Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: Raymond Henri is the author of the science fiction/fantasy Tear of God chronicles. An alleged geek who is overly fascinated by too much, his writing is an amalgam of rich details seldom found together but make a great combination, much like children and sleep. He resides in Georgia with his wife and three children where he is currently working on the next novel in his series.
Thanks so much, Raymond, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Raymond Henri: I think of writer’s block as a unicorn. We know what it looks like, can conjure up all of the correlative emotions, and yet intellectually keep it separate from our reality. In short, writer’s block is poor planning. At best it is a signal that the section being worked on is not ready. If I find myself struggling to define the scene in prose, I jump to another area of the piece that is more concrete in my mind and keep writing. Chances are the place I got stuck will prove to be unnecessary and get cut, or be better defined by the surrounding areas of the story and be saved.
JSC: Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?
RH: 100%. By the time I am done with my characters, if they feel identical to anyone I know, then they aren’t actually done and I keep working on them. Every character starts as an exploration of some part of me. Then I come up with an idea of their Myers-Briggs or Keirsey Temperament alignment for their part in the story and relationship with other characters. By now, they will start to remind me somewhat of real-world people I know which adds a layer just beneath the surface. To add that physical layer on the outside – the skin – I determine their personal history, belief systems, appearance, mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, fears, and ambitions. So, while they are absolutely based on real people, their skin is their own and I have not encountered any pitfalls. People really seem to engage with my characters and enjoy their dialog. One of my strengths.
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
RH: Yeah, I’ve read both of them. *heavy sigh* I will occasionally find a reviewer who didn’t completely love the book and will take the time to thoughtfully write out a review of what didn’t work for them. I love those reviews. Simply lurve them. Not only are they more informative, but they provide valuable feedback for me to determine what I can improve on for the books I’m working on at the moment and beyond. Most of my reviews are 5-star reviews. They do kind of add on the pressure though. “Just stop here, guy. You’ve done a great job and can only mess it up from here.” Not sure if I’m more comfortable with the bad reviews, but I think it has something to do with having reviews that give me more to work on.
JSC: How long have you been writing?
RH: Kindergarten. I started telling stories a year or two before that, but didn’t really know how to put the words to paper just yet. My first book was written as an assignment in kindergarten. It was the best in the class and got shared around the school. My first “major” writing award was in third grade though. I won the grand prize in a contest the local paper put out for K-12 to turn a classified ad into a short story. The fact that my story won over those submitted from the high schools still makes me laugh. Not in a maniacal way. More in a and-why-did-I-not-think-I-was-good-enough-to-turn-this-into-a-career sort of way.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
RH: My most recent book, Machines, tackles a few subjects simultaneously. The main character, Mink, suffers from PTSD without the context to know that’s what is happening. He is also immigrating to a completely foreign culture and struggles with basic tasks like shopping for food and communicating. This culture he is trying to learn is completely asexual. They have gone as far as to expunge any gender-specific words from their language. I won’t go too much farther into depth on any of those areas. They are, in the book, part of the story and I worked hard to keep them from coming off as a pamphlet, so I will equally endeavor to refrain from turning this arena into a pulpit.
JSC: What does success mean to you?
RH: Success is overhearing persons unknown to me discussing/debating characters and events from my books with the same conviction as one might use for current events in the real world. I would love to see cosplayers tackle some of my characters. Maybe something related to my stories trends on social media. All of that is to say, I know when I’ve made it when I see widespread cultural acceptance of my fictional universe.
JSC: What was the weirdest thing you had to Google for your story?
RH: Microfluidics. I kind of needed it to be a thing and searched for it without knowing what I would find. And there it was! Not as major a part of the book as applied and theoretical electromagnetism, but I already knew a little about that. Not only was I able to confirm the existence of microfluidics, but I also found some exam questions which I adapted for the story. It was much more thrilling than it should have been probably, and I still barely understand the subject beyond making a stab at describing what it’s about. The fun of the topic is how it’s such a background player in the story at large, but this was a way to help poke its pretty little head above the subtext to say, “Hi. I’m Microfluidics. So nice to meet you.”
JSC: Are you happy with where your writer left you at the end? (don’t give us any spoilers).
RH: “Not one rotting bit. I dunno about any ‘grand plan’ or whatever, but it would be nice meet one of my personal goals without having to stand there and just watch it turn…bad. What’s wrong with what I want? Huh? It’s like I just learned about algebra to have a context for isolating variables. And you know what? I’m the festering variable getting isolated! ‘Happy with where my writer left me at the end?’ Are you nuts?”
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
RH: December 16. A duty-free day where anyone who belongs to a political party other than the one current in control of their local, state, and federal government is exempt from paying any taxes whatsoever. Let’s call it Freedom Day and, to differentiate between the prevalence of other holiday decorations of the season and those who are able to participate in Freedom Day, can decorate their person with a teabag/tea leaf pinned to their clothing (lapel, cuffs, or belts). As a thought. It’s a work in progress.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
RH: Book 3 of the Tear of God series, Animals. It is a very honest attempt at creating another completely new and different story in the series to finish fleshing out the world I built for the series. It does more to advance the arcs stretching over the series, but I gleefully end the third book with the actually real call to adventure for the main character and he immediately gets it wrong. I’m very excited about some of the characters I get to introduce and some that I get to bring back that were on administrative leave for Book 2.
And now for Raymond’s latest book: Machines:
Three years after the Battle of Rift Ridge, Mink is still struggling as he adjusts to his new life as a Machinist in the high-tech world of Freeland. Two goals push him to keep going: developing his newly discovered affinity for metal and avenging his lost love. Both will require him to break the law.
Mink’s unique talents are illegal to use but his skill of manipulating metal soon catches the attention of a clandestine revolutionary group, who offer to help him achieve his objectives in exchange for sharing his abilities.
When a plot to destroy his former home is discovered, Mink will have no choice but to trust an unknown ally and hope that his newly acquired skills will be enough to save them before his past catches up to him.