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?
Jon Ray, age 44.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Originally, from Tyler, Texas in the U.S., but currently residing in Sydney, Australia.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up in the small East Texas town of Tyler in between Dallas and Shreveport, Louisiana. For my 13th birthday, I was gifted by my father with everything I needed to play a game called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I actually had discovered the game in a hobby shop a few weeks earlier, because I use to love building and launch hobby rockets. My father asked what I wanted for my birthday and I showed him to the shop, the owner just so happened to be one of his former students, as he was a high school teacher. The former student, made sure I got everything I needed and thus began a life long love for fantasy and all things Dungeons & Dragons, with me normally running my own campaigns for others. This passion for fantasy lead me to read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and later the Dragonlance series by TSR, the same company that produced D&D.
I’ve lived a very interesting life spending time all over the U.S. as well as 5 years in Japan and now just over a year in Australia. When not writing, I love to get out to the Australian outback and prospect for gold. The yearn for the trill of real life adventure always beckons to me and eventually finds itself within my stories.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
At the moment, I’m writing a submission for a Fantasy Anthology series and working on finishing up my 2nd novel “Gorp: Dungeon Overlord” in my Gorp the Goblin series. I also recently released the 2nd edition of my first novel “Gorp: Goblin Janitor” with a much improved book cover.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Writing has always been one of those things I’ve loved to do. The why is due to always considering myself a story teller, coming from great grandparents who were actors in the early 1920s in Hollywood, it’s in my blood to entertain. With writing I am able to transport the reader into my own worlds of the imagination and entertain them with tales of fantasy or lore.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
NaNoWriMo 2010 – I had always wanted to write a book, but never had the right conditions to hold me to it, until I discovered NaNoWriMo through other friends of mine who were authors. That year, my first time doing it, I wrote and completed a 50k word novel within 30 days. 7 years later, after a book cover and editing, that novel became my first book “Gorp: Goblin Janitor”.
New updated 2nd edition cover.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Being an all-around gamer, card, board, role-playing, arcade, console, PC games, I played a lot of games. There was this one game I remember called “Dungeon Overlord” where you were the ruler of an underground dungeon and had pesky adventurer types coming into your dungeon and ruining things. This help inspired the concept of telling a story from the monster’s perspective and from that my goblin character Gorp was born.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Gorp just came to me in a spur of the moment, but it wasn’t until later that I looked it up and found out it was also an alternative name when referring to trail mix. Still, it wasn’t a very popular name, so I kept it. The Goblin Janitor part gives insight that the character is a goblin and his profession within the dungeon.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
At this point, I think I’m still developing a style of my own. I know my work has improved since I wrote my first book in 2010, but as for my voice, I just try to stay true to what I find fantastical in character and setting.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
For my first novel, it’s purely made up. I did not base any of the characters of anyone I know, nor experiences. I think my time of Japanese Onsens (Japanese Bath Houses) found it’s way into my story, but aside from that not a lot. In my 2nd novel in the series, there are people I know who have characters and places based off of them. I also like to work prospecting for gold and mining into my story a lot more these days as well.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Not really. For me the crafting part usually begins with a map. I’m also a fantasy map cartographer and make my own maps. I usually start with an overview world map and then create another city or town map. In some cases, I’ll even map out the individual buildings to give me mental notes of space and locations that I write about. For character building, sometimes I draft up a character sheet like from my RPG days with stats. Other times, I’ll just review fantastic fantasy artwork and from those pictures the words and personalities come flowing.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Originally, I designed the cover for my first novel. I was trying to go for a minimalistic approach with a simple drawing of Gorp, but the competition in the fantasy genre market is unforgiving and only recently I decided to hire an artist by the name of Simon Tjong to do the artwork and with his art I designed the new cover. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, but even more blown away by the 2nd book, which was done by Simon as well and has yet to be revealed. It’s even better than the first.
Old cover I drew.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Gorp is the underdog and I love stories where the characters who no one in the story ever thinks will amount to much, proves them all wrong. I’ve also injected into Gorp’s character human like qualities not normally found within a Goblin. I’m not going to say here, but the reason for this could be revealed in a future book. I also like to show what it could be like from the other side as in, “To know thy enemy”.
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?
