Interview with Lorraine Ray

Describe your desk
My desk is a low coffee table topped with tiles purchased by my father in Guaymas, Mexico in the late 1940s. The tiles show a mission, a lake, and five towering trees. If you've read "On the Rio Mayo," my father and grandfather purchased the tiles on that fishing trip. The story is based on their real adventure during that trip, but the table doesn't figure into it. And yes, an Indian actually came into their camp with a deer on his shoulders. You can see a picture of the table on my Tumblr blog, http://lorraineray.tumblr.com/ and click archive when you're there. The picture is near the bottom of the archive page.
What do you read for pleasure?
I'm currently reading HEAVENLY DATE by Alexander McCall Smith and MY BOOK HOUSE FROM THE TOWER WINDOW, an anthology.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I read on an early black and white Kindle which has a screen saver made of authors' portraits instead of ads. I also read on my laptop and my phone if I'm on the move.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I'm excited to read my books aloud in a quiet room. I love writing dialog and acting it out.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
As a young girl I adored mournful animal stories and marked my place in those books with tissues, handy for the next reading session. An evil adult was always about to shoot some poor kid's dog or pony. I couldn't stop crying when I read those books. I think one of the first sad animal books I read was ALONG CAME A DOG, with a very doleful black dog cowering on the cover. That book had no discernible plot. This may explain my rebellion against plotting or something. Any port in a storm.
How do you approach cover design?
I have been making my own covers on Paint.net. They aren't too good. I redid I WANT MY OWN BRAIN to show something humorous and quirky. A glamorous woman has a silly face. REVERIE is a photograph of silk fabric once owned by Clara Bow, the It Girl. I bought the fabric at a backlot sale in Los Angeles when I lived there. I wanted a shiny, shimmery cover, because the book is like that. An old pink serape that was bright provided the cover for LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT. I wanted it to pop. I have made a new cartoon cover for JUAN and WILLY.
What's the story behind your latest book?
PHANTOM STRAYS is my most recent book and it continues the story of A PHANTOM HERD. At the climax of the first novel a young girl blurts out a lie about a herd of phantom cattle to a folklorist. In the second book the girl becomes a teen and eventually recalls this incident as well as other experiences which contribute to her desire to write about the southwest, but she can't settle on a hook or remember many incidents. TROMBONES CAN LAUGH isn't my latest, but it is based on my older brother's experience substituting as a trombonist in a Shriner band in 1970. A conductor at one performance really had a teeny fake arm and I did not make up The International Order of Old Bastards. According to my brother, the Shriners in the band were all outrageous drunks, but nice old guys. A clown did not terrorize him. I made that up.
What are you working on next?
I just published a new novel, PHANTOM STRAYS, which is the second part of my longest novel, A PHANTOM HERD. My heart is really in those two books, and I'm hoping a few people will want a gentle nostalgic story about life in the desert southwest in the 1960s and 1970s. I've begun editing the first draft of another novel. It probably will be titled DASTARDLY, and it is a modern romance between a horror writer and a romance writer.
What do your fans mean to you?
They mean a lot. I have reached 11,000 downloads because of them and they're the reason I keep going. I'd like to ask for help from anyone who can spare a little of their time. Could you leave a short review of my work on a book review site? I write whimsical comedies mostly, because my mind seems to drift in that direction, and I used to wonder if anyone would laugh at the antics of the undergrads in LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT, for example. Finally I got a review saying they thought it was quite funny. The idea that someone had their day lightened by my writing really encouraged me. I have only a handful of reviews though, so if you have the time, I would appreciate your help.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
CONFESSIONS OF A MASK because the author had some scary images in that book which I had dreamed before I read the book! I was worried that I would have to write those frightening things and I found someone had already. Thank goodness. Is this the collective conscious in action? TALES OF GENJI is so much fun; I can dive in anywhere and enjoy another abandoned castle. I suppose you are noticing that I like Japanese literature. Another favorite is TRISTRAM SHANDY, for its wry humor. A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES never fails to make me smile. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE was so beautiful that I cried. That Virginia kid knew what it was to have a mother, and to lose one. I'm sorry if you're a Joyce fan, but Virginia packed a greater wallop. Emotional truth trumps just about everything else.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I write something odd, spontaneously, that simply emerges from the drifting ether, it can be shocking at times to discover that I have captured a quality of life that I never recognized.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
At seventeen I think I wrote a very creepy story about a wealthy young rancher and a floozy who trapped him in a loveless marriage. I wrote an unintentionally funny sex scene that took place on a laundry room floor. Hey, maybe that story was better than I thought. It wasn't what most people would want to read, however. The lady was evil, a modern Becky Sharpe, as I recall. I can't remember writing stories as a kid. I was busy running around in the arroyos in Tucson.
