Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Author Interview: Johnny Ray, award winning international best selling novelist

Award Winning International Best Selling Novelist - Johnny Ray 

Tell us about yourself: 

I live in Clearwater, Florida where the white sand on the beaches here is as soft as flour. I am known to be in one of the over 500 coffee shops that line this 35 mile long beach string of beaches to St. Pete beach every morning. I truly feel like I am writing in paradise. I write full time, which is often 12 hour days. I am married to my Russian sweetheart and raising a 15 year old son. I have three grown children by a previous marriage. Since we travel so much, I have no pets. 

What type of music do you listen to when you write?

I love to listen to music, but almost always foreign music, and depending on where my setting is.

What are your hobbies besides writing?

Traveling with my wife,  enjoying wine, exercising, and making friends. 

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in college, many years ago. 

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing seriously for about 10 years.

What inspired you to start writing?

I have always loved to write. It is the thrill of knowing that I have total control of my characters and setting. But more importantly, I love the ability to plot and keep my readers guessing. I want to give enough clues along the way that it is totally possible to figure out everything, but I want you the reader to say, oh me, I should have seen that coming–but I didn’t. 

Do you have any little ‘things’ you do or traditions you follow when you write?

I go to a lot of coffee shops, and write for at least 4 hours. I see no reason why I can’t enjoy life while I write. 

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated space, a particular office or piece of machinery?

I always pick a different coffee shop to go to every morning. So be warned, if you look interesting while you drink your coffee, you might be in my novels.

What is something that you absolutely can't live without?

Other than family members, it would have to be the internet, I have so many friends worldwide and it is the only way for me to stay in touch with them. 

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?

I think it would be to have the ability to be able to drift through time and space to see different worlds.

Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

I have a favorite toast, “to this moment and the moments to come.”

What are your favorite TV shows?

Castle. I love the way the mystery is plotted and the way the romance is mixed with the thrilling plots

What is your favorite meal?

Anything Italian. 

What group did you hang out with in high school?

I played football. 

What books have most influenced your life?

The Bible, Shakespeare, and Edgar Allen Poe.

What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

I love to dance. Well, maybe not too much of a surprise since I have dancing in many of my novels. I love salsa and tango. Yes, many years ago I was a national champion dancer, but that was a long time ago. 

When you are not writing what do you like to do?

I live on a beach, so everything is about having fun and enjoying the area. I also love to travel. Inviting friends over for me to cook for is one of my best times.

How did it feel to win the Royal Palm Literary award?

It was, naturally, a fantastic feeling, and the one thing that kept me going as I was establishing myself.

Tell us about this book (THE SALSA CONNECTION) that won?

When Nickolay Panov left St Petersburg, Russia to go to New York City for an international ballet competition 25 years ago, he was considered one of the best ballet dancers in Russia. The Americans say he was murdered. The Russians say he defected. In any case, he never returned. Just before Nickolay disappeared, several priceless paintings and icons from a major museum were stolen. While he was accused of the theft, no solid proof has ever been offered to tie him to it. However, evidence shows that the stolen goods were shipped to America. The CIA and the Russian Government are still pursuing all leads connected to the heist, and so is the Russian mafia.

Sveta was three years old when her father disappeared, so it’s a shock when, in the mail, she receives an invitation to a salsa dance competition in New York. At the bottom of the invitation is a note: “Please come to the competition and enter, my little lady.” No one but her father has ever called her that. Why has her father surfaced after all these years? Sveta wants answers, even if it means entering the late-night, sultry world of salsa dancing in St Petersburg and New York City and coming into uncomfortably close contact with the Russian mob.

What Must A Book That Want To Garner An Award Include?

This would include many things, including great writing, but also the ability to build characters and plot.

What's The Objective As A Writer For Writing This Book?

Several things, with the first be telling the story of a family struggling to make it in a crazy world, but also to give a history of the world of salsa. I love developing plots and want that to hold the reader’s interest.

Has There Been Rejection On The Salsa Connection Before It Got Finally Published? 

Yes, there were several. I also had some that wanted to publish it, but not pay me what I thought it was worth.

Are you self published or do you have a publisher? If self published, what made you decide to go that route?

I was with a publisher, but left, I have more control, make more money, and the fans get my work at a better price.

How long did it normally take you to write a book?

I can write a novel in 3 months, but it may take up to a year to get it polished.

What genre do you write in? What made you choose to write in that category?

I write international romantic thrillers, which is a mixture of romance and thriller. In some novels it is more thriller, and in others it is more romance.

