Interview with Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall

Interview Date: 5/31/2012


Rayne Hall is the author of thirty books in different genres (mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction) and under different pen names, published by twelve publishers in six countries, translated into several languages. She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for three decades. Her short stories have been published in many magazines, e-zines and anthologies. She edits the Ten Tales series of themed short story anthologies and teaches online classes for writers.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? (Assuming said power would be reasonably "powerful.")

I'd love to travel around the world, invisibly of course, and stop acts of violence – rape, torture, war, child prostitution, domestic abuse.

Kev's response: Here, of all people, I would have expected you to go for something horror-based, to scare the criminals into a life without crime.

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

As an avid reader, I enjoy almost every genre. My favourite is epic fantasy because it takes me to faraway places and periods, allows me to explore different cultures, and usually offers books which are big enough to give me many hours of reading pleasure. I also like historical novels, exciting thrillers, horror fiction (as long as it's not too gory), humour, and a lot of non-fiction (travel adventures, history and more). I enjoy novels where there's inner and outer conflict, and the hero has to make tough choices and grows as a person.

Writing, I get the greatest pleasure from fantasy and horror. I enjoy writing about magic as reality. I believe that magic exists; only most people in the modern western world are not aware of it. It's fun to write about worlds where people know that magic is as real as electricity is to us.

I also enjoy writing horror: scaring readers is fun. I like nothing better than making my readers' skins crawl with apprehension, their spines tingle with suspense and their hearts thump in delicious fear.

Whatever genre I intend to write, it often turns into horror. Some years ago, I started a light-hearted Regency Romance novel. At first, all went well, with lots of funny situations and witty banter... but then I discovered that there was a centuries-old curse on the family, the hero had a guilty secret, the vengeful housekeeper was on a serial killing spree. The story grew darker and darker. Another time, I had this idea for a cute story for children... but by the time the story was finished, all the cute children were dead, sacrificed to an ancient god. This happens all the time. Even my lightest, funniest stories have an element of macabre humour.

Or take Storm Dancer. When I conceived the story years ago, it was a straightforward adventure fantasy, with a swashbuckling hero fighting evil guys. Then it turned out that the hero was possessed by a demon, and the evil he was fighting was inside him. Now there's war, rape, torture, treachery and human sacrifice. Storm Dancer is definitely not a book for the faint of heart.

I no longer fight the calling. I guess I'm meant to write dark stuff.

I'm a non-fiction writer as well, and have penned many books of the “how-to” kind (under different pen names). Teaching and helping people is rewarding, and it's wonderful to get letters from readers who say how useful my books have been to them. Under the Rayne Hall name, I've started a series of books for authors on how to write certain scenes. The first, Writing Fight Scenes, has already become something of a bestseller.

Kev's response: I've got your Writing Fight Scenes e-book myself. When you bring horror (or fantasy) into the picture, it opens the door for supernatural elements that can add some excitement to a story as well. (Not to mention antagonists that aren't openly visible in the storyline for a while.)

What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I enjoy creating characters, giving them challenges and dilemmas, and watching them grow.

It's fun to give characters firm principles, and then put them in a situation where they have to do what they swore they never would.

In Storm Dancer, Merida swore she would never bellydance for an audience...but the only way to escape from the evil ruler's harem is to pose as a tavern dancer and perform in public. Will she sacrifice her principle or her freedom?

Merida also swore she would never kill a fellow human being. But then she has a chance to end the war by taking out the enemy leader. Will she kill one man or let thousands die?

Another fun facet of this is to give the character a terrible secret and watch them squirm when the truth threatens to come out. To what lengths does the character go to keep the secret?

Dahoud, the hero of Storm Dancer, was a brutal military commander, with the kind of reputation mothers used to frighten their children into obedience (“Be quiet, or the Black Besieger will get you!”) He left it all behind, faked his own death, took on a new identity, built a civilian career, devoted himself to bringing peace and protection. Then he gets appointed to rule the land he had devastated whose people still curse his memory. What will they do if they learn the man they hate is still alive, is now in their midst, and is ruling them? What will Dahoud do to stop them from finding out?

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

For my horror fiction, I write about what frightens me... and that's a lot. I simply exaggerate my personal fears to fictional proportions. Cowards make the best horror writers: we know what it's like to be scared, and we never run out of material.

Thousands of fiction ideas are spooking in my head at the same time, each demanding to be written. But the ideas remain barren until they connect. Whenever two ideas click together, like a seed meeting an egg, fertilisation happens, and the story starts to grow.

As a fiction writer, I like to challenge my readers' perceptions, to alert them to prejudices and abuse. I can do that by showing issues from fresh perspectives. The reader experiences what the point of view character experiences, and shares the PoV's thoughts and feelings. This gives an insight into what it's like for someone else, and can change the reader's attitudes, without ever being judgemental or preachy.

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

I do both. To explore ideas, I free-write about them, just letting my creativity flow without censoring the output, and see where it leads me. Then I look at it critically and decide how to structure and shape it to create the greatest impact. I alternate between the creative flow and the structured approach, and this leads to strong results.

In the past, I've tried pure seat-of-the-pants writing, and the result was boring drivel which went on and on. I've also tried the strict-planning approach, and the resulting stories had neither passion nor soul. So now I mix the two.

Kev's response: A good indicator that experience, and a willingness to try new things, can help one improve overall.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

I write regularly, even when I feel uninspired at first. I sit down and write something – anything, even drivel – and after a few minutes, the magic happens. The best way to invite inspiration is to start working.

Kev's response: True. Inspiration has never struck when I've caved and watched some television. All that happens is that I'm inspired to watch more television.

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

Revise, revise, revise. Indie is the way to go, but most Indie-published books are not as good as their authors think. Make sure yours is as good as you can possibly make it.

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

I live in a dilapidated seaside town of former Regency and Victorian grandeur in southern England – the perfect place for writing horror fiction. I've also lived in Germany, Mongolia, China and Nepal.

In addition to my publishing career (trainee publisher, investigative journalist, feature writer, magazine editor, production editor, page designer, concept editor for non-fiction book series, anthology editor, editorial consultant and more), I've worked as an apple picker, adult education teacher, trade fair hostess, translator, tarot reader (with startling accuracy), belly dancer (I was very good at it, and still can out-dance anyone) and museum guide. All these experiences are good fiction material: you'll find a lot of bellydancing in my stories.

Kev's response: I can bellydance, but for me, that means flopping around on my belly on the floor, and isn't overly attractive.

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

For the books currently published under the Rayne Hall name, here's my Author Central page:

For a list of my upcoming online classes (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Magic and more), see Note: these classes are suitable for intermediate, advanced and professional level writers only – not recommended for beginners or the faint of heart.

I'm very active on Twitter, and if your profile says that you read or write, I'll follow you back. @raynehall

Kev's response: Rayne, thank you for your time in joining us, and I wish you the best. (Whether under your Rayne Hall name, or the other secret names!)

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