What is your writing process?
I throw down stuff wildly at first. I work when I want to work and don't work if I don't want to. If time is being taken from me, I discipline myself to begin immediately with any time I have, but that's only if other things are impinging and I can't jettison them.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Well, I'm pretty terrible at this aspect of writing, but I'm working on it. I WANT MY OWN BRAIN is doing the best of all my works with 1,600 downloads. TROMBONES CAN LAUGH has really picked up readers in the last couple of months and is nearly at 900. LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT has exceeded 900. Just about every book needs new covers to give me a consistent brand, improved inside promos, and promotion on social media. I've been using Facebook and Twitter a lot and I created a blog on Tumblr last fall. On Smashwords I embedded videos for each of my books and those were fun to find. I didn't try to tape myself promoting the books, but found some fun related videos. I think I would enjoy these, so maybe my readers will too. Eventually I'll make a video of me.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Tucson, Arizona, the land of saguaro cactus and junky streets. My great grandfather came to Tucson to take care of the mules at Fort Lowell in 1872. I suppose I was completely distorted by the experience of living here. Many years ago I learned that Ray Bradbury lived in Tucson as a child. I'm pretty sure it influenced him to be imaginative. The deep purple canyons north of town are like magical fairylands.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote a comedy column in junior high. I was writing short stories by seventeen. The rest is extremely obscure history.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I was scared when some favorite journals disappeared and I realized the industry was changing. At a local writing conference in 2005, I heard the keynote speaker mention some experiences he had publishing stories online. That was relatively new, I think, and it intrigued me. Industries do change over time. Artists now have a direct connection to the consumer. The absence of the middleman is disconcerting, but a little thrilling.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I garden and also work at the schools in Tucson as a sub teacher. I like inspiring kids to read books.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Usually they are project Gutenberg books, like THE UNDERDOGS, about Mexican Revolutionaries. I haven't found that book in any bookstores, though it may be available on Amazon.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I can't believe people are actually reading my works on Smashwords and liking them as much as they occasionally do. I almost threw LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT away. Someone gave it a bunch of stars, so you never know. Somebody else liked JUAN AND WILLY, which I thought was pretty funny, but I believed no one else would appreciate it. Of course, lots of readers hate REVERIE, my oddest book, and another person detested BEWITCHING EARTH (too much description) and PHANTOM STRAYS (monologues of the mother bored them), so I have to keep some perspective on all the glory.
Published 2015-06-04.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Phantom Strays
Series: Phantom Roundup. Price: Free! Words: 57,050. Language: English. Published: February 13, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Were you there when "A Hard Day's Night" opened in America? Remember Wolfman Jack? Hit the streets of a desert town circa the '60s and '70s as the teen siblings from A Phantom Herd go mad for the Beatles, dance to rock and roll, and try to give LSD to a cowboy movie star. A zany, nostalgic look at American life in the southwest.
A Phantom Herd
Series: Phantom Roundup. Price: Free! Words: 100,040. Language: English. Published: February 21, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Nostalgic for a lost America? Was Chester from Gunsmoke your first crush? Visit the desert Southwest circa 1960 as refugees from Indiana and Ohio cope with cacti and tamales, and a family of kids lie and bluster their way through a frightening adult world. A gentle novel full of wonder and beauty. This is the first novel in a two-part series.
