Interview: Dr. Richard A. Olson
Meet Dr. Richard A. Olson, the creative mind behind the gripping Nick Stihl Private Investigator series. Driven by a childhood immersed in athletics, martial arts, and bodybuilding, Olson’s diverse interests extend to the world of music, where he once showcased his talents as a professional rock drummer. Beyond the beats, he’s a voracious consumer of literature, indulging in everything from traditional books and comics to a particular fascination with Batman and pulp magazines.
Fueling his creative fire, Olson’s passion for film noir from the 1930s and 1940s adds a distinctive flair to his writing. Currently, Dr. Olson wears multiple professional hats as a chiropractor, physician, and acupuncturist. Nestled by the serene twin lakes just outside Peoria, Illinois, he shares his life with his wife, two children, and a giant white dog. Richard A. Olson is a masterful storyteller weaving tales of intrigue, mystery, and the indomitable Nick Stihl.
Where are you from? What’s your background?
Hello, I’m Dr. Richard A. Olson, I was born in raised in Moline, Illinois. Home of John Deere Tractor. The area is called the Quad Cities.
We had a strong family and did all kinds of things together. Everything from vacations, music, working out, bicycling, TV, and popcorn. We’re serious about our popcorn. I grew up with all kinds of cars. My family had owned several car businesses. As a teenager, I got to drive several thousand cars to test the brakes and alignments. We had a car repair business in Moline and automotive supply store in East Moline from the 1930’s till 2000. The Moline store is still open and called Olson’s Auto and Brake, but now it’s owned and operated by another entity.
We were also river rats, growing up on the mighty Mississippi River, boating, waterskiing, and swimming. We would even swim from island to island. I also lived on Campbell Island, named after a historical battle in 1812.
My pickup line to girls was, “Hey babe, want to come to my island?”
It was awesome to live on the island for five years that I attended Palmer Chiropractic College.
My mother sang, played saxophone, and piano. My father was a band leader, he sang and played the Hammond organ. My brothers also played keyboards and guitars. We had a built-in band. I have played in bands since I was fifteen. I was a drummer for ten years. Our whole family played instruments and sang.
Growing up a big Bruce Lee fan, I studied martial arts from fifteen years on up. I also received training in Jeet Kune Do from one of Bruce Lee’s instructors from his school in Oakland. That was quite a thrill.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I wrote a Halloween werewolf story in 5th grade as a class project. My principal thought it was so good that he had me read it over the school intercom for everybody. I wrote some in high school and college. But being young, I didn’t complete many of the stories I started. I also have created from scratch extensive Dungeons and Dragons modules. Now, writing is my future and a way of life. it exercises my brain and my vivid imagination.
What was the first thing you remember reading at an early age?
At first my parents would read Hardy Boys to me, then I started reading them on my own. When I was ten I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars. I would stay up and read till one or two in the morning, even on school nights. My mom would hear me go to bed after reading late. At first she had a cow! Then she realized I got up in the morning and was not tired or grouchy and got A’s in school. So, she let me continue to read late at night.
What performer or artist/writer inspires you the most?
I grew up with classic rock, but I love big bands, and jazz. I even have musicians like Count Basie in my stories. All of them were great influences. Some of my stories have movies with actors, like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and William Powell in them. I have I read most of the great writers and inventors, Dickens, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and of course, JR Tolken. They helped my imagination. As a teenager I latched on to Will Murray, he ghost wrote The Destroyer and Doc Savage. Will still writes currently about Tarzan, The Shadow, Sherlock Holmes, and The Spider. He has become a friend of mine.
What inspired you to write A Man of Stihl?
Funny thing, I’m writing a super adventure novel about a border patrol agent and want to also write some short stories. I was thinking about PI’s like Mike Hammer, Philip Marlowe, and Sam Spade. So, I created the character Nick Stihl in about 30 minutes on the way to work one day. Stihl was a great name for puns like “How to Stihl Rubies.” I ended up sending it to a publisher that liked it that they wanted to make a book. I spent half a year and wrote 4 stories for the book called “A Man of Stihl.” His name is Nick Stihl, he was a boxer called “Kid Steele” who turned PI. Lots of corruption, violence, cool people, and humor. It takes place in my town Peoria, Illinois. Peoria was home to the famous Shelton gang, Mayor Woodruff, vaudeville, and burlesque. Everything is historically correct, but it’s crime fiction. Another Nick Stihl book is on its way.
Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on the type of art you create?
Yes and no. I work in Peoria, but also live in the country on twin lakes, again with the water. Being in the city I see the historical landmarks that are in my stories. Living in the country I feel stress free and creative. My house is my home, the basement is my Batcave and gym. It’s good to work out and stay fit. I have a comfortable office/den where I work and write. It’s a perfect blend for reality and creativity.
Between doing your job and writing, is it hard to keep that balance every day?
I will say no. If you believe that, I have some swampland for sale. LOL! I set daily, weekly, and yearly goals for three to five years. I am a Doctor on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I write on Tuesday and Thursday and some Saturday and Sunday mornings. I also manage to spend quality time with my wife and children.
What do you think popular culture will be like in ten years?
Great question. People are often a product of society. I am not, hence my writing. Screens will continue to dominate people and make them lazy, have a shorter focus. More people will become users than doers. I think people’s imagination will decrease; everything is so overdone nowadays. I use screens to my advantage, old movies, some new movies, and TV shows to enjoy and to create from. My computer is a screen also, it is my screen of imagination and creativity. I use it to create stories. Being a visual person, screens have helped me to picture my stories, I write in a cinematic form, like all my stories are being filmed. Each scene is like it’s being directed, highly visual. Hopefully people will find out what is good for them and a percentage of them get off their lazy buts and seek out real stuff again.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked to do in your profession?
Someone mailed me five blank cards to sign for five books he wanted to sell in his bookstore in California. The strange part is I have an app that shows all orders, and I could not see his order. Maybe he ordered from the Twilight Zone?
What projects are you working on now?
A super adventure about a border patrol agent, named Scott Lund. Believe it or not, in my research, I could not find other fiction books about border patrol agents. In the first novel he rescues the President of the United States and fights an evil Chinese dragon colonel. It has an epic two hundred page battle in the second half of the novel. It will also be on audible. The second Scott Lund novel is already complete and ready to roll. There will be more Nick Stihl stories which means another Nick Stihl Private Investigations book will be out by December. Currently, I am writing a story set in 1938, about Nazi spies stealing a secret gas formula from Caterpillar Tractor and Nick Stihl has to stop them. There is also in the works a short story about a famous hero, that can’t be revealed right now. You know… all that writer’s secrecy and stuff.