*gasps* She’s here! I'm not ready. Am I ready? *Straightens dress, smoothes hair, checks lipstick in mirror* Okay. Okay… *goes to the door, mutters to self* relax… breathe. You’ll do fine… *deep breath, smiles and opens door*
Amara: Raev, *big smile* Hi! Come in, come in…
Raev: Hey, babe! Did you know you have Shelob living in your light fixture? I was afraid I’d get eaten.
Amara: Oh yeah, I know. Name’s Bob. Keeps the … wussies away. *wink* Scares ‘em off.
I’m so glad you came by. Sit, sit… *waves toward comfy chair*… I was just enjoying some fresh coffee. Care for some?
Raev: Sure! You have the good stuff. I may or may not have Folgers in my freezer. But at least it’s in the freezer, right?
Amara: *cringes* coffee sacrilege. Freezer won’t help you much with that. Nice try though. Here, let me get you the goods. *pours gourmet coffee* I’m so excited that you’ve come over and that I get to interview you, and …and…I think I'm hyperventilating...*deep breath*... I have so many questions, I don’t even know where to begin.
Raev: Booze. Begin with booze.
Amara: You got it, we can do that. *grabs bottle* Let’s just go ahead and juice that cup for you… *glub, glub*... I could definitely use some too... *glub, glub, glub*... that's better.
So… tell me, what made you decide to become a writer? Was there something in particular?
Raev: I’ve thought about this for a while, and I think I’ve finally realized what made me start writing. When I was little, I moved around. A lot. Between the ages of about seven and ten, I moved seven or eight times. Since I could never count on having anyone to play with, I made toys my friends and told long, elaborate stories with them. I mean, my games would go on for months.
Eventually, in sixth grade, I made a friend who was pretty much the same way. In seventh grade, we were still bringing these toys to school. (Yeah, I judge me too.) One day, the “bully group” of girls caught us playing with them and made us so terribly embarrassed that we put away the toys forever. In the end, though, we just replaced the toys in our hands with the toys in our heads. After that, we started writing together, and I continued writing by myself, too.
Amara: That’s not cool! But I suppose it ended up good for us… so… hackles down. Sorry, sometimes those things just go off by themselves. So, do you write full time now?
Raev: My life revolves around writing. I teach it and I do it. I do have a day job, but I try to write every day or almost every day, so yeah, I guess you could say that.
Amara: Nice. Tell me about your first book. What was it and how long did it take to get it published?
Raev: My first “book” was a total Redwall ripoff, and thank goodness it never got published! LOL. My first published work was actually “Spoils of War,” co-written with Aleks Voinov. Not long after that, “Test of Faith” was released. It took that one a while to get published because of the lack of HEA/HFN ending. We shopped it, but it kept getting rejected on that basis. We half-ass considered changing the ending, but decided it would lose its heart if we changed it. Fortunately, Selena at eXcessica loved it the way it was, so that’s where it went. J
Amara: I LOVE that one! I’m soooo glad you didn’t change it. *smiles real big* That’s one of my favorite-EST books.
Ok, I’m getting a little excited again. *mumbles to self* calm down Amara… *clears throat* … uh, where was I? *looks through notes* Oh, right…uh…tell me, how many books have you written so far?
Raev: Um, I have to count? Ha. Well, I have three published works, one I/we just signed a contract for, and a couple (like five or six or seven) more in the works. As far as works I’ve actually finished, I don’t know that I could give you an accurate number. Most of them were scrapped in my younger years.
Amara: *squeals* Five or Six…or Seven?! Awesome! *spills coffee* Crap! Sorry…again, hope I didn’t get any on you. *looks for towel* I get a little excited. Um… I need a refill…or… *mutters*… maybe water would be better…*mumble, mumble*…
I’m dying to know, which is your favorite book and/or character?
Raev: It’s impossible to pick one, so I’ll have to pick a few. I love Abdul of “Test of Faith” because he’s so self-aware and yet not aware at all. He’s just really getting to know himself and it’s painful for him. I love Lucian of Blood Run Cold because he’s SUCH a bastard but he has a weird code of his own. I love Emil because he tries so hard to not be Lucian. I love Micah of my WIP with Aleks called Chaosborn because he’s so f-ing smart and passionate and he knows it, but he has violent weaknesses. I love Nina of To Catch a Spy because she’s incredibly self-aware and confident in herself—most of the time. She faces her weaknesses without fear and deals with them.
I’ll stop there, lest I keep going ALL day. Suffice to say that I tend to love characters who are really self-aware or lack self-awareness in a big way.
Amara: Mmmm, Abdul… um, yeah, I like him too *grins* aaand moving on. On a typical writing day, what do you do? Do you have a special place or routine…anything like that?
Raev: When I fly solo, I write longhand. Very few exceptions. The only reason I don’t do so when I co-write is because my co-authors live hundreds or thousands of miles away. J I got into the habit of curling up on the couch at my old place, but since I don’t have a couch yet, I’m usually sprawled in the middle of the living room with the cats. I write in a spiral-bound notebook with a regular Bic pen (in black). I don’t have a particular preference for time of day, though lately I’ve been finding that writing a few hundred words helps me wind down in the evenings.
Amara: Longhand? Wow. Cool. What kinds of research do you for a new book?
Raev: Any English teacher would probably drag me out back and shoot me for this, but I actually like Wikipedia for general knowledge. If I just need to get an overview or basic ideas for/about some aspect of my story, that’s where I go first. Of course, I’ve also been known to trawl JSTOR and Academic Search Premier, because I’m a nerd like that. If I need more in-depth information, I hit the books and often end up spending too much money on Amazon.
