An Interview with Charles A. Ray author
1)Who are your greatest support – who believes in you?
- My youngest son and my daughter are my biggest fans – but, I have to say it’s my daughter, Denise, who is the strongest supporter.
2) Where do you write from? e.g. Kitchen table? Study? Bedroom? Garden shed?
- I write everywhere, but my main office is a converted bedroom on thesecond floor of our house in North Potomac, Maryland. We’re located not far from the Potomac River, which often serves as inspiration for me. The city of Rockville, Maryland, home of F. Scott Fitzgerald, is only a few miles away.
3) Do you write at set times e.g. morning, afternoon, evening, very early morning4) What motivates you to write
- I write in the morning, starting around 8:30 until noon, and then from around 2:00 to 4:00. Then I write in the evening from 9:00 to midnight. Before I retired from the U.S. Foreign Service, when I had to work full time, I wrote in the early morning, from 6:00 to 7:30, and in the late evenings after receptions, from 10 or so until midnight. I can’t really say what it is that motivates me to write, other than a compulsion to make up stories and share them with others. I’ve had this compulsion since my teens.
5) What are the biggest distractions to your writing time?
- I do consulting and teaching, and sometimes have to stop writing to prepare lectures, or travel. This past summer I ran a 5-week seminar in professional (government) writing for scholars in the Rangel Foreign Affairs fellowship at Howard University in Washington, DC. That almost brought my writing to a standstill for the duration of the seminar because of the student papers to grade and lectures to prepare.
6) What part of the world do you live in?
- I live in suburban Montgomery County, MD, right outside Washington, DC .
7) Are you from there originally?
- I was born in east Texas, 60 miles west of Shreveport, LA, in a small town of 700 people – mostly farmers and lumber workers. I left home right after graduating from high school and joined the army, and spent the next 20 years pretty much all over the world – including Germany, Panama, Korea, and Vietnam. I also served at military bases in Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Oklahoma, Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, and California. I was born in a town called Center, Texas (because it’s located in the geographic center of Shelby County) but grew up in the town of Tenaha, which means ‘Muddy Water’ in the Caddo language.
8) Have you ever suffered from writers’ block?
- Every now and then, I the idea mill seems to dry up for a few hours – but, only for a few hours.
9) How do you overcome it?
- I try to write something every day – a journal entry, notes on planned future projects, etc. I’m also an artist and photographer, so when I’m really averse to writing, I grab a camera or sketch pad.
10) Have you taken any writers’ courses and have they been worthwhile?
- No, never taken any course, other than English in high school and college.
11) Have you ever belonged to a writers’ group? And what value did you gain from it?
- I’ve never belonged to a writers’ group.
12) Is self-publishing satisfying enough for you or would you prefer to be traditionally published.
- I’m a tinkerer, and I like having total control over the process of bringing my works to readers. I’ve learned to design and create covers, how to format the interior, and a lot about the book publishing process. I’m now fully sold on self-publishing – – don’t make a lot of money from it, but loads of psychic satisfaction.
13) Have you ever tried to find an agent?
14) What would you expect an agent could do for you that you can’t do for yourself?
- Since I don’t try for traditional publishing, I don’t see what an agent could do, other than perhaps reaching out to movie producers.
15) Do you think you can make a full-time career being an Indie writer?
- At this moment, not without another source of income. But, becoming rich from my writing has never been my main objective. If I can keep adding to my reader base each month, I’m happy. I get nice reviews from time to time, and that’s another reward. My income from all writing activities (books, articles, teaching) is increasing over time, and along with my retirement income is enough to live comfortably on.
16) How long have you been writing?
- When I was 12 or 13, I entered and won a national Sunday school magazine short story contest. I actually wrote little stories before that – from around the time I was seven or eight. That’s a long time. I’ve also worked as a newspaper/magazine journalist.
17) What drew you to want to write a book?
- It just seemed a normal progression from writing short stories to writing books. Some of the ideas in my head don’t fit the short story format, so I had to write longer stuff to get them out.
18) From where did you get the idea for your latest story
- I do a mystery series about a PI living in Washington, DC. Al Pennyback is something of a throwback to the age of pulp stories – without the cursing, women, drinking, and guns – who doesn’t like rich people, lawyers, politicians, or bureaucrats; and he absolutely hates bullies. My latest was Deadbeat, about a con man who runs afoul of a mobster and has to go into hiding. Al is hired by the con man’s girlfriend to find him, which puts him in the mobster’s cross hairs.
19) How did you go about developing it?
- Because I use ‘dead’, ‘death’, ‘die,’ ‘deadly,’ or other derivations of death in all my titles, I often start with a title. When I decide on a title to write, I develop a start and end point, character list, timeline, and main events for each chapter, and then I start writing.
20) What is your next project?
- I also do a ‘Buffalo Soldier’ series – fictionalized stories of a unit of the Ninth Cavalry in New Mexico Territory after the Civil War. Though fiction, I try to make them historically accurate. My next one will be about the range wars between cattlemen and sheep men, with the cavalry caught in the middle. The working title is, as you might imagine, Buffalo Soldier: Range War.
21) What is the title of your book/s
Here’s a complete list of the books I’ve written:
Al Pennyback mysteries
Color Me Dead
Memorial to the Dead
Dead, White, and Blue
A Good Day to Die
The Day the Music Died
Death by Design
Till Death Do Us Part
Dead Man’s Cove
Dead Men Don’t Answer
Kiss of Death
Death in White Satin
Death and Taxis
Other books by this author:
The Buffalo Soldier series:
Buffalo Soldier: Trial by Fire
Buffalo Soldier: Homecoming
Buffalo Soldier: Incident at Cactus Junction
Buffalo Soldier: Peacekeepers
Buffalo Soldier: Renegade
Buffalo Soldier: Escort Duty
Buffalo Soldier: Yosemite
Buffalo Soldier: Battle at Dead Man’s Gulch
Angel on His Shoulder
She’s No Angel
Child of the Flame
Wallace in Underland
Further Adventures of Wallace in Underland
Dead Letter and Other Tales
The Last Gunfighters
The White Dragons
The Dragon’s Lair
Things I Learned from My Grandmother About Leadership and Life
Taking Charge: Effective Leadership for the Twenty-first Century
Grab the Brass Ring
There’s Always a Plan B
African Places: A Photographic Journey Through Zimbabwe and southern Africa
A Portrait of Africa
Books for children
The Yak and the Yeti
Samantha and the Bully
Molly Learns to Share
All of these books can be found on Amazon.com (as well as the UK, European, Australian, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Brazilian) and other retail book sites.
I post excerpts from my work on Wattpad.com. My site is at:
My amazon author pages are: