A Bit About Me:
My name is Raymond Cook and I’m a 15-year California transplant from Washington State. I’m a 66-year-old disabled veteran of the United States Marine Corp. I’m a historical fiction writer, writing about the western frontier era.
What inspired you to become an author?
I stumbled upon the world of creative writng totally by accident. I was enrolled in Olympic College, in 1983, and needed a 5-credit elective to fulfill by degree requirement. So, I enrolled in a creative writing class with no interest in writing. But my instructor, and the other students opened my imagination, and the next thing I knew. I was writing poetry. Then, in 2002, I began writing stories and in 2011, my first novel, Was It Fate Or Destiny.
What brought about the creation of your novel?
In 2003, as a distraction from writing ghost stories, I wrote a 5-page western romance story about a widow and two children, and a ranch hand. I liked the plot and characters, and each year I added a few pages. I reached 50-pages in 2010. As a new year’s resolution, I wanted to write ten more pages. Instead, I wrote 200 pages more, and I had my first novel in 2011, called Was It Fate Or Destiny? No pill or drug could equal the happiness I felt at holding the final edited manuscript in my hands.
What was the inspiration for your characters? Were they based on people you know or acquaintances?
I draw the inspiration for the characters of each book written from my imagination. I do research into historical names many times and try not to use a popular recent name such as ‘Veronica,’ being my stories are set in the 1890s. On occasion, I’ll add with their permission, people I know as characters.
What are your responsibilities as a writer?
My greatest responsibility as a writer is to take the reader back in time to the Wild West era of Colorado, in the 1890s. It was a rough time to arrive by covered wagon, facing Indians, illnesses such as cholera, tb, smallpox, drought, starvation, grizzly bear attacks, short growing season, bitterly cold winters, horse and cattle rustling and of course, murder. The situations encountered must feel real, as real as each character is portrayed in a novel. My goal as a fiction writer is to breathe life into the characters of each book. But in order to enjoy the supporting characters and the storyline, the plot itself is critical, the challenges the character’s face and of course, the outcome, the end is important.
How do you stay motivated and inspired?
As with any writer, my motivation and imagination to begin writing my next book is limited only by me. I have a list of situations I would like to write about, for example, western romance, gunfighter, lawman, cattle rustler, wagon train, Native Americans, bounty hunter, mountain man, orphans, train robbers, serial killers and such. I look at hundreds of photographs online and the moment I see a particular picture, I may know the entire story. If I can obtain permission from the photographer to use it as an eBook cover, the first step is finished. Using this tried and true method, presently, I have ten books waiting to be written. I rarely have ‘writer’s block.’ I love watching western frontier movies and many of my ideas for a novel can surface from a scene in the movie I watched.
Is there any advice you can offer to other people who would like to write a novel?
Yes. I believe it is an absolute must to enroll in a community college, creative class in a college near them. Before I went to my creative writing class, it was as if I’d been blind my entire life and suddenly could see.
What was the most significant learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout your publishing/writing process?
I’ve paid a high price for using Word Office to spell check, but not sit down, take a deep breath and read my book out loud to catch all the grammar mistakes and misuse of words. I let my excitement get away from me and put them on Amazon. The negative comments relating to grammar hurt sales and only by fixing the grammar have I had an opportunity to garner more positive comments which hopefully translates into higher sales in the future.
How did you get started in writing? From little short stories to novels or was it the other way around?
My journey into the world of writing began in college in 1983 and it started with writing poetry. In 2002, I started writing stories. In 2011, I wrote my first novel. I wrote my 33rd novel, called A Homesteading Family In Colorado in 2019.
What type of authors influenced your writing?
Writers like Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, have influenced on my writing. I think Zane Grey more so, because for much of his writing career, his novels were rejected by every publisher, yet he never gave up. I would like to believe I have that same determination as a writer.
What made you decide to move forward with publishing your work?
The moment my first novel was finished, and spell checked, was the moment I wanted to share it with the world. What’s best for me, I decided, was to self-publish via own author website and offer my novels on Amazon because it’s a much broader platform and covers the world.
What advice would you give to young writers?
My advice to anyone who is close to finishing their book is to read it ‘Outloud’ and they will learn so much. Grammar is everything to a reader. Poor grammar will get a book rejected by a publisher or result in bad reviews on Amazon. Once that bad review is posted it won’t go away. A ‘Beta-Reader’ is also an absolute must. A beta-reader is someone who loves to read and hates bad grammar. By them correcting your mistakes, they make your novel better. Lastly, the goal of every author is to make their book as enjoyable to read as he or she can.
Every author has his or her unique writing style. Some authors may take years to write a novel. For me, I’m an intense writer and most of my novels take two weeks to write, beginning when I wake up and until I went to bed. But many people don’t have that much free time due to responsibilities and their novel takes much longer. It isn’t how fast you can write a novel as much as the quality of your book. The reason being, if you have more than one novel written and they liked what they read, you have a better chance they’ll want to read another book you wrote.
On May 26, 2018 my towns newspaper featured me as an author on the front page. It was something I never believed would one day happen.
This is my 9th year writing western frontier novels.
As an author, my goal isn’t to just entertain a reader but to try to touch the reader’s emotions, too. After all, that’s the entire purpose of reading a book, to enjoy what you’ve read.
Since writing my first eBook in 2011, I’ve written 32 more western frontier eBooks totaling 7,950 pages. If someone had told me in 2011 I would write this many books, I wouldn’t have believed them. I hope one of my eBooks will become your favorite.
~~My advice to anyone who wants to write a book but thinks they can’t, stop saying, “I can’t” and take a ‘creative writing course’ like I did back in 1983.~~