Ralph Rotten


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  1. #1

    Ralph Rotten

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    This time, we are delighted to welcome 'crass pulp-fiction' writer Ralph Rotten on the eve of publication of the latest instalments of the Calizona series 'Act 3' and 'Book 4'.


    Your Amazon biography begins-
    'Ralph Rotten does not exist. There is no spoon. These aren't the droids you're looking for.'
    Are you cultivating mystique or expressing an attitude?

    Actually, that passage was to remind readers that Ralph Rotten is every bit as fictional as the characters he publishes. 'Ralph Rotten' is really just a brand-name that I use to publish a particular type of book (crass pulp-fiction.) I find that a pen name is a good tool to insulate me from the general public. I have also published under other names totally unassociated with the RR brand name.

    But there is a funny story behind the name. When I was little, the other kids at the bus stop used to taunt my brother by calling him Ralph Rotten.

    At least they did until my sister Barbara went down there and beat a few asses. So whenever I publish a new book under the RR brand name, I’m really just throwing the finger to those jerks at the bus stop.


    When did you first start writing?

    I wrote short stories in elementary and middle-school. Wrote a script for an 8mm film my friends and I made called SWAMP DEATH. The movie was so low budget that we could only afford enough faux-fur to cover one of the monster’s arms. So all the filming had to be from the creature’s left side.

    I was always writing bits of stuff here and there. After reading 'The Giant Under the Snow' over 30 times, I tried to write my own sequel to the book but failed miserably.

    I wrote my first book when I was 15. Hammered that thing out on a government-surplus Royal typewriter. It was 120 pages long, single spaced, with ˝” margins all the way around. Really, it was a steaming pile of crap, written like a bad Mack Bolan novel. I never finished that book because the next year I started pilot training, and aviation sort of took over my attention for the next few years.

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    Your books are published by Rotten Apple Publishing. A company you created.
    How did it come about, and how does it work?

    Originally, I just needed a good name for the website, and Calizona.com was already taken. But once I started publishing my own books I met other writers who needed help publishing. Not all writers have the technical skills to build a book, so I hooked ‘em up in exchange for beta reading.

    They got to be published, and I got 4 new beta readers.


    What are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing your work in this way?

    Before I was an Indie I did the classic publishing route; queries, publishers, rejections… And although I had some success in that vein, I found that the chronic rejections endemic to modern publishing were inhibiting my writing. Some days I’d get 4 or 5 rejections, and that had a way of beating me down so I didn’t want to write anymore.

    But with Indie publishing I have absolute control over every part of the process. From that first word on a blank screen, to the final proof, I build it all. Oddly, I find that very satisfying.

    On the flipside, I’m responsible for everything...including marketing. Ugghhh!


    May we have a short excerpt from one of your books?

    Here is a page or two from 'Calizona Act 3'. It’s the part where I introduce George, who is a bit of a clown, but actually saves the day. (language warning)

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    The first face he saw when he opened his groggy eyes was Benjamin Franklin’s. As if admonishing him, the founding father peered at him with a disapproving look. Moving slightly from where he lay, George’s vision was filled with dozens of portraits of the great American inventor. Rustling like a pile of leaves every time he moved, George dully realized he was buried under a pile of loose cash.

    Then like a jolt of electricity he felt something vibrate beneath him. Moving his hand to the spot, the rustle of bills seemed atypically loud. Clumsy and slow in his movements, he realized that he was still a little drunk. By the time his hand finally located the buzzing cell phone, the vibrations had ceased. Satisfied that it
    was nothing important, George rolled to one side hoping to sleep in a little longer.

    “GEORGE!” The woman’s voice seemed to be shouting at him from just a few inches away.

    He could hear more rustling as a hand tried to sweep away the loose bills that covered him. Finally locating his face, a diminutive palm delivered a slap to one side of his head.

    “Wake up!” Her voice sharp with irritation, George could tell that his wife was mad about something.

