CBP: How did you decide to become a writer?
Ray: All throughout grade school and high school and even into college, teachers and professors complimented "how I strung words together." But I never paid any attention to it outside of the classroom. I was into sports and just did not give writing a chance. I majored in finance and economics, went into the corporate world, and after eight years found myself bored silly. So I began writing a story, working on it two or three nights a week for an hour at a time. I had no idea if it was any good; I just had this idea stirring in me about a guy who goes to church just to meet girls. By March of 2000 I had 30 pages written, and one day at work a friend called me and said that our local paper was running an ad for a North Carolina writers conference. On a whim I signed up and mailed in my 30 pages for their contest. To my utter shock, those pages won first place in their fiction category, and that little springboard led me to add another 300 pages and title the novel Flabbergasted. In case anyone is interested, the conference is held each spring and is called the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. In fact, I'm heading out the door to the 2004 conference as soon I finish these questions.
CBP: What led you to write a sequel to Flabbergasted?
Ray: I thought the minor characters from the first book had a lot more to say, plus I really liked the characters of Darcy, Alexis, and Steve, who, along with the new guy, Neil, pretty much carry the story. And, of course, Jay and Allie are a big part of this book as well. I actually envisioned a third book last year, and now that the publisher has offered me a third contract, I can go ahead and tell you that the "Flabbergasted Trilogy" is looking like a reality. Praise God.
CBP: From where (or whom) did you get the idea of Neil praying on rooftops?
Ray: I wanted to give the reader a sense of Neil being alone, confronting God about promises that Neil thinks he deserves. Neil is not so much "praying" on the rooftops as he is blathering out to God whatever is on his mind. I did that to emphasize the importance of being real with God, not having to use certain phrases or the most reverent locations to address the Almighty. Also, since Neil is an earthy type and a musician, it seemed to me he should be a little different than your average "Bible-belter." And yes, I've been on a rooftop or two myself.
CBP: How did you develop the character of Quilla?
Ray: Oh, that Quilla, she just develops herself, one of those characters who just struts into the story and dominates her scenes. She also represents one of the messages of A Delirious Summer: the diversity of the kingdom, and how God uses unlikely people to accomplish his purposes. In contrast to the Presbyterians and the Baptists in the novel, Quilla is Pentecostal, full of energy and ready to take on whatever situation God puts in front of her. Uh-huh.
CBP: Asbury is based on your grandfather. Do any other characters come from real life?
Ray: Well, there is only one letter of difference between "Jay" and "Ray"! And the surfer couple, Ransom and Jamie, are my neighbors, cleverly disguised. (Yes, they approve of the novels.) We're heading to the beach over Memorial Week. There is also a "Darcy" somewhere in South Carolina, and I think I saw Alexis at the pizza joint last Friday. As for Allie, well, she rarely leaves the jungle. And as for Maurice, he rarely comes in off his boat.
CBP: Any hints you can give us on book three?
Ray: It will center on four of the characters, be narrated again by Jay Jarvis, and might give a peak at some new geography. Dats all de hints you be gettin'.
Thanks Ray! We've SO enjoyed your books, and wish you well in your future projects!