Required Reading

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview With Author Ray Melnik

Ray, thank you for allowing me to interview you.

Bill, thanks for the opportunity to talk about my story and for your time and review.

Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?

After publishing my first novel The Room in 2007, I started to miss the characters. The Room which takes place in 2006 involved an extraordinary happening near the end and since the purpose was to illustrate how a single event can affect our whole lives, I only eluded to what caused it. I also left the reader hanging about whether the protagonist, Harry, and his love interest, Lacie, ever get back together.

I thought it might be interesting to reveal the answers through the mind of Harry’s daughter, Kaela, but at a time 15 years in the future, in 2021. In The Room, she’s introduced as an 8 year old with a high aptitude in math and it would lead her to a career in the sciences. Since I’ve researched and written articles about new technologies for years, I was excited at the prospect of describing a world that I believe we’ll be living in not too long from now. I have a voracious appetite for science and it was fun to be able to use that background as well.

Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?

Before I start I have the beginning, milestones and end, but the real story develops organically.

Is your process to outline and then fill in the blanks or just sit down and start to tell a story or ?

I start with writing a page or two that tells the story through the milestones to the end. I write character profiles for each of the players initially planned; with more to come later. Then with a number of chapters in mind I write descriptions by breaking up the original short draft into the parts I plan to tell in each. I set up an Outlook calendar and place the events on a timeline. It was interesting, turning the calendar to the year 2021 and following it there. There are always shifts and changes as the story evolves, but it keeps the pieces in order.

Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?

In this story I think I would have to say I related most to Rael. I was 17 years old when I started college during the day and worked a full time evening shift at a nursing home to cover, credit costs, expenses and rent on a small studio apartment. Like, Rael, I saw no benefit in complaining. You do what you have to do. In the novel, Kaela says it, but Rael understands it perhaps best; “Life is neither malicious nor kind. It simply doesn’t care.” I did care very much for Kaela and Kyle as well. It’s strange how I missed my characters when the novels were done.

What do you like the most about writing?

Since I hadn’t written fiction since school, I had forgotten how much fun it is. I can put my issues into the characters, make things turn out they way I wish they would, and do the impossible. It gives me a way to provide readers with an existential view of life and hopefully the realization that no belief system has a lock on compassion, generosity and empathy.

Where do your new story ideas come from?

I started writing The Room when my marriage broke up and it was a way to share it with the protagonist, Harry, who was going through the same thing. I’ve been fascinated with String Theory and it made a great vehicle to illustrate how a single event can change the course of your life. I was able to explore what would happen if the tables were turned.

When I was promoting The Room I wrote several short stories, two of which became subplots and the start of To Your Own Self Be True. The first was the story of Rael, the rape of his mother and the love he had for his little sister. It was titled, My Little Treasure. The second was the story of Dr Kyle Trace and his encounter with an alternate reality in his lab in 2006. That one was titled, To Your Own Self Be True which of course became the book title. I subconsciously wanted to continue the story of the Ladd family.

What advice has helped the most in your writing?

I got my best advice from the editors, Ed Hayman who edited The Room and Joann Horai who edited To Your Own Self Be True. It was a great benefit in so many ways, to have their point of view from outside.

What is the favorite book you have written?

So far there are only the two novels and both were enjoyable to me in their own way. Maybe after a few more I’ll have a favorite. (I knew this from Ray's web site, forgive me for a less than stellar question.)

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite author is Albert Camus and his book The Stranger, tops my list. My views about existence had been with me since before I was a teen, but in an existential literature course in college, that book was the first assignment and I finally realized that there were others who thought the same way that I did.

What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

Don’t be afraid to be honest and place some of yourself into your characters. Never be afraid to open up.

Ray, thank you very much for participating in this inteview, I learned some things and I hope my readers do as well.
More information can be found on Ray Melnik and his books at his web site. Also see my review of "To Your Own Self Be True" below.

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