Interview with Raymond Fraser

Do you have a favourite book, one that you like to revisit from time to time?
I don't normally re-read books, unless after a great deal of time has passed. The only exceptions were Alice In Wonderland and Huckleberry Finn. There was a time in my teens when I read "Huckleberry Finn" once a year for three or four years. I tried it again recently, but I'm afraid I wore it out, because it rather let me down this last time, probably because I was too familiar with it. Sometimes just a second reading doesn't pay off, for example Samuel Butler's "The Way Of All Flesh". I listed it in the aforementioned "Favourite Books" essay, but then I picked it up last year and tried it and found it bloody awful. I can't believe I ever liked it. I think I must have died and been born again and am now a different person from what I was then.
What inspired you to become a writer?
It's my opinion I was born to be a writer, like musicians are who take naturally to music, and graphic artists to art. I was a big reader from an early age and always had a sense that writing was what I'd get around to doing in my lifetime; it was just a question of when. I thought I'd like to do more interesting things first, like be a professional athlete or soldier-of-fortune or private detective and when I'd my fill of excitement and adventure retire and write about it all. But by the age of sixteen I'd read enough to realize writers can have interesting lives too, and I should really do what I was best at if I wanted to get ahead in the world. Looking at my early writings today I can see I had "a way with words", as the saying goes. Several of my teachers noticed this as well. One said I should become a writer, but never would because I was too lazy. Maybe he was trying to motivate me. But lazy or not, I've still managed to get things done. When it comes to writing I'm really not lazy, if anything I'm the opposite, it's hard to get me take a restorative break .
Are they the same reasons you do it today?
Pretty much. I write because I feel it's what I'm meant to do. If money was my motive I'd have stuck with tabloid journalism, which I did for five years in the sixties. I did the work easily and could make all the money I wanted, but I quit it so I could write what I felt I should be writing, even though it paid hardly anything. I think I'm like a professional athlete: if you took away the big money he makes, in almost all cases he'd still play his sport, because that's what he's best at, and what feels right when he does it.
What are the challenges of the profession?
I've never looked on the difficulties, drawbacks, disappointments, rejections, and so on as "challenges", I've just put up with them and carried on. It's a curious thing that when I begin working on a book I forget discouraging realities and become wholly optimistic. It's as if I'm just starting out, full of innocence and faith. Without that wonderful illusion it would be hard to keep going at times.
Tell us about some of the books or authors that influenced you to become a writer.
That would have to go back pretty far. I guess you'd have to start with the Uncle Remus's tales of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and so on by Joel Chandler Harris, and the various animal stories by Thornton W Burgess – those and other children's books that were read to me as a wee lad. And "Alice In Wonderland" and "Lassie Come Home". It would be a long list by the time I got to the end of it. In a book of mine called WHEN THE EARTH WAS FLAT I wrote a piece titled "My Ten Favourite Books" which turned out to be not ten but over a hundred. And that wasn't mentioning my favourites when I was a young fellow and read the whole Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, for example. There was a small library at the grade school I attended, St Michael's, and I must have read everything in there that was of interest to a boy. Then there were books my sisters had at home, like "Heidi" and "Black Beauty" and "Swiss Family Robinson". And some of my father's, like a story collection by Damon Runyon. And countless comic books (funny-books as we called them). And I listened to stories on the radio (I loved stories whether spoken or written), weekly shows like the Damon Runyon Theatre, Bold Venture, The Shadow, Amos 'n Andy, The Great Gildersleeve, Our Miss Brooks, the Lone Ranger . . . In my mid-to-late teenage years I read Charles Dickens and Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson and John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway and D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce and Sinclair Lewis and Erskine Caldwell and Erich Maria Remarque and John Dos Passos and Somerset Maugham and Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anton Chekhov – whatever I could lay my hands on. At that time books weren't that readily available in my home town of Chatham, New Brunswick, so a lot of lending among friends went on. The only public library was the Old Manse in Newcastle and I hitchhiked there quite a lot for a supply. But to answer the question: it wasn't any particular book or books that inspired me to take up writing. It was an evolving thing, beginning with the first child's book I had read to me and on from there.
What are the rewards?
Satisfaction at getting the work done. And knowing that I'm not wasting my time, that there are people who read and genuinely enjoy what I do. That I'm providing something of worth to others.
How have you grown as a writer over time?
I can't really say, it's not something I've given any thought to. I believe I've written each book as it should have been written at the time I wrote it  that the style suited my interest at the time. I know I'd hate to have the writing of them still ahead of me. It tires me just thinking about it.
How did you feel when a book is completed?
I used to feel finishing a book was a cause for celebration, and I did celebrate. But I don't drink now and my expectations are much less and I've usually driven myself hard to reach the end and what I in fact feel is exhausted and disoriented. There's a kind of unpleasant withdrawal to go through. I'm glad to have the book written, of course, but I know from experience that I'll likely be at it again after a while re-doing parts. Being finished is not necessarily being finished. And I miss the sense of well-being that comes from working at it every day.
Is your creative process more 'inspirational' or 'perspirational'?
It's both. Bob Dylan said, "I don't write, I write down", and there's that part of it. But what comes from who knows what spiritual dimension is usually, in my case anyway, in rough form and in need of considerable refining. I try to do writing that will hold up over time, and which is solid enough to be read with benefit more than once. Not that there's any reason for anyone to read my books more than once, but there are those who do that, and it's gratifying to hear they still like them.
What makes a good book?
First of all, it can't be boring. Departments of Education and the professorial caste might prefer that kind, but as Alden Nowlan said, "The first rule of writing is that thou shalt not bore the arse off thy reader." A book should be good company, and make you feel glad you read it, and better for it, and want to read more by the same author. Now, there is no way to prove one book is better than another, it's not a measurable thing. What's good to one reader won't necessarily be good to another, and what's good at an early age might not seem so good at a later. The only sure measuring stick is my opinion (and that doesn't always remain constant either).
Published 2017-03-15.
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Books by This Author

The Black Horse Tavern
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 61,000. Language: English. Published: August 20, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
THE BLACK HORSE TAVERN is Raymond Fraser's landmark first book of fiction. Revised and edited by the author, this long-awaited definitive edition features a novella and nine stories, along with a new Introduction. "All ten stories in THE BLACK HORSE TAVERN bear the Fraser touch: gutsy realism, originality, and humour. The effect is hilarious, moving, and sad. It's quite a book." BETTY SHAPIRO, Mo
Repentance Vale
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 24,970. Language: English. Published: May 14, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General
In this satiric tale of neo-gothic horror, Haliberton "Bertie" Beaumont, heir to the Beaumont shipping fortune, schemes to seduce the pretty young daughter of Matthias Gogg, a fundamentalist religious fanatic who secretly believes in human sacrifice...