SANDALPHON PRESS INTERVIEW WITH RL GRAY, AUTHOR OF THE MING REALITIES
JANUARY 5, 2015
SP: You have written the first book for a series called “The Ming Realities.” Can you tell us a bit about the series and the main characters?
RL GRAY: I’ve always been a student of human nature and my observations led me to think about the challenging relationships in my life, and how they might have turned out differently if only we had been slightly different people. If this person were more forgiving, or if I were less impatient – would it have worked out better? I started to shape characters in my head to see if I could make them fit into the mold that I thought would make things turn out more happily. It was a lot of fun creating a world like that. And once it was ‘set’, I began wondering how it would have turned out if all of the characters had different motivations. At that point the idea for the series was born.
SP: How did you come up with the story for the series?
RL GRAY: (laughs) Well I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I wanted a strong female character who, eventually, had a turn with all the desirable men, even with the challenge of only being able to have one physical relationship at a time. Since that’s such a far-fetched idea, it had to be in an imaginary world. The story unfolded from there.
SP: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
RL GRAY: That’s a tough question. So far, the only actress who comes close to my idea of Ming, physically, is Amber Heard.
SP: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
RL GRAY: Yes. I was raised in the Christian church, but have also always been fascinated by science – particularly theoretical physics. I believe that there is life after death, many in fact, and that they’re all rooted in good vs evil in order for us to grow. But I think the reality of what comes next is far, far beyond anything the church or even science can try to describe. I hoped to open people’s minds to that concept.
SP: Do you have a date in mind for the release of the second book?
RL GRAY: It would be nice to finish it by the end of 2015, but as I’ve said many times: creativity has no manners when it comes to working on a schedule.
SP: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
RL GRAY: Aside from supporting myself doing something I love, I hope I’ll touch people’s lives in a positive way – even if that’s just to give them a pleasant escape and a bit of fun.
SP: What’s more important, characters or plot?
RL GRAY: I suppose characters. After all – what’s a plot without characters? Besides, I’ve found that once I start animating the characters in my imagination, the story flows from there.
SP: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
RL GRAY: I don’t know if it’s particularly interesting, but most of my best work is done when I’m at my home in Mackinaw City. I am most creative when I’m looking out my windows at the Mackinac Bridge, or when I’m running along my favorite path. Paradox came to me on a run.
SP: Which author inspires you the most?
RL GRAY: I don’t think I can name just one … although if pressed I’d say Tolkien. But I’d really have to add Lewis Carroll, Ray Bradbury, Anne Rice, Ruth Rendell and Diana Gabaldon to be fair.
SP: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor for your particular writing style?
RL GRAY: Probably Tolkien. I didn’t set out to write using an omniscient narrator ‘voice’ – it just happened, and I have to assume that’s because his work influenced me at such an early age.
SP: Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
RL GRAY: Since I still have a day job, I set aside time on the weekends for creating new material, and I edit my material every evening for a couple of hours before I go to bed. But I will admit that my home is peppered with bits of paper I scribble ideas on when they come to me. When I’m on vacation in Mackinaw, I basically write all the time.
SP: Writers have a reputation for being reclusive or solitary. Does that describe you?
RL GRAY: Yes, I’m afraid so. I’ve never been much of a people person. It sounds awful, but in general I prefer the company of my characters.
SP: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
RL GRAY: Just the same one that all authors have: write. Thinking about it isn’t enough. You have to write something – anything – one sentence. Then turn it into a paragraph and edit the paragraph 5 times. Then repeat until the book is born.
SP: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
RL GRAY: I do. I was in 8th grade and my wonderful English teacher, Glenn Gouwens, gave us an assignment to write a short story about our favorite place. I wrote about Mackinaw, and my memories of my grandparents and their house there. He gave me an A+ and told me I had talent. I still have the paper.
SP: Were you inspired by someone or something?
RL GRAY: I’d have to say my faith, and the desire to do something that might in some way ‘give back’. When you’re a reclusive person, being able to share your thoughts and ideas through writing is the ideal way to socialize.
SP: What do you love about writing a story?
RL GRAY: Finding out what comes next.
SP: What do you think makes a good story?
RL GRAY: I think the reader should feel like a voyeur – like they just happened to be peeking through a window and saw this other world unfold by accident.
SP: Where do the your ideas come from?
RL GRAY: I’d have to say 50+ years of reading fiction, watching movies, and observing people have planted many, many ideas in my head.
SP: What book(s) are you reading now?
RL GRAY: I hope this will change, but since I started writing Ming, I haven’t read anyone else’s work. For one thing, I don’t have time. For another, I find that it tends to pollute my voice – other author’s words or style tend to creep in to my own writing and so, while I’ve been going through this intensely creative process, haven’t read any books but my own.
SP: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
RL GRAY: I am traditional to the core. I spend so much time on the computer for my day job that I have no interest in reading from anything but the printed page. As I write, I print my work and do my editing on actual printed pages.
SP: What is your favorite motivational phrase or quote?
RL GRAY: Ray Bradbury once said, “You fail only if you stop writing.”
SP: What is your favorite film and why?
RL GRAY: Wow, that’s a tough one. The first movie that comes to mind is The Wizard of Oz. I have watched it a million times and could watch it a million more. The second is Mel Gibson’s movie Signs. I watch it once a year and never get tired of it. Mel explores the concept of miracles vs coincidences and throws in aliens – what’s not to like?
SP: If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been? Why?
RL GRAY: Oh dear … that would have made me a very different person and I don’t want to be anybody but me. I guess I’d have to say my own!
SP: Is there anything else you want to share with your readers?
RL GRAY: Just that I truly hope they enjoy the books and will reach out if there are things they’d like to see happen in future books. After all – anything is possible.