Everyone… I have a very interesting author interview to share with you. I think Ray has been one of the most successful at showing his dedication to writing and story submission that I have ever had the pleasure to witness… Ray writes science fiction, fantasy and horror, but wait… let him tell you himself!
Hello Ray! Welcome to Cover to Cover. As always, let’s start with the obligatory introduction. Who is Ray Daley?
That’s an excellent question to start, because the answer has constantly been changing over my life.
Son, grandson, brother, nephew, friend, pupil, reader. Then I saw Doctor Who on TV, around 9 or so, 1979. And life picked up. I started writing at school, mostly aping whatever adventures Tom Baker was having with the twist of placing myself in his role.
The same year, the school was visited by a bookmobile. It took about 2 or 3 months & I bought my 1st ever book with my own money. A paperback copy of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. And that was it. Science Fiction Writer. Mostly at school. I’ll admit, it only lasted 2 years then, but it planted the seed.
I wore a lot of other hats since then, RAF airman, godfather, veteran, university drop-out, call centre operative. Around 2011, I decided I wanted to start putting my work out into the world. I didn’t care about getting paid, so I joined Smashwords and uploaded my 1st story, The Traveller. Insanely short, but that was it. I was a published SF writer.
For about 6 yrs I put out at least 1 story every month, until I felt like my work was worth something. I’d tried a few places along the way, 365 Tomorrows were the 1st place who accepted a story in 2013.
I was happy sending out SF for about a year, then I realised that if I wanted to sell more, I had to step out of my comfort zone. I didn’t just read SF, I read horror & fantasy too. So I added horror writer, in 2014, with my 1st horror acceptance. That wasn’t paying, but it did show me I could potentially sell horror.
Fantasy writer came a few years later, in 2017.
Now I just call myself a writer.
Wow! Queue the jealous looks from all aspiring authors around the world. I mean, you wanted it and you did it… That’s just brilliant. I mean, that’s it, interview finished. Inspiration boost received! hahaha… Okay, so first I have to ask if scifi/horror and fantasy will be the only genres for you? I mean, is there a topic, genre or a certain plot that you absolutely know you will never write about? … And then secondly, so much to explore! Do you have certain ‘signature’ themes in your three main genres? For example, what does your scifi mostly focus on? What kinds of horrors does your horror deliver; and are you a ‘prophecy’-type fantasy writer or magic, or wizards, or all of the above?
I’m not locked to one genre any more. The one thing I found during my time writing on Smashwords, don’t be afraid to try new genres. I went into westerns, fanfic, erotica, litfic. In terms on now, I’ve sold SF/H/F LitFic & nonfic as well, so if I think I’ve got something which fits & they’ll pay, I’ll send it there.
As for topics or plots I won’t write: Abusive families, violence to women, racism.
Is there any genre I won’t write? Certain types of horror, like splatterpunk because it doesn’t appeal to me & I don’t feel comfortable creating that sort of content. I wouldn’t write romance, because I don’t understand it at all (despite having read a lot of Barbara Cartland & Catherine Cookson)).
I’d say my SF steers more towards dystopian, it’s easier to see the negative sides of the future. I don’t write Hopepunk, I also avoid climate fiction. Just not areas I know enough about to sound convincing. You will see me cover MilSF, I use bits of my RAF career. I served through 2 wars on Live Ops so those are a case of write what you know.
For my horror, I prefer psychological horror. It can be horror without being terrifying. What’s going on in the edges of the dark you can’t quite see? Sometimes what we perceive is far scarier than what’s there.
Fantasy? I love a good witch or dragon story and boy do I have a few of those. I find some fantasy can cross the boundary into either horror or SF, then you’re really mixing it up. I write wizards now and then, but witches can get away with a lot more, I feel.
If I have a signature, voice or style, it’s looking at a topic side on, trying an approach people wouldn’t think of as their 1st to 4th thoughts. Satire, sarcasm, pastiche. Laugh at an idea, make it look ridiculous in order to undermine the seriousness of it.
Well, that all sounds just fantastic! I am intrigued though, why do you think witches get away with a lot more than wizards? 🙂
Women have a special kind of magic of their own. They get stuff done. The world could be ending, there’d still be some women banding together to make sure people aren’t alone or frightened.
I’ve got 6 sisters. I always used to joke that they’d beaten the concept of equality into me from a young age. The reverse is true, they couldn’t have been more kind & tolerant of me. My Mum was the one who encouraged my creativity too. She’d always let me come to the library so I had books to read if I couldn’t afford to buy them.
