Rising Star Spotlight: Randy Overbeck!


How would you describe yourself as a child?
I am the fourth (yes, 4th!)  of seven brothers, so our house was always filled with hectic activity and tussles and good trouble. It was a wonderfully crazy and loving environment to grow up in. While my other brothers were more headstrong, I was a bit more pensive. Those who know me now would find it hard to believe, but I was a quiet kid who only later became more extroverted and outgoing.
Were you a big reader and writer growing up?
I was a very early reader—my mother told me I could read books when I was three—and had the desire to write quite early as well. Even in elementary grades, I was crafting tales and inventing short stories. As I grew, I decided I wanted to teach, and even without even realizing it, I chose a career that involved a lot of writing and creating—inventing creative new lessons and learning projects, writing tests and quizzes, writing newsletters and grants.
What inspired you to go into education as a career?
Even at a very young age, I was amazed by my teachers and was blessed to have quite a few remarkable ones. I remember I had nearly fifty kids in my second grade class, and my teacher was able to control the entire group, motivate us to learn and even keep us laughing. Although I had a few classroom dragons like everyone else, most of my teachers inspired me, so by the time I was in high school, I decided I wanted to commit my life’s work to inspiring young minds as well.
What job in that field has been your favorite?
I served children for almost four decades in several educational responsibilities, including teacher, college professor, and school leader, and I can truthfully say I enjoyed each role. Perhaps my favorite would be Assistant Superintendent, as that role allowed me to work with students and teachers and offered me the opportunity to craft programs, select materials, and make decisions that improved the learning and lives of thousands of students.
You mention you were a school investigator for a time. Tell us about that experience.
As a district leader, one of my many responsibilities was dealing with students who were being suspended or expelled, conducting a hearing to determine what disciplinary route would be appropriate for this student and this situation. Much like the police do—and often in collaboration with the police—I had to interview the student involved and any witnesses, check on the student’s record, meet with the teachers or other staff who had knowledge of the situation etc. Fortunately, these investigations were seldom as serious as those the police deal with, but they often involved allegations of infractions like selling drugs, fighting, and carrying weapons. And because we sometimes work with the police, I learned a good deal about the experience of unraveling what happened and getting to the bottom of a situation.
What led you to writing novels?
As I mentioned, I’ve always been a writer, being responsible for lesson plans, agendas, memos, newsletters, grants, news articles, annual reports, evaluations, etc. But when I earned my doctorate and had to write my dissertation, that experience took my writing to an entirely new level. The dissertation process was grueling, but it convinced me I could tackle longer writing challenges. Drawing on the real life experiences in the schools, I had several stories incubating in my head, and finishing my doctorate gave me the courage to turn my writing skills to fiction. I’ve been writing novels ever since.
What has the experience been like?
Bumpy, but invigorating. Like most writers, I dreamed of writing “the great American novel”, doing the interview circuit (“Good to meet you, Oprah!”) and watching my book climb the New York Times Best Seller list. Okay, none of that happened.
When I became serious about my writing, I worked hard to secure an agent—as that was the gateway to any of the major publishers. I did my research and sent meticulously crafted query letters to over a hundred agents. You could say I had some success. Several agents expressed an interest, and one took me on, but he had no success in securing a contract for my work. When he passed away, I went the route of the small press with much more success. A new small press picked up my first novel, “Leave No Child Behind”, and it did fairly well. For my latest works, I had offers from multiple small presses but chose to go with the Wild Rose Press, and that experience has been quite positive. My first novel in my Haunted Shores Mysteries series, “Blood on the Chesapeake”, did quite well with reviewers and readers, and this summer it became a #1 Amazon and B & N bestseller! The second entry in the series, “Crimson at Cape May”, has garnered three national awards, as well as hosts of five star reviews. Last month, Wild Rose Press launched the third in the series, a Christmas mystery entitled “Scarlet at Crystal River”, and I’m excited to see how readers respond to my newest ghost story/mystery.
In what ways has your career influenced your writing?
I’ve always heeded the advice “write what you know”, and after more than thirty plus years in education, I’ve observed, learned, and remembered a good deal about education. So all my books, whether thriller like “Leave No Child Behind” (2012), or mysteries like my Haunted Shores Mysteries series, are rooted in the world of school. In the decades I served as teacher and administrator, I encountered a myriad of interesting characters and witnessed a great number of stories, and these characters and these incidents have helped to form the nucleus of stories I could tell—with appropriate fictional embellishments, of course. Plus my narratives allow me to portray teachers as heroes because… I believe they are.
What has been the most challenging part being an author?
I’ve never been one to shy away from challenges. If I was, I’d never have been able to handle managing an entire school district, so the challenges of being an author did not intimidate me. Whether it was the tortuous hours of writing and rewriting and revising and editing the manuscript to get it just right, or finding the right avenue for publishing my books, I learned this road is not for the faint-hearted. But when I started down this path, I had no idea getting a book to the publishing stage is only the start. Without a doubt, the greatest challenge has been finding a way to get word to readers about my novel. With over 300,000 new titles published in this country alone annually, and 6,000,000 titles on Amazon Kindle (at last count!) it is a massive challenge to help prospective readers even discover my work. It’s not good enough for the book to be really good or to win awards or pile up five star reviews. If your name is not Patterson or Grisham or Evanovich, it is a constant struggle to catch the eye of new readers, and it is a struggle that is on-going and seems never ending. But I think I’m making progress. The first entry in the series, “Blood on the Chesapeake”, became a #1 Amazon and B & N bestseller this summer, and the second, “Crimson at Cape May”, is following in the same footsteps. And according to reviewers, the third, “Scarlet at Crystal River”, is the best yet. I’m up for the challenge.
What do you see in the future for your career?
In between the seemingly endless marketing tasks for my current works, I’m actually knee-deep into three new writing projects. I’ve nearly completed a new novel, another amateur sleuth mystery—featuring a pair of teacher heroes of course—about a new drug being pushed in a middle school which leads to the death of four pre-teens. This may be the start of a new series. Next, I’m in the outline/planning stage for book four in the Haunted Shores Mysteries series, this one set in a beautiful location somewhere on the Great Lakes. At the same time, I’m completing extensive research for writing an historical novel set during the Revolutionary War, featuring—you guessed it, a teacher, though they were called tutors then—who spies on the British for colonials. I guess you could say I have more than enough to keep me out of trouble, for a while.