A mutual friend introduced Rayme Michaels and I, and I love hosting new writers on this blog. While their perspectives on the world and on writing may differ from mine – as is the case with Rayme and I – I think it’s wonderful to see how different we can all be while we work to do the same thing – get our words on paper. Enjoy Rayme’s interview, folks.
It’s called Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri, and it’s a dark, urban comedy meets psychological drama. Here’s the synopsis: When womanizer, and possible schizophrenic, John Hazel, is suddenly offered a serious job promotion by the CEO of his company, David Wall, under the condition that John help him kill his wife, John finds himself between a rock and a hard place when Mr. Wall’s wife, Victoria Wall, asks John to do the same for her. John, an office temp, photographer and university teaching assistant of philosophy, has more than enough on his post-traumatic, hyperactive mind, without something as absurd as this weighing down on him, not to mention that he is haunted—well, annoyed more than anything—by either the spirits or imaginary spirits of Giovanni Boccaccio, Francois Rabelais and a she-devil named Sabrina. Influences such as these do not help with John’s very prurient but fascinating mind, which his psychologist tries as best as she knows how to get to the bottom of. His life-long existential crisis, having two hit men on his back, a bad-to-the-bone best friend named Alex, and a manic, sex-crazed, power-hungry, confrontational co-worker named Jackie, who happens to be Mr. Wall’s mistress, certainly do not help matters either.
Basically, life doesn’t seem to want to let up on John. So the question is: Will he make it through this very bizarre time of tribulation, or will he end up behind bars, stone-cold dead, or simply cracking under the weight of it all? Read and find out.
2. What role, if any, did books,writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I became a huge bookworm when I was eight. My nose was always in a book. I’d walk around the schoolyard reading while everyone else around me was playing. I used to love reading Roald Dahl, in particularly James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. I loved reading novels by other authors as well, of course, like The Indian in the Cupboard, Bunnicula and My Teacher Is an Alien. And, of course, the Choose Your Own Adventure series was marvellous for a young child’s imagination. Anyway, the list goes on, and I can’t remember everything. It was that same year, in grade three, that I realized I had a knack for writing short stories and how fun and easy-flowing they were for me to create. I still remember when I was in grade five we had a writing unit where we all had to compose a short story and build on it, I think, till the end of the year. Everyone else’s story was just a few pages long. Mine was 27 and nowhere near finished by the time the year was over. I could have gone on and on with it until it was a novella. It got stolen from my file by somebody in the class, no idea who. It’s such a shame. I still remember the title I gave it: Animals of the Fire. I always felt like I was on fire when I was writing it. It felt like magic. The summer I turned 11, I started reading horror novels and really enjoyed R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike. Chain Letter 2 by Pike blew me away when I was 12.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
I don’t have one. I write when I feel like it. I don’t like turning things into a routine; it makes them seem mundane and lifeless.
4. Who are you reading now?
The Plague, by Albert Camus.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
Interestingly, they’re not even novels: The God Delusion, The Denial of Death and On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche, which opened my eyes to so much and hastened me on my path of academic study. I did my MA’s Major Research Project on Essay I of it. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is intelligent, insightful, irreverent, iconoclastic, witty and necessary—all things that I love. The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker is existential, cuttingly insightful and superbly written—ingenious, actually. It’s a book that needs to be lived with. It’s mentioned once in my new book, as a matter of fact. The problem of human mortality has always fascinated me, as it always has the protagonist in Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri. If I had to say what my fourth favorite book was, I’d have to say The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir. Of all the books I had to read in my undergrad, which was a major in philosophy and minor in psychology, that’s the book that sticks out the most. I think it’s incredible and really speaks to me.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I don’t think in those terms. I just write what I love to write and then work to perfect it as best as I can.
7. What is a typical day like for you?
I don’t want to bore you with my typical day, but I’m a Canadian currently residing in Tokyo, which never sleeps. I love this city, so, at least once a week, I like to go out and meet people—hopefully get laid.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
It would have a warm, soft carpet and long wooden bookshelves along the wall. There would be two cushy sofas, inspiring, invigorating paintings on the walls, a wooden desk for me to write on, a fireplace and maybe a pet owl in the corner. You can buy those here.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
Years ago, I took screenwriting, and, for the most part, it was a lot of fun. But our instructor was so focused on how to sell, that he forgot about the importance in the joy of writing, authenticity and self-fulfillment. So, one class, we were to bring in a one-pager—the first page of a script. So, being the way I am, I brought in a comical, bawdy one. It managed to make people laugh, one guy really hard and damned loudly, too—just like I knew it would—but the instructor didn’t care for it. He didn’t think that an agent or production house reader would like it, basically because he didn’t. Without actually saying anything, I pretended to agree with him (something I regret), just because he was really angry (till today I’m not sure why, other than personal issues, including uptight-ness), and I just wanted to appease him. He asked me why I even brought it in, then, and sternly and heatedly told me, “We don’t write for ourselves; we write for others.” I never believed that and still don’t, but I didn’t say anything. I just wanted the class to move on to the next person. I mean, for starters, who’s we? Maybe he’s that kind of writer, but I certainly don’t think he speaks for all of us. It never surprised me at all that he never made it as a screenwriter, despite all his connections in the industry. He was such an angry man and very dogmatic about how he believed screenwriting should be. Surprisingly, I still got an A+ in the course, though, which was nice!
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Write for yourself first and others second. I just found out in an article I read this morning that Stephen King tells writers that exact same thing. That made me feel good.
After high school, Rayme Michaels studied Theater Arts Performance and Radio Broadcasting in college, and then, in his undergrad, majored in Philosophy with a minor in Psychology. He then went on to get a Master’s Degree in Comparative Philosophy while working as a teaching assistant. Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri is his first full-length novel, but it is his third book, his other two being novellas were released in 2012. His first book was a quirky relationship/sex comedy entitled Incorrigibility. His second one is a dark, gory, romantic vampire thriller called Red Love. You can read more about Rayme and his work at his website – www.rayme-michaels.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter, or find him on Facebook.