Women are incredibly creative & inspiring (I wanted to be Wonder Woman when I was 8!) but as I’ve seen over the years, the way they are there for each other, no matter what. I’ve never seen men united like that. You simply can’t compete with it so it’s easier to just join them. (I also think Dolly Parton should be US President).
6 sisters! I nearly think every man should grow up with a handful of sisters! It’d only do them good, hahaha… Joking aside, who were your favourite childhood authors? I imagine with spending time in the library, you would have discovered a lot?
Mostly science fiction. Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, your classic writers of the time. Fantasy stuff too, C.S. Lewis, Enid Blyton. Doctor Who books were cheap at the time, so Terrance Dicks featured a lot. And the 1st book I ever bought with my own money, The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. Apparently if I’d kept that, it’d be worth a decent amount these days. I gave it away to the station library when I left the RAF, I just had too many books to take home.
I liked weird books too. Fattypuffs & Thinifers, My Friend Mr Leakey, the Uncle series by J. P. Martin, or things like The Phantom Tollbooth.
Books were an escape. By the age of 10, I’d read most of the books in our school. Every year had a small alcove, I’d go around & see what I hadn’t read yet. They had a colour grading system, it went from white to dark green, with the latter being “older” books, stuff you were only supposed to be reading around 10-11.
I didn’t like that system, so I just went to where ever the books I hadn’t read were, picked them up & read them. It didn’t matter if it only had 10 pages & a ton of pictures. I’d read anything. I think it was mostly to be able to say I’d read them all. I found some weird Richard Scarry books that way.
The one thing I can say for libraries, no-one ever said “Are you old enough to read that?”
I do wish I could find more free time to read now, but I’m generally neck deep in edits or trying to find new markets for my submission challenge.
So, you are like the embodiment of science fiction from early on! And a bit of a rebel from early on? 🙂 You have mentioned RAF twice now, so I have to ask… and sorry if this is a silly question, but I believe with RAF comes a certain type of discipline. Does that discipline help you with keeping you on track with writing? Qhen it comes to your writing are you all methodical and organized to detail? Or, is writing something that comes so natural to you, it’s like breathing, it just happens?
The RAF had a go at installing discipline in me. I wouldn’t say they failed, I don’t react well to authority. I don’t have a specific writing routine, my brain isn’t wired that way. A story either has to be written, or outlined on paper. If it’s not an immediate thing, it goes on my pile.
As far as organisation, I’ve got a routine there. I’ll make sure I’ve got a drink, I’ve been to the toilet (because I’ve reached that age in life where that’s important now), have a snack ready and enough music to keep me going until I finish. It’s certainly not a natural process, I established what worked over time. Eliminate as many distractions as possible, reasons for stepping away from the keyboard. Then you finish sooner.
Joining the RAF was a plan, I said I’d do 6 years, come out and go to University. Which is exactly what I did. Within a few months of leaving, I signed onto a HND Computing course. They took me based off my life experience. Sadly, I couldn’t do the maths (A level standard) or the higher level programming so I failed after the first year.
But I took all that knowledge and did a compressed HNC course. I was the only person on that course who passed. Also the only person who handed their work in on time. I had to learn the maths from the ground up, so I got that mark the hard way.
I’ve taken what I learn to heart. If i’m aiming at a specific thing, I can focus, channel my ideas towards it. I do still struggle with motivation but my brain seems to overcome whatever issues it’s having to get me to the finish on time.
Some people can sit down and write. I have to have something worth writing about to finish.
Oh no! Maths! I had a dream career choice back in the day, some 20 years ago now, that got squashed because I am simply NO good at maths… bloody maths! Difference is, you pushed through, and I gave up! You’re a planner… You set your vision and get to work. It’s always good to have an end point, or sometimes a halfway point, in mind to know what direction you’re going. Where do you draw your inspiration from? Is it all the countless books you’ve written? Do you grab a hold of anything from personal life or a little spark from what you see in the world around and simply start to weave it bigger?
I’m open to ideas from literally anywhere. One of the weirdest came to me while prepping my evening meal one Sunday. I was trying ideas for a Red Riding Hood story, flipping it, coming from another angle.
