An Interview with Rick Watson, Author of Remembering Big and Life Happens

Rick Watson Living the Dream

You may know Rick Watson, author of two books; Remembering Big and Life Happens 

Read my review of each book. 
Remembering Big and Life Happens.

I've had the opportunity to ask him a few questions for an interview and got this wonderful response...

1.Tell us all the little stuff, about your home life, the south.  About your web sites, why and how you started, your writing experience, your newspaper column?  


I know within a few feet of where I was born. It was an old tin-roofed house built of heart pine deep in Alabama coal mining country. Many of the stories I write, are about growing up in the rural south, and the people here. 

I started blogging in December of 2005, and have written every day, with the exception of a few days when violent weather blew our lights out to Georgia.  When I first started, I had no idea where it would lead. The entries during the first few years were good stories, but they were not written that well. Writing, like most crafts, improves with practice. Another twenty years and I should be set.

After a few years of blogging, I started building a following.  The feedback I received from my early followers helped me gain enough confidence to approach the local newspaper about writing a weekly column.

Apparently, a lot of people approach them about writing a column because the editor was skeptical. 

He’d had people start writing a column and then tire of the constant deadlines. Soon he’d have an empty space that he had to scramble to fill.

I told him I could give him a year’s worth of columns to start with. He was taken aback, but said he’d read over the samples I’d brought.

I got a call the next day saying he’d run the column on the Sunday Lifestyle page. The newspaper has thousands of subscribers and my column seemed to resonate. 
That was in 2007 and I haven’t missed a single deadline.

After a few years, I decided to self publish a compilation of my columns. My first book Remembering Big came out in the fall of 2008. My second book Life Happens came out in the fall of 2012.

His websites are:

2. What type of gadgets do you use to write?

I write on my iMac and when I travel, I write with my Apple PowerBook. I capture ideas for blog stories on my iPhone.  I use the online dictionary and thesaurus, and I use a feature on my computer that allows me to select a block of text, and it reads it back to me. I chose the sexy voice of an Australian woman.  The beauty of having my work read back to me is that mistakes usually jump out at me. I can also tell when something sounds thin or stiff.

3. Life Happens the title of your book, a common phrase, a form of a minced oath, an acknowledgment that things happen for no particular reason, why did you chose it, and does it have anything to do with Murphy’s Law, or superstition.  Plus is there any relationship with the John Lennon quote, “Life is What Happens to you while you’re busy,” since you are musically inclined and from that generation?

No, I’m not that deep. Life Happens is actually my second book and I wish I had a clever answer, but the truth is, I chose the name because it has the same feel as my first book Remembering Big. The title of my blog is Life 101, so it seemed to fit what I was trying to say.

4. How did you come up with the title, Remembering Big?  Was it meant to commemorate life, a way to relive the past, or hold something dear?  

My late friend John Elliott who was the son of a Congressman from Alabama, was where I got the idea for that title. He was bigger than life. He used to say about Skip, one of our mutual friends: “Skip don’t lie, he just remembers big.” 

That line stuck with me. That’s kind of how I approach my blogs and writing in general. They are all based on the truth, but sometimes I have a tendency to Remember Big to make the story humorous. I usually make fun of myself, because I try not to take life too seriously.

5. Do you consider them diaries, or memoirs of your life, living in the south?  And, Why does life seem so sugar coated for you?  

I have kept a handwritten journal since the early 1980s but when I started blogging daily, it took the place of my journal. While my blog does get quite personal, I keep a lot of things to myself. I believe that life is a gift. I expect good things to happen to me, and more often than not, they do. I had the good fortune to meet and marry a woman that shares my values. We have a great deal in common, like traveling, entertaining friends, and playing music. We both are writers. This coming May, we celebrate our 40 anniversary. 

Have bad things happen to us? Yes, of course. We’ve both lost our parents and some of our siblings. Jilda is currently undergoing treatments (kind of like chemo) for a chronic lung disease (she never smoked), and a crashed immune system. These things are not a picnic, but there’s plenty of bad news floating around in the ether, and dwelling on the negative things that happen in our lives serves no purpose. When people ask me how I’m doing, I choose to say, “I’m living a dream.”

6. I notice you tell your stories in the first person, present tense. How much of your immediate surroundings translate into the story you are working on?  And, Where do you get your topics?

A lot of my topics come from past experiences, but many come from what’s happening around us today.  Everyone has an interesting story of some kind, but many people take their stories to the grave. You can pretty much Google mine

7. You seem to live a simple life.  Describe what it’s like for you after retirement.

The beauty of retirement is that I get to choose the things I want to do each day. 
I write every day, I play my guitar every day, and spend time with people I enjoy being with. I never had that luxury during the 33 years I worked for MaBell. 