I recently was part of a Fantasy Anthology called “Shadows of the Abyss: A Fantasy Writers Anthology” and from that book I’ve learned of other fantasy authors, which I’m quite keen on to read more of. I also have quite a lot of old works that I missed in the fantasy genre, that I’ve been going back to and discovering like Robert E. Howard of the “Conan the Barbarian” series and Poul Anderson who wrote “Three Hearts and Three Lions. What I found interesting about Anderson is that this book was expanded from a novella in 1953 and into a novel in 1961. Gary Gygax, one of the co-creators of Dungeons & Dragons got a lot of his inspiration from the novel. As for favorite author, it used to be William Gibson, but as I’ve read more fantasy and become a fantasy author myself, I no longer have a favorite. Each author has their own spin on the genre and I like them all as a contributing whole.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Myself. The publishing journey has mostly been a lonely one. I do no get much support from those around me as they are not really book readers. So I find my support and encouragement from myself and the many author forums and personal connections I make with other authors.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not at first. In fact, my “Gorp: Goblin Janitor” novel was initially supposed to be just a one off. I never intended to turn it into a series, but after a few early reviews by others who had read it, I knew I had to continue it into at least a trilogy. Along with that series and the worldbuilding I’ve done on my own fantasy world called Agrobathe, I now plan to be a writer until my final days here on earth. I have both a love and passion for it and in return it gives me sanity and purpose.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes! I would have planned my Gorp book as a series and placed “Book I” on the cover. When I tried to update the new book cover for this book, I tried to place the “Book I” on the cover to indicate it was part of a series but had to remove it for publishing standards. I also would have spent a bit more time on formatting for a novel and editing on the 1st edition. On my recent edit pass of the 2nd edition of the book, I found more mistakes than I could believe. At least I now have satisfaction in knowing it’s a much better product.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned what it felt to be a writer, to doubt your work, and that the hardest part of writing is to just write. Having a daily word count helps with them, but outside of NaNoWriMo, I do not really keep to a daily count. For now, just to write something each and everyday is a win for me. I also learn what it felt like to hold a physical copy of your own book in your hands after all the hard work and it’s truly one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
As my main character is a tiny green goblin, I’m not sure. But if they turned it into a 3D animation, likely Steve Buscemi to play the voice of Gorp.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
If you’ve got writer’s block, work on something else related to your story. If you still feel stuck, then write a completely different story. Sometimes we as writers think too much into something and we lose our steam. But through the act of writing you can get those areas of your brain flexing and come back to a problem with fresh ideas or scrap it all together and start over better and improved.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Before I wrote novels, I was screenwriter and usually directed my own scripts. I like to attach a lot of actions to my dialog. As when I’m writing it’s like watching a movie for me and I’m just trying to document everything as it unfolds within my imagination. For my fantasy works, I almost always work from maps and try to include them in my books.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently switching between 5 books, so I’ll list just one of them here – “The Sword and Sorcery Anthology”.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes, it was required in Kindergarten to read at least one book to pass to the 1st grade. That book for me was called “Pug”.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at things I can relate to and are funny or that I find insightfully witty. I cry when presented basic striped emotions of what it is to be human. Somethings, the simple truths are felt the most.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
J.R.R. Tolkien – I admire his worldbuilding as much as his stories. He is someone if still alive today, I would search out and try for a meeting with him.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Too many to list here, but two of my current hobbies is gardening edible plants and foods in my backyard. And prospecting for gold in the Australian outback. Being out there in nature really gives me a peace and sense of adventure. Of course, finding shiny gold rocks is the icing on the cake.
My current raised bed garden.
Me in the Australian outback with my prospecting hat and trusty pan.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I have a vast array of shows I love to watch, a few of my favorites are Game of Thrones, documentaries, anything fantasy themed, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Bladerunner, El Cid, Star Wars, Lord of the Ring, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and paranormal investigation shows like Ghost Hunters.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favorite foods are a tie between Lobster and Alaskan King Crab. My favoritecolors are purple, gold, black, green and blue. As for music, I love classical, soundtrack, anything fantasy, blue grass, big band, music between the 1920s ~ 1940s, and one of my favorite composers is MiklósRózsa, who I listen to when writing from time to time. I learned of him while falling in love with the epic music from the movie El Cid. He also did work on Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ben-Hur”.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’ve done it before and would do it again. Go back to screenwriting full-time and directing movies. In fact, that part of my life is not over either and I have many projects and movies planned. Perhaps, I’ll be able to do an adaptation of one of my books someday.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Interesting question and not one I’ve given much thought. I suppose something I would be happy with could read – “Lover of all things fantasy”.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I sure do! For my website it’s http://author.jonray.net. My blog can also be found through that link on another page. I’m also on Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/JonRay , Amazon – https://amazon.com/author/jonray , and finally my official Facebook page where I’m very active – https://www.facebook.com/JonRayAuthor/ .
Gorp: Goblin Janitor – https://www.amazon.com/Gorp-Goblin-Janitor-Jon-Ray-ebook/dp/B071W9MC7B/
(May still show the old book cover, but should be updating soon to the 2nd edition one.)
Shadows of the Abyss: A Fantasy Writers Anthology – https://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Abyss-Fantasy-Writers-Anthology/dp/1544761260/