Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age? A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My name is Ray Garton and I’m 54 years old. I was born in the town of Redding, California, at the northern end of the state, and I’ve lived in this area most of my life. I went to college for a while, initially studying psychology, and did that for almost a year before I found a literary agent who was interested in representing me. I dropped everything to write a book for him and he sold it fairly quickly. After that, I focused on writing full time. I’m married to the love of my life, Dawn, and we have three cats (for a while, we had eleven at the same time).
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I have a new book coming from SST Publications called Paranoia Tango. It contains two novelettes of a paranoid nature called “Lizard Man Dispatches” and “The Last Days of Seabreeze.”
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I don’t know. I was drawing stories before I could write and worked hard to learn to read and write early so I could use words instead of pictures. There was never a time when I wasn’t writing. I don’t know why. I guess I was just born to tell stories.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was growing up, you weren’t a writer unless you had sold your work for publication. That was pretty much the consensus. That has changed, unfortunately. Now people seem to think they’re writers because they say they’re writers. The ease of self-publishing has created the Instant Writer. Self-publish something, create a website identifying you as a writer and voila! You’re writer! Or so the thinking goes. I’m still pretty old-fashioned about it, though.
I had been writing for years before I was published. I had written many short stories, a few novellas, and a couple of novel-length manuscripts (either handwritten or on a typewriter back in those pre-computer days) by the time I was out of high school, but I didn’t think of myself as a writer because I hadn’t been published. In fact, even then I didn’t really feel it. It wasn’t until I read the first review of my first novel, Seductions, in Kirkus. The review ended with a line that went something like this: “Seductions is a novel you can buy at the airport and not feel bad if you happen to leave it behind on the plane half-read.” At first, I was devastated. Crushed. Destroyed. For about fifteen seconds. Until I realized that my novel had been reviewed in Kirkus. It wasn’t a good review, but it was a review. That made me feel like a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
An agent. When I encountered my first agent, I sent him some short stories. He liked them but said he didn’t work with short stories. Did I have a novel? I said I was almost finished with one and I would send it to him when it was done. That was a lie, of course. I immediately went to work on a book. I had a read a Stephen King interview in which he said he’d never been able to successfully work vagina dentata into a story, so I decided I would give it a try, and Seductions was the result.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
One-word titles were in back then and I didn’t want to buck the trend. The book was about creatures that pose as humans, seduce their victims, and then eat them during sex. The title Seductions came pretty easily.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m sure I have a style but I’m not aware of it.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The novelettes in Paranoia Tango were inspired by the paranoia I’m seeing in our society. In fact, most of my writing has been reflecting that lately. The kind of conspiracy theories that used to be mostly underground have taken center stage. The internet has managed to give legitimacy to the kind of thinking that not long ago was openly mocked, and with good reason. The world is secretly run by reptilian aliens, or Satan-worshiping witches, or the Illuminati, or the Greys—a disturbing number of people actually believe these things. The President of the United States has expressed his admiration for Alex Jones, probably the world’s most successful conspiracy pusher. This is a man who claims the Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombings were staged events using actors, who claimed that President Obama was the “global head” of Al-Qaeda, that the government is chemically turning children into homosexuals in order to stop and then reverse population growth, that the Illuminati is planning to exterminate two-thirds of the population, among many other batshit-crazy things. So far in 2017, Jones’s website has averaged 6.2 million unique visitors every month according to Newsweek, and now he’s been endorsed by the president of the United States. I think that’s scarier than anything I could write. On top of that, talk radio is filled with shows that discuss these bizarre theories as if they are proven fact. Fear and paranoia have become favorite pastimes. Personally, I don’t understand it because I do not enjoy those feelings, even a little.
We have people in space, we’ve conquered diseases that used to wipe out entire populations, we’re carrying highly advanced technology around in our pockets, but for some reason, a lot of people seem to be shedding reason and knowledge like a snake shedding its skin. They’re embracing theories that seem to be nothing short of symptoms of mental illness. Maybe the earth is flat, maybe the moon landing was faked. I find that troubling and it’s been dominating my thoughts, and, as a result, my fiction.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I have traveled to do research, but the internet has made that less necessary.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I’ll have to get back to that question. I don’t know.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Oh, good grief, no! I write to entertain. I’m not opposed to someone finding something in a piece to take away from it, but my only concern when writing a story is telling a good story, manipulating my readers’ emotions, and showing them a good time. I have no messages.
