Interview with Trisza LeAnn Ray: RWA’s 2011 Golden Heart Winner in Paranormal Romance

Trisza_Leann_RayTrisza, I was so excited to see an African-American win in the Paranormal Romance category. I cried along with you at Nationals. Thanks so much for agreeing to interview with me. I’m totally excited. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing experience. Do you belong to any RWA chapters or other writer’s groups? How long have you been writing?

The Blood Sworn King is my first manuscript. The last thing I wrote was my residency paper in 2001. It was on neurotransmitters and central nervous system receptors in people with ALS. LOL. Very un-romantic. I belong to Romance Writers Ink (RWI) the Tulsa, Oklahoma Chapter of RWA and of course the main chapter. I started writing The Blood Sworn King in August 2010 and finished the manuscript at 7:25 pm on December 2, 2010. 

Can you describe how you’re feeling about winning the Golden Heart or any thoughts that you have about the whole experience?

I was stunned at first. I don’t remember myTrisza_Leann_Ray_Acceptance_of_Award speech and I heard very little of the rest of the ceremony after my category was announced. I was sitting there at my table, staring at the envelope and my name on the piece of paper thinking “Wow, I won.” Now, I have to admit, that I am a little afraid that I won’t live up to the title of Golden Heart Winner. This is so important to me, I want my manuscript to be the best it can be before I start seeking representation. I have several requests from editors and agents for full manuscripts in my inbox but I haven’t sent any out. I’ve been revising like crazy.

Did your Golden Heart entry have any characters of color or multicultural elements? If so, can you tell a little about them?

Absolutely. My heroine’s mother is Black and her father is Caucasian. The hero, Tristan is Caucasian. Two of my favorite characters, Jarrett (Jett) Morrigan and Ricardo (Ricky Rich) Santos are Puerto Rican and Black. There is an Asian detective in the first novel. I have very exciting plans for her in the future. There are several other multiracial characters. My story is set in Selene, New York, a fictional city on the banks of the Hudson River. It’s a combination of New York City, Chicago, Detroit and Gotham City (LOL from the Batman comics) so there is a strong urban/inner city feel, a very strong “melting pot” vibe with elements of hip hop, grunge, Goth, industrial metal, acid rock, punk and pop culture.

What made you decide to create a paranormal romance entry? Is this your favorite genre? Can you share a little about your inspiration to create this entry?

I’m a crazy-mad Tolkien fan. Also, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE George R R Martin, HP Lovecraft and anything to do with mythology but not just classic Greco/Roman mythology. There are elements of Celtic, Native American, Asian, Sumerian, Egyptian and Middle Eastern mythology in my novel. Although I am not a very religious person, I am a very spiritual person. The wonder and mysticism in mythology and religion gave me lots of ideas for plots, settings, motivation and characters. In fact, my vampire race are the descendants of angels and Cain (AND Abel who in my personal mythology, procreated before he was slain by his brother). They carry the blood of gods and angels but because of their blood ties to the two brothers, they also carry the stigma and curse of the first crime and death in Christian theology. I expounded on the Cain’s punishment and “mark”. In my mythology, the punishment is immortality (which at its core is banishment from the kingdom of heaven and release from earthly suffering through death and resurrection) and banishment from the sun and the “mark” is vampirism (fangs). In the bible, reference is made to Cain’s bloodlust in spilling his brother’s blood. The novel is in no way an inspirational work, nor is it about religion. The paranormal is all about symbology, mysticism and the supernal and world religions/beliefs provide a great deal of source material.

But getting back on track…

JR Ward. My inspiration. I was at a very difficult stage in my life and at one point, I thought I would literally have a nervous breakdown. I was very depressed about the death of my father and my son being sent to prison. I have three younger brothers and all of them are in prison. Then all of a sudden, I had custody of my four and one year-old granddaughters. I was supporting my mother, sister, her three children and my adult daughter who is a full-time college student. With worrying about family, money and working 16-18 hour days, there was no time for Trisza and I quite literally and figuratively lost myself. I was making fun of one of my ER nurses who was reading Lara Adrian. She gave me a copy of Lover Eternal. I wasn’t blown away by the novel but I was bitten by a vampire (or the vampire bug). I went to the bookstore and started searching the shelves for more JR Ward. I purchased Dark Lover and read it in three hours. After reading Lover Awakened, I was hooked, obsessed after reading Lover Unbound. That was the problem. I read all eight of her BDB books in a month. They were my escape. I was worrying myself to death about family and finances, the BDB gave me the break I needed from real life. When I couldn’t find anything else on the shelf that captivated me the way her books did, I decided to write my own. It was so therapeutic. Everyone relies on me to be the strong one. I’m the financial and emotional pillar of support in my family. I didn’t want to worry my family, so I kept things bottled up and I had really withdrawn into myself. I started having nightmares and I couldn’t sleep because of the stress. Writing gave me an outlet for my fears, insecurities and angst. Writing gave me a new purpose and someone to be. I love Paranormal and Fantasy because I can be whomever or whatever I want to be, whenever and wherever.

Was your entry a part of a larger manuscript and if so, do you have any plans to pursue publication? Please elaborate.  

Yes. In the Golden Heart Contest, you submit 5 or 6 copies of the first 50 or so pages and a copy of your full manuscript. I’m working on 2nd and 3rd novels and I have plans for at least three more following the plot and subject of The Blood Sworn King. I am also developing some contemporaries and medical suspense. I definitely plan to pursue publication.

Is your Golden Heart entry available for readers to view? If so, can you provide a link to find it?

No. The Blood Sworn King is not available at this time. I am developing a serial paranormal-medical suspense for my website. Each week, I will have a few chapters in an on-going story about vamps, shapeshifters and other supernaturals in medical school and residency training. Most of the plots center around the ER and Trauma medicine but there will also be rotations through, OB/Gyn, Pediatrics, Oncology, Orthopedics and Psych. The hospital will be a Level I Trauma center in the inner city. I describe the series as a Dark Paranormal Epic with elements of medical suspense, mystery and urban fantasy. If all goes well, I plan to have guest writers who will contribute weekly. Maybe even my Starcatcher Sisters.

Do you have any parting thoughts, emotions, or feelings that you’d like to share? If so, please let us know.

Just advice for aspiring writers. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read mythology and history and mysteries. Read historicals, and young adult. Read, then write, then read some more and write some more. Don’t forget to dream. Dream big. Then write some more.

Thanks so much for the interview! Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us. I totally appreciate it! 

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