Jilda and I live on a small 10-acre farm in rural Walker County, Alabama.
Commuting to my day job (48 miles one way) means I spent well over a year of my life in my car/truck. As it turns out, I used that time wisely by listening to thousands of books on tape/cd, but it’s time that’s lost.

Most of my work friends who lived in town in half-million dollar houses encouraged us to move into town. In looking back, I’m so glad we decided to stay on our small farm because being debt free when it came time to retire made the decision much easier. 

8.  What does Alabama mean to you?

Alabama is around the bottom of most of the bad lists compiled by statisticians. We’re one of the fattest, least educated, most conservative, and poorest states in America. But Alabama is a strange and wonderful place. Even though we are the poorest, we donate more per capita to charity than any other place on the planet.
Some of the best writers, musicians, artist, athletes, and most beautiful women were born here. We also have a kick-butt college football team.

9. You and your wife Jilda are a musical team.   Tell me about your music.  What type of music, instruments, do you sing, gigs, etc. ?

I played guitar for Jilda when she was in Miss Dora High beauty/talent contest. That was in 1969 and she sang Gentle on My Mind. Music has been a calling for both of us. For many years, we wrote for other people and spent a lot of time in Nashville, Tennessee pitching country songs and trying to get a deal. 

Other people recorded several of our songs. One song that we wrote with our friend Marty Rainone, went to #1 on the European Indie charts for two weeks.

But the last 15 years we’ve been writing songs for us. Our music is classified as folk/Americana.

We both play guitar. Jilda plays a little mandolin and I also play a little harmonica.
We don’t perform in bars because of her health, but our music seems to fit better at festivals and coffee houses. These are our peeps, and they are the most fun to play. We are currently working on a CD that should be available by October.

10. Tell me how you handled self-publishing.  The cover, the interior layout, promotion. Do you search out bookstores, etc to sell your books.  How do you sell them?  Which sites?  Kindle?  Any problems with layout, uploading, that sort of thing, and how you overcame them?

Self-publishing has evolved since Remembering Big. That book I used a specialty press, which handled the design, layout, and printing. Back then, the only way I could get the cost of the book down below $3 a copy was to print 2000 books. I sold a lot of books, but I still have some in my closet

By 2012, the book printing landscape had changed drastically. I found out about Amazon’s CreateSpace and they printed Life Happens. I do web design on the side so I have all the design software I needed. I worked with Jilda who has an eye for design and together we did the cover, did the interior layout, and submitted it to CreateSpace. I had a proof copy within a week. Once I gave them the go-ahead, I had three boxes of books on my doorsteps in less than 10 days.
The cost per book is still below $3 and I can order 100, or I can order 10.
It removes the entry barriers for writers to day to print their books.

Selling books is another matter. I tried to get my books in bookstores, but I had no success. What I found was that local gift shops, drug stores, and other local businesses were more than happy to carry them.

One of the best ways to sell books is to attend book fairs, festivals, civic clubs and other events. People are often willing to buy a book if the author is there to autograph it.

On holidays and special days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I sign books in local malls.

Having followers all over the world makes selling through Kindle a necessity. I think authors should embrace the new ways in which people are consuming books. The music industry has had a very hard time adjusting to the new digital models.

11. Reflect on your life, on writing, retirement. etc. your future.

When I was younger, I guess I thought I’d live forever, and that there would ALWAYS be time to do the things I loved. The most painful lesson I’ve learned is that time is the most precious asset I have.

What that means to me is that I no longer waste time dealing with A-holes (sorry for the graphic). I’m at a point that I can choose not to spend time with them. Life is too short. I’m thinking about designing a tee shirt with a slogan that says this is an A-Hole Free Zone.

12. What did you expect from publishing your books and what actually happened when you did publish them?  Because you were already a published author, (your column) did it meet your expectations?

I didn’t have high expectations when I started selling books. I just wanted to make enough to pay for the books. With my first book, I got my money back within the first three months. I’m still selling those books. I did have the advantage of having an audience through my newspaper column and my blog, which has helped me to sell books locally.

My advice for writers starting out today is to build a following through social media or any other means available. Get comfortable speaking before audiences, and have fun.

After all, if we’re not having fun, why do we bother writing.

The southern life may not be for everyone, but for Rick and Jilda, "Home is where the heart is." rural Alabama.  We wish you both all the best.

It seems, Rick is living the dream! A big Thank you, goes out to Mr. Watson for taking the time out of his busy schedule for this interview.

Dog Brindle

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