Author Interview: Ametra S. Rayford
Today on the blog I'm being joined by award-winning author Ametra S. Rayford who's tagline I loved right away:
"Many incarnations, only one original."
Let's jump into the interview!
Tell us a little about yourself
I was born and raised in Chicago and currently live outside of Portland, Oregon. I am the (sometimes) proud parent of a thirteen-year-old fur baby feline by the name of Rascal, and when not writing I currently toil as a Certified Pharmacy Technician.
Tell us your latest news.
As of last October, I am an award-winning author! My debut novel, Duality, won as a finalist in the 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards in the Paranormal/Supernatural category. My second novel, Vitae, will be published within the next couple of months and I am so excited because the concept of the novel is years in the making.
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing spoofs of commercial jingles when I was around seven years old. It wasn’t until I turned 13 that writing finally solidified as a dream for me. One of my aunts came home to visit, as she lived in another state at the time. She was always an avid reader and, on this occasion, she left one of her books behind after going back home. It was a thick book, but not a challenge to me because I also loved to read. I read that book and fell in love with it. I’ll never forget how captivated I was by the female lead character in it. I thought, “I want to write about women just like her.” I wanted to someday aspire others to look up to and maybe even fear a dynamic, badass woman like the one I’d read about. That same summer, I found one of my mother’s old ledgers – it was this massive, bound notebook with sheets even longer than the legal-sized 8 x 14, and within months it was filled from cover to cover with my first batch of stories.
How did you come up with the title?
I stumbled onto the title for Duality because it was originally called something else. I was roughly 90% into the book, working on one of the chapters when I described what my main character was feeling as the conflict of wanting something badly while being afraid to have it. She inwardly described it as a duality. I stopped mid-sentence and thought, “Wait a minute…” The core theme of the novel covers multiple dualities of life, relationships… Everything fell into place and I find it funny now that I ever thought of calling the novel anything else.
Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I feel that I am a conversational storyteller. I love to immerse readers in the situations I create. You get to visualize everything to include the cut, color, shape, and style of what a character is wearing, whether he or she is fiddling with a loose stitch on the corner of her left pocket, that annoying curl that won’t stay out of her face, the powdery scent of her perfume, and the lilt of her accent. I never want it to sound like textbook reading, though, so I weave things together as though I’m talking to my readers and providing a visual tour. I want people to forget that they’re reading and almost feel as though they’re watching things unfold with their own eyes. The challenge for me, though, isn’t with my writing style or a specific genre. It’s with those who feel that a writer should only stick to one “type” of thing. Stephen King is known for horror, but what if one day he decides he wants to have a go at a romance novel? How is it that a writer can be respected for being imaginative, but still expected to stay inside a certain box? My first novel is considered Paranormal/Supernatural with a bit of Horror and an undertone of Romance. My second will be Literary Fiction/Fantasy. The third will likely be akin to a Psychological Thriller in an Urban setting. Who says I can’t?
How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’ll say that 60% of Duality is based on my real experiences. Obviously, some things have been embellished, while others have been muted. But, the core concept is based upon firsthand experience.
Who designed the covers?
The original cover of Duality (no longer available) was hand-drawn by a friend of mine. Currently, I design my own covers using stock photos, which I’ll likely continue to do. However, I am in the process of teaching myself to use an image manipulation program so that I create even more vibrant covers with amazing fonts and effects.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet. What’s interesting is that, when I mentioned this to someone else, he told me that both these actors are slated to play the leads in the upcoming remake of Dune. I am very interested in seeing their chemistry in that, if only so that I can continue to imagine how they’d work out in my imagined film adaptation.
Any advice for other writers?
1. Don’t let fear be or remain an obstacle. Put yourself out there or you’ll never know what could happen.
2. Be open to constructive criticism.
3. Keep reading!
4. Practice objectivity, especially those of us who also edit our own work. You can’t be “in your feelings” about everything. Make decisions that are best for your creation.
5. Listen to your gut.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished reading an autobiography called “Meth Monster” by Timothy Blaine. Next up on my reading list is “The Grumpy Hero” by Ethan Mawyer.
Do you have any hobbies?
Aside from loving to read in whatever spare moments I have, I also enjoy cooking and playing the occasional video game.
What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I haven't had a lot of time lately to watch television, but my go-to show for years has been Criminal Minds. I have a deep fascination with what comprises the core of a person - what makes them tick. That's pretty much the premise behind the show. What makes a person transcend from a normal, everyday dude to the UnSub (Unknown Subject)? I'm all over that. I love anything that’s thought-provoking, and I have a great fondness for documentaries and cooking shows, particularly MasterChef UK.
What do you want written on your head stone?
She wasn’t afraid to be weird.
How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?
90% of my plots come from dreams. I have very vivid and “involved” dreams, to a point where I’ve learned to keep recording software on my phone. That way, if I happen to wake up with a story idea stemming from a dream, I can reach over to my bedside table, grab the phone and hit RECORD, and blurt it all out before morning washes it from my memory. This has worked successfully for me for the last two years and I’ll continue to do it. At the same time, though, dreams only tell me so much. I do connect the dots myself, and I tend to do that organically. While I may have a set beginning and end, with a listing of what I want to take place in between, how I get from A to B is never set in stone. I’ll put music on, immerse myself into it, and let the melody carry me.
Anything else you want people to know?
My second novel, Vitae, will be published soon. I’m also currently working on a line of merchandise related to my books and reading in general. I don’t have a specific timeline as to when that line will be available, but 2020 is going to be amazing in a lot of ways.
Do you have a blog or website readers can visit?
I do have a blog at ametrarayford.com. With my schedule being as it is, I currently post roughly twice a month. But, I always hope to be able to publish more often.
I want to thank Ametra for joining me on the blog and I'm looking forward to reading her novel Vitae when it comes out!
If you're interested in doing a guest spot please contact me!