RJ Smith is an optioned Hollywood screenwriter and published author of contemporary horror, suspense and action packed thrillers.
Reading his work is like watching a mind movie, the words leap from the page, tear through the pupils, and explode in mental images.
Born in New York and raised on the mean streets of Manhattan, he’s overcome great obstacles in life to find his place as a writer. He’s written stories on the Murder of Gianni Versace, the Miami nightlife, and has interviewed celebrities, John Walsh, Candace Gingrich, and personalities in the South Florida market.
His novels are represented by Manhattan’s JRK Literary Agency and movie scripts by JS Integrity Management of Los Angeles.
RJ has been named by the Page International Screenwriting Awards, Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Studios and Sundance Table Read My Screenplay.
Spending most of his time in NYC and Florida, he’s in the business of writing and developing action packed thriller properties and original SPEC movie scripts for option to the Motion Picture Industry.
His 2013 horror book, The Santa Claus Killer, releases September 1st, and follows in 2014 by the much anticipated summer disaster thriller, Cataclysm.
The Santa Claus Killer Book Synopsis
Richard Blake was a bright, young medical doctor with looks to kill for, but he described himself as just an ordinary guy making the best of life. What he claims took him over the edge was his wife’s escalating drug habit and placement of their young son, Stefan, in an adoption agency; neither of which he could do anything about.
In reality, Richard was never just an ordinary guy. Long before he began abusing his wife and son, he tortured animals – cats, specifically, most times to the point of death. Their torture became such an obsession that, as he slipped further into insanity, he’d receive frequent visits from angry felines that whispered deadly commands in his ears. His wife’s lifeless body was found having been beaten and raped, and his cruel, uncaring parents disappeared suddenly, their remains not discovered for years.
No one could prove Richard had anything to do with these events, but authorities knew he should not be on the streets but receiving intense psychiatric care for his diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. He called New York’s Bellevue Hospital home, for three years.
A few weeks before Christmas, Richard is out having been released through papers signed by an old friend and schoolmate, NYPD Deputy Inspector Harold Morrison. Morrison was desperate twelve-years prior, then a Captain, he wanted to secure a higher position in the Department and realized Richard was the perfect guy to assist. All Richard needed to do was ‘eliminate’ the growing number of Santa impostors on the street, those who approach trusting tourists for a handout. Richards gain is two-fold; he gets to leave the crazies behind in Bellevue Hospital, and the incriminating information Morrison has on his buddy, stays a secret.
In an effort to get in closer, to blend in with these impostors, Richard dresses in Santa attire. With his first successful elimination, along with his failure to take his anti-psychotic meds, Richard’s insanity escalates and the cat’s commands return with a vengeance. In response, Richard begins taking down people of his choice – very important people. And, Richard having had plenty of experience in his youth assisting in the family-owned butcher shop in China Town, he knows quite well how to use a butcher knife and an ax.
Suspense and tension build from the very beginning of this action packed thriller. We, the readers, are taken through Richard’s chaotic world of complete insanity and through the offices of the NYPD and FBI as they hunt him down. We stand among the detectives as they discover Captain Morrison’s involvement; we gag as we follow investigators into the slimy tunnels of the subway system where mutilated bodies of humans — and cats — lie together.
We cringe as Richard swings his ax over his sixteen year old son Stefan’s head — and finally, we find relief when the man dressed in a Santa suit is shot down in the middle of Time Square as Stefan and hundreds of tourists scramble to safety.
This story is not for the squeamish; it is not for those delicate of mind. This is both a story for fans of Stephen King and fans of John Grisham. The Santa Clause Killer is a wonderful combination of both.
How did your book come to life?
After I wrote Destiny, a film for JS Integrity Productions of Los Angeles, I wanted write the novel to match the screenplay. But when I got into chapter one, my main character, Richard Blake took control of the storyline.
Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
Richard Blake – The Santa Claus Killer – ended up being my favorite character, just because he is multi dimensional. You know, there is a little of Richard in all of us… that grumpy, not so happy Monday morning kinda personality. But by Wednesday, there is something irreverent of him you know?
How did you name your characters?
I wanted to write my characters with soul. In Hollywood, its all about writing quick concise scripts. With The Santa Claus Killer, I was able to slow down and robustly fill my empty suits with flesh and bones. It was refreshing. Many of the names are of people I know or who have crossed my path sometime during this thing we call life.
Who designed the cover?
Rick Green, one of the best in the business, you know.., I think there is something to be said for the cover. Covers of your book have to have commercial appeal, you must have a great cover, and with lost of color, because we all know the eye goes to color naturally. If you close your eyes, when you open them, you’ll notice the eyes naturally find color, they go automatically to color. So color, is a must on a book cover.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected? (What was it?)
