This blog is about emerging author Melissa Wray and her journey into publication. It also includes some writing tips and useful links.
Melissa hopes there is enough time in her life to write all the stories she wants to write and read all the books she wants to read. Both lists are long!
Cole is a working actor living in Southern California. When he is not
auditioning for commercials, going out for sitcoms or being shot,
kicked, stabbed or beaten by the students of various film schools for
their projects, he can often be found as a guard for King Phillip the
Second of Spain in the Opera Don Carlo at Los Angeles Opera or some
similar role. Nick Cole has been writing for most of his life and
acting in Hollywood after serving in the U.S. Army.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING
I’ve been writing since I was very
young. Raymond Chandler started writing at 45.So wherever you’re at now is a great time to get started. Today in fact.
But I digress, so... I’ve always been fascinated by storytelling whether as an
actor, or a writer or just a good dinner guest. Not because I want to be
interesting or have people say, “My, he’s an interesting storyteller!” but
because I love to entertain people and make the most of our time together. I’ve
always liked that part of my relationship with humanity, serving them either a
fantastic meal or a memorable experience. So to that end, writing is something I
view as an opportunity readers give me to entertain them. “Okay, entertain me. I
dare you,” I can imagine some of them saying. No, it’s not always that
militant, but I do feel a desire to not be boring or self-indulgent or, one of
the worst entertainment sins I can imagine, boorish. So, my journey starts as every
journeyman and journeywoman’s journey should start, by studying the masters. It’s
a great and easy exercise for writers, as opposed to many other professions
because the masters of writing are published, so we can read and dissect them
anytime we want. The only danger is that we have to look past their ability to
captivate and entertain us and identify the tricks and tools they employed to
do such. So I studied at the feet of Vonnegut, Chandler, Heller, Perez-Reverte,
Keilor, Izzo and a few others.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A
I was an actor in Hollywood for a long
time which was a sort of journey in and of itself (I started out in Production,
way behind the camera.)As I improved as
an actor, I expected there would be more freedom to create, and as I look back
now on my whole underwhelming acting career, I realize that’s really what I was
always seeking: more freedom to create; to act and to direct, and cast the
roles.I have an interest in costumes, I
love scenery and location scouting, and to that end I could probably wax long
on composing shots for the camera.The
sad part of my existence is that as an actor this is rarely, so rare in fact “never”
is a better word, required of actors.To
sum up what most productions expected of me as an actor I tell people
this:Production ‘A’ has some nice
costumes that they’d like to show people.If you’re willing to wear those costumes in front of other people and
maybe say a few lines they’ve written, exactly as they have written, then, why
then, you could be an actor just like me.
Still... I wanted to do all those
In writing I found that I could become
an entire movie production.I found that
in fact, I must.I must location scout
and direct and write the words and research the costumes and, using the grammar
and style, compose the shot.And yes, I
must also act out all the other parts.So, in writing, I get to do all the things I wanted to do and it doesn’t
cost millions of dollars.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST ASPECT OF WRITING?
The discipline to work in a vacuum all
by oneself. To go on in your belief that you might possibly entertain someone
with just mere faith as your guide and no one, even loved ones and best
friends, being all that interested in what you’re doing.
HOW MUCH RESEARCH GOES INTO YOUR
It depends on the type of research. If
it’s technical, like skinning a bear, then I’ll do some reading. If it’s
location scouting then I’ll generally go to the place and look around. I drove
the entire route for all three novels. The final novel starts in Tucson, AZ and
travels to Southern California and ends up in Colorado. So, that was a lot of
driving. But I think it’s important to go to a place and experience the
atmosphere. Taste the air and feel the streets, talk to the people and allow
moments there to colour what you’re working on.
HOW DO YOU PLAN YOUR STORYLINE?