    “What? It’s my day off!” Giving a defensive whine, the lanky man rolled to one side as if trying to hide under the immense pile of money that covered him.


    “It’s work, some master-chief guy. He sounds pretty pissed off.” Her voice taking an edge, Debra used one hand to forcibly roll his head to one side before thrusting a cordless phone into his face.

    Short enough to almost be classified as a midget; Debra seemed unaware of her stature as she prodded her husband roughly. Knowing there was no point in resisting her, George finally accepted the phone. Using his free hand to sweep back the loose bills, he made a loud rustling sound as he clapped the phone to his ear.

    “Trujillo.” Grumbling, he kept his answer simple. Deep within his head there was already a throbbing sensation to match his cottonmouth.

    The voice at the other end of the line fairly exploded out of the device’s tiny speaker. Eyes wide open now, George was just beginning to realize that something was wrong…very wrong.

    “But Chief, I’m not on this weekend…” The words had only just left his mouth before he was cut off abruptly.

    “Emergency recall notice? Do what? Yeah, I can be there in a few hours…”

    Again, he winced as the voice overrode him. “No way I can make it in an hour, what time is it anyhow?”

    Another series of commands spewed forth from the phone with such volume that he held the receiver several inches from his overly sensitive ears. “No Chief, I do not want another Article Fifteen, no sir I didn’t mean…”

    Giving a jolt he realized that the line had gone dead, leaving him no more room to negotiate.

    “What the fuck?” Sitting up for the first time, George felt his head swirl from the effort. “He says there’s an emergency recall; that they been trying to get hold of me since last night. Chief says I got an hour to get to some place on the east side. But he wouldn’t say what the fuck it was all about…need to know and all that
    bullshit.”

    “It’s probably because of this.” From the next room his wife called to him.

    Struggling to rise, he realized for the first time that he was actually lying in the bath tub. But rather than water, he had apparently done an admirable job of filling the basin with tequila and roughly thirty pounds of freshly-minted cash.

    Slipping twice in the Agave liquor at the bottom of the tub, George grimaced as he swayed slightly. There was a loud buzzing in his head, and his mouth tasted as if he had been chewing on road kill all night. It was only when he stumbled out in front of the full length mirror that he realized that he was completely naked except for a series of Band-Aids that still clung to his nether regions. Poking at several of the adhesive bandages he found that his groin was terribly sensitive, and rightly so. A glance at the bloody razor in the sink told him that in his drunkenness he had apparently tried to shave his pubes for some reason.

    “You were going on and on last night about how you were gonna quit the reserves and become a porn star.” Shaking her head sadly, Debra stood leaning against the door frame.

    Despite his head swirling from the liquor, the lanky man couldn’t help but stop to admire her. Only sixty inches high, she was a perfectly formed homunculus; small, but built to proper scale. It had been how he had first noticed her; so tiny, yet soooo perfect.

    “Porn star, eh?” He mustered a grin as he tried to sidle up to her. “Mebbe we could do a little rehearsin’ before I head out?”

    Making a funny face, she used a single finger to shove him away.

    “Oh, yeah, like you’re sticking that Franken-dick of yours in me anytime soon.” Giving a laugh, she gestured to the adhesive bandages on his phallus. “Never mind the fact that you just burned off part of my eyebrows with your breath, and you got money-funk all over you too. Didn’t your Mama ever tell you that money is filthy?”

    Glancing back at the crumpled bills that overflowed out of the tub, George gave a snort as he let her pull him by his hand into the next room.

    “Nah, that ain’t no big deal; I always use new money.” Brushing it off, he never even saw the door frame until he ran into it. “What the fuck, over?”


    What influences have led to your current writing style?

    Acting school. There’s one. See, my Mom wanted my sister & I to be childhood stars. So I spent a few summers in acting classes or performing on stage. At one point we even played Emil DeBecque’s 'Polynesian children in South Pacific'. Di te moi, baby!

