Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Author Interview series - Ray Wenck

Today I have the pleasure of having Ray Wenck on my blog. Ray was an elementary school teacher for 35 years. He also owned and operated a small Italian restaurant for more than 20 years. Currently, in his retired life, he is a cook at the local casino and is spending his free time working on his next novel. Ray lives in the Toledo area where most of his stories are based.

JET: Ray, can you tell us about your most recent book?

Ray: Teammates is a story of two life-long friends, Danny Roth and Tony Antonelli. They have pasts better left forgotten and have built lives that isolate them from the memories. Their one shared passion is baseball which they still play. It serves as an escape and reminds them of better times in their lives.

When visiting a teammate at his new bar they interrupt a loan collection by a local mob boss. Stepping in to protect their friend they become targets of the mob and must now fight to survive. With each confrontation the two friends are drawn closer to a world they thought long buried. The question becomes how far are they willing to go to save a friend?

JET: What drew you to (genre)?

Ray: I’ve always enjoyed action and thriller novels. Although I started off making this a light adventure I found it really needed more. There are many light moments, especially on the baseball field, but for the most part it is action oriented.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Ray: Wow! Good question. I can think of a lot of things but the biggest hurdle was understanding the process. Query writing was the hardest part. I just wasn’t very good at it. You have just a few lines to get an agent or publisher’s attention. There is so much to learn. I found myself wishing I had paid better attention in high school English classes. But I worked hard at improving my skills and it was worth it. I started out being a storyteller and ended up a writer.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Ray: I think this might be true for most first time authors, but it had to be when I opened the email from Jayne at Rebel e that offered me a contract. I was all alone in a warehouse working. I took a break and checked my emails and saw one from her and just stared at it. I was afraid to open it. I’d had enough rejections that I created a file to put them in. To that point I’d been having a good day and didn’t want to ruin it so I went back to work. I fantasized over the next half hour what it would be like to get published. Finally I couldn’t take it any more and opened it. When I saw what it was I danced all over that place. Yep, definitely a favorite moment.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Ray: I read almost across the board. Mysteries, horror, fantasy, sci-fy, adventure, etc. Growing up I read Tolkien, lots of Star Trek, Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter, and more I can’t remember.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Ray: I’ve always enjoyed writing or creating stories in my mind, I just never made the time to do it seriously. Now, looking back I wish I would have started twenty years ago. If there’s one piece of advice I can pass along it would be if you want to write, do it. Don’t put it off or it may be one of those things you never got around to.

I was lucky. I stopped making excuses and sat down and wrote. I had the best time. When I finished that one I already had an idea for another and started on it the second the first was done. I had no thoughts of publishing, I was just having fun.

When I finished my fourth novel I was having a celebratory beverage when a friend asked what the celebration was for. It was the first time I had ever told anyone I was writing. She managed to convince me to let her read one. When she was done she said, “You should get this published.” And ding, the light went on. That was a little more than two years ago.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Ray: I always act out fight sequences to make sure they work. In Teammates there’s a scene where Danny hops over a bar from the drinker’s side to attack an armed man. I needed to know if the move would work. Since I owned a restaurant with a bar I decided to test my idea there. I waited until we were closed and the staff had gone before attempting the move.

Now, I have jumped that bar twice before from the bartender’s side. Once when a patron was choking and once to break up a fight. That side is lower and I was standing. From the other side I was sitting and there is a step there so the height isn’t as great. It should be easier.

I practiced several ways in slow motion before deciding on the best way. I made the move trying to be explosive from the barstool. The stool flew backward, I hit my knee on the underside of the bar, rolled over the top and plunged to the floor. I was stunned. Afraid to move, I realized the next staff member wasn’t due in for another 10 hours. It took a long time to get up and an even longer time to want to try it again.

What fact I learned was that I don’t bounce very well.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Ray: Book four of the Danny Roth series. (The title is still in the works) There was something about this novel that was different. Maybe it was the story line or maybe it was the point where I first felt I was a writer. There was a lot of emotion in this story. There were times where I had to get up and walk away from the screen to regroup and start again. It was the first one that I finished and felt spent. It was at that point I thought I could be a writer. I can’t wait to see that one published.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

Ray: I will pass on the two things told to me that made a difference. One, join a writer’s group if there is one locally. Talk to others going through what you would like to. The local group I found was a chapter of Romance Writer’s of America. Although I don’t write true romance, I have romantic elements. (and now I started a romance novel; who knew) Anyway, they were very accepting and so willing to help. Within about a four month period we had a flurry of sold books. You can also join some writer’s groups online. Good Reads and Absolute Write are two of the many I belong to.

The second thing that started me understanding the writing process was going to a writer’s conference. For me it was the James River Writers in Richmond, Virginia. The very first thing I learned there within the initial fifteen minutes was I was no where near ready to publish. It was an eye opening experience but one that set me on the right track.

A third thing would be (even though I only said two) do it. Make some time in your busy life to do it; if only for yourself. Who knows where it may lead.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with: Paper or Plastic?

Ray: Oh, save the trees.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Ray: I don’t eat much steak, but I’d prefer it over tofu.

JET: Beach or Mountains? I’m definitely a mountain man. Go hiking and climbing every chance I get. Love the Smokey’s.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Ray: Tough choice. Like them both but rock wins out. The band I was in played both but much more rock.

JET: Leather or Lace?

Ray: Depends on who’s wearing it.

JET: Angels or Demons?

Ray: The angel on my left shoulder says “Angels,” but the devil on my right says “Demon.” I don’t want to make either one mad so I’ll take the chicken’s way out and say “no comment.”

JET: Paper or Digital?

Ray: Aw man, I love my paperbacks, but I’ve been told I have to step into the now. I still prefer to hold a book then an e-reader, but I have actually downloaded books now onto mine.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Ray: You know, I like them both. The B’s are so campy that they can be entertaining, but the silent form really had to be creative in order to demonstrate their emotion and storyline without speaking.

JET: Twilight or True Blood

Ray: Well I’m going to lose a few people here but I can honestly say I haven’t seen either.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Ray: Tea. Loves me some Earl Grey.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Ray: Currently I am finishing edits on Home Team the third book in the Danny Roth series, and have started a new mystery series about a chef and his ex-cop wife who leave their lives behind and take up residence in Lubec, Maine where they get into all kinds interesting predicaments.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Ray Wenck and his work at the following places: or

Thanks for stopping in today.
Until next time...

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