Spotlight Author: RAVEN WEST
Before we get started talking about your books, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born Robin Cohen, the daughter of the late Ruby and Reginia Cohen, the former owners of Cohen's Bakery in a very small but very famous village of Ellenville, New York, located in the "Borscht Belt", Catskills.
What is your occupation outside of writing?
My "occupation" outside of writing is.... writing. I'm currently employed full time at the head writer for a national trade publication for landscape contractors; Irrigation and Green Industry, and Soil Erosion magazines.
Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?
Depends on my mood, or maybe the phases of the moon! I've been described as aggressive and a bit intimidating. (Me too…but I think that’s just part of being female! J )
Do you have any pets?
No pets, just a husband, Bill and 3 daughters, Tandy, Kimberly and Michelle.
What are your favorite books to read?
I'm currently re-reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. No other writer even comes close, (except me!) As a writer and author I find it very difficult to read other writer's work. I'm way too critical and find that many new fiction authors just don't "talk" to me at all. It seems to me that the "art" of writing has succumbed to the glut of the "new" publishing media where anyone with a computer can hack out whatever garbage the masses are eating up at any one given time, like all the vampires and zombies, and they're on the best-seller list. I highly doubt that, if she were still alive,
Rand's work would have been given a second look.
I'm a HUGE fan of a late 60's writer Joyce Elbert. Read ALL of her books, The Crazy Ladies was the one that fired up my passion for writing.
Where is the most unique place you have traveled?
Depends on how you define "unique". I've been to
Hibbing, Minnesota, Dale, Texas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and . Paris, France
Aside from your successes in the writing industry, what in your life has given you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
Going back to law school in 2003 and getting my J.D. in 2007 under what became the most devastating four years of my life.
How many books have you written and how many of those are published?
I've written three novels under Raven West, and one non-fiction as Robin Westmiller, J.D.
My first novel, Red Wine for Breakfast, was originally published in 1999 by Lighthouse Press, an independent publisher in Florida who also published my second novel, First Class Male in 2001, and my collection of erotica short stories; Journey to Dimension Nine.
My non-fiction memoir Blood Tastes Lousy with Scotch - which will be re-titled Rescuing Ruby - which tells the story of how I rescued my father from my greedy cousins, thieving attorneys and the Florida guardianship system.
The fiction was a lot more fun.
Do you have one particular genre that all your books fall under (i.e. suspense, romance, etc.) or do you write in many different genres?
That's really been one of my problems because my novels really don't fall into any one solid genre. There are relationships, but not the typical "romance" formula. There is suspense, where a main character dies, but it's not a typical suspense or mystery formula. Cry U.N.C.L.E. is intrigue, Vashti's Daughter is a re-incarnation/romance/religion, so my genres are all over the place, which makes them, and me, difficult to "brand" and even more difficult to sell to a traditional publisher, but I keep hoping, and I keep writing!
How much character and plot detailing do you plan out before you begin writing a novel, or are you a “pantser” (fly by the seat of your pants) ?
Both. I usually write backwards, as in I know the ending and usually know the beginning, but in connecting the dots, the story tends to take over during the writing process. For instance, the character of Mark in First Class Male was only supposed to be the x-boyfriend of Rachael, a throw-away character, but "he" kept insisting on being in the book, so because he was a D.A. in NYC, I had to do more research to give him a well-rounded personality so that he would fit into the story.
That also happened in Cry U.N.C.L.E. to another character who wasn't suppose to be part of the plot, but I found myself taking him into a different direction as well. As a writing of fiction, I can't see how anyone who wants to write a believable story can stick to a hard, fast outline and not "listen" to their characters. As E.L. Doctorow once said, "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia!"
Prior to becoming a published author, how many rejections did you receive? How did you handle the rejections?
Who counts the # of rejections? I did keep all the early publisher's rejections of RWFB and they weren't that bad. Plus I was able to "spin" some of the lines into a much more positive tone.
It's all about the SPIN. If the rejection letter isn't a "form" style, you can usually find at least one line, or a few words, that you can use. And honestly, in this day of e-books and other forms of "publishing", rejections don't hold nearly as much weight as they once did. If all else fails, pay the $ and do it yourself, just be prepared to pay a LOT of money for the marketing and promotion of that book if you expect it to reach a larger audience than your husband and parents. (Your kids won't read anything you write!)
How and when do you write? Do you keep yourself on a schedule or do you work while the muse is with you?
Yes. I write all day at work, the magazine has a tight deadlineschedule of course, so when I get home it's very difficult to even THINK about writing fiction. I recently put myself to the challenge of writing 50,000 words in the month of November and Vashti's Daughter emerged. A few years ago I lost my really fantastic Muse. (The inspiration for Cry U.N.C.L.E.) and its difficult to find another one at this point, but when I'm "in the zone" and the words are flowing, there isn't anything like it!
If you have a new release coming out, tell us about it.
Nothing new, yet. Cry U.N.C.L.E. is about 2 life long girlfriends who return to their hometown for their 30th high school reunion and discover that the spy game they played as children was real and they're recruited by the agency to infiltrate and bring down the evil international criminal organization that is being led by another one of their classmates.
If you could give one piece of advice to writers trying to get published, what would that advice be?
What's up next for you and your writing?
Where can we read more about you and your work?
Visit my website at htttp://www.ravenwest.net