I think it’s really important to know
the beginning, the arc and the end. Having said that, I’m not rigid. Stephen
King describes the writing process as the equivalent of riding on a
rollercoaster. And for me that is true. I know the beginning, the arc and the
end but the day to day writing will contain wonders and revelations, so sometimes
it’s better to see where something is going to go and let the rollercoaster do
its thing. Just hang on, open your eyes and try to have fun.One of the most important things I can stress
to any writer is: don’t go back and read your stuff as you create your initial
draft. Just keep writing and get it all out. If you go back and read what
you’ve written immediately, you’re probably not going to like it. So forget it
and plow on ahead. As they say in the movie business, “We’ll fix it in post.” The
important thing is to get it out and onto the page and done. Then you’ll begin
to refine, cut and shape the final picture.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY
THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
How could we not be? “Prick us do we
not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And
if you wrong us shall we not revenge?” or so the Bard would offer. And I say
this: don’t run away from it. Whether you want to admit it or not, your
fingerprints are all over the crime scene that is your manuscript. So, embrace
it and make it yours. When I wrote The
Old Man and the Wasteland it came from reading The Old Man and the Sea. I first read The Old Man and the Sea at a time in my life when I identified with
the main character. I was down, I was out, and no one really wanted anything to
do with me in my present condition. I was twenty-six years old.And yet I felt a kinship with an old fisherman
down in the gulf who felt all alone and “curst” in his own way. The things we’re
going through are affecting us and it would be a lie to say we have not been
changed or affected by them. At the minimum our experiences add texture to our
writing, and at the maximum you will write boldly about a condition that almost
every other person on the planet shares with you: The Human Condition. Whatever
you’re working on will probably be improved if you loan a personal memory to
one of your characters, i.e. the memory of your first drugstore ice cream, or
talk about an affliction, i.e. headaches that torment you at the most
inconvenient of times, or share something of yourself with the rest of us. In acting we call that: The Courage to Reveal.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PUBLICATIONS/AWARDS
The Old Man and the Wasteland and The
Savage Boy have both been published by HarperVoyager.
WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING THING
ABOUT WRITING/PUBLISHING THAT YOU HAVE LEARNT?
That there really are readers who want
to read what you have written and they are hoping that you will do your best.
They truly do want to have a good time with your novel.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Write six days a week. If God can rest
so can you. Write and don’t look back. Be awful to your characters. Imitate the
greats. Don’t offend people. Shocking is overrated and overdone and boorish. It’s
a cheap way to entertain people and it’s been done too much. Instead, weave,
craft and cut to tell an intriguing tale.Challenge yourself to make your writing accessible to everyone. One of
the strengths of John Grisham’s novels as told by him is that you can read his
books and hand them to your grandmother or your teenager and not feel
embarrassed by anything within. John Grisham sells a lot of novels.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU
I love God. A long time ago I was struggling
with life and causing a lot of damage to everyone around me. I came to love
God, truly, when I realized that he loved me no matter what. Even when I was
failing or falling apart he still loved me. He loves us.We are, every member of the human race, truly
loved by the creator of the universe.He
loves me no matter what. That’s important: no matter what. As a writer you’ll
need that when you get rejection letters without end and one star reviews on
Amazon. There’s a great story about a famous theologian whose son wasn’t
accepted to a prestigious college. The boy was devastated and wrote to his
father about his heartache over the situation. His father consoled him and
ended by reminding his son that he was, “Rejected by man, accepted by God.” God
is a creator, The Creator. We writers, we’re creating too. I think God knows
what a dark journey to strange horizons in dim half-light the writing life can
be. I think he understands when we feel rejected by others when all we wanted
was to share something of ourselves with them, or in other words, to give them
the gift of us. And yet, he accepts us. Because he loves us.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I love Kurt Vonnegut. He absolutely
captured the heartbreak of life and found the humour within it that sometimes
requires a little faith to see. His ability to bring everything to a point and
let you decide was stunning.
IF YOU HAD A PREMONITION YOU WOULD BE
STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND, WHAT 5 BOOKS WOULD YOU THROW IN YOUR BAG?
Amid the Wasteland remains of a world destroyed by a devastating Global Thermonuclear Armageddon, barbaric tribes rule the New American Dark Age. A boy and his horse must complete the final mission of the last American soldier. What unfolds is an epic journey across a terrifying post-apocalyptic tribal America gone savage. Jack London meets The End of the World.