Friday, April 19, 2019

Interview with thriller author Richard Armstrong

Novelist Richard Armstrong joins me today and we’re chatting a bit about his new comedy crime thriller (aka, a ‘caper’), The Don Con.

Richard Armstrong's first book, Leaving the Nest (co-authored with his mother, Dorinne Armstrong) was published by William Morrow & Co. in 1986 and had five printings. His second book, The Next Hurrah, was published by Morrow in 1988. It was praised by The Los Angeles Times as “captivating and complete” and by Kirkus Reviews as “One of the best books on the ramifications of the electronic political process since Joe McGinniss's 'The Selling of a President.’” His first novel, God Doesn't Shoot Craps, was published by Sourcebooks in 2006 and optioned for film by the producers of the Broadway show "Xanadu." A 1974 graduate of Carleton College, he works as a freelance advertising copywriter and lives with his wife Sharon in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. If you’d like to contact Richard Armstrong with questions, comments, interview or book club requests, please visit

Welcome, Richard. Please tell us about your current release.
The Don Con tells the story of a washed-up actor who hit the high watermark of his career when he played a bit part as a gangster in The Sopranos. Now he makes a meager living signing autographs at pop-culture fan conventions.

But one day, a real gangster shows up in his autograph line and he makes the actor an offer he can’t refuse: “You’re going to help me rob all the celebrities at the next fan convention—or else.”

The Don Con is a pure entertainment caper novel with all the intrigue of Ocean’s 11, as well as a clever pop-culture satire that riffs on The Sopranos, Star Trek, and The Sting.

What inspired you to write this book?
I have an old friend who was one of the main actors in Star Trek: The Next Generation. My wife and I had dinner with him one night and he regaled us with funny stories about signing autographs at Star Trek conventions. (Until then, I didn’t know such things existed!) Among other things, he told us how much cash he brings home after one of these autograph sessions, because it’s still mostly a cash business. Not long after that dinner, I thought to myself, “I wonder what would happen if someone tried to steal the cash from all the celebrities at a fan convention.” And that’s how I got the idea for The Don Con!

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m still looking around for a good idea. It’s been my experience that it only takes a month or two to write a novel. But it takes about five years to come up with a good idea for one! Then once you have the idea, of course, you’ve got to work out the plot and character development. That’s where it begins to get hard.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started considering myself a professional writer from the moment I got my first check in the mail for a magazine article. That was about 40 years go. At the time I’d been working for a few years as an advertising writer. But I don’t really think you’re entitled to call yourself a “professional writer” until you’ve been published and gotten paid for it.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
As I mentioned, I make my living as a freelance advertising writer (also known as a “copywriter”). As a result, I’m writing or researching almost every day. I generally put in about three hours of creative work in the morning and then spend my afternoons at the local bar. No, just kidding. I spend my afternoon doing all the other tasks necessary with running a freelance copywriting business. When it comes to writing fiction, however, it’s more a matter of whether I have a good idea for a novel to work on. If I do, I usually clear the decks of my advertising work and then work on the novel very intensively until the first draft is done. If I’m in the throes of writing a novel, I can’t rest until it’s all out of my head and onto paper. So I might work up to ten hours a day on it. But writing is the easy part! The job of a novelist gets difficult when you start doing the editing, looking for an agent and/or publisher, and promoting the book.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Every time I open a manuscript on my computer I give it a new number. TheDonCon5 ... TheDonCon6 ... etc. But I always skip the number 13 because it’s bad luck!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, I wanted to be President of the United States. But I wasn’t a good enough liar to succeed in politics. So I write fiction and advertising instead. (Politics isn’t the only field for people who like to make stuff up!)

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
In the process of writing THE DON CON, I did a lot of research into how con men operate. I found out how they sucker their victims into making foolish mistakes. How they convince their “marks” to believe things that aren’t true. How they get away with the money before their victims even know they’ve been conned.

In my research, I discovered a number of of tricks and techniques—44 of them to be exact—used by con men that you can use (legally!) whenever you need to convince anybody of anything.

Please go to and download your FREE copy of How to Talk Anybody into Anything: Persuasion Secrets of the World’s Greatest Con Men now. It’s an instant free download.

Thanks for being here today, Richard.

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