Interview with Raven West

Jen: Today we welcome Raven West to Romancing the Book. Raven, will you please share a short bio with us?
Raven: I decided to become a journalist when I was in high school working for our school paper. I discovered that showing a “Press Pass” gave me access to areas and people that others usually never see. While studying journalism at the University of Missouri- Columbia, I fell in love with the college radio station, switched majors and then transferred to Syracuse University where I earned my bachelors in broadcasting at the Newhouse School of Communications.

Jen: Tell us about Red Wine for Breakfast.
Raven: Well, for one thing Red Wine for Breakfast is not a cookbook! It’s a behind the scenes look into a Los Angeles radio station (sex, drugs, rock & roll) and features strong, independent women using their intelligence and cunning to succeed in a predominantly male dominated industry. Although it is fiction, real-life radio personalities such as Larry King and Howard Stern, plus a true-life drug scandal and possible murder/suicide are intertwined within the plot.

Jen: Where is it available?
Raven: The hard copy is available on Amazon.com of course and as a Kindle e-book on their site. It’s also available on Smashwords.com for on-line reading in HTML, JavaScript, PDF, RTF, plain text to download or view, LRF for Sony Reader and Epub download.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Raven: I’ve always enjoyed writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen. I wrote my first poem when I was seven, it was called “Red”. I guess I like the color. In my high school yearbook under the heading of “Ambition” I wrote “to have the book published”. It was a different book at that time, but I’ve always found writing fiction to be a good way to deal with sometimes not-so-great realities of life. In 1985, my best friend Mary Ellen Grable, died in a tragic accident. I started writing a story that fictionally explained the cause of the accident, something that would give her life meaning, and keep her memory alive. I realized almost as I was writing it, that the short story was going to become a full length novel, and if my goal was to have a lot of people read it I had to write about something that would be “different” from other books that were being published. I chose a setting that I felt would generate a lot of interest and one that I was familiar with: a radio station.

The original book was printed by me on my laserjet printer in a stationery store I once owned with my husband. We were next to a printer who bound it with plastic and the cover was red card-stock paper. Then, AOL started their Writer’s Club which was then bought by iUniverse, so actually my book was one of the original iUniverse titles. At that time I was publishing under Robin Westmiller. Then, in 2001, I received an invitation from a small publisher who wanted to launch his business with my second novel, First Class Male and I offered him the opportunity to also publish Red Wine for Breakfast with a new cover and a new name; Raven West.

The company suffered serious financial set-backs and went out of business early this year. That’s when I met Chalet and Red Wine for Breakfast was, once again, re-born.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Raven: Intriguing, Entertaining, Captivating

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Raven: Most of the time I have the ending before I write the story, and write backwards. Plots come to me all the time, but the details take a bit longer. The novel I’m working on now I actually began to formulate on the back porch of my girlfriend’s house in Connecticut way back in 2001. I entered the Novel In a Month contest where the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, so I took the challenge this year and managed 50,212 words of the first draft three days before the contest deadline. Now comes the hard part of re-writes!

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?
Raven: Well, I MUST have something to write with, a pen, pencil, lipstick, whatever, and something to write on. When the Muse hits, those words have to come out. One time I was on a field trip with my daughter and wrote on the bus on the way to the zoo. I could hardly read my handwriting. I’ve written at the hair-dressers, in the doctor’s waiting room, I wrote some of Red Wine for Breakfast while I was on a cruise in Mexico!. I would say the “must haves” would include a strong cup of coffee in the morning and occasionally, don’t kill me here, a cigarette helps me think.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Raven: I do research on all my novels. There are several real life radio personalities in this novel, including Larry King, and one of the plot twists came for an actual event in the radio industry. Having worked in radio, which is still a male dominated industry, I didn’t need to do a great deal of outside research other than my own personal experiences.

Jen: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Raven: Not so much with Red Wine for Breakfast, but the character of Mark in First Class Male was suppose to be a throw-away ex-boyfriend of the main character, but he kept “insisting” on being in the book. Problem was, the character was a high-powered NY district attorney and at the time I knew nothing about the legal profession. But when I character talks, you listen. So, I ended up going to law school, and graduated in 2007. While writing my third novel, my main character suddenly “said” “This was someone too easy…” and I had to totally change one of the characters and part of the plot. You just never know what is going to happen, not even when you’re writing.

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Raven: I was a huge fan of Joyce Elbert back in the early 70’. Her novel The Crazy Ladies, in my option, out-sexed “Sex and the City” and is still my favorite contemporary novel. I am a huge fan of Ayn Rand and Victor Hugo. I could re-read their books forever and always find something different. They’re fiction inspired generations long after their passing.

Jen: If Red Wine for Breakfast was made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the hero and heroine?
Raven: Funny you should ask. Several years ago a movie producer actually optioned the book for that very purpose. We were looking at Greg Kinnear to play Johnny and Bonnie Hunt to play Jenny. The biggest problem with casting for a movie is that Johnny has to have an exceptional radio voice, which is a huge part of the character. Which is also why I wouldn’t want Red Wine for Breakfast to become an audio book, because Johnny is nick-named “The Voice” by the listeners, and it would take someone of exceptional vocal ability to really make women melt. Actually, I think the only man who could successfully pull that off would be my husband, Bill. He was in broadcasting for more than ten years, and when he turns on that voice, it could melt steel.

Jen: Do you do anything special to celebrate a sale, new contract, or release?
Raven: One of my “rules” of life is to always keep a bottle of champagne in my refrigerator, because I never know when I’ll have a reason to celebrate. It’s also running theme in every one of my books, as is the socks test. You’ll have to read Red Wine for Breakfast to find out what that means.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Raven: I was giving a panel talk on publishing at Barnes and Noble when my second novel came out. Once of the women in the audience came up to me after the presentation and told me that she was there to buy First Class Male because she really loved Red Wine for Breakfast and couldn’t wait for my second book. That was the best compliment I’d ever received. I’m just sorry she had to wait almost ten years for my third novel.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Raven: That’s really a strange question. What most people do in their free time is what they can’t do because of other obligations. Writers aren’t ordinary people and writing isn’t a job that requires free time or a vacation to fill with other activities, at least not for me. So, besides having to sleep and eat, the one thing that I enjoy more than anything is writing, but I also need a job so I can have a place to sleep and food to eat. Although I’m currently early a salary writing for a trade magazine, so technically I am getting paid to write, I am hoping to sell my next novel to a major publisher for a nice advance so I can “quit my day job”!

Jen: What’s next for you?
Raven: I’m finishing up my third novel with the working title Cry U.N.C.L.E.. It’s about two lifelong girlfriends who find their childhood game of playing spies from a sixties TV show becomes all too real when they attend their 30th high school reunion and are recruited by the same organization to thwart a former schoolmate’s plan for worldwide domination.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Raven: I have my own website at http://ravenwest.net for my fiction and http://robinwestmiller.com for my non-fiction. I also write political commentary for Examiner.com, Nolanchart.com and Opensalon.com and have a few blog sites.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Raven: Please buy Red Wine for Breakfast. Tell your friends to buy Red Wine For Breakfast. Tell your friends to tell their friends to Red Wine For Breakfast.

Thanks for the opportunity for me to share my writing with your audience, Jen.

Jen: Readers, Raven is giving away a download of her book First Class Male to one lucky reader. To enter the contest, first leave a question or comment for Raven. Then to finish your entry, you must leave your email address in your comment or send a message to contests.bookblog@gmail.com. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, August 1.