    How did acting help my writing? Because it made me stop and look at what I was writing and examine how well it could be applied to a screen version. I had read '2001 A Space Odyssey' and thought it was a brilliant novel. But the book was far too nuanced to translate well to film, which is why people don’t understand half of it. Since then, everything I write is with an eye towards the big screen.

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    In simple terms, your books seem to portray extraordinary characters in extraordinary settings. Which aspect gives you the best ideas?

    I am a huge fan of non-fiction writing. I’m one of those people who thinks encyclopedias and dictionaries are good reading.

    My inspiration for the Calizona series came from looking at pictures of the founding fathers; they always seemed so serious and astute that it made me wonder what they were really like. I mean, John Adams was a notorious asshole, George Washington grew hemp, and Thomas Jefferson kept salt ‘n pepper wives.

    For all we know, the real George Washington was a guy who liked to take out his wooden teeth and tear up a pub every now and again.

    So I wanted to write a story about real people saving the world. Not supermen, not scholars, but real working-class people. Then I flipped the perspective so the reader is seeing them from the same angle that you or I would look at George Washington and the other founding fathers.


    The artwork on your book-covers is quite striking. Where does it come from?

    There is actually a funny story there too. With the first Calizona I made my own cover. But people kept telling me it was an ugly cover. I didn’t listen at first because the book was selling well. But then one day I was googling Calizona and I discovered that my cover had been featured on UglyBookCovers.com, and they had not been kind in their evaluation. So I found a fledgling graphic artist who built me a better cover with clipart and fonts from a professional repository (canstockphoto.com).

    Ever since then, I only use professional grade artwork. People really do judge books by their covers.


    If Calizona were made into a film or TV series, which actors would you choose to play the leads?

    Calizona was specifically written to be a TV show on one of the streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. In my mind I had always thought that the roles of Alex and Mickey would be best played by Jay & Silent Bob. This kind of project would be perfect for Kevin Smith and his crew.

    I would also consider the cast of Firefly. Nathan Fillion could play me.


    And what music would you choose for the soundtrack?

    Ideally I’d want to have a different soundtrack for each of the major players. In Calizona each character has their own musical tastes: Alex is a huge blues fan, Mickey loves old-school country, and JC is that guy who listens to all of those thrash bands that come with warning labels on their albums. In the first book, the 420 Club uses lyrics from a Sublime song as their password into the 420 club.

    Real people listen to music, so it only seemed right that my characters would too.

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    Which books or authors inspired you to become a writer?

    Beverly Cleary was one of my early faves. Ever since I read 'Mouse on a Motorcycle' I have had a fascination with rodents and miniatures. I read all of her stuff. Probably my first inkling to become a writer was while reading one of her books at the age of 8 or 9. Even then I knew I wanted to write. 'Giant Under the Snow' was another book that made a huge impression on me. In middle school I actually tried to write a sequel to the book (for an 8mm movie script.)

    Heinlein, Asimov, and Clancy also inspired me to tell my own stories. I loved Heinlein’s mind-blowing stories, Asimov’s economy of words, and Clancy’s character development. All three of those writers researched their work to the Nth degree which gave them such great authenticity in their work.

    But Joseph Heller’s 'Catch 22' was the book that most influenced the Calizona series. To this day I love the way he layered the story with so many sub-plots, and characters that just came alive in my head. There was genius to the whole story.


    The Calizona series is categorically humorous. Would you describe it as dark humour on a forbidding future, or a parody of the present day?

    Both! Post-apocalyptic books are always so dark and serious that I wanted to write something different. After all, who says the apocalypse can’t be funny?

    As for the parody, Calizona was written as a mockumentary, told a hundred years after the rebirth of civilization. In fact, the story is told by an archeologist/historian who has spent years researching the founding fathers (only to find that they were really a buncha stoners and rednecks.)


    And why choose humour, are you a naturally funny person?

    Actually, I offend people as much as I amuse them. I have no filter between my brain and my mouth, and being an obsessive-compulsive personality I tend to spew a wide variety of data at listeners.

    If you look at the ABOUT THE AUTHOR section on the first Calizona, it literally says “Ralph Rotten is an asshole.” Truer words were never written.

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    Timewise, do you structure your writing process in any particular way?

    Years ago, I used to have problems writing because when I was writing I wanted to be flying my simulator. But when I was flying my simulator I felt bad because I wasn’t writing. (My flight simulator is more addictive than crack cocaine.) So I was not getting any writing done, but I wasn’t enjoying my simulator either. Not only that, but I did a lot of writing late at night when my brain was fuzzy, so it required a lot of editing.

    So the solution was to partition my life. I start writing at 0400 hrs every morning. Those hours are strictly for writing/editing/publishing. No social media is permitted until after writing time.

    How well does this work? In the last 24 months I wrote just shy of a half million words. When Calizona 3.5 releases on September 5th, I will have published over a million words. I’ll be a millionwordaire!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOUHkcsUg2c



    Which one of your characters would you most like to have a beer with, and why?

    Actually, I have drunk a great many beers with my characters. Whenever I write, I like to have a clear image in my mind so I often base characters off real people or actors. Sure, I spiff them up a bit; real people are actually quite boring, but deep down Mickey thinks a lot like the real Mickey.


    As a WF member, what are your favourite sections of the site?

    I like the writing & publishing sections most. I love to see other writer’s processes, see the mechanics of how they build their story and characters. I also love to hear from other Indie writers that are struggling with the same problems that I am. It reminds me that I’m not the only writer out there with these problems.

    As a mentor my goal is to help other writers avoid mistakes & pitfalls of writing. When it comes to mistakes, I'm a friggin' PHD (which is actually an acronym for piled higher & deeper.)


    For your writing, what is the strangest thing you have had to research?

    Cannibalism, serial killers, NASCAR, bomb shelters, moonshining, hydroponics… When I wrote the first Calizona I ran into a problem with the how my characters were supposed to grow crops indoors. Once they ran out of grow lights how would they get more?

    They couldn’t manufacture them, and ordinary light bulbs are lacking in red & blue spectrum light…so how would they do it? They needed enough bulbs for a ten-acre farm…where could they possibly find that many grow-quality bulbs?

    I scoured prepper forums, survivalist forums, and even science forums and no one could offer an answer. I even went so far as to set up a small hydroponics laboratory in the garage where I tested dozens of types of common light bulbs to see if any of them would work (they didn’t!)

    So then I went to the stoner forums and discovered that some of the best grow lights in the world are commonly used for commercial lighting. You see them all over the place; high pressure sodium bulbs…they’re everywhere. So apparently stoners aren’t so dumb after all.


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    As a writer, do you have any items left on your wish-list?

    Top of the list is to write a New York Times best seller. Ideally I’d like to do it as an Indie publisher, but I’d be willing to settle for going through a big publishing house.

    Once I’m rich and famous I’ll make all those little people pay for their sins…bwahahahaha.
    Ooops. Did I just write that aloud?


    Are you working on anything at the moment?

    I have 2 books releasing on Sep 5th, another book out looking for an agent, and 3 fleshed-out ideas ready to write (actually I have started two of them already.)

    New ideas have never been a problem for me; it’s deciding which to write next that is the hard part.


    Where can the readers find out more you and your work?

    Readers can always find my stuff on Amazon. As for me personally; no dice on that. I specifically use an alias to remain anonymous. Besides, the more you learn about me, the less you’ll like me. On my best day I’m little more than a degenerate that writes.
    Last edited by ned; August 12th, 2018 at 08:13 PM.

  2. #2
    Informative interview. Ned and Ralph, thank you!

    Timewise, do you structure your writing process in any particular way?

    Years ago, I used to have problems writing because when I was writing I wanted to be flying my simulator. But when I was flying my simulator I felt bad because I wasn’t writing. (My flight simulator is more addictive than crack cocaine.) So I was not getting any writing done, but I wasn’t enjoying my simulator either. Not only that, but I did a lot of writing late at night when my brain was fuzzy, so it required a lot of editing.