I’m sure that some readers will see someone they know in “Lizard Man Dispatches,” someone who sees a conspiracy in everything. Someone once said of Alex Jones that he can’t fart without uncovering a conspiracy of bean producers. These days, people who harbor those beliefs are much more comfortable giving voice to them, so I’m sure readers will recognize that. If they find any messages, though, they were entirely unintended.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
When most people hear the word “horror,” they think of horror movies, which is unfortunate. There’s so much talent in the horror genre that I can’t keep up with it. I think my favorite new writer is Ed Kurtz, whose novel The Rib from Which I Remake the World blew me out of the water because of its seemingly effortless blend of different kinds of horror, as well as noir. His novel The Forty-Two, set in the grindhouse world of vintage Times Square, is the best noir I’ve read in a while, and his dark western novella A Wind of Knives is enraging and heartbreaking. I have not read all of his work yet, but everything I have read has been unique, unpredictable, and infused with a sense of melancholy. I can’t praise his work enough.
There are a lot of new writers who stand out. Rena Mason is just getting started and I predict great things from her. Jason Brock is a unique voice; I especially recommend his novelette Milton’s Children and his new collection The Dark Sea Within. Erinn Kemper has a brilliant imagination and everything I’ve read by her has been fresh and unexpected. I’m looking forward to her first novel. Nicole Cushing is a big talent. Her novel Mr. Suicide gave me that this-is-horrifying-and-depraved-and-I-shouldn’t-be-reading-it-but-I-can’t-stop feeling that lets me know I’m in the hands of a talented writer. I could go on. Horror fiction is in good health.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
There wasn’t a whole lot of support for my writing because I grew up in a religious family whose religion taught that all fiction was wicked. My friends enjoyed reading the stories I wrote, but I think most of them felt guilty about it, and the stories had to be passed around secretly so they wouldn’t be discovered by teachers. There were a couple of teachers who expressed encouragement and support for my writing, but it came with the caveat that what I chose to wrote was bad for me and everyone who read it. I made the best of the support I had, but even if I hadn’t received that, I wouldn’t have stopped writing. It wasn’t a choice, really.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
At this point, yes. Besides, I can’t do anything else.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There’s always something I’d change. It takes great effort to stop changing a piece, tweaking it and polishing it. I can’t read anything of mine after it’s been published because all I want to do is make improvements, strengthen weaknesses, and sometimes I just want to rewrite the whole thing.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned everything I could about the urban legend known as the “black-eyed kids” because they play a role in “The Last Days of Seabreeze.”
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Read everything, not just work in your genre. And keep reading. People who tell me they want to write but don’t have time to read always get a big laugh from me. That’s like saying you want to be an auto mechanic but you don’t have time to drive. Read everything and write every day. Even if it’s not for publication, even if it’s crap, make sure you write every single day.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I have such wonderful readers. The best thing about the internet for me has been connecting with them. Writing is solitary work and before the internet the only time I connected with readers was at conventions, which I don’t attend very often. I’m so grateful to them.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Pain Killers by Jerry Stahl.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t. That was a long time ago.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have a dark sense of humor and sometimes laugh at or joke about things that most people find inappropriate. At the top of the list of things that make me cry would be the abuse of the helpless, like children or animals.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Two, actually. I would love to share a meal with Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Just about everything I do is connected in one way or another to my work. I read a lot, I enjoy drawing, and one of my favorite hobbies is following conspiracy theories to see how they develop or fade away.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
As I type this, I have The Beverly Hillbillies running on TV. There’s so much TV now that I can’t keep up with it all and I can’t afford to subscribe to all the services necessary to see everything that’s being done. I enjoy American Horror Story. I think it’s the best horror that’s ever been done for TV.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Franz Kafka wrote “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” I agree with that.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I’m going to be cremated and put next to the TV. My epitaph will be my work.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Facebook – Personal page: https://www.facebook.com/ray.garton.3
My blog has not been very active, but it’s located here: http://preposteroustwaddlecock.blogspot.co.uk/