and while I had a couple of them optioned by small production companies, I found the opportunities myself. It was very hard, the waiting. I was working on an entirely different timeframe. For that reason, providing the agent’s name might not be the best idea. Not that he did a bad job, but, well, he really didn’t do a whole lot for me. Hey, maybe he did do a bad job now that I think about it. Okay, here’s his name…

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A: We did, and it entails a lot of book signings first in Dallas, Austin and Houston, then slowly creeping outward from those cities to other big ones. In addition, I have several interviews with radio talk shows lined up…again, the notion of writing a novel in a tree house is a pretty good story. Of the dozens of reviews to date, I’ve only had one negative one, but they admitted to not understanding the inner-workings of corporate America. It never occurred to me that there was anybody like that out there. I thought everybody had been employed by a monster corporation at some point or another.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A: Absolutely. I’m currently writing The Tree House, a novel that is very loosely based on my experiences while building the tree house--taking care of small kids and my wife, and doing battle with a nutty neighbor. I took those experiences and amped them up about 500 percent, of course. It’s funny, but certainly more serious than Citizen Dick. But when you write in a tree house, it’s tough to write about subjects that are too serious. It’s like riding a bike…it’s hard to be a cranky curmudgeon while on one. It’s too much fun.

Q: Thank you for your interview, Richard Arneson. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: It’ll be in stores nationally around the first of the summer, but is currently online at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and borders.com.
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