Hello out there! Did you notice this blog is a little bit late? (Okay, okay, reeeeally late!) Well, Ray Wallace noticed, but you know what? This guy is not only a great writer, but a super cool dude. You see, life kicked me in the gut pretty hard recently, and it took me a moment to regain my breath… but Ray said “It’s all good. I’ll be happy to see the interview posted whenever you get around to it.” See? Uber cool guy. So without further ado…
Hi, Ray. Welcome to Author Interview Corner! My first question is pretty standard, but one I always enjoy asking. When and why did you begin writing?
I did a little writing throughout my twenties. Around thirty, I started to take it more seriously. And I’ve been going at it fairly consistently for the past ten years or so now. I’ve been an avid reader since my teenage years and at a certain point just got the urge to create stories of my own.
Your debut novel, The Nameless, started out as a short story. It was such a good piece of writing that the folks at Black Death Books requested that you pen a full length novel! I must say, you did a fantastic job bringing the elements of a love story to the vampire genre while avoiding all the mushy, romantic qualities that often water down the horror of vampires. I’ve only read the short story, and I was wondering if you could tell me a little about the novel?
The novel is basically a fleshing out of the short story, so to speak. The basics of the plot are pretty similar with some new twists and turns and a lot more character development along the way. The Nameless was basically a reactionary piece to all the cutesy vampire nonsense I saw going on. My “vampires” actually have to eat the flesh of their victims, not simply drink the blood. There’s even a chapter where a few of the Nameless track down and feed on an Anne Rice/Twilight style vampire. Oh, the hell that poor bastard ends up going through…
It seems your first novel opened a door for you, because you are writing novels left and right! Do you enjoy writing long fiction more than short stories now?
It would seem to be the case, something I would have never imagined back when I was strictly writing short stories. The thought of writing a novel was a daunting one. But since finishing and publishing The Nameless I’ve felt drawn to the longer form. There’s a certain joy in letting the story take you in sometimes completely unexpected directions. Usually, when sitting down to write a short story I know almost exactly where it’s going before I even begin. They are definitely two different processes. Gotta say, though, that I’ve missed writing as many shorts as I used to. Think I’ll have to sit down and work on a few new ones here in the near future.
I loved the short stories in your collection “Letting The Demons Out”. What I admire the most is that you don’t rely on classic horror archetypes. Rather than recycle the same monsters and themes which dominate our beloved genre, you often create entirely new material. Do you have any advice for budding writers who are striving for originality? In other words: How do you come up with this stuff?!
That’s always the million dollar question, isn’t it? Where do those damn ideas come from? I’ve discovered that once you take yourself seriously as a writer, once you go all in and commit yourself to the art of it, you’ll find that you’re nearly incapable of thinking about anything else. And when that happens the ideas just seem to come from everywhere. A passing fragment of something you’re reading… A line in a movie… A piece of artwork… There’s this voice in your head saying, “Hey, there’s an idea with promise. Hold onto that one…” As for making sure it’s original, I don’t think there’s an easy answer for that question. It’s a matter of forcing yourself to be original, as lame as that may sound. If you’re writing about horror tropes like zombies or vampires or cosmic Lovecraftian monstrosities you have to look for the twist, the new way of approaching the idea that you’re pretty sure no one has thought of before. Of course, sometimes this may prove impossible with as many writers as there are attacking certain concepts out there. But you damn well have to try or what’s the point, really?
Even when you focus on a well-known or classic monster, you always find a way to keep it fresh. I’ve seen a lot of innovative ideas in the zombie genre, but never a Choose Your Own Adventure book! Can you tell us a little about “Escape From Zombie City”? How many different outcomes and possibilities are there?
Here’s a perfect example, referring back to the previous question. There have been plenty of Choose Your Own Adventure style books written over the years. I used to devour the damn things back in grade school. When the thought came to me that I’d like to seriously sit down and write one myself I told myself that it had to be different in some way, it had to have that certain twist to it. Thus the “One Way Out” concept. What if there was only a single ending in which the reader survived? What if every other ending led to the reader’s demise? This concept worked very well with the idea of a horror CYOA written for a more adult audience. And setting it amidst a zombie outbreak just seemed like a no brainer. I wrote over twenty death scenes for that book. Talk about a horror writer’s dream! Apex Publishing picked it up and it’s done very well. They want two more from me so I’m about halfway through the next one and having as much fun with it as I did with Zombie City.
