Ray spent 10 years as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, traveling to 27 countries, and 28 years as an aeronautical engineer for a major aerospace firm. He loves to write science fiction and to create unique heroes and heroines facing unusual challenges. Many of the current Sci-Fi stories are missing something, for example ‘how did the evil computer start?’ as in his series SIMPOC. If aliens invade Earth, Ray will likely write from the alien point of view. His protagonists include, clones, robots, computers, aliens, and yes men and women.
Time to chat with Ray!
What is your latest book?
My latest book is Earth II-You Have No Honor. Which was released a little over a month ago. Recently I’ve been converting my work to Audible files and two of my novellas SIMPOC-The Thinking Computer and SIMPOC-Human Remnants have just been released. Two others Virus-72 Hours to Live and Gemini will be released on Audio in January. The remainder of my work will be released through-out the spring.
Is your recent book part of a series?
Earth II is actually the end of the first Epoch in a long story and it focuses on all of the characters in the SIMPOC and Virus series. I did something a little unusual with these series. SIMPOC focused on two very advanced computers, SIMPOC is a ‘good’ computer and ‘Julius’ isn’t. Their story emerges as the world is struck by a suspicious virus and the two novellas focus on the computers. The human story is described in the Virus novels and the computers are among the characters. Earth II brings all of the characters together and the story reaches a major milestone and prepares them for a follow-on series.
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
One of my series, Virus is complicated with a long list of characters, each with their own story line. I found it challenging to keep all of the stories in sync and moving towards the same points where they would interact with each other and ultimately conclude. I like series because good stories are huge and have many perspectives. I like to show different parts of the story and how they eventually come together and play out to the conclusion.
What else have you written?
I’ve got four short stories and three series. Two of the series SIMPOC and Virus are related. I wrote SIMPOC first and it is about a suspicious virus that almost wipes out Earth. During the turmoil two very sophisticated computers emerge. One is inclined to help and the other has its own agenda. The story was to show how an evil computer starts. Later in the story I introduced other characters such as astronauts from various space settlements and some key players in the US Government. Some of my readers commented that they’d like to see the back story of those later characters, so I wrote the Virus series which includes SIMPOC but focuses on the story line from the perspective of the astronauts and US Government. All of the characters from both series come together in a third series called Earth II which brings them to an interim conclusion. Separately, I’ve started a separate series Gemini about true aliens and no human characters. It’s a story of love, strife, battles and alien’s evolution to survive. The Raog are a naïve alien race that begins to investigate their solar system. What they find attacks them and for the first time in their history they have to develop survival skills. I have a young couple of aliens that fall in love, share a huge loss and grow to become leaders of their people.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
I love playing with ‘the twists’ in my stories. My characters surprise me all the time. I never know what they’ll say or do until I get in the story. That might sound crazy to a non-writer, but I start with a concept of the character and as they development, they take on a life of their own and they are always saying and doing things that surprise me. Love it. I look for situations that would be fun to write about. I get tired of the same hero fighting the aliens and creating a bigger bomb. I like the subtleties of leadership and putting unlikely heroes and heroines in challenging situations. What I enjoy the least is when it ends. I get involved in the story and go through a binge phase while I write, when the story is done, it depresses me a little until I can get another story started. I miss the excitement of the story and I miss the characters.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I never know the ending. I might know how it will end, but I don’t know the details. For example, I might know that a good computer will beat a bad computer, but how? Once I get into the characters then I start building the tension and set up the conflict based on how they interact, then writing the ending is just a part of the natural flow of the book.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I go through a ‘naught’, ‘alpha’, ‘beta’ kind of process. My ‘naught’ is basically a brain dump. I’ll edit as I go, only to the point that I have a clear picture in my head. Then the alpha review might be multiple passes where I fill in the holes, and adjust the storyline. The grammatical editing continues with each pass through the story. Finally, when I have all of the story elements in place and my typing passes through a check with Grammarly and the MS Editor, I consider it ready for a beta read. Sometimes there are multiple beta reads as I adjust the ‘small’ pieces. Then it’s ready for prime time. Often, weeks might pass between each of the steps. They story has to ‘steep’ for a while before I go back to it, that way I can read it with fresh eyes and see it as a story; not my story.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
Write, write, write, write. Then edit, edit, edit. Then sell, sell, sell, and when you’re done start over.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
Being an Aeronautical Engineer and an ex-military pilot with over 4,500 hours of flight time puts me in a position where I enjoy using technology. Most of the tech that I used is based on realistic science that is occurring today. I’ve had enough experience so I can take many of the cutting edge concepts and amplify on them with my imagination. I do enough research so I know what the concept is, then I use literary license to expand it in the direction that I want.
Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?
My last novel was Earth II which is the culmination of two series, Virus and SIMPOC. I enjoyed it the most because it brought together all of my characters and I was able to resolve much of the conflict. True, I’ve set it up for future conflict, but that’s what a series is all about. I enjoyed it, because each of the characters were able to emerge and become a complete story in themselves. My heroine lead makes a speech at the end which I love. I think it is one of the best scenes that I’ve done.
Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?
I have been criticized by the best. Throughout my career as a USAF pilot and engineer in many levels of management, I was always evaluated and my ‘issues’ were pointed out. I remember being afraid to walk across a parking lot for fear that a Vice President who disagreed with me would run me over. When I get a bad interview I take some time to cool down, then I try to look at it from the writer’s point of view. Invariably there is some truth buried in the review and I try to find it. Sometimes the truth is relevant and sometimes it isn’t, the key is to make that decision.
Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?
The only analogy I can describe, is writing for me is like following a map. I know where I’m going, but there are a million paths to get there. The same goes for my characters. I know where they’ll end up, but their character leads them down various paths to get there. I don’t control that path, because the character usually leads the way. I might put in one or two sentences, that seem great at the time and it changes the entire path of the character. That is the fun of following the roads, along with the character, not leading them.
Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?
I’m lucky, I’m retired and I get to live where I want. Since retirement, my wife and I have traveled a lot. When I was in the Air Force I flew to 27 countries and I learned to love where you are and who you’re with. If you can do that, then you’ll be happy everywhere.
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
Planes definitely, I’ve flown them, grew up around them, designed them, built them and I love them.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
Anything with my wife, that we shouldn’t have.
If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.
Isaac Asimov. He had the ability to see how technology would affect the world in ways no one else did. He didn’t need to make the issue complex, he could take the simple parts of the technologies effect and write it into a story that everyone would read, smile and shake their heads a little when they were done.
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
Honestly and loyalty.
Care to brag about your family?
I don’t have enough space, but you asked. Aside from my wife, my daughters, their husbands and my first grandchild, I can’t think of anything else.
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