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Interview with:

Phoebe Wray [pwray] 


WRITING
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
My earliest memories of books are little hardcovered volumes of non-fiction. I devoured them -- American and European history, Napoleon, China, India, Seafaring, Pirates, The Revolution, plus biographies. I still read a grat deal of non-fiction, especially history. And I loved animal stories, so I read all the Thorton Burgess "Mother West Wind Stories," and Terhune, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. i wept copiously over "Beautiful Joe." I liked Robin Hood, too, but didn't want to be Marion--she didn't get to do anything but traipse around and I wanted to be part of the Merry Band. My Aunt Mary gave me Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses" for Christmas and I started writing poems. I also loved Wonder Woman comics and read all the Nancy Drew mysteries. I was telling stories before I could actually write. I wrote a poem in the 4th grade that was published in my local newspaper and was the editor of a small in-class newspaper in the 6th grade. My family read my output first, although I think I probably read them aloud. I was greatly encouraged by teachers and my family.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I read widely, but am keen for science fiction and good spec-fic, like Nancy Jane Moore's slim and wonderful volume "Conscientious Inconsistencies," and non-fiction, mostly history. My novel "JEMMA7729," a futurist, dystopian, action-adventure novel was published in Mar 2008. Here's the link: http://www.edgewebsite.com/ I'm happy to say it is doing well. It's available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jemma7729-Phoebe-Wray/dp/1894063406/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218033594&sr=8-1 I have a horror story, "Names," due out any day now from Inkspotter Press as part of "Backless, Strapless and Slit to the Throat: A Femme Fatale Anthology." Find at: http://inkspotter.com/publications/books/backlessstrapless.htm A story and some poetry can be found at: http://www.anthologybuilder.com/authordetails.php?byline=Phoebe%20Wray http://www.ecopsychology.org/journal/gatherings6/html/Word/word_eden.html http://www.ecopsychology.org/journal/gatherings3/wray.html
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I'm a morning person and a morning writer. I like the quiet of dawn. But when I'm in a project, I write whenever and mostly all the time. When I'm not at the Mac, I make a lot of (sometimes undeciperable) notes and for that purpose have notebooks in most rooms in my house. My bugaboo is that I have to get the first sentence before I can start. Sometimes that doesn't appear readily.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
The characters have to show up and start dancing, so to speak, before my plots get developed. There's an "idea" -- but it's just that: what I want to write about. The idea. Then the characters arrive and the story can start rolling. I don't mean to sound cavalier -- of course there has to be a well-developed plot, but the best plot in the world won't work if the characters (and this includes critters and aliens and sponges) aren't somehow engaging, tempting me, and ultimately the reader, to find out about them.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I like third person best because it's more flexible. However, with JEMMA7729 the book just wouldn't get written until I switched to first person. Then it took off like a rocket.
What well known writers do you admire most?
I enjoy story-tellers like Jack Campbell: fun, fast read, doesn't give me nightmares. I've read everything by Louise Marley, who has a goodly body of work and should be more famous. If anyone reading this (and I hope somebody is) doesn't know her work, check it out. I admire Rowling because she parlayed her gifts so well. But, I suppose, if I could only take one book with me when escaping from Earth on a spaceship, it probably would be Patrick White's "Voss."
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
We are such creatures of habit, and characters have to be so as well. They can and should surprise us, and they should evolve over the course of a story (can't tell everything at once), but there has to be a gut consistency. My characters pop into my head uninvited and then I play with them, test them constantly, write scenes from different points of view. Often I do this out loud before putting a scene down on paper. That's freeing for me.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
Yes. I've been a professional actress for many years. It's fun.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Hecuba.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Not personal therapy, but I think ideas spring from internal musings, conflicts. Examing some deeply held belief may have some theraputic value, but real internal messes are not helpful to me. I don't write to banish demons. I invite them in for tea.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Yes -- it's helpful to know what worked for some people, what interested them especially, if there was anything that really really grabbed them. No -- if they're showing off or grumpy or picking a fight.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Absolutely. I have a deeply valued circle of what I call my "wise readers." Some of them have read more than one draft by the time a story is sent out into the world and I marvel at their patience and enthusiasm. These are writers and thinkers and teachers, not just "friends." I need the feedback of people who know what they're feeding me. Good cooks!
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
Wow, I hope so. Whatever that voice is. It changes with time, as well it should.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I'm not a terrible task-master, but truth is, I really love to write, so I don't need to do too much to keep myself on schedule. Unless, of course, there's a block. In that case, I make myself write SOMEthing every day. Actually, my trick is to sit at the computer, randomly open the dictionary that lives on my desk, and stick my finger on a word. Then I write something about that word. This is mostly dreck, but sometimes pays off. The horror story "Names" started this way. I'm a fulltime teacher, so my time to write is precious. (Oh, and I guess I should say here that I teach at The Boston Conservatory, a private arts school: History of the Theatre and Cultural History.)
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
Yes, my Mac. I don't print frequently. I pretty much do everything on the Mac until I have a draft. Once that happens, I print it out. It really does look different on a page. That's when corrections happen. The writer Delia Sherman said once that when she has the final draft she checks herself into a hotel for the weekend. That sounds like a great idea to me -- no distractions. When I'm in the final stages, I just don't answer the phone.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
I'm a member of Broad Universe, an international membership organization that supports and celebrates women who write sci fi, fantasy and horror. It's a terrific group -- very supportive and growing every year. Check it out here: http://www.broaduniverse.org I'm an infrequent blogger on LiveJournal. I have a Facebook page but don't do very much about it.
What has been your experience with publishers?
I've been cheered by dealing with my current publisher, Brian Hades, at EDGE. He's been a genial, supportive, and enthuasiastic participant in getting the novel out. I've heard horror stories but fortunately, they haven't happened to me. Oh, there was the editor at a small press in Arizona (I think it was Arizona) who read JEMMA7729 and wrote me back to say it was "terrible," and that I should "give up writing." Ta-da! I kept that letter for awhile, then one day took it into my backyard and burned it.
What are you working on now?
Polishing up the sequel to JEMMA, two short stories and a funny mystery play. I also have a fantasy triology sitting, glowering, on my desktop.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Oh, bless their little hearts. We all have some of those. Read 'em again, be tough and say yes or no. If it's no, put them in a heart-shaped box and let them sing to themselves. If it's yes, work on them and get them out there into the agora.
 

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[pwray]
Phoebe Wray
Ayer, Massachusetts


[pwray] Phoebe Wray
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