I learned a lot about the NYPD and the FBI, there was expensive study involved in the procedures that these departments and units follow when hunting a serial killer.
How do you start writing a new book? What comes first? The characters? The story?
I start with a storyboard, three of them, nailed to the wall in my office. I line them up and this represents the beginning, middle and end of my story. Over the course of a month, I think of characters who will move through the story and pin them to the board, then, I think of the situations they will move through. The Story always comes first for me.
Do you like to write series? Or single titles only?
Doesn’t matter. The story dictates. The Santa Claus Killer is book one of a five book series, which follows the life of Mike Murphy, my main character. But, I am writing a standalone right now, so it just depends what the characters are whispering to me.
Can you describe your main character in 3 words?
TENACIOUS, EDGY, FRAGILE
Can you describe your heroine/hero in one sentence?
She is Mei Ling, a Chinese American FBI Agent who worked hard to get to be in the station in life where she is comfortable in her life.
In two sentences or less can you tell readers something unique about your book?
Look, we think of Santa Claus as someone who we all sat on his lap, right? Culture dictates we should love him, he’s a grandfatherly type who we can trust.
But what if one came along who threw all that to the wind? I took a highly commercial jolly man and said what if…..
There is nothing like The Santa Claus Killer on the market, and I think this is what the industry is reacting to.
Where do you find your ideas? Does something trigger them? Do you carry around a notebook in case inspiration strikes?
My head is bursting with sick ridiculous people, so i let them come out during the twilight hours and control my hands and fingers… they do the writing, I am juts a vehicle.
How do you research your books?
I do extensive research. working late into the night, travelling to scenes from the book, understanding what the places are like, how they feel. As a writer, I want to experience what it feels like to walk through the scene I am writing about. Are the birds singing? Is there an ominous sense? Things like that.
Have you written your entire life? Have you always considered yourself a writer?
No. For much of my life I was in prison. As an eight year old kid, my mom dumped me in Times Square, and I grew up on the streets and in boys homes. At a young age, I was involved with drugs, crime and you name it. At fifteen I was robbing banks and doing hard core drugs. A lot of it is situation, you grow up on the streets you have to do certain things to feed yourself. I ended up serving a long time at a very young age in places like ATTICA and SING SING. While in those cold, hard lonely cells, I used to write stories and when i got out, finally finishing with the madness in 2008, I decided to turn those stories into screenplays… and now I write books.
What is your writing process?
The process is just like going to work: I get up, sit at my computer, and I write one chapter a day, three days a week, sometimes it’s four or five days a week, depending on how badly a character is bothering me, forcing me to the keyboard.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I am working on Cataclysm, a based on reality super disaster thriller. I cannot divulge much more than that, it has to do with an actual volcano in the canary islands which is predicted to collapse and cause a tsunami to race across the Atlantic and wipe out the eastern Shore of the United States.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I think self publishing is the future, and that future is now. I have two agencies that represent my work and neither are having much luck with the publishing houses. I always say, with the right advertising and know how, a writer can reach his/her audience without a publisher.
While writing how many times do you go back and rewrite a plot?
Never, once the plot is written, it doesn’t change. Some of the aspects or scenes may bring new story lines into play, but the foundation remains.
Where did you grow up? How did your hometown (or other places you have lived) inspire your writing?
I grew up on the streets, abandoned at a young age. I hung out on Times Square, between 42nd and 48th street, I trounced through the concrete jungle from the age of eight through seventeen. Growing up, I only had street friends as family, my mom was gone, dad I never knew…. so, I learned a whole different way to live as a boy. It (that life) IS INFLECTED in my writing.
Do you like to travel? If so where is your favorite city?
My favorite place is Manhattan, I grew up here. But I have also traveled to Hawaii, Florida, California, Canada, Georgia, Texas, Detroit. I have been many places and seen many things.
I also love LA, I have to travel there often for my work with screenplays.
None… I rarely read anymore because I am so busy writing.
What are you currently reading?
I did pick up Joyland by King….
What is the best book you’ve read?
IT by Stephen King, scared the bejesus outta me.
What is your favorite genre?
Horror and Suspense
State 5 random facts about yourself.
I am bipolar and neurotic, but I’m also determined and a sever perfectionist, with a flash of humor, but colored by a torn past.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Elmore Leonard, Sidney Sheldon and Stephen King — in that order.
Have you ever sat and just watched the people go by?
I people watch all the time, for characteristics of movement… I tend to like the ones who talk to themselves, they intrigue me.
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