"Rescuing Her Honor" - Johnny Ray's latest 

What is your work schedule like when you write?

I work around the clock, and can be up at 2 or 6 in the morning. I also tend to coffee shops almost every morning to write.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I do a lot of research, and much of it comes from friends from other countries since many of my novels also have an international setting. 

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I write under several names and have 18 novels produced. I think my favorite would have to be THE SALSA CONNECTION, which won the Royal Palm Literary Award.

If you could have a book adapted to movie, what would you pick?

My own novel LITERARY AGENT–BEWARE. It has been converted to a screenplay, and several companies are looking at it. It is a very intense thriller, with a subtle, but lovely romance that holds it together.

What is something you'd like to accomplish in your writing career next year?

Make it to the top of the best seller list many places. And be known as the one person that a reader would turn to when they wanted to read an international romantic thriller.

Do you write in multiple genres or just one? If just one, do you ever consider straying outside your genre?

I write international romantic thrillers. I have written only one paranormal romance, one modern day romance, and one how to workbook.

Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?

Milan, Italy, since this is the location of an upcoming novel of mine.

How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?

I do this my showing a point of view that I think is different. I hope to add the twist and turns that others have not considered. I also like to take chances that many will avoid. For example, I will write about a rape in the plot, but hopefully do it right so it is not too much or too little, just enough to move the story forward. To me, the plot is most critical, and it has to keep the story alive.

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

Yes, I hear from many writers on both twitter and facebook. On twitter I have over 100,000 followers, so it can be very busy at times.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?

I think it would be how meaning of words change so much in around the world.

What was the hardest part in writing your books? How did you resolve it?

Getting started and putting a stop to the promotional work of the previous novel.

What was the easiest part in writing your books?

Writing the first version, where it is only a basic layout of the novel

Did you do research for your books?

I use the internet and travel to my locations to get a better feel for them.

What did that involve?

I big commitment in time and money

How do you come up with the titles to your books?

This is a hard one. I work very hard on condensing a novel to a few words. It can take months to get the right title.

Tell us something interesting about one of your books that is NOT in the blurb.

One thing about doing research, is finding out things that have changed. One of my favorite restaurants a while back in NYC was the top of the sixes. It has been replaced by a cigar bar, one of the most exclusive in the world. My hero has one vise–smoking cigars with his band of alpha males that work for him. In this case, it was a small change to the plot, but gives a deeper look into the hero and makes him more human.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

To me it is the plot. I am one of those that think plot is king.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

Every story starts with a moment of inspiration. Then, it has to grow, and develop as the plot thickens, so to speak, or should I say as it is written. While the characters should be fully fleshed out before you start, that is not very often the case. They change as the book and plot comes together. Often times, they can make a writer re-plot the book.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

I am lucky that I never do. I work constantly, but often at different levels based on the novel I am working on.

If so, what do you do about it?

Like I said, I never had it, but I do get tired of writing at time, and like many people I love to get away from work to refresh my soul. This is also something I think all writers should do–take a vacation and some time to enjoy life outside writing occasionally.

What are the three pieces of advice you would give a new writer?

Make friends along the way. When all is said and done, this is what you will be left with one day. Next, find people who will give you an honest opinion. I have many beta readers who I have discovered over time who tell it to me straight. And finally, start building a list of your readers. These will be your core cheerleaders when you need to get the word out on your next book.

What words of encouragement do you have for those writers who has killed many nights to write a good book they thought would get sold instantly, but is still sitting in their drawers? 

Some stories are meant to remain in the drawers. It is all a learning process. Learn to enjoy the process, and it will all work out in the end. Also, learn to celebrate all victories.

Do you have any suggestions to help others become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Read! Read! Read! Read! Then write! write! and write some more. Then get a tough skin and let people tear your work apart so that you can learn for it.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?

Both the same–keep writing! Yes, you need to write, but you also need to work on making it better. I remember one top selling writer tell me it was like this: Consider it a boxing match. If we are still toe to toe at the end of round ten, I win. In other words, I had to be better than him to win–to get published. By work would not be compared to others wanting to make it, but against the best out there.

If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?

Seek professional help early in the way of edits and advice.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

To take total control of the writing process, and have the ability to keep pushing to make it better.

All the most successful books show creativity and interesting writing techniques.  What must a writer do to write a best seller? 

Best sellers have to have that extra edge. You can not be as good as other great writers, you have to be better. To generate sales you have to make the book so good, readers want to share it with others. Having something to say is very important. Bad grammar, typos, etc, can always be edited. A bad story will always be a bad story.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Make friends that can give you feedback and go to many conferences. And always write! And always be prepared to do it over and over, and have it shredded by many people. In fact, ask that it be shown no mercy. And be sure to make many friends along the way. You will need their support often.

To all aspiring writers I want to say when demoralization kicks in the door and you feel like after all your failures, writing couldn't have been the way for you to have so much pains, remember your first love for the profession. For me, when I started writing I didn't think about getting published. I've known that I wanted to be a writer even when I had no deeper understanding of what that means. Not until the calling came for me, I didn't think about the fame and the fortune. Please, keep your head high if you are having it rough in the field. While it's always like that, there is also a good ending for them who remain committed.

 Do you have other talents besides writing that you’d like to share?

I am very big on social media, and have over 250,000 followers just on twitter alone. I am also a public speaker.

Is there a writer you idolize? If so who?

Jack Higgins. He is such a master at what he does. Another would be Paulo Coelho who is a fantastic writer, and one with over 7,500,000 followers on twitter. 

What are you reading now?

THE POWER TRIP by Jackie Collins.

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
Jackie Collins. I have read everything she has written. She writes in a clear commercial style that is easy to follow. She has written so many novels, yet she finds a way to keep each one fresh and different.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about? 

My next novel is about a current-day ultimate female warrior who will one day be queen of her small hidden country in central Europe. She has her own twitter account where she is ladymatalina, and she has already attracted 8500 followers.

What do you want to say to your readers?

I hope you enjoy my work and want to read the next one and the next . . . and become a fan, and a friend as we enjoy life together. On my blog you will see a way you can sign up for my fan club--SIR JOHN'S ARMY.

Where can your readers find you?

You can connect with me on: 


Where can your books be found? 

I sell with Amazon in the kindle select program.  Here is the link I also sell them through Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Books A Million, Flipkart, Kobo,  For updates on where to find my books, please visit my blog at:

*All data including images and videos for this interview was used with the permission of the author.  They belong to the rightful owner and this blog claims no ownership. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Beijing Youths - when hip hop meets martial arts

The Beijing Youths book is my version of hip hop meets martial arts in my second book of The Beijing Family book series.  It is blended into a heart-warming story about generation gaps, cultural norms, family disapproval and having friends that are different from our own upbringing can sometimes save us from ourselves.  

I was inspired to write The Beijing Youths when I saw televised martial arts performances in China where young people experimented with new kinds of martial arts that included hip hop dancing on China's Got Talent, talent shows and even street perfomances.   The young generation took an old historical art form and blended in modern creativity and rendered a new kind of entertainment never seen before and the audience loved it!  So often in life, we sometimes have to look away from the old and look to the new.  This is what gives life a new meaning. 

"China's Got Talent Season 2: Kung Fu Hip Hop Dance" 

In The Beijing Youths, young Greg is the Chinese billionaire’s son attending a privileged private high school in Beverly Hills.  He has been practicing in traditional martial arts for many years.  Soon, Greg is introduced to Eddie Baker who is a very talented and gifted street dancer. Eddie is Chinese by origin and was adopted by a White mid-west family in Wyoming at birth. Together, they form Revolution6 with four other dancers. As a team, they blend martial arts and street dancing into an impressive show of East West hip hop dancing that win many awards. Unfortunately, Simon, the Chinese billionaire father, greatly disapproves of Greg's friendship with Eddie, their dancing, Revolution6 and everything about hip hop altogether.  Besides riveting dance battles that entertain, the father and son conflict is the main “battle” in the book that eventually affects everyone. 

Step Up 2 Movie: Last Dance 

This girl is only 6 years old! She is killing it! Watch her perform

For the East West dance performances, I specifically chose Wu Shu for its more aerobatic and stage-like movements than the other martial art forms. Wu shu also uses weapons in a more theatrical fashion and their movements are more expressive and expansive.        

Best of Wu Shu

Beijing Wu Shu Team 2012

World Wu Shu Champion - Jade Xu.  She is badass lightning fast! 

Jet Li Wu Shu Competition 1978

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's going to be 102 F/ 39 C today in Los Angeles!  Panda laying on ice at Wuhan zoo got the right idea!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Real Housewives of Beijing

The Real Housewives of Beijing really do exist! So much that I included them in The Beijing Swag, the second book of The Beijing Family book series.   In that book, I created two new characters – Woo Tai Tai and Chloe Yang. 

Woo Tai Tai is a lonely housewife of a Chinese billionaire.   Tai Tai meaning 'wife' in Chinese Mandarin is sometimes the coveted title for a woman married to wealth.  

Woo Tai Tai 

Chloe Yang is her younger female friend whom wishes to be a Tai Tai someday.  Chloe hopes that she will soon harpoon a Chinese tycoon husband of her own before she turns 30.  In the meantime, Chloe is a mistress of a married billionaire business man who is a friend of  Woo Tai Tai’s husband.  Chloe is observant and on a mission.  She surrounds herself with Woo Tai Tai’s husband’s friends and connections in hopes that she will meet her future billionaire husband soon. 

Chloe Yang

I developed Woo Tai Tai and Chloe Yang from my own personal friends and family that fit these types of women.  Their stories in my books are inspired from real life personal situations and dramas.  All my life it seems like I've always been surrounded by these type of women.  My mother and her friends came from a generation that taught their young beautiful daughters that her identity and worth is based solely on the husband she can fetch.  A woman's marriage is everything to her and her education and career are not important.  Growing up, I was surrounded by these privileged "housewives" who were my mothers' friends and I played with their children.  For them, not working, shopping, gossiping and doing nothing all day is seen as a status symbol.  To me, that's a lazy person sponging off of someone else while wasting their own talents and abilities. They were taught to acquire an MRS degree from their mothers, grandmothers and generations before her.  I on the other hand, learned to obtain an MBA degree from Pepperdine University.  I never saw the point in defining myself through my spouse or husband when I have so many talents and abilities on my own.   Why in the heck would I sacrifice all my God-given talents to stand behind a short old greasy Chinese dude with a fake comb over, cigarette stained teeth and wreaking breath just because he has money?  I am not sure if that is my American upbringing because I was born ambitious, independent and driven.....and I'm damn proud of it! I would be this way even if I was in Nigeria or Pakistan, although it might mean risking my own life.  Even Ivanka Trump has a college degree and a career and her father is the Donald!  And I respect her more for it! 

As second generation Chinese Americans, we young women obtained degrees and financial independence.  However, there are still to this day many young Chinese women from Asia that subscribe to the old cultural fixation of being a housewife or a mistress as a living. They still brag about not working as if it's a status symbol.  Every now and then I would meet one whom has to ask permission from her husband to hang out with her girlfriends and money to buy food and entertainment......and it's 2014! Some came from poverty and lacked the financial means for an education and wealthy men is their one way ticket out of poverty.  Some lack positive role models to encourage her own independence and don't know any better.  She just follows what her mother, aunts and grandmothers did for a living.  Even more painful is when a strong and educated woman is told by society that she's too "masculine, tough or not wife material"!  So I’ve interacted with enough of these housewives types of women in my own personal and work life that it was easy to create and develop these two characters and their daily lives.  They are not much different from the women of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Miami, Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, Orange County and its television franchise.  

However, they just happen to derive from Beijing with the same variety of bling, designer fashions, jewelry, drama and cat fights.   To keep it true to the Beijing reality of housewives, I included a mistress which is usually not a character in the American television franchise although I’m sure they exist in their social networks in real life.  Mistresses are so common in the social networks of Chinese billionaires that it is only befitting that I included one. 

In The Beijing Swag, Woo Tai Tai purchases a huge emerald and diamond ring 

In The Beijing Swag, I included a chapter titled, "Christian", where Woo Tai Tai meets a tall, model-handsome, blonde and bronzey Christian.  He is a struggling actor working as a bartender in the famous 5 star Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. 

"Christian" chapter in The Beijing Swag takes place at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills

5 Star Luxury

Roof top pool

Roof top cabana

*This is my own photo - I am standing at the roof top pool on a sunny day 

Roof top restaurant where most of the events occur in the book

*This is my own photo - I am standing at the rooftop restaurant balcony overlooking a beautiful view of Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Hollywood Hills

Christian seduces Woo Tai Tai with his irresistable charm in hopes of securing a friendship with material benefits. He is not shy or bashful in reaching out to women with financial means to help him along.  Seeing the married Woo Tai Tai in all her dazzling jewelry, he suggests a secret tryst and the chapter is filled with intrigue and comedy.  I was thinking of the actor Jason Lewis who played Jerrod in 'Sex and the City' when I wrote a whole chapter about Christian and his siren ways.

Written by Gina Tang, author of The Beijing Family book series, 

The term - ‘The Real Housewives of Beijing’ is copyrighted and is currently explored into an option for a possible television film series.  I am planning on writing more spicy and dramatic stories about Woo Tai Tai, Chloe Yang and The Real Housewives of Beijing in future book releases.