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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Spotlight Saturday: Author Interview and Giveaway with Ray Chen Smith, author of The Jazz Cage


Hi, everyone!


Welcome to another edition of Spotlight Saturday at Darlene's Book Nook, where we feature authors and their books!

We will be joined today by Ray Chen Smith.


About Ray:

Ray Chen Smith is a writer and teacher living in Los Angeles, California. 

In his late twenties, he wrote a literary novel set in China then decided it wasn’t fit for public consumption.  He did, however, chop up a couple of parts and sold the chunks to literary magazines.  (Both stories can be downloaded for free from his website.)

For his second novel, he decided to go unabashedly commercial, and The Jazz Cage is the result.

He is currently finishing up his third novel, a thriller titled Dawn at Midnight.

Further information—the aforementioned short stories, a more detailed biography—can be found on Ray’s website.

CONNECT ONLINE WITH RAY:



Welcome to Darlene’s Book Nook, Ray!

Do you have a specific writing style? Do you write an outline, or do you write more “by-the-seat-of-your-pants”?

I don't trust my talent (or whatever you call that measly thing inside me) enough to just go "by-the-seat-of-your-pants."  I do a very, very detailed outline on Excel before I even start writing.  Trying to balance "boring" parts (people talking) with "exciting scenes" (action, emotional drama, etc.).  I sort of highlight stuff.  If the book drags in a certain part--which I could see from my Excel outline--I immediately add something interesting.  Or what I think is interesting, which not be reflective of reality!  Haha.


Do you discipline yourself to write a certain number of words daily? Or do you ever have dry periods where you do not write?

One day planning a chapter (my chapters never go over 4 pages), one day blitzing it out as a rough first draft, and however long it takes to rewrite it till it's decent, I'll do (could take 1-2 weeks on really badly written first drafts!). 


What is your ideal writing environment? Do you prefer music or solitude? Is there a time of day (or night) that you prefer?

No music, just my couch and my laptop.  Day, night, makes no difference.  ;)


Are there any authors that influence your writing?

A lot of people inspire me, but very few actually influence me because, well, they're mega-talented!  Like Stephen King definitely inspires me, but there's no way I can write like him.  The few who influence me are popular writers who have (ahem) middling talent.  Like, say, James Patterson whose books are masterpieces in structure, even if the dialogue and character development often are laughable.  I think most thriller writers can learn a lot more from Patterson (and Grisham, etc.) than a mega-talent like Stephen King.


The Jazz Cage is set during the Roaring Twenties. What inspired you to write a book during this time period?

Because it's exciting.  I didn't want to set it during a boring period like, say, the 1950s (though, as shown by James Ellroy, the 1950s can be very exciting indeed).


The Jazz Cage sounds like it is filled with a lot of bad guys! Which character was the most fun to write and why?

Well, the more eccentric the characters, the more fun they are.  Lucky Luciano pops up in there, but my Lucky undoubtedly is nothing like the real gangster.  Of course, central villain--a Confederate agent named the Hound--is totally made up.  And he's such a weirdo, I get a kick out of writing him!


Can you tell us about your current or upcoming writing projects?

I just finished a first draft of my third novel (my first, a "literary" novel set in China, will never be unearthed to human eyes, let me tell you; my second, of course, is The Jazz Cage).  I also have a love story in mind set during the Civil Rights era.  It's sort of funny the stories/settings I'm interested in since if I only write what I have firsthand knowledge of, it would be growing up a Chinese-American kid in Orange County, California.  How utterly boring!


What book(s) are you reading now?

Stephen King's It.  Utterly fascinating.  Almost zero structure to speak of, and the story goes on long extended tangents that are completely unrelated to the central story of the killer clown!  But since King's writing is so exceptional, you go along with it.  I'm also going to start reading some old Conan the Barbarian stories.  Why Conan?  Why not?!


Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?

Get my book!  You'll have a good time.  Don't just trust me, read the reviews at my website.  And if you don't find it entertaining, cuss me out via Twitter.   



Fun Facts

Secluded mountain cabin or five-star hotel? Anyone can afford a mountain cabin; I want to stay in the five-star hotel!

If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be and why? James Patterson.  I'd ask him how he got so successful with such little talent!

I can't live without my... Pocket audio recorder.  I take it everywhere so I could record my thoughts.  If I could put it next to me while I shower, I would!

If I could take an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, I would go to... The most expensive place I can find.  I've been to 20 countries or so (I was in the Peace Corps) so I sort of know what's affordable and what's not.  I mean, I can travel pretty much anywhere for a reasonable price so why waste an all-expenses paid trip to relatively inexpensive places like Turkey or Vietnam?  No, I want to go to Monaco or Tokyo or Zurich or some place like that.   


Thanks so much for joining us today, Ray! It was a lot of fun getting to know you better!



Two lucky winners will win a digital copy of Ray's Roaring Twenties thriller, The Jazz Cage.













Prohibition-era mobsters collide with Underground Railroad abolitionists in The Jazz Cage.

It is 1924—sixty years after the South’s victory in the Civil War.

Frank McCluey, bounty hunter for the mob, is sent to help out a wealthy Virginian bootlegger. Frank’s job: track down two female slaves who’ve run away from the millionaire.

But the mob has made a bad choice. Instead of capturing the women, Frank decides to help them escape to Canada, his mission now aided by the pint-sized but steel-willed runaway Della and the outlawed Underground Railroad.

Soon Della and Frank become the target of slave catchers, cops, gangsters, and most chilling of all, a Confederate agent nicknamed the Hound for his ability to always sniff out and kill his prey.

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The giveaway is open worldwide and will close at 12:00 AM CST on February 2, 2013.

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