Ray Gorham was born in Calgary, Canada in 1966. Prior to graduating college and settling in the United States in 1991, Ray had the good fortune to live in a variety of locations around the world. Years in Australia, England, Lebanon, Japan, Canada, and the United States all helped to shape his background, worldview, and appreciation for other people and cultures.
Graduating with a degree in Accounting, he decided he couldn’t spend a future studying tax law and sitting in front of a computer all day, so he took a management position with Wal-Mart and spent the next 10 years in retail management where he had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of employees and thousands of customers on a weekly basis. Growing tired of large corporations, Ray next tried opening and running a restaurant, but decided after a year that wasn’t for him either. From there, he found a small log home business for sale in Montana in 2006 and settled in for what he hoped would be a long-term career.
When the construction industry slowed down in 2008, Ray knew he was going to have a lot of time on his hands, so he determined to cross off one of the items on his bucket list—writing a novel. After thousands of hours of writing and editing he had the final draft of his first novel, a 108,000 word effort telling the story of a husband struggling to return to his family after a major terrorist attack. While agents and publishers have passed on his efforts to this point, he has found significant success so far in digital format, selling over 10,000 copies of his work.
Welcome, Ray. Please tell us about your book.
77 Days in September, is a story about a man separated from his family by a terrorist attack. He's been away working for a couple of weeks when an EMP detonation shuts down the country and makes it next to impossible for him to return home. The story then follows both his and his family's struggles to survive and re-unite.
What inspired this book?
I wanted to write a story that would present a husband/father/man in a positive light. Too many stories have guys that kill without remorse, sleep around, forget their families, or act without considering the consequences. I wanted to have a character that would overcome amazing obstacles in order to do the right thing. That was the "inspiration" for the book. From there it was finding a device that would put the character in such a situation, and that is where the EMP came into play.
Once I started writing, though, I found the EMP aspect, and the threat it presents, became just as important as the other part of the story.
Your book posits an EMP detonation and knocking out the bulk of technology in the country and thrusting the country into chaos. There's a lot that can be done with that scenario, but what themes did you choose to focus on?
I wanted to present normal people who suddenly have life and death decisions to make, and their struggle to maintain their decency in a radically altered reality. I've had some criticism in reviews that my characters are too nice, but I think most people will find it very, very difficult to shoot their neighbors if such an event were to occur. Most Americans are good, decent people, and the live and let live mentality will be the outlook that will guide them. That is not to say that there won't be the shoot first people around, I just chose not to have them as my protagonists.
So, any post-apocalyptic book, by necessity, explores the limits of civilization and the nature of man. Do you see yourself as more a pessimist or optimist about human nature?
I think as you read my answers and my book, you'll see that I am more of an optimist than a pessimist. I do expect that terrible, ugly things will happen if such an event were to occur, so tried to portray a variety of things--the good, the evil, and the in between.
Why do you think people are so drawn to the stories about the collapse of civilization?
I think much of it has to do with the fact that every great empire that has existed has to come to an end, with the exception of ours. And the only reason we are still around is that we are young, and likely just haven't met our end, yet. The Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, British, Syrians, Ottomans, Mayans, and so forth, have all failed, most in violent, terrifying ways. Maybe sub-consciously we understand that there is a finite time we have to be in the position we are in, and the expectation of our eventual doom motivates us to read/view those types of works.
Okay, scenario time. The EMP goes off tomorrow. Would you rather be near a city or a remote rural area and why?
While there would be advantages to both locations, I'd much rather be in a rural environment, provided it was someplace I was established in with a home or "getaway." If the EMP does go off tomorrow, I think things in the big cities are going to go south pretty quick as people begin to starve. I live in a rural setting, close to a city (15 miles), on 50 acres. It provides us a good buffer, with the city conveniences, so kind of the best of both worlds.
Can you give us any insight into any future works?
I have a few things in the works, but nothing imminent. I don't view myself as a post-apocalyptic or dystopian author, so my closest-to-being done novel concerns a guy who can really see the future, and how his ability affects the people of his community. I also have a sequel to 77 Days planned, as well as a few other stories. At some point I hope to be able to write full time, but that time is not yet. Hopefully I can get a book out before the end of the year.
Here's an excerpt:
High above the sun-baked prairies of Lawrence, Kansas, the missile reached its target. No one on the ground even noticed the blast. Perhaps had someone been looking at precisely the right location, at precisely the right time, they might have noticed a tiny, momentary spark in the bright afternoon sky. Had they seen the flash, it likely would have been attributed to the glint of sunlight reflecting off a passing airplane. From every vantage point below the detonation, there was no sense of the destructive capacity contained in that tiny speck of light. More than 300 miles above the earth, a nuclear explosion impacts nothing with the force of its blast. It is merely a large bomb going off in a vacuum, creating no shockwaves, no fireballs, no radiation, not even any sound.
Despite the lack of explosive destruction, this was now the most lethal weapon to be unleashed in the history of the world, but it was a weapon that would have had absolutely no discernable affect on mankind 200 years ago, other than creating a more colorful aurora. Upon detonation, the bomb expelled an intense wave of gamma radiation in every direction. The gamma rays traveling earthward interacted with the upper levels of the atmosphere and created a chain reaction of displaced electrons that rushed towards the surface of the earth at the speed of light. Most of the these displaced electrons passed rapidly through the atmosphere and grounded themselves harmlessly in the earth.
A small percentage, however, encountered conductive materials: metal, antennas, copper wiring, and silicon chips. As these conductors absorbed untold billions of free electrons, they experienced sudden surges in both voltage and current. In simple items, like a garden rake, this surge was manifested as a harmless static electricity-like spark. But in larger networks and sensitive objects, the consequences of the electron overload were devastating.