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July 5, 2007

Today, Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Ray Melnik, author of The Room.
                                                                                            
Good day Ray and thanks for participating in our interview.

Thank you, Norm.

Norm:
What made you interested in the string theory and why did you want to write a novel that would be influenced by the string theory?

Ray:
I have always been interested in science. I enjoy reading books on astronomy, earth sciences, evolution, quantum physics, basically all sciences. The novel is a work of imagination, but the extraordinary twist, for me, had to be based, however loosely, on real science. String theory fit perfectly. To think that there would be no need to feel angst from those decisions we most regret. Somewhere we made the right choices. I wrote to Leonard Susskind, professor of theoretical physics at Stamford University and author of ‘The Cosmic Landscape’ to ask for permission to print a quote from his book on my inside jacket cover. I took great liberties in my use of string theory so I apologized in the email for stretching string theory to fit my story. He wrote back, “Strings are meant to be stretched.”

Norm:
You include some very detailed dialogues in The Room, where did that dialogue come from?

Ray:
Harry was going through an emotional time so the dialogue had to be reflective. These are the times that we open up the most. It was a great opportunity to talk about things that bother me and things that I just wish could be said. But it was also important I make it clear that despite the sad events, Harry, looks at life as a wonderful journey. These parts I most tried to bring out in his conversations with Lacie.

Norm:
How did you go about creating Harry Ladd?

Ray:
I started with the age of thirty six, which for me was pivotal, and gave him my existential views and my love for science. I wanted him to grow up in a simple place and live in a place I would enjoy describing. It was important that although he hadn’t finished college, the reader would see that Harry had learned a great deal on his own. His troubled childhood was what gave him his overdeveloped sense of empathy.

Norm:
Do you agree that to have good drama there must be an emotional charge that usually comes from the individual squaring off against antagonists either out in the world or within himself or herself? If so, please elaborate and how does it fit into you novel?

Ray:
Yes, I do. In, The Room, they are used to portray the expected or at least tolerated views and then contrast them to Harry’s. These confrontations helped me illustrate that there is no one way to look at things. The conflicts within Harry come from the indecisiveness we all feel, at least anyone with a conscience.

Norm:
How much real-life did you put into The Room? Is there much “you” in there?

Ray:
None of the people in the novel reflect anyone in real life with the exception of Harry. With Harry, I gave him my sense of reason and empathy as well as existential view of life. In addition, his wife Sarah leaves him at the same time it happened in my own life. It helped me work through some of the issues I was going through. Although the people in the town are fictional as well, the areas of the Hudson Valley, New York described in the novel are real.

Norm:
What obstacles did you have in trying to tell your story? How did you overcome them?

Ray:
I needed a better way to illustrate the things that shaped Harry and his brother. Ed Hayman who proofread and provided me with some interesting ideas, suggested I use flashbacks. I used a sequence of three which also gave me the opportunity to foreshadow other events as well.

Norm:
Was there anyone who really influenced you to become a writer?

Ray:
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write, poetry, short stories, lyrics then technical articles, but I was ready now to write my first novel, ‘The Room’. I will never stop writing novels now.

Norm:
How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career?

Ray:
The Internet is a great medium to use now. I use everything from creating a promotional site theroomnovel.com to networking on myspace. To bring the introduction to life I also created a multimedia introduction to The Room and posted it on all the public video sites such as youtube. The photographs and video are taken from the area where the novel is set. In addition, I created podcasts using the prologue and excerpt then listed my RSS feed on all the podcast sites.

Norm:
Do you have a local writing community or fellow writers that you look to for support and advice? Did you have a writing mentor?

Ray:
I do belong to writers groups such as Authors Den and few others. I like to post short stories and exchange ideas with the other writers. The writers that I most admired were the existential writers such as Sartre and Camus. Ed Hayman who I mentioned proofread and provided guidance, is the one I have looked to most for support and advice.

Norm:
What are your hopes for The Room?

Ray:
My hope for The Room is that it entertains, but also leaves the reader with some new thoughts about a naturalistic view.  The possibility that only they can make a difference, that they may not be able to control what happens to them, but they do control how they react. And lastly that, what goes wrong in life sometimes matter as much as what goes right.

Norm:
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us and what is next for Ray Melnik?

Ray:
I have begun to write a series of short stories while I toss around some new ideas. I’m also compiling ideas, character profiles and snippets for a continuation of ‘The Room’ which would take place twelve years in the future. I look forward to writing many more novels.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors. 

August 12, 2007

Official Apex Reviews Interview - Ray Melnik (The Room)

Ray, thanks so much for allowing us to review The Room, as well as for
joining us for this interview. We greatly appreciate it.

Thank you.

One of the most powerful features of the The Room is its very real
depiction of domestic violence - especially its stinging aftereffects.
How were you able to so accurately reflect the realities of an abusive
home?

I think it comes from a hyperactive sense of empathy. While most people see a news story of a child molested and then murdered, they seem to be able to put it away and move on. For me, not that it consumes, but it re-enters my mind for months or some times years. With the aftereffects, I can imagine most of us have things we feel humiliated by growing up. I amplified those and blended in what I gleaned from real life stories. 

