Thursday, August 30, 2012

What the Experts Say: Contemporary Fiction Author - Raynetta J Stocks

Raynetta J Stocks, Author
Please welcome Raynetta J Stocks. Raynetta is a budding contemporary fiction author whose debut novel, THE GRIM, opened to rave reviews.  Having written since childhood, Raynetta’s work consists of plays, short stories, prose anthologies, and editorial essays.  When a severe bout with congestive heart failure forced her to discontinue her longstanding work in mental health, she decided to pursue her writing career full-time.  She now resides in Maryland with her son.

Q What led you to write THE GRIM specifically?

THE GRIM in a lot of ways was my own story.  My main character, Jaycee, and I had a lot in common in that we shared similar fears and traumas.  When I set out to write this book, it was meant to be a Gothika-like tale of intrigue and mystery.  Instead, I found I was pulling from a darkness in me I thought previously extinguished.  It was therapy, for me and Jaycee.

Q How do you use back story to drive the plot?  For example, how did you use PTSD symptoms to write a compelling novel?

PTSD is an acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder and is a clinically recognized mental health illness dealing with individuals who struggle to live normal lives in the wake of disturbing events.  The condition typically affects individuals with serious traumatic events in their past: the sexually and physically abused (many of them children), murder witnesses, victims of long illnesses or cancers, and most notoriously war veterans.

Jaycee is diagnosed with PTSD after she kills her abusive ex during an incident she cannot remember.  Instead of being sentenced to prison, the judge takes pity on her and sends her to a psychiatric facility to face her demons.  So, in Jaycee’s case, her backstory is crucial to recalling these repressed memories.  It is what has happened prior in Jaycee’s life that the reader is drawn to, the mystery of what occurred to land her in this facility surrounded by other mentally ill patients.  Much of the story are therapy sessions with her new doctor recounting parts of her past and what led her to the event in question.

Q What do you believe is most important about THE GRIM? About your other writings?

Innately, THE GRIM is about survival.  Many people believe that if you bury what is dark and ugly about yourself or your life that it will remain there forever.  What Jaycee, and many people like her, come to find is that nothing ever stays hidden.  And a lot of those things we seek to forget or bury have truly affected us, our lives, and the lives of those who love us.  Only by digging them up and dealing with that trauma do we triumph over what sought to oppress us.

Q Who are your target readers?

THE GRIM is an “anybody” kind of story, but as the main character is a young woman in her mid-twenties, I would say women between the ages of 16-40 would probably identify more readily.

Q Actually I would expand that to older readers as well. As someone over 40, I am very intrigued with THE GRIM.  

Q What is key to developing characters that readers care about? How do you make your characters engaging? Are they based on real people? How do you make them credible?

As a writer, you have to care about what you’re writing.  When you’re passionate about something, it shows in the work.  Engaging characters, to me, are characters with stories never before told.  I like to put a creative spin on the mundane or shock with stories the reader may not have ever experienced.  Some of my characters do have basis on real people; as I’ve said, Jaycee in THE GRIM is quite of bit of me and my experiences.  A character’s credibility is rooted in the writer’s ability to make that character respond in a human way, even if that character is somehow supernatural or of another world.  It is the reader’s ability to identify with what’s on the page that makes them keep turning.

Q Why are you a writer?

I am a writer because I am an avid reader with a love for good stories.  When you’ve experienced so many great stories, one’s imagination becomes teeming with stories of one’s own.  A quote that I love from Toni Morrison is “If there is a book you want to read but hasn’t been written, you must write it.”

Q  What’s most important about dialogue?

Dialogue is about natural human speech.  Conversations must flow as though real people are saying them.  It helps solidify the validity of the characters.  I often read my dialogue aloud, either to myself or with someone else, when available, to see if it sounds like a real conversation.

Q What activities do you do for inspiration to write?

I’m inspired by life.  I people watch, especially when I’m in new or interesting environments.  Intriguing stories are about putting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances or vice versa.  That happens daily in the world; you just have to be able to recognize it.

Q Does writing relax you or stress you out?

Writing is always relaxing.  What makes writing stressful are deadlines, which I hate.  Nothing good comes from forcing the Muses.

Q Do you have any kind of routine – or muse – to write your novels?

I do not necessarily have a routine.  But I feel my Muses respond best in quiet environments with little to nothing else going on.  I need to be able to see my world clearly in my mind’s eye so that I can describe the movie playing out in my head.

Q Who is your favorite author? Book? Character?

Tough questions!  My favorite author would most likely be Terry McMillan [Disappearing Acts, Waiting to Exhale]; I’ve read and own more of her books than any other author.  She has a real way of portraying the single black woman experience.  My favorite book is definitely The Color Purple by Alice Walker.  It reminds me that genuineness of spirit creates a true richness in life, despite what may feel like insurmountable adversity.  My favorite character would probably be Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth.  He is the quintessential kid: unable to appreciate the proper use of words, mathematics, or simple common sense until he’s faced with a world without it.


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