This week’s interview is with the amazing and very talented Rae T. Alexander,author of The Royal Stones of Eden and the Jo Danning Mysteries.
Rae is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Therefore, it naturally does not make any sense at all why she loves Angel and Atlanta Braves Baseball, and the NC State Wolfpack…why not the 49’ers?
She is a former Technical Analyst for Verizon Wireless, but everyone knows this was just a cover-up for being in the CIA…not!
She is a student of religion, history & sociology. Therefore, she drinks coffee but tells everyone that it is tea instead.
She is an author, producer, composer, and pianist. Although, sources say that she once produced a gospel album.
She grew up in California, and currently lives in North Carolina.
Describe yourself as a person with a few words.
I think that “obsessive storyteller” would be too easy. I am one of those idealists that cares too much and thinks too much, and that is the recipe for disaster unless you give yourself an outlet. For me, the outlet is writing fiction, a love that has no match. For a perfectionist that must face the reality of pain and suffering in the world and the lack of control of life, writing is perfect. The worlds that you create, as chaotic as they sometimes are, remain under the control of the author.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do even now. I shortened Rachael because my name was quite long enough and incredibly boring. And now, everyone knows me as Rae.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
Writing does both for me. I am one of those people that gets into their writing. I did the same thing whenever I acted as well. So, with writing, I live out the parts in my mind, whether it is love or murder, death, or birth. I seem to come up with the energy of the initial creation or first draft quite easily. The paragraphs and the storyline drive me forward. I tend to write toward something, either the end of the chapter, a place that I know I am going, or the making of some kind of a point. But after that, the exhausting repeating and editing of the story can be extremely fatiguing because I am living out the same scene in my mind multiple times. And when you add a deadline to the mix, it can be quite grueling. Of course, the end of the project absolutely energises you to do it again. It is very addicting, I must say.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I would have to go with D.H. Lawrence and Sons and Lovers. The idea that someone could repulse you and attract you at the same time was a very sad idea. I have often used the whole duality of the nature of friendship and love and life in my books. Voltaire’s Candide did the same thing but on a humorous level. I like the fact that everything is often not cut and dry. There are multiple levels to life and that is how books should be. If you read a book on the seventh turn and don’t find something new, then something is wrong.
Have you ever gotten writer’s block?
Fortunately, I have never had that problem, at least, after the first three chapters of my first novel, The Royal Stones of Eden. It is quite common for me to have ideas every single day about something…whether it is a plot change or new dialogue or new story. Once I got started, I have never stopped. It was like something changed or got unplugged. It was starting that was the issue. Which is why I always encourage everyone to keep chasing their dreams or least begin them. Beginning was the hardest thing to do.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I have two series currently. The one is a science fiction and time travel/fantasy, while the other is a paranormal mystery with primarily a female lead, The Jo Danning Short Stories. And my third is going to focus on a young boy, my first YA attempt and hopefully an effort to capture another type of audience. The time travel tales were written for males and the mysteries for women, but I hope to go in the direction of a younger audience in the future. You must be flexible and listen to the audience. When you don’t, then you pay for it. I remember straying from my formula slightly when I heavily focused on a serial killer, and my female audience pulled me back to focusing more on the detective on the later stories rather than the criminal. Each book, however, has a right and an obligation to stand alone. When I wrote Mattie, for example, the second in the Royal Stones Trilogy, I wrote it to stand alone intentionally. I attempt to make each book capable of being a good single read while at the same time continuing a few threads that the regular readers are aware of. I like slowly advancing behind-the-scene stories going on at the same time as the main story. One person used the word “convoluted” and another “brave.” I would say “complex.” What is the point of reading if you don’t have to think?
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would say “Don’t worry about not writing; you aren’t ready!” I always wanted to write, but I did not have the experience of many broken hearts or lots of disappointments. Writers, good ones, write well when they are writing from painful experiences or at least emotional experiences. When I used to write music, I found that my better songs came out of a lot of pain. When I was young and arrogant and not experienced with someone close to me passing away or leaving my life, I was just not ready to write and feel stories of love, murder, life or death. So, I tell everyone, even now, if you have had bad experiences, or life has treated you unfairly, write…you must write down your pain. Not only is it therapeutic, but the writing will have more meaning to you and everyone else. It will be real.
How do you select the names of your characters?
The names of my characters are sometimes shortened versions of names I like, for some reason. I shortened Thomas to Tom, and Josephine to Jo…and so on. I also have used research to come up with the names. For example, in Mattie, we find out the name of the man we all know as the devil. Helel was a transliterated word for Lucifer…so I went with that.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Oddly enough, it is not the writing. That 25% of the process is the fun part. The editing and long hours that come later is the hardest part. That and doing mundane things like worrying about print copy and page numbers. So, you have to give yourself lots of breaks and fun things to do to allow you to work long sixteen-hour days where you are editing non-stop. You have to force yourself to step away sometimes.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
I hope that I have not met that part yet. But to me, I am not a fan of ghost writers. I think that when an author pens their name, then it should be their work, and their work only. I work very hard with book trailers, editing and marketing and writing…and the idea of doing something that someone else gets credit for is quite annoying and unethical. There are some jobs in the entertainment business, like stunt performers, that are now being credited where they were not before. But with the printed media and ghost writers we are stepping backward, I think.
Can you wish something to my readers?
I wish the readers to enjoy the journey of escape. I had a reader tell me “thank you for letting me escape my mundane world.” That is what reading is all about. And each reader is capable of their own interpretation. I wish everyone to pursue their dreams and never give up, write down their pain, and be willing to tell their own story in their own unique way. No one can be you.