Interview with Rayne Hall
Rayne Hall is the author of many books. She was interested in taking part in an interview for my blog.
I see you have published more than 40 books which is amazing. How long does it take you on average to write each one?
This varies greatly.
Storm Dancer took me about ten years to write – longer than any other book – because I rewrote it several times. When I started to write Storm Dancer, I created Dahoud as a standard swashbuckling hero. I had almost finished the novel when he confessed that he was possessed by a demon. Of course, this changed everything, and I had to rewrite the whole book. During the rewrite, his personality changed, so I had to start yet again. It took several rewrites before I realised just how dark his past was and what a terrible secret he carries inside him, what drove him and what he needed to do to atone.
On the other hand, I once wrote a book in under a month, when a publisher offered me a contract with a tight deadline. For that project, I set myself a structured schedule and worked morning to night. At the end, I was mentally exhausted.
Usually, I have several projects under way simultaneously, which makes it difficult to measure how much time I spend on each.
What types of books do you write?
I write mostly fantasy and horror fiction, as well as non-fiction books. My fantasy is sometimes quirky, sometimes dark. My horror is subtle with a lot of atmosphere – more creepy and unsettling than violent and gory.
I’ve written a lot of non-fiction books, mostly reference books of the ‘how to’ type. Many of those were written under a different pen name and are out of date and out of print.
My Writer’s Craft series is popular. These are ebooks, helping writers with specialised aspects of their craft: Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing Dark Stories, Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels, The Word-Loss Diet, Writing About Magic, Writing About Villains. More are in the pipeline. Many general how-to-write-fiction books are available, but once writers have mastered the basics of the craft, they need more advanced skills and specific techniques. At this stage, my Writer’s Craft books help.
Can you tell me a bit about your latest one?
The latest one published? Hmm, let me see.
The latest book in the Writer’s Craft series is Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels. Many authors look for ways to get exposure for their novels, and they miss the obvious – using their writing skills to attract fans. This book shows exactly what kind of short story will sell the novel.
At around the same time, I published Dragon: Ten Tales of Fiery Beasts. I’m the editor, and only one of the ten stories is by me (a quirky tale about an introvert dragon who just wants to be left in peace). The others are by different authors. I selected a mix of genres and styles, some funny, some dark, some scary.
What are you working on at the moment?
As always, I’m working on several projects. I’m just putting the finishing touches to Twitter for Writers. At the same time I’m editing Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk, selecting the stories, helping the authors revise, writing the introduction. I’m also writing and revising a dozen short stories – a steampunk horror story about a werewolf in a funicular railway, a flash fiction piece about a premonition of a disaster, a historical story about smugglers on the south coast of England, and more. Then there’s a sequel to my dark epic fantasy novel Storm Dancer, with the working title Flame Bearer, and of course more books in the Writer’s Craft series.
Do you have to do any research for them?
The research for these is done. Where possible, I go and experience the situation myself – or at least, something similar. For the steampunk horror story with the werewolf, I took a ride in the funicular railway in Hastings, and for the story about smugglers I visited a historical gaol in Pevensey and spent some time in the cell, imagining how it would be for the heroine.
Have any authors influenced you in your writing?
In my early teens, I loved the historical novels by Rosemary Sutcliff and Hans Baumann. I also read a lot of Karl May. Although Karl May (1842 – 1912) is almost unknown in the English-speaking world, he is popular in Germany. I loved his atmospheric descriptions of exotic places where he had never been. His approach has definitely influenced my novels, especially Storm Dancer.
I was about fifteen when I discovered a book with stories of Edgar Allan Poe. They were so exciting! At once, I started writing horror stories. They didn’t have much plot and blatantly copied Poe’s style, but at the time I thought they were really good. Poe has remained an influence on my short fiction, especially my psychological horror stories.
Later, I was influenced by the gothic stories by the Victorian writer Amelia Edwards. Although her stories ooze suspense from the start, the horror builds slowly. One of Edwards’ suspense techniques is to place the protagonists into an unfamiliar environment and isolate them from their companions. For example, he narrator of The Phantom Coach has gone grouse hunting, alone, in a bleak wide moor in the North of England, got caught in a snowstorm, and must seek shelter where he can. Above all, I love Edwards’ vivid descriptions of location, climate and weather (in this story, the approaching storm and the moor landscape covered in deep snow). Her skilful use of descriptions (e.g. the coach with its mould-crusted leather fittings) to drive the plot and create a spooky atmosphere is the work of a horror genre master. Surprisingly, Edwards’ stories don’t feel dated to the modern reader, the way many other Victorian stories do. When I read Amelia Edward’s stories, I immediately recognised a kindred spirit. This was how I wanted to write, and here was a master I could learn from, someone I could strive to emulate.
The late David Gemmell influenced me in a more practical manner. He was a kind of mentor, although that word suggests a more formal relationship than we had. Sometimes we chatted about our writing – his fabulously successful epic fantasy novels, and my largely unpublished efforts – and he shared what he was working on, what creative decisions he had made for his work in progress and why. He also pointed out where he felt I was going wrong with my stories, and suggested techniques for me to try. At the time, I liked to create twists by letting the reader expect something, and then twisting the plot in other ways. David warned me against this. Whenever readers think they know what will happen, they lose interest in the story; and even if what happens is not what they expect, that moment of lost interest is fatal to the book’s tension. I’ve taken his advice, for my novels anyway. You may see David Gemmell’s influence in my epic fantasy novel Storm Dancer.
Do you take a break after you’ve published a new book or do you just carry on writing?
I always work on several projects simultaneously, so there’s never a break from writing. However, after I’ve completed a book, I treat myself to a break from that genre. So after finishing a fantasy novel, I may write a short horror story, and after completing a non-fiction book, I may write a quirky fantasy yarn.
Describe a day in your life.
When I don’t write, I enjoy gardening, reading, walking along the seafront, hanging out in coffee shops, teaching online classes and spending time with Sulu, a black rescue cat I’ve adopted recently. I avoid doing housework.
Rayne Hall’s Amazon page can be found here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/raynehall/e/B006BSJ5BK/?tag=viewbookat-21
You can follow Rayne Hall on Twitter – @