Trombones Can Laugh
Price: Free! Words: 52,680. Language: English. Published: September 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Teen loner James Sauerbaugh wants nothing more than a chance to get his act together, when the Forces That Be land him in a Shriner band as a substitute. James discovers this band of decrepit drunks play circus screamers flawlessly. An ancient trombonist helps him develop an appreciation of the old coots and their Shriner mission. A touching, fun book that links generations.
Genuine Aboriginal Democracy
Price: Free! Words: 50,410. Language: English. Published: November 9, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
An anthology of wonderfully quirky short stories including: Uncertain Trysts, His Faithful Companion, Big Paper Skeleton, Fantasy Artifact, Genuine Aboriginal Democracy, Mother's Woman-Marine Bra, Work Out Your Own Salvation, Consciousness Raising, Metamorphosis of Me, Snake Dance Disaster, and On the Rio Mayo.
Last Days in the Desert
Price: Free! Words: 26,980. Language: English. Published: May 31, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Stacie, Tiffany and Yadira hope to shut down their rental house and get back their security deposit before leaving town, but first they have to fix the gaping hole in the adobe wall and rid themselves of unwanted graduation "presents," both the result of an uproarious final party. This comic co-ed romp will keep you chuckling.
Metamorphosis of Me
Price: Free! Words: 4,670. Language: English. Published: April 19, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
A reclusive man may be flubbing his reentry into society.
Juan and Willy
Price: Free! Words: 28,900. Language: English. Published: March 16, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Who hasn't imagined finding a fortune in gold? Juan and Willy dream big like everyone, however their thinking is somewhat inadequate. After searching for a truck and struggling to babysit an 8-year-old who lives in the house with the gold map, this ridiculous pair blunder into danger at a toxic tailing pond. At least they have each other--as punching bags. A buddy comedy with a duo of dimwits.
Bewitching Earth
Price: Free! Words: 7,240. Language: English. Published: February 3, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Literature » Coming of age
Love for the world, and its many beautiful niches, heals a young girl's heartache after a short affair with an older man.
Maelstrom
Price: Free! Words: 2,440. Language: English. Published: December 22, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
On Christmas Eve a pregnant woman recalls being rescued by a vagrant when she was a child.
Squaw Dresses
Price: Free! Words: 2,910. Language: English. Published: December 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
A society maven with a small dress factory uses intimidation to sell her leftover squaw dresses.
The Good Librarian
Price: Free! Words: 4,490. Language: English. Published: December 5, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
An Air Force lieutenant gives his copy of a Walt Whitman book to his sister-in-law for safekeeping during the McCarthy Era, but she refuses to return it.
Consciousness Raising
Price: Free! Words: 5,970. Language: English. Published: November 21, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
A young girl who endures a badgering at a consciousness raising foolishly marries a scolding, caustic husband.
I Want My Own Brain
Price: Free! Words: 22,380. Language: English. Published: November 10, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
When you’ve cracked up like Aunt Helen, what you need is a weekend with an irrepressible child like Stephanie Falls. She’ll remind you of what it means to be truly alive. Stephanie makes a monkey of everyone, including her doting grandparents, but her joy for life unburdens the troubled mind of her aunt. A heart-warming, original tribute to the importance of finding the child inside us all.
Snake Dance Disaster
Price: Free! Words: 7,000. Language: English. Published: October 26, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Two teenage boys participate in a ridiculous Snake Dance enactment at a mansion in 1960s Arizona.
On the Rio Mayo
Price: Free! Words: 5,420. Language: English. Published: October 19, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Conflicts between a father and son come to a head when an air conditioning repairman named Harry and his son Frank meet a Mayo Indian early one morning at a fishing camp on the Rio Mayo in Sonora, Mexico. This short story takes place shortly after World War Two.