Monday, April 16, 2018

Interview with action crime author D. Ray Thomas

Novelist D. Ray Thomas is “in the house” today and we’re chatting about the first two books in his Take It Back action crime thriller series: Take It Back and Cash Money.

Welcome, D. Ray. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Author, comedian, security guard, skin tag sufferer.

Welcome to my bio that is perfect for a promotion packet both in length and content. From here on out I will speak of myself in the 3rd person. 

D. Ray Thomas has written for most of his life and is now living his dream by writing the Take It Back stories. The series features part Robin Hood, part vigilante, Douglas Gage.

Ray’s love for the written word has shown itself in various forms. From years of performing his own material as a standup comic, to writing for television, and to ultimately writing stories in his favorite genre.

And, I won, this is kind of a big deal, I won, I mean, uh, Ray is a Daytime Emmy winner.

You can have an informed conversation with Ray about Broadway Musicals as well as all things baseball

Ray now resides in Los Angeles, CA with his wife in a house run by their six cats. He hopes you enjoy reading his books as much as he does writing them.

Please tell us about your books.
Take It Back and Cash Money are action/thriller stories staring a character I love – probably because I created him – Douglas Gage. Gage for short. Gage is described as The Rock’s ugly brother. He’s big and strong and tough and funny as hell. The thing I like about the stories is even in the darkest and most violent moments, Gage will say or think or do something that will make the reader laugh. One of the reviews I got said something like “what surprised me was the wit.”

Gage is part Robin Hood, part Vigilante. He hates the 1%, and if they mess with regular people, like steals their money, he TAKES IT BACK (ha!) and if he gets extra, he spreads it around like Robin Hood. There’s a lot of fighting, shooting, action, mystery, suspense, thrills, and laughs. Readers have told me they never have any idea what’s going to happen next. They love the surprises.

Take It Back and Cash Money are set in the South, which is where I was born. Gage isn’t necessarily a southerner, later on in the series we learn more about his past, but I think he’s in the South because there’s a lot of suffering right in the South right now. Whole towns are being left behind in the economic recovery. Gage doesn’t sit around and wait for cases to come to him. Gage actively looks for people he can help. He takes up their cause without being asked. He takes either nothing or very little in return. He is a true Knight in Shining Armor who occasionally feels it is justified to shoot a bad guy in the face in cold blood.

Some people are just beyond help, and their crimes are such that Gage believes there is no other punishment. He won’t take the chance that any other innocent people will be hurt.

I mean, c’mon, your Honor. He needed killin’.

What inspired you to write this book?
Anger. I was looking around and seeing how hard it was for people to recover from the 2008 housing and stock market crisis. And as I learned more and more about who and what brought on the crisis, I became angrier and angrier at the “why” behind it all. It was really about a small group of human beings who didn’t give one fuck about any of the other hundreds of millions of human beings on the planet. I still can’t wrap my tiny little brain around that. That hubris. That lack of empathy. That greed. The lack of any speck of humanity.

My wife and I lived in Salem, MA, for a couple of years as the country was recovering. We saw firsthand the struggles families endured because Asshole President of Bank of WDGAF figured out how to package subprime mortgages to make an extra penny. And then, when the world economy crashed, Mr. Asshole President, who did a bunch of things that were illegal AF, didn’t get arrested, didn’t go to jail, didn’t even get a nasty letter from the principal sent home to his parents. What he got were billions and billions of dollars to bail out his bank, and then a billion-dollar bonus, and a pat on the back from the stockholders of the bank, and an apology from the government for thinking he did anything wrong in the first place.

And that happened again and again and again.

So since I couldn’t drive around and shoot all those Asshole Bank Presidents and Wall Street jerks in the face, I created Gage who could. He gets to go after people who take advantage of the innocent. Gage finds the criminals, and he doesn’t give them a bail out, he shoots the bastards.

I had to have an outlet for me anger, and Gage is it. He does what I want to do but can’t.

Take It Back and Cash Money are stories on a smaller scale than the housing crisis. But they are the same types of crimes. The underprivileged, the innocent, are preyed upon by the rich fat cats we’ve all dubbed the 1%. When Gage learns someone has been conned, Gage finds out, tracks down the criminals, punishes them in any way he seems fit. Including, as I mentioned before, shooting them in the face.