I asked myself, “Who else wears red cloaks?” And in my head I saw a vision of Bela Lugosi, black cape, red lined. I think it was actually Martin Landau playing him in Ed Wood, but my brain jumped on the thought – Vampires! And that was me going, I wrote it later the same day.
Turned out to be the 1st horror story I ever got published too. Not a paying gig, but the 1st time out of my SF comfort zone and it really gave me a good boost, encouragement to try again, see if I can get paid for that too.
You have to be open to seeing things differently. Another good example is not seeing all of something. I spotted a shop sign on the bus, going to a hospital appointment. I only saw 2/3’s of the sign, the bit which read DIGITAL BABY. I couldn’t grab the notepad out of my jacket fast enough! If you’re curious, the whole sign (advertising the various departments in the shop) read HOMEWARE/DIGITAL/BABY.
Some ideas are just a title, sometimes I’ll remember dreams which were getting interesting as I woke up. Otherwise it’s more what you read or watch on TV. I watch old SF shows, try to work out the end before it happens, see how I’d write them differently. If you can deconstruct a show, work out how they created their plot, it’s a useful thing to follow.
I’ve no shortage of ideas, I have a massive pile of outlines, frameworks, some starts of stories, also stuff which is just titles or things like “wolves who play frisbee with bears.” That last one was so vague I ended up tossing it into a story I was writing as an aside by the protagonist.
I’m not sure you can use every idea. I ask myself, “Has this got legs? Can it stand up on it’s own?” It doesn’t have to make sense, as long as it’s interesting. That’s something you learn from experience, years of starting on ideas and running out of steam then putting them to one side, to write later. Only you never do.
Amazing! Is it even possible for you, then, seeing how pretty much everything gets your creative juices flowing, to tell us what your favourite story is that you’ve written to date? And do you have a favourite character you’ve written that has stayed with you?
Understand that I have written a lot of short stories. Here’s a screengrab from Submission Grinder for context. Yes. That’s over 700 finished stories. My memory doesn’t work well now, so unless I read something, I don’t remember it. Some of them stick in my head. I can say something I enjoyed writing was my 2nd novel – The Education Of Milo Cobbles. He was probably one of the characters I enjoyed writing most, because I spent a lot of time in his head.
It’s also a story which started out as a dream, one i woke up from and immediately had to start writing it down in a notepad. I punted it a few times during Twitter pitch events, it even had a few full reads but no-one ever went any further. I doubt I’ll try selling it again, possibly in the future I might put it on Smashwords for free.
When you write to your audience, what is it that you wish your readers to experience? Do you want them to be entertained? Or do you want to make them think? Or something else entirely? And finally, where can readers find your stories and novel(s) to read?
As far as what I want readers to get from my stories? Yes, I’d like them to feel entertained. Also, a feeling of “What the heck was that I just read?” (In a good way). I don’t general write stories with messages, it’s mostly light hearted distractions, intended to give some relief from the coldness of harsh reality.
That’s the reason I don’t write insanely scary horror. Things are scary enough, you can still feel feel what movie censors call “mild peril” without being petrified.
And where can you read my work? All the stuff I’ve sold is listed on my bibliography HERE:
I try to keep that as up to date as I can.
If you want to see how I’ve progressed as a writer you can search my name on Smashwords – Ray on Smashwords There are 117 titles on there, back from when I knew nothing about grammar, structure, or anything, really. Currently, you can’t read either of the novels anywhere. That might change after I die, but currently I have no plans to release either of them.
It’s always my name on the front for a reason. If you don’t like it, you know who to blame and who to avoid. If you like it, you know who to look for in the future.
And there’s plenty of future to come. I’ve got stuff already sold due to come out in 2023 & 2024. I’m fairly sure I’ve made all the sales I’m going to make this year but am open to more if they want to happen.
I’m currently gearing up to select stories for my January Submission Challenge, an event I created which has been running for 3 years now. Initially it was just for me, but now other people take part. It’s a simple concept. Submit 1 story every day for a month to a paying market.
I select the markets, check they’re open and paying. People decide if they want to do more than 1 day for themselves because the challenge to sub every day is merely from me to myself. It covers SF, Fantasy & horror markets. Some well known, others you might never have heard of.
If people are interested in taking part, the rules & market list are HERE
If you want to ask more about that, feel free to get in touch on Twitter
Fantastic! Thank you so much, Ray! It’s been an absolute pleasure. Happy writing! 🙂
I like the favourite character question, might have to steal that haha