Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Q&A with Ray Daniel!

This week, we sat down down with Ray Daniel, whose critically-acclaimed Corrupted Memory was published earlier this month.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Ray Daniel: I started writing seriously when I turned 40, though the clues were there all along that this should be my path. I’m an Engineer with a minor in English. The first book I bought out of college was On Writing Well by Zinsser, and I once wrote an MBA paper as a short story. 

Even so, I didn’t really think about writing until I read the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. The book suggested that I do the things for which I had a natural talent. That when it occurred to me that I was a pretty good writer and I should focus my energy there. I quit playing chess (I was terrible) and started writing. 

That was 12 years ago.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
RD: Robert B. Parker was my favorite author and my earliest influence writing. I used to tell people that I liked reading “first-person, wise-cracking, Boston-based mysteries.” Now I write “first-person, wise-cracking, Boston-based mysteries.”

The Teaching Company audio course “Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s
Craft” had a significant influence on my style. I hadn’t expected that to happen when I bought the course.

Today’s influences include Karin Slaughter, who is a master of writing sensory-focused scenes in simple language, and William Martin who writes dual-timeline novels that combine history with modern life.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
RD: Stand-up comedy.  There is something addictive about writing jokes and figuring out how to deliver them to an audience in a consistent fashion. It’s a difficult art form and a high wire act.  I gave it a shot at this open mike night and loved it.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
RD: I design computer chips, which is why Tucker is a hacker. I wanted an engineer as a main character and designing computer chips was too arcane for a general audience. I wanted to capture the engineer’s worldview.

There’s a joke about how engineers see the world:

A minister, a doctor and an engineer are golfing together. They are suffering because the foursome in front of them is miserably slow. Finally they flag down the groundskeeper and ask, “Why are those guys so slow?”

The groundskeeper says, “Oh they’re firefighters who were blinded in a fire. To thank them for their service we let them play whenever they want.”

The minister says, “That is terrible, I will pray for those men.”

The doctor says, “I know some ophthalmologists.  I’ll see if I can get them help.”

The engineer says, “Why can’t they play at night?”

Pretty much sums us up.

MI: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing or working?
RD: Reading, playing softball, and fretting about the Red Sox. Also I enjoy Facebook and have to admit to spending too much time there.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
RD: Spenser. He had a powerful influence on me as a young man. He demonstrated that being a man meant something and that there were rules to correct behavior. I think he influenced a generation of young men, much as Robert B. Parker influenced a generation of mystery authors.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
RD: The murder case in Corrupted Memory is pretty nifty, if I do say so myself.

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
RD: My work in high tech. The story in Terminated was specifically inspired by the way a company named Avant! stole computer source code from another company named Cadence. (You can look it up!)

MI: Tell us about Aloysius Tucker.
RD: Tucker is, like many engineers, a guy who can’t let go of a problem once it grabs hold of him. He cannot use a gun, he cannot fight, and he doesn’t run all that fast, also he’s not really all that tough.

But he is brave.

Tucker works to do the right thing regardless of personal risk because he doesn’t want to live in a world where he let his fear control him. He can be infuriating since he’s got poor people-reading skills, and he sometimes doesn’t thing things through. 

In the end he’s a good guy.

MI: How does this series compare to your past works?
RD: This series is my past works. 

Well, to be more specific, this is my first published fiction. Previously I’ve written business books (Leading After a Layoff) engineering books (The UVM Primer) and poetry (Robot Haiku). But that was all written by another guy named Ray Salemi.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
RD: We have three dogs: A Chinese Crested, a Yorkie-Poodle and a Shitzu-Poodle. Technically that means we have three pets, but you could also see it as having one pet: a dog pack.

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
RD: Beef. 

My Dad was from Argentina, so I grew up with a love of cooking beef over a grill.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
2 oz. of Lagavulin Scotch
2 ice cubes (can be replaced by one big ice cube.)

Place the ice cubes in an on-the-rocks glass.
Add Scotch.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
RD: Our sense of community. 

The only tangible benefit I can guarantee anyone who wants to be an author is that they’ll get to hang out with other authors, usually at conferences. Being an Inker automatically gives you a posse at any mystery conference.

Corrupted Memory is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Your local bookseller

No comments: