I am delighted to be hosting a Question & Answer session today with “The Picture” author Roger Bray. Due to a busy reading schedule I was not able to read the book, so decided on asking Roger a few questions as part of the blog tour by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources. But first a little bit about the book.
A warehouse in Japan used as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami. A distraught, young Japanese woman in dishevelled clothes sits on a box, holding her infant daughter. Ben, a US rescue volunteer, kneels in front of her offering comfort. They hug, the baby between them. The moment turns into an hour as the woman sobs into his shoulder; mourning the loss of her husband, her home, the life she knew. A picture is taken, capturing the moment. It becomes a symbol; of help freely given and of the hope of the survivors. The faces in the picture cannot be recognised, and that is how Ben likes it. No celebrity, thanks not required.
But others believe that being identified as the person in the picture is their path to fame and fortune. Ben stands, unknowingly, in their way, but nothing a contract killing cannot fix.
Q & A:
1/ What was the starting point, or inspiration behind this story?
I had half an idea which I wanted to explore about celebrity and was mentally throwing ideas around. One morning in my courtyard on an overcast day the clouds parted a little and a beam of sunlight came down, really bright and focussed on a small area. I starting thinking of how such an event could be used to illustrate a moment in time and came up with the eponymous picture. Joining those two things together, one showing compassion and hope, the other greed and narcissism I put the two in opposition to each other and as is often true in life the ‘good’ side of the story didn’t really know there was anything untoward happening while the ‘bad’ side was focussed for its own ends regardless who got hurt.
2/Did you research this story and if so was there anything that really stood out for you?
I did a lot of research for the story, geographically as well as practical knowledge. A lot of the research didn’t make it to the book but was invaluable in getting a better understanding of the loss and utter devastation after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. What really stood out for me was the herculean efforts from locals and the wider community in the initial rescue and later recovery efforts. There are many hundreds of stories of heroism and survival, most of which will never be told, but the ones I did find were awe inspiring. Human capacity to help each other when it really matters was obvious in this event, and humbling to watch.
3/Now you have finished the novel and you have time to reflect, what in the story has inspired you?
What has inspired me is (tongue in cheek) that I finished it. I have heard it said that writing the manuscript is the easy part, it is what comes after that is the most difficult. Editing, re-editing, sending to editor etc etc.
Having gone through the process and reading the manuscript I was still amazed at finding typos right at the end (there are probably still some there to be found). My real inspiration was my wife who stuck through the whole process and read the book over and over again looking for errors.
4/What 5 words would highlight the key factors in your story?
Love, compassion, hope, greed, selfishness.
5/What if any is the underlying message?
There are a number I think. Life will find a way, always try to do the right thing whenever you can and the cult of celebrity we have at the moment is the very definition of ethereal, it is based on lies and morbid fascination with others’ misfortune. I would suggest to people instead of being glued to a TV screen getting a fix of reality TV they should help out at a local shelter, human or animal, help in a soup kitchen or volunteer abroad if they can. If they want reality a TV is not going to give it to them.
6/Who are your favourite authors and why?
Tom Sharpe: The funniest writer I have ever read. His ability to turn the most innocent and innocuous situation into hilarious farce is brilliant.
John Gresham: Brilliant story teller, packs a lot into his books can give a laugh and a shock in two sentences.
Robert Harris: He is not locked into any genre so each book is a new look at his ability as a writer, well researched and writes about areas I am interested in like Enigma and the Dreyfus affair.
Others: Leon Uris, Louis de Bernières, Gerald Durrell, Sebastian Faulks
Thanks very much for your interesting questions, I enjoyed answering them very much. And thank you for the opportunity and inviting me onto your blog.
Thank you Roger so much for taking the time to answer. An absolute pleasure to be hosting you today and I wish you all the very best with your book xx
About the Author:
I have always loved writing; putting words onto a page and bringing characters to life. I can almost feel myself becoming immersed into their lives, living with their fears and triumphs. Thus, my writing process becomes an endless series of questions. What would she or he do, how would they react, is this in keeping with their character? Strange as it sounds, I don’t like leaving characters in cliffhanging situations without giving them an ending, whichever way it develops.
My life to date is what compels me to seek a just outcome, the good will overcome and the bad will be punished. More though, I tend to see my characters as everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but in which we may all find our selves if the planets align wrongly or for whatever reason you might consider.
Of course, most novels are autobiographical in some way. You must draw on your own experiences of life and from events you have experienced to get the inspiration. My life has been an endless adventure. Serving in the Navy, fighting in wars, serving as a Police officer and the experiences each one of those have brought have all drawn me to this point, but it was a downside to my police service that was the catalyst for my writing.
Medically retired after being seriously injured while protecting a woman in a domestic violence situation I then experienced the other side of life. Depression and rejection. Giving truth to the oft said saying that when one door closes another opens I pulled myself up and enrolled in college gaining bachelor and master degrees, for my own development rather than any professional need. The process of learning, of getting words down onto the page again relit my passion for writing in a way that I hadn’t felt since high school.
So here we are, two books published and another on track.
Where it will take me I have no idea but I am going to enjoy getting there and if my writing can bring some small pleasure into people’s lives along the way, then I consider that I will have succeeded in life.
Other Blogger on the tour:
Many thanks for reading my post, a share or a like would be brilliant 🙂 xx