Nancy Gray Interview

Hello my little munchkins. How are you all doing? I am doing okay. I am so thankful it is finally the weekend because this gal can finally catch up on her sleep and hopefully get a little ahead on her homework and blog posts. I don’t think I will be doing NaNoWriMo this year because I am in a complete writing slump and I have no ideas for a book at the moment. So instead I will be using the NaNoWriMo time to get farther ahead in blog posts. So that should be really exciting. Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so tell me what your story is going to be about 🙂

Anyways, why don’t we get into this interview?


Nancy Gray

What is your writing kryptonite?

I assume this question means what weakens/kills my writing the way that kryptonite weakens/kills Superman. I would have to say that my kryptonite right now is noise. I know it sounds kind of silly, but there is a right amount of noise that helps me concentrate. I don’t listen to music while I write typically, but I listen to songs in the car that are inspirational to the type of genre I am writing at the time. (These are usually finnish metal, like Nightwish or Sonata Arctica if you’re wondering, though depending on the book it could even vary to Muse or emo music.)

Despite the fact that music inspires me I just can’t write when there is music playing or something I’m interested on television. Also too much quiet is a factor because I have children and silence is suspicious. So I tend to prefer to write with some white noise like laundry spinning or television I’m not interested in.

Also, family drama makes it difficult to write. When my children are sick or there’s something that is going on that is stressing me out, I can’t concentrate on writing. People say “write it out,” but I just can’t do that. I usually wait until the situation is resolved and then try to make up for lost time.

What made you want to write this book?

I wanted to write this series because I love horror and I noticed there was a need for more mid-grade horror novels. Even though I love fantasy and I think it’s wonderful there is so much fantasy for children to read now, I think there is more of a need for scary stories than the industry might know. The world is a very scary place, especially for children in middle school.

I modeled this first story roughly off of the Goosebumps series in length and the scary feelings evoked through the imagery, but I knew I wanted it to be different, too. I decided to have the main character create a club to investigate supernatural stories and in the first six books of the series each story is told by a specific “investigator.” Later books would be told by one of the six investigating something for other children in the school.

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Have you ever had difficulty coming up with an idea for your story?

I sometimes have difficulty coming up with ideas. Basically, I write down ideas for my stories in a notebook whenever inspiration comes to me. In terms of Spine Chillers: The Beast of Black Pond, the creature that attacks Duane was originally a wolf-like creature. The idea that I came up with later is the one I preferred and kept in the novel, but I still used a wolf-like creature as a villain in Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf.

The Beast of Black Pond went through a lot of revisions to make it what it is today. It was actually the first one I wrote in the series, though it turned out to be the third book published. Sometimes the original ideas I come up with don’t work or don’t come across the way I envisioned them. It’s during these times that I have particular difficulty coming up with a different concept. Usually in spite of the difficulties involved, content revisions make the story better I the end.

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As a writer what would your spirit animal be?

I guess my writing “spirit animal” would be a raven. A black raven is actually the symbol I use as a writing logo. Ravens are associated with horror, particularly Edgar Allan Poe, so they seemed appropriate for someone who enjoys dark fantasy and horror. Also, ravens are intelligent and can talk. Even crows tend to chatter and talk loudly to one another, so it seems appropriate for me. I talk a lot to my friends and I’m prone to flights of fancy when I write and otherwise. I sometimes have a tendency to talk too long, especially when someone asks me about writing. (Sorry, my answers to these questions will probably be “wordy.”)

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What Hogwarts house would the main character of your book be sorted into?

This is fun question! I took the Hogwarts sorting quiz recently and found out my own house is Hufflepuff. But that doesn’t mean that my own personality is reflected in all of my characters. Each of the Spine Chillers books has a different investigator and they have very different personalities. In Spine Chillers: The Beast of Black Pond, Duane would probably be a Gryffindor. He proves himself to be chivalrous by protecting those he feels are weaker than he is, and he shows a certain reckless bravery in using himself as bait to try to capture the beast that has been hunting him throughout the book. He tends to be the unofficial leader of his group of friends and is the one who creates a club to fight the creatures that adults don’t even believe exist.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

I typically try not to base any of my characters off of real people. There might be a few characters that have traits of other people I know, but if so it probably isn’t intentional. I don’t feel it’s right to base a character off of a real person without permission, and even with permission I wouldn’t want to represent them in a way that would offend them. There are usually aspects of my own personality in each of my characters. But as I mentioned, I don’t feel right about using any person, whether I like them or not, as a character in my stories.

