A HUGE thanks to author, Fred Rayworth, for his interview with us. We are so grateful for all the authors who are willing to help us out with guest interviews. If you want more information or links, you can find them at the end of the post!
1. What inspired you to write this book?
Answer: Hmmm… I’ve written eleven and am working on number twelve right now. The best answer I can give for any of them is that the muse hit me. My current book, Gods Of The Blue Mountains, which was released in November, 2018, is the sequel to Treasure of The Umbrunna which is part of the Meleena’s Adventures fantasy series. I’ve always planned to make it a series, which is true for all the books I write.
2. Can you tell me about the book?
Answer: In Gods, when a friend is in need of a special ingredient to save his life, he asks Meleena for help. She answers his call. However, as it happens, when she volunteers, there’s always a catch. To find this ingredient, she must risk her life by sneaking into the realm of the Gods Of The Blue Mountains. Nobody has ever done that -- and returned. Can she help her friend, even after she hooks up with others who have a more sinister agenda? Will she survive this journey and save her friend?
3. What is your writing process like?
Answer: To put it as simple and blunt as possible, I sit down and write. Period. Before, because of my old job, I had plenty of free time to write at work. However, now I have to do all my writing at home, so I do it in the evenings and on weekends. It takes a bit longer to write, but nothing about it is different. As for my other processes, or the mechanics of it all, I’m a firm seat-of-the-pants writer, otherwise known as a pantser. In other words, I NEVER outline. However, the key to making that successful is that I ALWAYS know A and B before I start. That’s a MUST. If I don’t know where I’m going to end up, starting is a waste of time. On the other hand, I write so linear, I don’t get off on tangents. I always have B in mind. B may evolve and adjust by the time I get there, but it’s the main goal and everything in-between A and B is a total surprise, sprinkled with ideas, inspirations and little things I’ve picked up along the way that usually end up as yellow stickies hung on my computer desk.
4. What did you learn when writing the book?
Answer: More surprises about my characters, the world I created and about myself.
5. What surprised you the most?
Answer: How easy it was.
6. What does the title mean?
Answer: Gods Of The Blue Mountains is self-explanatory. It’s the subject of Meleena’s adventure. She travels to a far off place and confronts these beings.
7. Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who?
Answer: The main character, Meleena is an amalgam of many women I’ve known over the years. I won’t name them to either embarrass them or give them the impression the character is solely based on them. There’s even a little bit of me in her. She’s also unlike any other woman or person (regardless of sex) I’ve ever encountered.
8. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?
Answer: I already know and am working on Across The Endless Sea, the third book in the series. No, it’s NOT a trilogy, ala Lord Of The Rings!
9. What advice do you have for writers?
Answer: The first thing to figure out is if this pursuit is a passion or a hobby. If it’s a hobby, find something else to do. If it’s a passion, hone your craft. Learn to enjoy every minute of it. If it’s really a passion, you should never get writer’s block.
10. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Answer: Since this is a passion for me and I love to write, it energizes me.
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Answer: Worrying about book sales, worrying about writing perfect the first time, worrying about a muse, having a thin skin, and marketing.
12. What is your writing Kryptonite?
13. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Answer: I sure did, and after discussing it many times with not only local authors but several New York Times best-selling authors, I came to the conclusion that I’m just going to save all the hassle and write under my real name, regardless of the fact that I write in multiple genres. I’ll keep it simple. I just don’t use my payroll signature when I autograph a book!
14. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Answer: My first and main goal is to write good stories for myself in the hope that readers will like what I write as well. Though I’d love to sell millions of books, I’m not only way more realistic, I’m also no mercenary writer. I’ve already done that as a technical writer. I have another real job already. I write fiction because I not only love to write stories, but I LOVE to write. If I happen to gain a large audience, so much the better. However, I will NOT pander. Not going to happen.
15. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Answer: Both. Each book should stand on its own, but can have tie-ins that won’t jar the reader or make them come up short. Each story has a definite end, though in the Meleena series, I do dangle the possibility of another adventure without leaving things from the present book unfinished.
16. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Answer: Eight finished and one working on right now.
17. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Answer: On my fantasy novels, almost none except I did a bit about sword fighting with real sword fighters at Age Of Chivalry festivals. I solved that issue my own way. On my adventure thrillers or icky bug, I usually start writing with A and B already done. Then I do what necessary research I need on the fly as I go along. Part of the deal is that so far, all of my real-life fiction novels have taken place or been inspired by places I’ve actually lived except my first adventure/thriller, Lusitania Gold. That one took more research than any of the others simply because it was the third book I ever wrote and the first in the Gold series. I was new to writing and picked a subject that I was familiar with, but not with the locations since I’d never been to most of them. Therefore, I had to rely almost entirely on research. Plus, it took two decades to get it published, so it was back to square one, in a way, to redo the research to fix and tweak locations and certain things that had changed and been updated in two decades, especially stuff to do with the Lusitania itself.
18. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Answer: I’m not a full-time writer, and never was when it comes to fiction. I WAS a full-time technical writer for a decade. Now I work a different job. I’ve been in this writing passion since 1995.
19. How many hours a day do you write?
Answer: I write something almost daily, whether it be my weekly blog articles, responses to forum posts on Facebook, the astronomical newsletter me and my partner Roger put out called the Observer’s Challenge, my weekly updates to Meleena’s Adventures and The Limnophobic Chronicles, writing the second Meleena sequel, Across The Endless Sea, or the one-off short story. I almost never stop writing. As for time, it varies from minutes to hours depending on the day.
20. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
Answer: Someone on a forum once asked me what I’d call my memoir, if I were to write one. Well, I have already done the majority of it and published it on-line for free on a site called Let’s Talk Nevada. I was the weekend comic relief on this political discussion site that unfortunately went belly up a few years ago when the owner passed away. I never gave it all a title, but it would be something like “Tales Of Some Schlub Who Did Goofy Shit.” The fact is that while I have written many autobiographical stories over the years, and even published over thirty snippets including visual aids (photos), nobody would really give a shit except the small captive audience I had. I don’t really have a compelling enough story to sell a significant number of books. I’ve had several other autobiographical stories published in anthologies. As for what period of my life? All over the place, from childhood to present day.
21. What did you edit out of this book?
Answer: As for Gods Of The Blue Mountains, one entire chapter. Between my editor and me, we decided to kill a darling. Actually, not really a darling, but a scene that didn’t really need to be there. That involved tweaking the chapter before and after to ensure a smooth transition, but otherwise it certainly didn’t kill me, bruise my ego, or make me want to quit and find another publisher. I not only have a thick skin, but am willing to listen and learn. It’s all part of the process and something EVERY author needs to learn.
22. How do you select the names of your characters?
Answer: After living overseas for a decade, plus working where I’m exposed to more names than you can possibly imagine, well…it doesn’t take much of a stretch to come up with the wild and crazy names I dream up. On the other hand, I don’t even really need that, as my inspiration comes from everywhere. As an example, as we were driving home from Disneyland at five o’clock one morning and were just leaving Anaheim on the freeway, I drove by a fuel truck. There was a defective decal on the side of the truck. I saw that distorted acronym and came up with the name of a character in Across The Endless Sea. I never know where a name will pop into my head!
23. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Answer: As I said earlier, I already have a real job so that’s not an issue.
24. What was your hardest scene to write?
Answer: None that I can think of.
25. What is your favorite childhood book?
Answer: There isn’t one but there are many. The Bobsey Twins, the Danny Dunn series, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Life On The Mississippi, to name a few.
26. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Answer: It used to take about six months. Now it takes about two years.
27. Do you believe in writer’s block?
Answer: Nope. Never had it. Can’t even relate.
28. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
29. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: Early 1995 when I figured we weren’t going to make it as musicians anymore.
30. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Answer: It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. However, the first time I ever tried was on a portable Royal typewriter I bought at the Base Exchange at Torrejon Air Base in Spain, in 1971. It was to write letters home because my writing is indecipherable. I was playing in a lot of bands at the time and set about typing a few dirty lyrics here and there. I thought, why not to write a novel? So…I started a Star Trek satire. I got down three quarters of a page and gave up. I decided writing was HARD! It wasn’t until 1995 when I’d actually learned how to write sensibly, that I gave it another shot, just to see if I could do it. I needed the artistic outlet. I put the hammer down and whipped out The Cave, a science fiction thriller about finding alien artifacts in a cave in New Mexico. When I reached The End, I knew I’d found my second passion. My first passion was, and still is, visual observing with a telescope.
31. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Answer: No! NEVER! This isn’t a sport or competition. I also don’t need an incentive to write. I LOVE to write. I write as I see fit and quit when I run out of time or just feel it’s time. That’s it.
32. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
Answer: As I said before, A and B are set before I start, so I ALWAYS have the plot laid out. Without a goal, you’re treading water and end up with a mess.
33. Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
Answer: To me, outlining just sucks all the creativity and fun out of writing. However, it all depends on how your brain organizes things. If you can work with just A and B, go for it. If you need to plot everything out, by all means, map it out and work from there. It may take trying it both ways before you find the happy medium that works for you.
34. Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Answer: I read every day. I complete and REVIEW at least a book every week, without fail. Sometimes two a week. Favorite authors are David Baldacci, Lee Child, John Sandford, Bentley Little, Carol Davis Luce, Elizabeth Forrest, Fiona Dodwell, Donald Riggio, Clive Cussler, Preston & Child, CJ Box, James Rollins, Lester Dent, Andre Norton, Greig Beck, Steve Berry, Nick Petrie, Hunter Shea, Jeffrey Deaver.
35. What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
Answer: That should be a multi-pronged question. To me, the most important thing(s) about a book are #1 It should be written in third-person, past-tense. The point of view should be controlled, with one character controlling each scene or chapter. NO head-hopping or no omniscient. #2 The story should move with brisk narration and plenty of open spaces on the page. #3 The story must start with a bang-no backstory. #4 No long passages of italics because they’re so annoying. #5 There MUST be a payoff at the end. If there’s no payoff, to me, that completely negates any other positives the book might’ve had.
36. How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?
Answer: What? People are supposed to show up? Wow, that would be nice!
37. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
Answer: That would be over sixty years ago. A little less further back would be Life On The Mississippi.
38. How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Answer: A little here and there. I do and don’t live through my books. Not as much as one might think.
39. Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
Answer: Anyone who loves to read and loves a good story. As far as the actual dedication at the front, people who helped me get there like members of my writers group, my mentor and friend Carol Davis Luce, and of course, my family.
40. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
Answer: They all are.
41. Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
Answer: Mine is my Polka-dot Sewer. Too long a story to go into here, but it derives from a drawing I did in kindergarten back in Lakewood California. My muse is my imagination, not some external thing. Some blame their muse for writer’s block. I think that’s bullshit. To me, at least in my personal experience, the muse is internal, at least mine is. It’s my imagination. If others have an external muse, so be it. If they lose it, have they lost their imagination as well? I can’t answer that.
42. Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?
Answer: I wouldn’t know. I certainly not part of that!
43. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
Answer: Hah! Maybe after twenty or thirty edits. I’ve heard of a few (very few) writers who are agonizingly slow. They write each sentence and each paragraph and perfect it and don’t t go on until it’s perfect. That would just suck the life right out of me. I’ve been at this long enough to get it generally right, but I have no illusions. I know I’m making mistakes all the time, but you know what? I could care less. I certainly make fewer than I used to, but my main goal with a first draft is to get it all down and worry about tweaking it later. Nowadays, I have less work to do than in the past, but geez, forest-through-the-trees. What you write versus what you think you write don’t always come out the same. That’s what a writer’s group is for, editing and beta readers.
44. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
Answer: 20 years and 689 rejections before I got published because I refused to self-publish. Like I tell other writers, you need to develop a thick skin.
45. What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
Answer: I co-authored a screenplay once. As for books, no way. I have way too many ideas of my own to dedicate any energy to something like that.
46. Is writing book series more challenging?
Answer: Nope. It’s fun.
47. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?
Answer: It comes, it goes, then it comes back. It’s a lot easier than trying to remember a song! I’ve forgotten more of those than I’ll ever remember.
48. Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?
Answer: Nope, never needed to.
49. Can you tell us about your current projects?
Answer: I’m working on Across The Endless Sea, the third book in the Meleena’s Adventures series. I just turned in Spanish Gold, the second book in my Gold series (of which I’ve written six). I started West Virginia Gold, the seventh in that series, but put it on hold to write Treasure Of The Umbrunna, the first Meleena book. I may get back to that one someday. I just had an autobiographical short story, Thank You For Your Service accepted in the latest Writer’s Bloc anthology to be published in the next month or so. There’s more I can’t think of at the moment, but that’s what I’ve got as far as publishing is concerned.
50. Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?
Answer: Hah! Not a chance!
51. Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
Answer: Yes, they certainly never discouraged my vast collection of Hardy Boys novels either on the shelf or as Christmas presents.
52. Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs?
Answer: Not often. She pretty much stays out of it until I have the final result.
53. Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?
Answer: Hah! My second icky bug (horror) novel, The Factory is based on a place I used to work at. I, of course, had to change the name and location so I wouldn’t get sued, but the descriptions of the buildings and machinery within the plant, the creepy atmosphere are exactly like that place. When I got laid off after working there three years, I sat in my garage watching the snow coming down through the window. I had no job prospects, my unemployment insurance was going to run out soon, I had never EVER been unemployed since I was seventeen (I was in my early fifties). Yet, I sat there and felt so glad I didn’t have to go back to that cursed place! So, yeah, I turned a nightmare into a full-length icky bug novel. Unfortunately, I can’t get it published right now because I won’t take out the f-bombs. So be it.
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