Monday, August 20, 2012

Author Interview with Ray Chen Smith

I was super excited when I received a email from Ray offering to do a interview. I'm to shy to outright as for a interview unless it's offered. Something I need to work on and I will. Today we are give a rare chance to get to know Ray better. He has been super nice through the whole process and has a great personality. I did the typical Mandy drill of twenty questions and received some great answers. Thank you so much Ray it's been awesome having you. 

On to the interview

Mandy : Where did you get the idea for Jazz Cage?
Ray :I wanted to write a very fast-paced, James Patterson-like thriller, but serial killers and so forth bore me so I wanted a more original concept.  The original concept probably came from reading Robert Harris’s Fatherland (where the Nazis won WWII).  I would combine a gangster sort of story with a runaway slave narrative—sort of like Uncle Tom’s Cabin meets The Untouchables.  What I hadn’t know was how much research it would take to write it (visiting Virginia, New York, talking with historical societies, going over old maps from the 1920s, etc.).  

Mandy: What was the hardest part of writing Jazz Cage?
Ray: The revisions.  Believe it or not, I must’ve gone through a dozen revisions of the book.  The original novel was more complex, with a lot (too many) characters.  So essentially, I had to revise like 90% of my novel, and trust me, I felt like crying.  Luckily, I got help from some very professional editors—Renni Browne and Shannon Roberts at the Editorial Department and Ali Bothwell Mancini.  With their help, I could actually show my book in public and so far, so good (i.e., I’ve gotten some great reviews from book bloggers and review sites).

Mandy: If you had to do it all over again would you change anything?
Ray: Yes, I would keep my original concept (the one with a bunch of characters) and start with my current one (just Della and Cece as the runaways).  The old writing cliché of shrinking the number of characters and developing them more is very, very much true.  I would also increase tension and conflict from the get go (my first draft didn’t have enough of either, which my editors luckily rectified). 

Mandy: If your book was to be made a movie who would play Frank, Della, Cece, Issac, the hound?
Ray: Well, that would a total dream, and since this is a fantasy (as of right now), I get to not only pick my movie stars but pick the age they should play the characters (since who I really want are too old now).  For Frank:  Russell Crowe at 40 (gruff, paunchy, badass dude).  Della:  Jada Pinkett Smith at 30 (small, lean, no-nonsense).  Cece:  Zoe Saldana at 20 (cuz she’s gorgeous and a pretty good actress to boot).  Isaac:  Adrien Brody at 25 (I actually used Brody’s likeness when I was developing Isaac’s character).  The Hound:  hard one to choose.  He’s ridiculous-looking but also so evil so it’s a mix of ridiculous and evil.  I’d say Jack Nicholson at 35.   

Mandy: What books have most influenced your life?
Ray: I think the only book that has influenced me is My Secret History by Paul Theroux.  It’s a novel about the Peace Corps in Africa during the ’60s.  I remember reading it in college and thinking, Damn, this is one exciting life!  So I joined the Peace Corps and went off to eastern Europe for a couple of years and had a lot of misadventures.  I wholeheartedly recommend the Peace Corps for any college grad (or anyone really) to just want to slow down and enjoy life for a couple of years.  Grad school can wait.  

Mandy: If you had to describe yourself in three words?
Ray: Focused, funny, anal-retentive.

Mandy: Did you know as a kid you wanted to be a writer?
Ray: Yes, from when I was a wee little lad, I knew I wanted to tell stories.  I really can’t imagine doing anything else.  If I didn’t want to be a writer, I would probably have joined the Foreign Service and worked in embassies the rest of my life.

Mandy: Laptop or desktop for writing? And where do you write?
Ray: Always laptop for major writing.  I can lie down on my cheap but very comfortable Ikea couch and write.  Desktop I use for web-surfing and website design.

Mandy: Who is your favorite Muppet?
Ray: Miss Piggy cuz she’s so cute.  Haha.  In all honesty, this is going to sound sort of weird, but I prefer meaty stuffed animals and pets.  More to hold, more to love kind of thing. 

Mandy: If you could say anything to your readers what would you say?
Ray: Take a chance, read my thriller.  It’s gotten some awesome reviews, and even if you hate it, think of this way:  the 99 cents you spend on it would prevent you from buying that bag of Fritos you wanted.  So not only will you be having a good time reading my book, it’ll be also saving your heart from an influx of cholesterol.  

My Review of Jazz Cage
Ray Chen Smith website here. Twitter @raychensmith
My Review Here a 5 out of 5
Buy a copy here

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