How much of yourself, including your own childhood, is depicted in the book?

Because the novel was intended to express personal views, with regards to personality, Harry and I have many parallels. I gave him my love for science, existential and political views. My childhood was nothing like his, but fairly often there was verbal abuse. I left home involuntarily when I was seventeen years old.

In the Prologue, you expound on both string and M theory, and you do a
very good job of incorporating elements of those theories in your
story. Please share with our readers your inspiration for crafting a
novel around those key scientific developments.

I have an insatiable appetite for science - Physics, evolution, earth sciences, you name it. Free from belief in anything supernatural, science is the only place to find answers to life’s greatest questions. I find amusing, people who dispute facts revealed by some of the greatest intellects on the planet, yet rush to support an uninformed AM radio talk show host or the chain smoking woman sitting on the porch of her shack with the hand painted sign above that reads “Psychic”.

String theory and M theory are incredible areas of science with profound implications too numerous to list. The Room was intended as a work of imagination and the extraordinary event intended to contrast. Of course I took great liberties with my use of string theory, but it had to be based, even though loosely, on real science. Brian Greene’s Book and PBS special called ‘The Elegant Universe’ introduced me to this field of physics. To me, real science reveals a cosmos far more bizarre and interesting than any pseudo-science can ever hope to offer.

Harry, the main character, is an unabashed lifelong atheist, and we've
all been seeing more activity lately in the ongoing debate between
science and religion. Do you think his views on religion are
indicative of increasingly agnostic/atheistic turn that our society is
taking?

I think Harry represents the small percentage of people not afraid to admit to anyone, that they don’t believe in any god. But I also add the person who would admit it at least in personal conversation. I do see a growing desire in people to question. When the religious right imposes itself on our government policies, it diminishes us all. I watched a steaming lecture from the University of California where respected scientists discussed how our President distorted or intentionally omitted science on everything from global warming to stem cell research.

A man elected to represent all the people used his personal religious views to dictate public policy. It would be refreshing if we could be represented by someone of reason. Notice the group that nudged him to power is passionate about outlawing a woman’s right to choose or lobbying to deny my gay friends liberty, while apathetic when it comes to the slaughter of millions in Africa, an education system that fails 75% of children in many of our cities and many of our other most dire issues. Contrast their values with Humanists. I could only imagine what the world would be like if those of reason could influence the course of history as much as those of faith.

How did you go about crafting the storyline for The Room, and how long
did it take you to complete the book?

I developed the main theme and wrote personality profiles for each of the characters. Then I outlined the storyline for each chapter. With writing, editing and proofreading included, it took 13 months to complete.

What is the main message that you want readers to take from The Room?

That only they can make a difference. They may not be able to control what life throws at them, but they do choose what they do with it. There is always a choice. 

What are your expectations for The Room? How do you want readers to
receive/perceive it?

I understand that Harry’s religious views will be provocative to some, but those who read it should notice that most of those references exist in Harry’s personal thoughts. Only when confronted does he strongly respond. My hope for The Room is that it encourages people to question. I hope it’s seen for the existential story first and work of imagination next.

As this new Digital Age has progressed, many authors have found it
increasingly easier to get their works into print. What has your
experience been like in self-publishing The Room, finally bringing it
to the light of day?

There has been a great deal of success with Indie movies and music so it made sense in my case to pursue it that way. I’m writing short stories right now, but I’m also having fun with promotion. I have a small home multimedia studio where I produced a DVD introduction to The Room that I could offer, as well as podcasts of the excerpt and prologue. I distributed a scaled down version of the introduction on all the video sites and listed the podcast RSS feed in all the podcast directories. In addition I got to develop the promotional site, theroomnovel.com and graphics. Most of it was done between proofreads.

You've written everything - from poetry to song lyrics to technical
articles - but The Room is your first novel. What lies on the horizon
for you now? Will you focus solely on novels?

I last wrote fiction in school when I was studying literature at my local city college on Staten Island, but when I left I became a full time musician. Writing lyrics was satisfying, but a novel gives you so much more room to explore things.

Now that the promotional tools have been created I have more time to write again. I plan to focus on short stories and novels. Fairly soon I will add the third in a series of short stories to my promotional site. The first two are self contained themes but this third short story is the basis for a chapter of a novel I plan to write, possibly next. I don’t want it to be taken as another in a series, but the story uses some of the same characters set 12 years in the future.

I thought it might be fun to use my background in technology and love for science to describe a world not too far off, but enough to imagine some profound changes. This chapter introduces a new set of characters from a different background. Briefly; it involves a young man named Rael from the lower Bronx, New York. Late in the short story he has a chance meeting with Kaela who is now 20 years old. Those who read The Room will recognize her.

Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Maybe something slightly philosophical. Believe what you want, but don’t expect wishes to bring you anything. Do it yourself.

Thanks again, Ray, and best of continued success to you in all your endeavors.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about The Room.