    So the solution was to partition my life. I start writing at 0400 hrs every morning. Those hours are strictly for writing/editing/publishing. No social media is permitted until after writing time.


    How well does this work? In the last 24 months I wrote just shy of a half million words. When Calizona 3.5 releases on September 5th, I will have published over a million words. I’ll be a millionwordaire!
    Sounds like you have excellent time-management skills, Ralph. I should try and apply this advice to structuring my day.

    How many other writers structure their day?
    Last edited by PiP; August 13th, 2018 at 11:53 PM.
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  3. #3
    It is nice to meet you, Ralph Ralph Rotten...love that name... I don't know if you remember a few years back, but there was these cards with weird pics of kids on them... they were called "Garbage Pail Kids"... I think... but I am pretty sure one of them was named "Ralph Rotten"... lol... You could google "garbage pail kids" and see what I am talking about, I think you would get a kick out of it anyway, I enjoyed your interview, and I admire your dedication to writing... I laughed when you was asked about your sense of humor, and you replied that you "offended people as much as you amused them".... way to go! Thank you for sharing part of your life with us...

    Pssssst... Ned, nice work
    She lost herself in the trees,
    among the ever-changing leaves.
    She wept beneath the wild sky
    as stars told stories of ancient times.
    The flowers grew toward her light,
    the river called her name at night.
    She could not live an ordinary life,
    with the mysteries of the universe
    hidden in her eyes....
    Author: Christy Ann Martine

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    love leaves a memory no one can steal....
    Author unknown.

  4. #4
    What an interesting and entertaining interview! Like Juls said, it is nice to "meet" you, Ralph! You are a multi-talented guy and I respect and admire that kind of moxie!

    Ned, excellent job with the interview! As always, you get into the 'grit' of who a person is with great results.
    There is no life I know
    To compare with pure imagination.
    Living there you’ll be free
    If you truly wish to be.~ Willy Wonka

  5. #5
    Great interview....Thanks to both of you.
    God hates a coward Revelation 21:8

    “Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.”

    Hidden Content ,

    To encourage and facilitate "me"

  6. #6
    I really like the interview, it's a great addition to your "Ralph's Rant" thread, which I read every time something is added. I too partition my writing time (and all other time for that matter), but probably not as rigorous as you do.

    Ned, another great interview!

  7. #7
    Wɾˇʇˇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Great interview Ralph! Your book covers remind me of old Iron Maiden LPs


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    It's the Mantasy!
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Great interview Ralph! Your book covers remind me of old Iron Maiden LPs
    IRON MAIDEN!
    I saw them in concert once. I think Accept opened for them.
    Maiden isn't just a cool band, their lead singer is a HUGE aviation enthusiast, and held an ATP/w certs for a 747.*
    He actually flew for the Djibouti Airlines. His flight was FLIGHT 666.







    *that's like a PHD in aviation.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Firemajic View Post
    It is nice to meet you, Ralph Ralph Rotten...love that name... I don't know if you remember a few years back, but there was these cards with weird pics of kids on them... they were called "Garbage Pail Kids"... I think... but I am pretty sure one of them was named "Ralph Rotten"... lol... You could google "garbage pail kids" and see what I am talking about, I think you would get a kick out of it anyway, I enjoyed your interview, and I admire your dedication to writing... I laughed when you was asked about your sense of humor, and you replied that you "offended people as much as you amused them".... way to go! Thank you for sharing part of your life with us...

    Pssssst... Ned, nice work

    Funny story: Jack Gantos publishes a line of children's books called Rotten Ralph. Every time you google me, you get a lot of his books, and vice-versa.
    Jack prolly HATES me for choosing that name for my low-brow stoner books.

  10. #10
    When I see "Ralph Rotten," I'm immediately interested in what kinda fella he is. Glad for this interview to get a little insight.

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