Excerpt from Cash Money:

The shotgun blast made my ears useless. The only thing I could hear was a rush of wind, like I was a German Shepherd hanging my head out the window of a speeding car. Unfortunately, my eyes were working fine. And what I could see was gruesome. The force of the shot had thrown the bloody body up onto the kitchen counter. And it had wedged underneath the overhead cabinets.
And the body’s head was gone.
Like, gone.
The body’s iPhone dropped from its trousers. It was iRinging. I couldn’t hear the rings, but I could tell from the vibrations and the screen lighting up. It vibrated so much that it fell off the counter and onto the floor. I stared at it. It went dark.
Despite my tough-guy exterior, and interior, and general aura, I was shaken. I mean, just a few seconds ago, two bad guys were arguing about me and some lies I may or may not have told them. Now, and again just a few seconds later, one bad guy was dead, sans head, and the other bad guy still had a shotgun. And while all of this was going on, my prospects hadn’t improved at all.
We were in an employee break room, two stories above the gambling floor of a riverboat casino. The headless body on the counter was on its side, the chest facing straight out. As I mentioned before, the head was gone, along with most of the shirt collar. Red, white, gray, and black bits of goop frosted the cabinets above the body. One leg hung off the counter, while the other leg was twisted behind the hips sideways, the shoe caught in what looked like a bread maker.
Who had time to make bread while working at a casino, I had no idea.
The second bad guy’s mouth was open, face slack, looking more shocked than me. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe the bad guy hadn’t meant to pull the trigger.
And then the bad guy’s eyes slowly moved toward me. The shotgun barrel followed the eyes. The bad guy’s thoughts were obvious. I’d seen what happened. I could tell the police—couldn’t allow that. The shotgun cocked, seemingly by itself.
That could not be good.
I rushed the bad guy. I caught the barrel before it got to me, searing my palm because of the residual heat of the last shot. I smelled scorched meat as I yanked the barrel toward me and past me like a Trump handshake. The gun fired again, and the fresh explosion of heat through the barrel should have knocked it from my hand, except my flesh was already stuck to the metal like a Fourth of July steak on a dry grill.
The bad guy was smart enough to let go of the gun. The pain in my hand made me try to shake it off like a piece of flypaper. But the gun weighed five pounds, so when I did shake it off, it took most of the skin from my palm with it. I almost passed out from the pain. I fell against the cabinets, jostled the headless body, and pulled it down on top of me.
I was able to pull my Glock from my holster as I was falling under the body and get off three shots in the general direction of the bad guy. The bad guy retreated into the corridor, but not before taking the shotgun. I was scared shitless that the bad guy would come back and finish me, so I fought to get out from under the body so I could defend myself.
But getting out from under the dead body was almost impossible. It was a sack of wet sand that moved with me, pinning me to the floor with every move I made to escape. The shotgun barrel came around the doorframe, but I fired a couple of shots, and the bad guy pulled back. With a sudden burst of new motivation, I braced against the bottom cabinet behind me and shoved forward as hard as I could and finally rolled the body enough that I could slide away. I grabbed a dish towel off the sink and wrapped it around my raw palm, holding the towel tightly.
Incredibly, after all the shots fired, I heard no one coming toward us. No pounding feet of security guards. No screaming of orders. No declarations of an active shooter. Other than my gasps of breath, there was no sound at all—not even an alarm.
I held my Glock with my elbow bent, barrel pointed at the ceiling. I was a two-handed shooter usually, but not tonight. I continued to squeeze the dish towel in my raw palm and slowly crawled to the edge of the doorway. I had to get out of here. I couldn’t get caught with a dead body.
I had to assume the bad guy was in the corridor, lying in wait for me. I had one gun. My options were limited. Fire through the drywall? But give myself away immediately. Launch myself out the door? Shoot left? Shoot right? High? Low?
What to do? What to do? Anyway, the suspense was killing me.
Time to make a decision.
I popped a bullet into the chamber and jumped headfirst through the door, firing as I went.

What exciting story are you working on next?
There are actually two more Take It Back stories already published on Amazon. The Statistic, and Safe. They both allowed me to explore even more of Gage’s psyche. Although he continues to look like The Rock’s ugly brother, and he remains big and strong and tough, and is even getting funnier, The Statistic and Safe challenge Gage in different ways.

The Statistic is kind of a “ripped from the headlines” story because it is about a girl being bullied in high school. Both cyber bullying, and in person confrontational bullying. And like all the Gage books, it features the entitled against the rest of us. This time it actually is the 1%, not a facsimile, that Gage is up against. The “criminals” Gage needs to punish are students, but they are backed up not only by members of the 1%, but also hardened security mercenaries: the bad guy flip side of our beloved Gage. The action explodes early and Gage jumps from threat to threat, but because of the age of the guilty parties, he doubts his instincts when it comes time to punish them. It’s a thrilling and dangerous ride with the examination of Gage’s soul dictating every move he makes.