In addition to writing your own fiction, you’ve spent a lot of time reviewing books for such publications as Chizine, SFReader.com, and The Twilight Showcase. Do you have any clue how many books you’ve reviewed? Has it helped strengthen you as a writer?
Over the past decade or so I think I’ve done close to a hundred reviews. And, yes, I think it has helped me as a writer. When I read a book I know I’m going to review I tend to approach it a bit more analytically instead of just for the sheer joy of it. I find myself paying more attention to the pacing and the style, the way the characters behave. Plus, when I’m writing a review it’s a different process than crafting a piece of fiction. Any time you’re forced to do something in a way that is different from the normal process it’s always a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. It’s how you learn and grow as an artist. At least I’m hoping that’s the way it works.
A part of your history that intrigues me the most is that you’re not just a writer, but a musician as well. Fiction is not your sole creative outlet. Yet, at this point in life you seem to focus mainly on writing. What is it that draws you to fiction? Do you find that writing and playing music fulfill you in different ways? Are there similarities between the two art forms? Is it harder to gain interest in writing than music?
When I was younger I loved doing the music thing. And why not? I had a lot of fun doing it. As I got older I was drawn more and more to fiction writing. I don’t go out and party as much, for starters. And there reached a point where I just couldn’t see myself dealing with the whole musician ego thing anymore. I like the idea of succeeding or failing on my own. No excuses. And that’s definitely the way the writing field works. Do good work and you’ll get noticed. In that way I think it’s easier to gain interest as a writer. It’s not about your image or who you know. It’s about the work. Period. Keep writing good stories and eventually people are going to notice.
Your most recent novel, The Hell Season, has a very intriguing description. “Thomas Wright awakens to discover that his family has vanished. None of their possessions are missing. The clothes that they slept in are still in their beds. All too soon it becomes apparent that nearly everyone in town has disappeared, that only he and a few select others remain… Then the sky starts to rain blood.” Okay, Ray, PLEASE give me a little bit more! That description is a tease! Can you tell us a bit more?
I consider The Hell Season my “kitchen sink” book. I threw pretty much every wild idea I could think of at this one. It starts out with the aforementioned Thomas Wright waking one day to find that his family has disappeared during the night. And then, yes, it starts to rain blood. And it’s all downhill from there. A swarm of mutant insects… a plague of serpents… demons with weapons made from the spine of a monstrous creature… I could go on, but why spoil all the fun? The basic plot deals with Thomas trying to survive this season in Hell and finding a way to be reunited with his family, if such a thing is even possible. I’m hoping that anyone who likes their reading material weird and dark will make time for this one.
You have quite a few titles on the market, and from what I can tell, they’ve all received great feedback from readers. What I’m wondering (for my own personal growth as a selling writer) is how do you deal with a bad review? Every writer with a wide variety of titles on the market has dealt with a bad review at some point. Most authors claim to shrug it off and not let it get them down, but be honest: Does it hurt to find out that something you’ve poured your heart and soul into has received a poor review?
There’s always going to be a part of you that wonders how it is that somebody out there doesn’t appreciate your genius. But that’s part of the deal. You give people access to your stories and there’s inevitably going to be someone who’s not really digging what you’re doing. Especially when you’re writing crazy shit about flesh eating immortals and gun waving, tentacled monsters and ancient, vengeful deities. And now that we have forums like Amazon where anyone can go on there and post whatever comments they want… All I have to say is get used to it. You’re not going to please everyone. It’s impossible. The kind of stuff I write just isn’t for everyone. Plain and simple. As long as more people enjoy what I’m doing than those who don’t, that’s really all I can hope for. That and to sell a million books. There’s plenty of people out there bashing Stephanie Meyer and I have a strange feeling that she really couldn’t care less.
I truly enjoyed reading your work, and I definitely intend to read more of it! If I forced you to choose your favorite piece, whether it be a short story or a novel, could you pick one? If so, what is it?
Damn, that’s a tough one. But since you’re forcing me… I guess I’ll have to go with my short story “One of the Six.” I’m not necessarily saying that it’s hands down my best work but it won Chizine’s short story contest way back when and I still think it’s got some cool elements to it. Everything I’ve written since owes a bit of a debt to that particular story since it pretty much got this whole writing “career” rolling for me. And for that reason alone, it will always hold a special place in my bibliography when all is said and done.
Thanks again for being a guest on Author Interview Corner. Where can my readers find you on the web?