Me: What inspired you to start writing?
Ray: Well, I really loved Dr Seuss when I was growing up. I had no idea that his books were educational. At the time I just liked the stories. Then, when I was in college at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, back in the 80’s, I had an English Professor who complemented my writing style after he read one of my essays. I was all ready to be cut to ribbons as English had never been kind to me--In fact I was only in his class because I had to take the class. He shocked me by telling me that he liked the way I wrote. Of course he noted that my spelling & punctuation could be improved, which had plagued me since third grade, but he also pointed out that I didn’t write short choppy sentences like most others did. That complement felt very good and I decided then that I would one day write a book about nothing in particular. I guess I am sort of fulfilling that decision now.
Me: Tell me a little bit about yourself, in brief.
Ray: I grew up in Southeast Texas having the forest and fields as my playground. Though I really did not excel in school, I knew a couple of years after High School that I wanted to do something more with my life. (I was an auto mechanic at that point.) So I went off to Oklahoma to become an Aircraft Mechanic, and earn a degree in Aviation Management at Southeastern Oklahoma State. After graduating I worked as an aircraft mechanic for about 4 years and though that was enjoyable I still felt my life was lacking. Well, long story short I got involved in education and have stayed in that field for many years. I have mainly worked with professional adults but have been working with elementary kids the last couple of months; which is way different than adults. I have been pursuing my writing off and on for about 10 or so years with stories going back earlier than that.
Me: Tell me a bit about your latest book.
Ray: “In the Land of Rhyme” was a story I would tell my young daughter to entertain her in the car as I drove her to school. It kind of grew and grew with each telling till I finally wrote it down. It is the tale of what good can come of being different. This book started a chain of stories to come that are just as fun and entertaining each having a good basic message.
Me: Where do your ideas for these stories come from?
Ray: That’s a good question, they just sort of come. Often I will have an idea pop up and I sit down and start writing but it starts as the first couple of lines of something that develops as I write. Other times I will set out to write a story on a specific subject like Halloween or Christmas or something but I never start with a predetermined plot. I just sort of go wherever the writing takes me. This I believe keeps it fun, a story can take several turns as it comes out. I just go wherever it takes me, if I don’t like where it is going I just change its direction.
Me: Tell me a little bit about the poems on your website.
Ray: One day I was sitting at my computer writing what would become “Tommy McCoy And The Christmas Toy”. I was having a bit of a rough go that day and spouted off something, one of those “open mouth and insert foot moments”. Amanda, who was about 6 at the time, came into the room, put her hand on my heart and sweetly said, “It’s alright Dad. Family lives here in your heart.” That cured me on the spot and became “Eyes of A Child.”
“When Children Grow Up” was a result of two things: 1) Watching my kids grow up and experiencing that moment when you realize they aren’t kids anymore and 2) Some study I had been doing on children & parents. As it turns out there is a natural line of affinity, love, liking etc. that exist between parent and child that remains intact regardless of any other factor.
In this poem I am telling the story of the above two things--Yes it can be difficult raising kids, yes there can/will be upset between parent and child, yes when you hear they grow so fast it’s true. But at the end of that phase of your life you can be sure that the line of affinity between parent and child will be unbroken and you will have moments you cherish forever.
Me: On your site, you mentioned that you made up crazy stories for your daughters. Do you still do this?
Ray: Not so much these days. I have three daughters. One is 20 living in NY, one is 21 and soon to be married and Amanda will be 12 in a matter of days. She still sometimes ask me to tell her a story and always likes whatever I make up--a forgiving audience to be sure.
Me: Is there anything else you would like me to mention?
Ray: I would like to give a plug here to my Illustrator, Sue Donze. I think I mentioned already she has a way of just taking my story and bringing it to life with her art. She is a true professional and I am lucky to have her illustrate my books.
Other than that, read books to your kids and encourage them to read. Have them read lots and lots and lots of books at their reading level. Be sure that they understand the words in the books they are reading and let them know that it is perfectly OK for them to ask you what a word means. This is probably the best educational boost you can give a child-- If they don’t like what they are reading they either are trying to read at too advanced a level or have gone past too many words they did not know the meaning of. Just handle those two factors and watch them win with reading!
Thank you Ray for talking with me! It seems your family runs the same as mine when it comes to the book business. I wish you the best of luck and I look forward to seeing what you write next! Please keep me up to date. For those interested in Ray's story, be sure to check out my review as well as Smashwords where his e-book can be found for a very good price and in a variety of formats.
About this Blog
Author Vickianne Caswell interviews other children's authors.