Safe is a great story because I get to play with the POV, and it is also set in two different decades. Part of the story is in the here and now, and it is told in the first person, like the other stories have been told. While the other part is told from third person, and set in the middle 1980s. We get to meet Gage’s mentor, and we learn how he got to be the Gage we know and love. And we finally learn what has been motivating Gage all along. I don’t want to say too much. It has what all the Gage books have. Suspense, action, thrills, people getting shot, and good funny. There’s more in the book description on Amazon, but I promise Safe is a GREAT READ and will not disappoint.

The fifth story in the Take It Back series will be out April 5th. We’re still debating the Title, and when I say “we,” I mean my wife hasn’t decided what the title is yet, so I can’t tell you that, but, I can tell you that it involves horses, baseball, larceny, the 1%, and Gage at his best.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My third-grade year we had a “rest” period after recess. Basically, it was a fuck all period where everyone just did whatever they wanted for half an hour. After the first week, I asked the teacher if I could write sketches for me and my friends to perform for the class during that period. She said I could give it a try. And if they were good, I could keep doing it. They were good. And I was a writer after that.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am not able to write full time now. I used to be able too. I made my living as a standup comic for fifteen years and I wrote for myself. I wrote jokes for other comics too. Then I wrote for television for about sixteen years, which was mostly for soaps, but with a couple of pilot projects mixed in. Then I had some problems, and I needed a set schedule as part of my treatment, so now I have a job as a Facilities Specialist, which is kind of like a security guard, that I go to everyday. I write in the mornings before I go, but because the job is very flexible, I’m able to write a lot of the time I am at work.

I find the time to write because I work for a friend of mine who understands the problems I had and have and gave me a job where I could write a lot.

My day is basically get up about nine, coffee while writing, time with wife, more writing, poop, shower, shave, not necessarily in that order, go to work at 1:30. Write as much as I can. Leave at 9:30. I’ve written anywhere between 1000 to 4000 words at work during a day. Get home 10:15. Snack, time with wife, we watch television (television is huge to us), play with the cats, go to bed about 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning. Probably another poop mixed in there somewhere. I eat a lot of fiber.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write naked. People at work get pissed. So, do the people at Starbucks. And the library. And my wife, too. Which pisses me off.

Okay, it’s actually this. I have to suit up. I don’t have to do it all the time now, but for many years it was the only way I could write. For whatever reason, putting on a suit makes me feel like I can do anything. When I am having trouble with a story, I automatically go to the suit. I’ve even gone to work at the warehouse, my Facilities Manager job, in a suit and tie (wildly inappropriate for that job), because I need to be in the suit while I’m writing that day.

Oh, and of course I always have to be wearing the amulet Satan’s wife gave me. I mean, c’mon. That goes without saying.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a baseball player. From the time I was like three or four. I wanted to be the catcher for the Atlanta Braves. If you look at Rafael Palmeiro’s career stats, that’s what I thought my career hitting stats would look like. But I would have played catcher on defense. Only switching to first base as I got older. And then retiring as a Brave instead of going to the American League as a DH to prolong my career. Wow. I’ve thought about this a lot. A lot. Maybe I have more problems to deal with. Hmmmm.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I have some kind of rash. HA! No, seriously. Thank you, City Slickers.

What I want to say is this. For the past thirty-seven years I’ve done a lot of things in entertainment. I’ve had a lot of success. I wanted to be a standup comedian, and I became one. Warren Zevon asked to meet me after he saw me perform when I opened for him. I toured all over this country and others. I was on television a lot, and I even got to be on Oprah’s show and hug her! I got to write for television. I got nominated for all kinds of awards. WGA awards. Daytime Emmy Awards. I won a Daytime Emmy. TV Guide called the show I won the Emmy for “the best episode of daytime television in 15 years.”

I don’t tell you that to brag. (Okay, maybe a little,) I tell you that to give you some context for what I’m going to say next. Nothing I have ever performed or written have I ever been prouder of, or more convinced of the quality of, than the Take It Back series. It is excellent. The character Gage is excellent. These stories are fresh, page turning, and you will react to them viscerally.

What I have written is great. Please read them. Thank you for your time.


Thanks for joining me today, D. Ray!

1 comment:

D. Ray Thomas said...

Thank you so much for publishing the interview, Lisa. It was great publicity for the books, and also fun for my friends and family. I asked all my FB followers to Like your page so I hope they do! Let me know if I can help in any other way.