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Interview with the Tulsa World

It took a while, but Tulsa author shaking up the sci-fi genre with first novel
By James Watts, Jr.-- Posted with permission from the Tulsa World

It's possible that Richard Cox would still be an unpublished novelist if it hadn't been for fantasy football.

"I play online, and I put in my bio that I enjoyed writing," Cox said. " A little while later, I got an email from another player, asking what sort of things I wrote."

"I wrote back that I was writing a thriller and told him a little about the plot," he said. "It turned out he used to work in publishing, and he said my book sounded like the sort of manuscripts he used to buy."

The man gave Cox some suggestions about shaping his manuscript and -- more importantly -- gave Cox a list of 10 top agents with whom he had worked in the past.

"I have to say, I didn't have a whole lot of hope," Cox said, smiling. By this time in his literary career, Cox has already submitted manuscripts to more than 70 literary agents, meeting with rejection each time.

Only one of the 10 agents on his fantasy football friend's list responded when Cox sent his novel, "Rift," a race-against-time chase story that combined high-tech treachery and philosophical introspection in the story of an accountant who volunteers to test a human teleportation device.

"This agent said they would accept 'Rift' only if I agreed to do some rewriting," Cox said. "And I said, 'Of course I'll do some rewriting.'"

Because of corporate shake-ups at Random House, the publishing conglomerate that ultimately purchased Cox's novel, it would be almost two years before "Rift" would appear on bookstore shelves.

Since being published in June, "Rift" has earned praise from the Chicago Sun-Times and Publishers Weekly, which said "Cox has enough natural storytelling skill to keep his audience hooked."

From typing the first word to seeing his book in print took five years, Cox said, but he considers it time well spent.

"I wrote something like 11 complete drafts of 'Rift' before it was done," he said. "But I wanted this book to be the best I could make it, and I was willing to listen to people's suggestions to make it better."

"Like my agent -- he wanted me to change the villains in the story," Cox said. "Originally they were kind of shadowy characters who didn't really show up until the end. And he was right -- it made for a better book to have the villains more evident, more involved from the beginning."

Cox was born in Texas; his father was in the oil business and the family traveled a lot during his younger years before settling in Wichita Falls, where Cox graduated from high school.

He started writing at the age of 11, "short stories that owed a lot to Stephen King," he said. "I didn't really have a plan, I just felt compelled to write stuff down. It wasn't until I was in high school that it dawned on me that people could make money by writing."

Cox attended Texas A&M University, earning a degree in marketing. He also began a novel called "The Dead Men," that was a precursor to "Rift."

That first novel was rejected by 46 agents, so he reworked the story into "Rift." Twenty-six more agents turned down this version before Cox hooked up with the fellow in the fantasy football league.

In the two years Cox has been waiting for "Rift" to be published, he's completed a second book, "The God Particle."

"This is a more complex story than 'Rift,' which was really the story of one guy," Cox said. "The new book has three or four plotlines that intersect."