Amara: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
Raev: It totally depends. When I co-write with Aleks, we put out really quickly (pun intended?). *Amara giggles* My other co-author and I are slower. When I’m solo, it usually takes me months. I get going really quickly, and then life inevitably gets in the way. My first digital drafts are generally pretty clean, mostly because I’ve worked out all the ugly kinks before they ever get typed.
Amara: Nice. What about writer’s block? I’ve heard a lot about that. Do you get it? And what do you do to get past it?
Raev: I think writer’s block is, in large part, utter bullshit. The idea of being at the mercy of a muse or waiting for inspiration to hit you is fluffy woo-woo nonsense. Writer’s block happens for one of a few reasons: 1) you don’t know enough about your story/the character/the situation, 2) you didn’t plan well enough, 3) you took a turn somewhere and you’re not sure how to handle it, or 4) you’re not happy with what you’re doing. All of these situations are fixable if you’re willing to put in the work to fix them. That’s the short version of my impassioned rant on the evils of muses.
It’s not that this never happens to me. I always reach a point in my projects where I’m just baffled. No idea where to go next or what to do. I’ve lost myself. But I get past it. As for how I get past it, I go back and look at what I’ve done so far. Obviously, something isn’t working the way I want it to be working. I come up with a solution for that problem, and I move on. It isn’t as simple as that, naturally, but in a way, it is.
Amara: Utter bullshit? Interesting. *scribbles in notebook*
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they experience or take away from it?
Raev: I think the one theme all of my books share is the frailty of human emotion. Humans make and break one another with the things they do and say to one another. I want readers to understand why my characters are the way they are. Lucian is a complete psycho dickwad for a reason. Abdul is incredibly insecure for a reason. Even if they don’t like a character, I want readers to be able to understand them and connect with their experiences.
Amara: I think you do that well. Now, tell me about those covers. They…are beautiful. Those are yours aren’t they? Tell me a little about your cover work.
Raev: Yes, they are, and thank you! I started doing graphics probably 10-ish years ago. I made covers for my “novels.” I got better at it when I started making icons and headers for roleplaying games and LiveJournals. When I had the opportunity to make the cover for “Test of Faith,” I jumped on it.
Amara: That baby is beautiful! Uh…sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt, go on…
Raev: I use Photoshop to create the covers. I use primarily a collage-type style and find pictures that represent different aspects of the story/characters. They’re sometimes pretty abstract and really texture-heavy. Sometimes, they come together super easily. The “ToF” cover was like that. I just found the right pictures almost immediately, put them on the document and wham! Cover. The cover for “Spoils of War” was similar. The Blood Run Cold cover took a while, because there were so many different ways to represent what was going on in the story.
I’m still totally an amateur with this graphic design business, so I hope to take some classes and gain some actual skill rather than feeling my way through by trial and error.
Amara: Damn good for an amateur babe. Does the story inspire the art, or does the art inspire the story?
Raev: Often, both! I make covers to fit the story, but I often collect images for inspiration as I'm writing, too. They may or may not end up on the cover, but they refine/inform my descriptions. Does that make sense?
Amara: Oh yeah, totally makes sense. What are you working on now?
Raev: *cracks knuckles* Well, Aleks and I have several WIPs, but the one I'm focusing on right now is a solo non-erotic urban fantasy serial novel. (Say that five times fast.) It's tentatively titled On a Twisted Tree, and it's about two redneck brothers who discover they're táltosk, Hungarian shamans, who are, according to tradition, given a mission from God to save souls. The brothers are trying to save souls, but also to save the World Tree, which is basically the backbone of the world.
Amara: Ooooo, sounds verra interesting.
I’m curious, what kind of books do you like to read?
Raev: I'm a pretty eclectic reader. I like good, informative and entertaining nonfiction (one of my favorites is about a coroner), urban fantasy, historical fiction, some westerns, some YA, even some literary fiction. And, of course, well-written erotic fiction. I like to read “different” things—things that push the envelope of what's good and what's acceptable, and stuff that makes me think. There's a reason I plan on subjecting my students to Chuck Palahniuk's “Guts” this semester, and it's not just because I want to make them barf.
I must admit, most of my reading these days has been through school and editing for other people, but I read some really good stuff that way!
Amara: Aside from writing, what else do you like doing?
Raev: Wait, what? Aside from writing? I don't understand the question. (I kid. Mostly.) I'm an amateur photographer, I knit when I can, and I like crime shows and HGTV. Yeah, I'm pretty boring.
Amara: Hey, I’m an amateur photographer too! And I did the knitting thing, now I crochet. Cool. Heehee, we have stuff in common. Uh…yeah, sorry, this is about you… not me. *tries to regroup and focus*
What future projects do you have in the works?
Raev: I have another UF series with my other co-author. Aleks and I are shopping To Catch a Spy, our menage spy thriller, and we're doing edits on Pawn, which is the prequel to To Catch a Spy. If you liked the ending of “Test of Faith,” you'll like that one. :) We also have several projects on the burners, including a contemporary m/m, Chaosborn, a m/m urban fantasy, and a WWII m/m urban fantasy.
Amara: What one thing do you wish someone would have told you, when you first started out as a writer?
Raev: All the fluffy woo-woo about the muse and inspiration and letting the mood take you is bullshit. Related to that, pantsing only works for so long. You have to know where you're going to get there.
Amara: Fluffly woo-woo bullshit? *laughs* Nice. So, where we can find you and your books on the Internet?
Raev: You can find me on Facebook.Goodreads under Raev Gray, and Twitter/LiveJournal as raevgray. My "official" author website is http://raevgray.weebly.com, and my graphic design website is http://raevgraydesign.weebly.com.