What’s that? It’s Authors Interviewing Authors time again? YES! This month’s Authors Interviewing Authors post features two of my most favorite people in books talking what they love best: namely, writing (and also torturing their fans with teasers and secrets). Kris Ripper holds nothing back while asking J.R. Gray those hard questions and the answers…well, let’s just say they both enjoy themselves far too much.
Ripper: Gray! Binge on Books wants us to go on her site and chat about craft and inside secrets! You in?
Gray: You know I can’t say no to Judith. It’s a problem! One I love…
Ripper: First: TELL ME ALL YOUR SECRETS! [consults notes] Oh, excuse me, I think that’s in regards to your books. Ahem. So, Gray, tell us one secret about a future book or series, as totally imprecise as you want it to be. Feel free to torture your readers. (I know they’re into that.)
Gray: You know my readers so well, and my sadist ways. I have a MTF trans character in an upcoming series I’m really excited about. There is no surprise reveal either. She is who she is and the conflict of the book does not revolve around her gender which I really think we need to see more of in queer fiction.
Ripper: Oh, amen to that. More trans characters who are not defined by their gender/transition/whatever!
Gray: I couldn’t agree more.
Ripper: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Gray: World building and plotting. I don’t plot out completely before hand, but I do a lot of turning the book and a plot over in my head until I figure it out, months and months before I ever start writing it, usually. I’ll take notes, and jot down ideas, but it’s sitting there in my mind marinating.
Ripper: Totally. Do you lie in bed and think fiction? I…may do that. All the time. Um. That’s healthy, right?
Gray: My favorite time to plot is laying in bed in the dark. I think there is something about a half asleep mind that helps resolve plot points.
Ripper: I’ve totally found that to be true. Has how you build books changed at all since you started writing? Does your process shift organically, or do you ever sit down and think, This ain’t working, I gotta try something new?
Gray: A long time ago I used to just write. I didn’t plot, or point my characters in any direction. I’d have an idea for conflict, or a character in my head who wouldn’t shut up and I’d run with it. This led to high word counts and almost nothing finished. I only wrote for myself. When I decided to write and publish I had to change the way I do things, and of course actually finish stuff. It was a process.
Ripper: I wonder how many writers start that way. I definitely did, for years. And I’d finish stuff…ish. Like, there were endings, but was there a story? Debatable.
Gray: I think a lot of my early stuff also didn’t have a plot, so no real ‘story’ it was just characters meandering. I still write in pieces, but I have a plot worked out before I start.
Ripper: I know you have wonderful, gorgeous readers and fans, and that you’re a crazy-generous author when it comes to fan engagement. (I learn all the time from watching you, so thanks for the master class!) What role does your relationship with reader play in the writing room? Do you ever write a scene and think, Ohhhh, they’re gonna love this! Or Ohhhh, they’re gonna kill me! (Or…Ohhhh, they’re gonna stick their hands in their pants…)
Gray: I have the best fans. I say it all the time, and it’s so true. I try not to let fans have any influence on where a book is going. The only established characters they’ve seen so far are the ones from my Bound series, and there are so many conflicting opinions on what should happen with them, as they are quite a diverse cast. I am a sadist, I love to rip my reader’s hearts out and then stitch them back together. I’ve thought more than once after writing a scene I might get murdered for it, but I rarely think that when writing it. So often I know what the pivotal and emotional scenes will be before I write the book because they are crucial to the plot and they end up being the first scenes I write.
Ripper: Following up, do you ever get serious push-back from people for the ways your books have gone?
Gray: I haven’t yet, but I think I will get some after the next Bound book. The other Bound books have been a slow build to the fourth and a lot comes to light as well as gets resolved. There are plenty of opinions on who Elliot should end up with, and I’ve known since I started the series where he would. I think it’s the best resolution for him and I hope my readers agree.
Ripper: And, uh, when they don’t, they should address the hate mail…where? Actually, this reminds me of a debate in the Graypack a while ago over…something Jesse-related. Do you ever find yourself completely floored that your characters, whom you birthed from your head like fuckin’ Zeus, are totally and completely real to your readers?
Gray: I have a PO Box for such things! Hahaha. They are so real to me I actually find it cool people see them as I do. There have been many Jesse debate in the Graypack. Some people love him, while others hate it. I find it quite amusing.
Ripper: What do you think you’ll be writing a year from today?
Gray: Even more diverse stories than I am today. I’m shooting for queer pirates!
Ripper: We’ve now brought up pirates like at least two times on the internet. At some point we’re really gonna have to scribble some pirates, man.
Gray: Since I just finished a book and haven’t started a new one, don’t tempt me. I will drag you
into writing pirates with me.
Ripper: Promises, promises! Now for the most important question of all: what’s your favorite writing utensil? (Interpret however you like….)
Gray: Since I’m writing this as I stroke my Macbook’s keys in the most loving fashion, let’s go with that. I hate my handwriting and it’s hardly legible to even myself. I’m expecting there to be some horror on both ends when I’m expected to inscribe books at my signing this summer.
Ripper: So you’re fondling your keyboard is what I got out of that. *nods* I completely understand.
Thanks so much for having us, Binge on Books! Cheers!
Gray: Thanks so much for having me!
When not staying up all night writing, J.R. Gray can be found at the gym where it’s half assumed he is a permanent resident to fulfill his self-inflicted masochism. A dominant and a pilot, Gray finds it hard to be in the passenger seat of any car. He frequently interrupts real life, including normal sleep patterns and conversations, to jot down notes or plot bunnies. Commas are the bane of his existence even though it’s been fully acknowledged they are necessary, they continue to baffle and bewilder. If Gray wasn’t writing…well, that’s not possible. The buildup of untold stories would haunt Gray into an early grave, insanity or both. The idea of haunting has always appealed to him. J.R. Gray is genderqueer and prefers he/him pronouns.
Find out more about Gray:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a little kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and prefers the z-based pronouns because they’re freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.
Find out more about Kris: