This week, A Perfect 10 features author Robert Rayner. His thoughtful answers give insight into his thoughts on writing, promotion and other aspects of his work.
Please enjoy this installment of A Perfect 10.
If you want to check out past interviews, you can find them in the following links:
A.C. Flory, Steve Boseley, Kayla Matt, Mae Clair, Jill Sammut, Deanna Kahler, Dawn Reno Langley, John Howell, Elaine Cougler, Jan Sikes, Nancy Bell, Nick Davis, Kathleen Lopez, Susan Thatcher, Charles Yallowitz, Armand Rosamilia, Tracey Pagana, Anna Dobritt, Karen Oberlaender, Deby Fredericks, Teri Polen, Darlene Foster
Also, if you are an author and you want to be part of this feature, I still have a few slots open for 2017. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. When a project is going well and the words are flowing I find progress feeds progress. When I’m struggling with a project the opposite happens, lack of progress fueling continued lack of progress, which is both tiresome and tiring.
Do you ever write under a pseudonym? If not have you considered it? Why or why not?
I’ve never used a pseudonym. Sometimes think it might be fun to try one – become a new person! – but I fear I’d be doing it for the wrong reasons, i.e. I could enjoy praise for the writing (just supposing there was any), and deny all knowledge of it if someone criticized it.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers? Why or why not?
I think you need a big ego only in the sense that you write with the assumption that what you write is worth reading. You have to believe that in order to carry on.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I think the only money I’ve spent on writing is in providing basic necessities like computer and printer (which I’d have anyway), notebooks, a few favorite types of pens, and bookmarks to give away at readings and signings. I’m not sure these count as ‘expenses’ because they’re compensated by royalties. (Just about.) (In a good year.) The bookmarks are probably my most worthwhile expense.
What does writing success look like to you? Have you achieved it?
I think of writing ‘success’ as a kind of graduated scale, from ‘bottom up’, 1) getting a book published (check); 2) having someone praise it (family doesn’t count) (check); 3) encountering a member of the public reading one of your books (not yet); 4) having a best seller (yeah, right); 5) selling movie rights (ha ha). In a less material, more personal, sense, my own judgement of my writing ‘success’ is to ask if my books entertain, and move, and resonate. If I’m satisfied that they do (and I am – there’s that ego thing again), then I believe I’ve achieved a modest but valid form of ‘success’.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What sources do you use?
I read several books for historical background on the ‘30s for The Ragged Believers. Consulted a couple of manuals and web sources on wilderness survival for Colorland. Consulted my own doctor about strokes and their aftermath for Defiant Island. Consulted my ophthalmologist about Lieber’s Disease for Out of Sight. Browsed soccer training manuals for the Brunswick Valley series. I don’t spend much time researching because of the nature of the stories I write.
How do you select the names of your characters? Have you ever regretted choosing a particular name?
Why? I look for ‘neutral’ names that carry no baggage (anyone reading this who is also a teacher will know what I mean). I often use place names in order to achieve this (Ridge, Birmingham, Wenden, Meru). I don’t want a name to influence how a character develops; rather, I try to find a name that somehow ‘reflects’ the character.
What is the hardest type of scene to write?
Sex! I’ve tried and failed. (Writing about it, I mean.) It’s always a bad sign when you cringe, or laugh, or both, at your own efforts. I find literary sex scenes are usually unintentionally funny, maybe unavoidably, because the act itself has so many elements of comedy. Anything beyond a hug and a kiss I find is best hinted at, then left to the imagination.
If you could have dinner with four people, living or dead, who would they be and what would you want to ask them?
Can’t answer this. I don’t – can’t – do dinner parties, even in imagination and fantasy.
What platform has brought you the most success in marketing your books?
At the risk of sounding as if I’m having an attack of sour grapes, I believe success comes from good promotion, having a name somehow ‘known’ (not necessarily as a writer), notoriety (of topic or author), and – finally! – the quality of the book itself. Readings and signings work best for me, but I have to admit I’m a poor self-promoter.
My latest books, both for teens, are:
- Riot School (Lorimer). Teenagers occupy their school when the local education authority votes to close it.
- Black Water Rising (Nimbus). Small town versus big business as a dam providing hydroelectric power threatens to flood.
Both are available in print or e-form from bookstores as well as Amazon, etc.
Connect with Robert:
Book trailers: www.youtube.com/raggedbeliever