People always ask: “RJ, how did you learn to write?”DEBUT NOVEL The Santa Claus Killer May 2013

My answer is almost always… I don’t know. That’s the God’s honest truth, too. I wanted to be a fireman when I was a young boy… in fact, when asked of the top three things I wanted to become when I grew up, I always said…

(1) Fireman, (2) Major League Baseball Player – Yankees, thank you very much and (3) A United States Army Soldier.

At 16 years of age, my favorite houseparent, Clifford Webb, an employee at the orphanage where I grew up (The McQuade Foundation for Boys) took me to the U.S. Army recruiting center in Newburgh, NY. I wanted in bad, as my mother had once told me dad was an Army colonel who died in Vietnam.

But… I didn’t become a soldier, fireman or baseball player.

                                                         Boy, did I get it all wrong!

The fact is, everyone has something they’re good at… something that drives who they are deep down inside, it gnaws at our heart until we wake up and give in to the DESTINY that is laid out before us.

My secret thing has always been writing. I’m not talking about penning love injected poetry, rap “music” or brilliant short-stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with those sorts of things…  I wrote a lot of poetry as a kid, but today, that just isn’t who I am. A once shy boy, I liked to sit and watch everything and everyone. From the ages of six, seven & eight, I’d sit on the banks of New York’s Hudson River and write in an old battered leather journal. 

Growing into my lanky teenage body, I became pretty darn good at putting together concise tight sentences that led to exciting flowing paragraphs. I was good at it… one letter at a time, nicely constructed words and phrases can evoke an emotional response from the reader. Looking back now to childhood, it dawns on me that my roots in writing lie in the alphabet blocks I played with in kindergarten.

That’s not surprising as I was always good with language, writing and speaking… but I never much cared for math. In High School, when my teacher chalked out an algebra or trigonometry equation on the blackboard, I remember cringing.  I’d roll my eyes down to an open book and hope Mrs. Wilson didn’t pick me. Although I tried desperately to be invisible, my best efforts were always thwarted and somehow I’d be summoned to the head of the class to answer a question.

Yes, I hated mathematics, but there was always something special about writing for me. For as far back as I can recall, I preferred engrossing myself in literature. From the wholesome tales of Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer to the complete madness of Stephen King and the genius that was novelist Sidney Sheldon, I always knew I wanted to write stories professionally.

Of course, I didn’t have the foggiest clue as to what commercial writing entailed. I just knew I had to write. It wasn’t a choice for me… there was only one thing I was really good at… writing  stories. When I was twenty-three I typed-out my first 10,000 word short story in a NY prison. Most kids I knew back there in Ossining, New York, where I grew up with an alcoholic, child abusing mother, were concerned with sports… but my path split and I took the wrong road through life. For years I struggled with crime and punishment. The only good that came from my decades of prison life was that I had nothing else to do other than focus was on writing a story about a witch who cursed a fictitious town called Rell Ridge. I remember scribbling it out in longhand. One word led to a paragraph and those built numerous pages of content. Then I learned word-processing and typed the first copy.

I published Storyteller in 2012 after taking it out of my antiqued wooden trunk where I keep all my private, unpublished work. Years ago, Storyteller was the foundation for my Hollywood SPEC screenplay I wrote for JS Integrity Management of Los Angeles. I suppose screenplay_book__131118200340that short and the subsequent film script was the beginning of my professional writing career.

I loved writing screenplays, because they were easy. Scripts are the skeleton of a story… the who, where, what, when and why of a tale. As for me, I learned by studying Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting.cataclysm_3D (2)

There were no teachers or classes… it was my eyes on the written page, digesting everything I could learn about writing in pictures instead of hefty, wordy blocks of text.

Screenwriters aren’t descriptive… we can’t describe the paint on the wall, or the color of things… scripts are intrinsically bare bones. It is well defined characters moving through an environment without setting too much of the scene. That task is left up to producers and set directors. Writing a screenplay is like building a house. You build the structure but leave the inside empty for others to furnish. Weird, right? Its like having a baby and then giving it away.

Even now, looking back at the roots of my career, putting my finger on the genesis of where it all began is next to impossible. I didn’t wake up one morning and make a decision to write for profit. What I did do… was write a lot of different things for dozens of  years to perfect my own elements of style.

I’ve been writing now for close to forty years… but I didn’t “make it” until 2010. That’s when one of my screenplays made it to the final rounds of the best writing competitions across America. Not long after The Santa Claus Killer brought me the EMMY SWAG and soon after, I signed a representation agreement with Manhattan Screenplay Manager Julie Stern… and off my stories went to Hollywood. Right around this time, Joyce Keating, of JRK Literary Agency of Manhattan asked if I’d consider writing novels. I loved the thought of it… remembering my idols, HAROLD ROBBINS, SIDNEY SHELDON and ELMORE LEONARD. For many years in the penitentiary I listened religiously to ART BELL on his famed radio show Coast to Coast AM and I was intrigued by the 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM show highlighting the unexplained.

Remembering those giants, between 2011-2012, and without much thought, I  pounded out digital copies of The Santa Claus Killer and Cataclysm.

                   I was so excited to turn my Hollywood scripts into books.

STEPHEN KING & RJ SMITHI was happy to see the world’s largest book retailer, Barnes and Noble, advertise my debut novel The Santa Claus Killer beside Stephen King and Patricia Cornwell. Instantly, the literary world had placed my skills with the best Monstersof them. Not many keep that type of company…  that said I was special, and the publishing world considered me on the same level as those big shot authors.

Then, just as I was about to embark on my 2013 debut international book tour and speak at live events in support of SANTA, tragedy struck when I was seriously injured after falling into an unmarked/unlighted hole excavated in a sidewalk by a corporation named Ajax Paving Corporation. Supervised by the City of Belleair Bluffs, and the Town of Belleair, Florida, it was their reckless abandon that led to  life altering injuries.

After nearly five years of therapy, 10 surgeries and loads of pain and agony, I am getting better with the help of titanium screws, plates and rods that repaired the neck, back and shoulder injuries.

Three months after my last lumbar spine surgery, and just into the florida “fall” of 2017,  I slowly began writing again and have gotten back to the work I love, spinning yarns for my dearest fans. 

An old man once told me, “the definition of insanity is repeating something that doesn’t work.” And, truth be told, that is exactly the course I am avoiding as we enter 2018.

Updated by the author on January 1st, 2018

CATACLYSM in the New York Times



Meet the Team

Joyce Keating

Joyce Keating

NYC Literary Agent

Joyce is RJ’s New York City Literary Agent.

She is focused on pitching RJ’s manuscripts to top publishing companies throughout the United States for a publication deal.

Robert Snow

Robert Snow

U.K. Literary Agent

Robert is RJ’s United Kingdom Agent.

He is focused on pitching RJ’s manuscripts to top publishing companies throughout Europe for a publication deal.

Glenda Findley

Glenda Findley

Editor in Chief

Glenda is a freelance writer and RJ’s editor.

She is happiest when editing great authors, composing, or spending time with friends, family, and her grandchildren.

Jeffrey Kosh

Jeffrey Kosh

Book Cover Artist

Jeffrey is RJs Global Graphic Art Director, book cover creator and merchandising guru.

Specialized in horror and thrillers, I am proud to join the worldwide brand that is RJ Smith.