Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Glenvar novelist is living his fantasy

By Meg Hibbert

Rod Belcher is living out his fantasy. The 1985 Glenvar High School graduate is a full-time, published author who is supporting himself and his kids as a science fiction and fantasy writer.

Rod has already published one book and has a contract with Tor publishing for two others. Right now, he’s putting finishing touches on the second in a sequel to ‘The Six-Gun Tarot,” which was released in January. “It takes two years to go to market,” he explained. The new one is expected to be out in October 2014.

Fantasy writer R.S. Belcher grew up in Glenvar. He has a contract from Tor publishing for his next two books.

Fantasy writer R.S. Belcher grew up in Glenvar. He has a contract from Tor publishing for his next two books.

The 46-year-old’s career as a paid writer started when he was in elementary school. “I was 9 years old and I used to go to my mom’s beauty salon in the summer. I would be bored out of my mind and Mom would buy me a pad of paper. I would draw comic books I would sell to customers. I was a paid writer,” he explained.

His mother is the Mabel Belcher of Glenvar, who had the Scottie-Lyn salon for years. “It was named for my sister Vicki and my middle names, explained the single father whose name on his novel is R.S. Belcher. His dad was the late Gordon Belcher.

Family names show up in places in his fantasy Westerns. Son Jon, who is 16 and a junior this year at Patrick Henry High School who is concentrating in engineering and robotics. In “The Six-Gun Tarot” and sequel “The 32 Killers of Golgotha,” the main character is Sheriff Jon Highfather.

Daughter Emily, almost 12 and going into eighth-grade at James Madison Middle School, is the sweet love interest in her dad’s books. In real life, she enjoys writing a little bit and doing fashion work with her mother. He also has a grown stepdaughter, who is 31, and ex-wife, Donna Wallace-Shell.

Other family and friends show up as characters, too, and people who have crossed him over the years sometimes make appearances as villains.

At a Hollins College writing class when he was in elementary school, Rod was writing science fiction and fantasy when “A teacher told me I should write feelings, instead.” He quit writing for a couple of years, until his mom bought him a Sears auto-correct typewriter, and his cousin Gary encouraged him to write.

“Science fiction has been my thing since I was a kid. It’s fantasy-horror now. Since I was very young, I have been fascinated with fantasy and comics. I played cowboys and Indians. I like it because even if it the writing is kind of gritty, it’s optimistic. If you’re writing about a period in time, you have to do research,” he added. He researched Western eras to set his first book in the dawn of the frontier in 1869, and his next has Kate Warne, the first female private detective in America, “and maybe the world.”

Rod is lucky. His break came after years of writing on the side, freelancing around the Roanoke Valley and a stint as a writer for the Salem Times-Register and then, editor of The Vinton Messenger for a year. Meanwhile, he was working as a private investigator for about 10 years after college, grad work in forensic science, and owning comic book shops four times in Richmond and most recently, Cosmic Castle in Roanoke which he closed in May 2012.

Then Rod won a science fiction writing contest to have a story published in a collection. Once he got an agent, she negotiated “Six-gun” with Tor. Within days she got him the contracts for the next two books. The third, “Nightwise,” he finished in late April. “I hope that one will be a series. Tor liked it enough to buy it.”

Rod is enjoying writing fiction for a living. “I’m at the point where I’m struggling because I’m just starting out. I’m proud of myself because of my speed. I’m thinking I can squeeze out one more novel by the end of the year. I am very thankful,” he added. “I never, ever thought all this would happen, that I would get this lucky.”

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