INTIMATE MONDAYS WITH FRANCIS RAY
THE WRITING LIFE
1. What is a typical writing day like for you?
Since I have a full-time job as a School Nurse Practitioner, my writing "day" doesn't begin until around 7:30-8pm...if I'm lucky. However, before writing I try to answer email and if a book is coming out within three months, usually work on promotion. Now that I have a MySpace page I have to work that in my schedule as well.
2. Do you need anything special to write? Quiet, music, a special place?
I don't need anything special to write. I have an actual office now instead of the dining room table. My husband is pretty self-sufficient so he gives me the time and space to write. Sometimes the radio is on the Country & Western station or it can be off. If I'm in the story, it really doesn't matter. It's when the story is not coming is when the slightest things will distract me.
3. What is the one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
I think people would be surprised to know that I struggle to write each book. And the struggle seems to be intensifying. I long for the day that I will just sit down and the story flow. However, I think I have resigned myself to the fact that writing will always offer challenges, but the rewards, and I don't mean monetary, far outweigh the doubts while writing. You can't put a price on a letter from a reader saying she's gotten out of an abusive relationship or decided to go back to get her degree after reading one of your books.
4. What is your writing process? How does a novel begin for you?
I start out with a character, usually a woman, who has been slapped down hard and now has to figure out a way to go on. I like dealing with real life situations - adultery, abuse, being downsizes, unsavory reputation - because readers can relate. Life offers challenges, it is how we respond to them that will determine our quality of life.
GETTING TO KNOW HER
5. Where did you grow up and do you think it has impacted/influenced your writing?
I grew up in a small town in Texas. I don't think it impacted/influenced my writing. My influence came from my parents who prized education, and taught me that I could be whatever I wanted - if I worked hard enough.
6. Do you have siblings? And if so where do you fit into the mix?
I have two older sisters and an older brother. I'm the youngest. They still can't believe I write. I was always the quiet one.
7. If you could choose a profession other than writing, what would it be?
I wanted to be a dancer when I was in high school. In college while studying nursing I became fascinated with Anthropology. If I had to choose, I'd go with Anthropology. Like building a character chart, anthropology lets you discover the how and why of people.
8. What is your definition of success?
My definition of success would be a minimum of 100,000 print run with each book,
consistently hitting the New York Time's bestseller's list, consistently hitting #1 on the Essence bestseller's list, publisher's support with marketing dollars in your contract, and earning very high six figures yearly.
9. Who did you share your first kiss with and when?
I shared my first kiss with Willie Brown, who lives across the street from me. He dumped me for a friend of mine. Since they're now married and happy, and I'm now married and happy, it turned out well for everyone.
10. If you could have dinner with someone living or dead, who would it be with and what would you want to know?
I'd like to have dinner with Octavia Butler. I'd like to know how she stayed strong and true to her craft. She walked a different path and did it well. I met her once. She was a gifted writer who was humble, unpretentious. Many of us are still struggling to be recognized for the craft and not sanctioned for the color of our skin.
11. Your favorite past time?
My favorite pastime is working in my flower garden. We added a couple of new flower beds this year. The downside is that even with the sprinkler system I have to hand water the flowers a great deal, but it's worth it. I enjoy flowers for the beauty they bring, Even with temperature dropping my begonias are still beautiful.
12. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear where writing is concerned is that one day the words just won't come. Since I write so slow, I'm faced with my fears with almost every book. I don't relax until I reach the middle of the book.
BEHIND THE BOOKS
13. What writers have influenced you and in what way?
Since I started out in romance the writers who influenced me were Katherine Woodiwiss, and Elizabeth Lowell. Both writers have excellent characterization. You care about the characters long after the last page is turned. I wanted to create the same memorable people in my books.
14. What is one book that you would insist that everyone read? (other than your own) And why?
Besides the Bible, I would suggest Joel Olsteen's Your Best Life Now. Life is difficult at time, when you add being an author, the challenges are many as you try to navigate the unpredictable world of publishing and be successful. You'll need strength to stay the course, to not compare yourself to others, to find joy in what you do.
15. Your favorite fictional character from someone else's book.
Wulfgar in Katherine Woodiwiss' The Wolf and The Dove, the second romance book that I read. His strength of character, his keen intelligence, his unwavering love for his people and his lady love made him memorable. He fought for those he loved and always did so honorably.
16. Who is your favorite character from one of your novels?
Lily Crawford from THE TURNING POINT retitled TROUBLE DON'T LAST ALWAYS. Lily stayed with an abusive husband to take care of his mother, the only woman in Lily's small hometown who believed she wouldn't turn out like her amoral mother. She put her love for her mother-in-law above her own safety.
17. What do you want readers to take away from your work--other than being entertained?
I want to remind readers that life comes at us hard sometimes. When it does don't give up. Fight and fight honorably.
FRANCIS RAY TRIVIA
18. Your favorite saying?
I don't have one. At least I don't think I have.
19. Your favorite curse word?
I try not to curse. It might slip out while I'm at work. If I did it would probably be d---n.
20 What is the best advice you've ever received?
My parents telling me that I could be whatever I wanted. Of course, I didn't always believe them. Life would have been much easier if I would have.
21. One thing that always pisses you off?
People who say anyone can write a book. I wish. The craft of writing is different for every person, but it requires discipline and hard work for most of us to finish a book. If it were that easy then everyone would have a book on the shelf.
22. What are you currently working on and when can readers expect to see it?
I just finished the revisions for THE WAY YOU LOVE ME, a romance for St. Martin's Press. The release date is late 2008. Now it's back to CAMERON'S DESTINY, my NASCAR book. I had the
awesome privilege of going behind the scenes at the Texas Motor Speedway. It really gets wild with 250,000 fans screaming for or booing a driver.
23. Where do you see yourself in five years and how do you plan to get there?
Hopefully, a reasonably successful author. I wish I knew with certainty how to get there. I don't. However, I do know it will take publisher's support with a larger print run, more marketing dollars. I'm trying to do my part to raise reader awareness with my web site, MySpace, book trailers, and touring. I have no idea if any of it will help, but I feel I have to do something.
24. If there was only one thing in the world that you could change what would it be?
Man's inhumanity to man. Life has little value to some. Respect is too often forgotten.
25. If you had the chance to go back and do something over in your life, what would it be?
I would have kept writing when I received those earlier rejection letters instead of feeling sorry for myself and doing nothing for 4-5 months. I wasted time, time I can never regain.
SAVING THE BEST FOR RIGHT NOW
Now, tell us a bit about your current book on the shelves and why should readers buy it?
My current book is ONLY YOU, the 5th book in the Graysons of New Mexico series. ONLY YOU is a sexy romance that will delight readers. Sierra Grayson doesn't have time for a man, until Blade Navarone wins her at a charity auction. Sierra learns that the right man can change the rules.