I tend to brainstorm everything from a background to goals and ambitions of my characters in a notebook without looking to a real person for inspiration. Every now and again I get inspiration from a fictional character though, like something in an anime or television show, but even then I try to make it my own in some way. I like to change it until it doesn’t resemble the source material.

Do you google yourself?

As embarrassing as it is, every now and again I do google myself. I usually do it to see if anyone is following my work or to see if my name comes up at all in a general search. Every now and again there is someone with the same name or the same series name as mine, but I usually am satisfied if my name comes up on a search at all. I check the amazon pages for my books often to see if I have a new review.

What word would sum up your book?

This is a difficult question. I like to think the word would be “chilling.”

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Do you believe in writer’s block?

I definitely believe in writer’s block. Sometimes it can be very hard to think of a concept for a story, and there are times when you have an idea for a story but you just don’t know where you’re going with it. During these times I find it useful to take a short break from writing. In my opinion it’s better to wait it out than to try to force something.

Usually my worst work happens when I try to just write through the writer’s block, and then I have more revisions to do during the editing process. By waiting initially you save time in the long run.

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What advice do you have for other writers?

I think I would say write whatever it is you are passionate about. Don’t worry about if it will sell, and never get into writing assuming your books even will even sell at all. Judging the market is difficult, and writing something to fit it will never be as good as writing what you want. If you can’t get in the traditional way, self-publish or build up a fan base first that enjoys what you do.

Don’t give up no matter how many rejections you get. Use constructive criticism, but ignore things that are meant to tear you down. Also, don’t undersell yourself, but don’t be arrogant, either. There will always be someone better, but there will also be someone worse. These people will get published. Your success/failure isn’t always a reflection of your skill. Keep writing and reading and you will become better and eventually you’ll succeed.

How much research do you do for your books?

It really depends on the book. Most of my research is on the villain of the story. I get a general idea of an urban legend or a folktale that I would like to write about, and then I do a good deal of research and try to portray it in the way that I like the best. I did a lot of research for The Beast of Black Pond. After doing the research, I realized this legend isn’t as dead as I thought it was. It’s funny, but symbolism for the creature comes up in subdivisions that are near a stream, river, or lake, and in places you would least expect. (I’m trying not to say what the beast is so it isn’t spoiled for the readers who want it to be a surprise. It doesn’t take long for Duane to encounter it, but it’s one of my favorite villains so I want it to be a fresh scare.)

When did you first start writing?

In college I decided that I wanted to one day publish a book. I had many teachers in high school that told me I had talent, and I was told by one of my teachers in college I should publish the short story I wrote for his class. I had a lot of friends who read my stories about my characters in various games, and they told me that they loved them and wanted to read more. I think this encouragement helped to spur me towards writing.
Even though I did want to write a novel one day, I think when I knew that I wanted to make a career out of it was after I graduated. I started out in graphic design, but I never was really happy with it. While it was fun to see a sign I designed around town, I realized I really just wanted to tell stories to entertain people. I wanted to give life to something that wasn’t real but could let people escape into a reality that wasn’t their own, even if just for a little while.

At first I chose urban fantasy, but it was a little too gritty for my taste. Then I tried my hand at young adult fantasy, which I liked a lot but eventually needed to take a break from since I completed the trilogy in that universe. Currently, I’ve really enjoyed writing for middle school kids because I feel like they can use a safe scare and to see someone to stand up to what they fear especially in the world today.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

I write on my laptop typically in my living room, though sometimes at my desk in my bedroom. Even though the actual writing is done on the laptop, I tend to start off with a notebook for each series. In the notebook I write character descriptions, setting information, and usually a rough outline of the story. Even though it is a problem if I lose the notebook, I like to do it this way because it makes it easy to take my notes wherever I go.

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I can jot ideas down waiting on a doctor’s visit or waiting in the carline for my daughter to get out of school, anywhere that inspiration strikes. I even have a dream journal next to my bed in case I have a dream that is particularly interesting. Even when I don’t have the notebook for my series with me, I always make sure to also have a small pad and pen in my purse in case I have extra time that I don’t expect. When you have children, you have to find time to write whenever you can, and being a Hufflepuff, my family comes first.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

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This is a difficult question. We’ve already discussed writer’s block, so I think the next hardest part of writing is dealing with rejection. Many writers that I know, myself included, are perfectionists in some way. One of the issues with pursuing a career in writing is that you are not going to be able to please everyone. A particularly rude comment can be crushing, but you have to be thick skinned in this industry and understand that if criticism isn’t constructive it probably is just someone trying to get a rise out of you.

However, some criticism is meant to make your work better so you need to keep an open mind when there is a rejection or comment that is meant to make your work the best it can be. Recently, I found out there was a problem with one of my novels where some errors had slipped through the editing process. I took care of it as soon as possible and apologized. I was glad for the comment because it gave me a chance to fix it before too many people bought a copy. These things sometimes happen which is why, good comments or bad, it’s important to listen to your readers.

What is the easiest part of writing that you consider?

Well, I would say the easiest part, or at least the most fun part, is writing about the characters before they begin. One of the things I enjoy in my free time is playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games. It’s always fun to create a character and decide what they are good at, bad at, and what they would like to improve. It’s important to put these motivations into your characters from the start, so I look at it as though I’m creating a character to play in a fantasy world. The difference is it is my fantasy world that my own characters are playing in. I try to keep this mostly open-ended though in my stories because I want the reader to be able to put themselves in the role of the main character.

You probably have heard this before, but oddly the characters don’t always behave in the way you expect. That’s one of the most interesting things that can happen to a writer, when the character is so well developed it’s like they take on a life of their own and decide what path they will take. That’s why I only use a rough outline. I sometimes don’t know what to expect or how the character will react when they come face to face with the monster in their closet.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

For the Spine Chillers series, it usually only takes me a month or two to write a book. Once I have a character, setting, and especially a decent outline, the writing process usually doesn’t take me very long. I try to stick to my outline unless the characters dictate otherwise, and I have fun with the process.
I generally try to at least write about two thousand words a day, but I’ve been known to write more like five thousand or so if I’m really inspired. There are some days that I don’t write at all if something more important is going on or if I have something in reality that needs my attention. I’ve found that it’s important to take a step back occasionally, and then sometimes you write more efficiently when you pick the pen or the laptop back up.

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Do you think the cover plays an important part of the buying processes?

I think the cover plays a very important role. It catches the reader’s eye, and it gives the audience a feel for the type of story they are looking at and roughly what it’s about. I was lucky enough to find my first artist, Madalyn McLeod at Soda City Comic Con. She has completed two covers for me. I love her crisp lines and the way she can capture a very subtle but interesting expression on a character’s face.

McLeod recommended my second artist, Samrae Duke for the other novels. I love her attention to detail and how even the objects in the background tell an interesting story. I love both of their styles for different reasons and in different ways. Even though both techniques are unique I think they are both able to capture the feel of the novels with such lovely art, and the styles are similar enough that the novels still come across as a series.

How can your readers discover more about you and your work?

I can be reached on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WriterNancyGray/
I also have a website that I update frequently at http://nancygray.net/index.html
And finally, I have a writer’s blog at http://nancygray.blogspot.com/
I check all of these places frequently, so feel free to send me a message. Also, I try to keep these updated with news about my current work, previous work, and occasionally snippets about what is happening in my life other than writing.

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Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

I would just like to say thank you for your support and for including me in this interview. Thank you to everyone who reads my books and please let me know what you think. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my work and to hear what my readers have to say. Thank you again. Keep reading and writing!


That is the end of the interview. The review of the authors book should be coming either this week or next week. I hope you all enjoyed this and expect to see a post tomorrow morning! 

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