Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing Lada Ray, author of the mystery thriller Gold Train...
1) Have you always wanted to be a writer, or did you start out on a different path?
I always wanted to write cool stories, which I’ve been imagining in my head ever since I can remember. Instead, I listened to my well-meaning parents and started my life in a more traditional way.
I obtained my Master’s Degree in comparative linguistics, am fluent in several languages and have traveled to over twenty six countries in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. I had worked in Havana, Cuba as an interpreter for the Russian educational exchange delegations, including a couple of interviews with the man himself – Fidel Castro.
In the USA, I published articles in & taught Russian on cable TV. Then, something inexplicable possessed me to work as a financial consultant for AIG and Smith Barney/Citigroup. But later, I came back to my senses and quit the corporate world to pursue my dreams. I studied with revered Hong Kong Masters of Feng Shui and obtained my International Master’s Certification with Lillian Too, world-renowned feng shui author and teacher. For years, I operated an extensive feng shui website and blog, authored over thirty articles on feng shui and spirituality, taught my proprietary feng shui courses and did public speaking.
A few years back, when I was flying to Asia via Dubai, I met American journalists, returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who told me stories of their adventures. The image of Jade Snow, a beautiful and witty international journalist, fresh from the front lines, appeared before my eyes, and I thought that she’d make an amazing heroine for the international mystery/thriller series. I decided that it was now, or never, and started writing my first novel, Stepford USA, prequel to the Jade Snow International Adventure Series.
2) What made you want to write Gold Train?
Gold Train was a natural progression for the Jade Snow International Adventure Series. When I first heard the story of the lost Russian Imperial Treasure and all the speculation, surrounding its whereabouts, I knew right away - it was my book to write.
I carefully watched the informative documentary on Russia Today, the Russian TV network, which I stumbled upon by pure chance, much like what happens to Jade Snow in the book.
I immediately imagined what would happen, if…
However, between life and other stuff, it took me a couple of years to actually sit down to write it. But once I did, the story materialized on my computer screen, as if by magic.
The imagery was extremely vivid, and I was inside the story - the direct participant, as well as the director – at all times. It took me only several months to finish the manuscript. Into this story, I put not only my own passion for uncovering the truth, but also my love for Russia. And I very much hope that my readers are able to feel and enjoy that.
3) Is there any of you in your protagonist, Jade Snow?
Jade Snow is not my clone, but there is a lot of me in her. That’s why it was so easy to write her. Like me, she is an intuitive and adventurous spirit, has keen interest and understanding of world cultures and geopolitical events, connects well with people, loves animals, has intense sense of justice and can appreciate a beautiful, spicy romance.
In Gold Train, Jade says: “I wasn't like other girls, a trip to Disney World would have never made me jump for joy. But I'd be sure to have stars in my eyes, if I was promised an adventure at some remote and mysterious place you could hardly find on the map.”
And one more: in Stepford USA, Jade says, “I always wanted to be a journalist. It was really a very natural choice for me. I love traveling, talking to people, getting to the bottom of things.”
That’s how I felt all my life. I traveled a lot, and most of my work concerned some sort of communication, either written or verbal, or both. Jade’s upbeat, witty attitude towards her own life and the world around her – warts and all – is, also, a lot like mine.
And certain events in her life resonate directly, or indirectly, with mine, as well.
4) How would you describe Gold Train?
For the fans of The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure comes this gripping new thriller, based on true historic events!
1918: Civil War in Russia. The entire Gold Reserve of the Russian Empire vanishes without a trace. But what if it's about to resurface? And what if it's about to be used to shift the global balance of power?
Today: the world's largest treasure; dangerous adventure; forbidden passion, defying time and space; conspiracy that threatens to plunge the country into darkness.
Jade Snow travels to Russia to investigate tantalizing mystery of the Gold Train, instead, she finds herself a pawn in a struggle between forces beyond her control. Running is not an option, as commitment to solve a murder makes her play the deadly game. Jade must choose between her worst friends and best enemies, and the fate of the world just might depend on her choice!
Jade Snow International Adventure Series #1
Category: novel, international mystery/thriller, geopolitical thriller, historic mystery, humor, suspense with an element of otherworldly romance
Word count: 68,000. Pages: 200
5) What kind of reader do you think would most enjoy your writing style?
Based on reviews, which are split almost equally between both genders, and reader feedback, I am very happy to say that both men and women enjoy reading Gold Train.
I thought, I’d let the readers answer this question:
From Amazon review by Hayley Sale, The Kindle Book Review: “This book had it all, not only a great mystery, and action but a little romance and even some humour. It really was superb, fast paced and well written. For me it was also one of those books that gets you thinking about things - even after you finish reading.”
From Amazon review by JJ. Collins (UK): “Jade Snow is to journalism, what Jason Bourne is to action and espionage. The author has managed to develop a character with a fascinating thoughtful purpose. Gold Train is an absolute must read, the author goes beyond the obvious and whisks us along into the heart-stopping world of Jade Snow with breath-taking appeal for the next paragraph and page, The author's knowledge and comprehension of the Russian political scene brings a very credible and believable level of authenticity to the plot. Gold Train is marvellous book which has something for every reader. It leaves you wanting and calling for the next instalment…”
In my own words: Gold Train is for the fun loving, dynamic, adventurous people, who have open minds and are interested in the world around them, as well as foreign lands.
For those who love a fast-paced thrill ride with a purpose. For those, who love history, sleuthing and mysteries, who are naturally curious, who want to immerse themselves in the story line and feel, like they are part of the action. And it is for those, who expect more from a story.
It’s also for those who love animals and mystical, psychic stuff, yet, are firmly grounded in this world. And for those, who care what happens in our world and who want to improve it.
Although the thriller side of the story dominates, let’s not forget that Gold Train, along with the other Jade Snow Adventures, has a strong romantic undercurrent. Therefore, those who are interested in romantic suspense, will also find Gold Train a compelling read. My way of writing romance is anything, but traditional. The relationship between Jade and Alexei is marked by destiny, and I hope the reader enjoys it.
6) What is your writing process like?
I think, I am a combination of different styles, or, you could say, my style is my own.
First, I come up with the idea. I find that the better my idea is defined and the stronger the hook, the easier it is to write the book. Then, I meditate and polish up the idea in my head for a while. Simultaneously, the title just simply appears in my mind. Sometimes, I hesitate between two pretty cool titles and it’s difficult to choose the best one. That’s what happened with Stepford USA (alt. title: Virtual Paradise.)
Then, I write a solid synopsis, sometimes, both short and long versions.
I am very visual, so the events in the book would often play out before my eyes, as if in a movie. At that point, I would write the beginning (prologue, first few chapters.) And normally, that beginning stays pretty much unaltered. Then, I write some pivotal scenes, occurring throughout the book and usually the ending, which I also visualize early on.
I call these parts “the skeleton of the story.”
The hardest part for me is the middle, and I usually write it last, closing in, so to speak, from both ends – beginning and ending. However, with Gold Train, the middle flowed unusually well. Perhaps, because I was inspired.
I resort to outlining only if I feel absolutely stuck, and just writing out the sequence of events helps me get back on track. But I don’t do it often and find that I abandon the effort as soon as creative juices start flowing again.
That’s about it. To date, I’ve written two novels and one short novella and am currently working on my new YA fantasy/thriller, The Earth Shifter. Simultaneously, I am also writing the next Jade Snow Adventure, to take place in Asia (I won’t say more, so as not to spoil the surprise.)
As my writing career progresses, I find, that my writing style is evolving into something completely new and exciting. All I can say, it’s a fascinating journey and I am in it for a long and thrilling ride!
7) What has your experience with independent publishing been like?
In February 2011, I still firmly believed that I’d find an agent and get published the traditional way. By the beginning of March, I was formatting the Stepford USA manuscript for Kindle and Smashwords.
What changed my mind? An accident. I stumbled upon a blog by Joe Conrath, who talked about the changing landscape of traditional publishing and the brave, new world of Indie publishing.
That blog resonated very deeply with me. Being pretty intuitive, I already felt that something was indeed wrong with traditional publishing, as if the system was breaking down. Joe Conrath’s blog did something very valuable - it gave clear definition to my vague thoughts and suspicions.
I never looked back. Ten months later, I can’t honestly say that I fully understand the world of Indie and e-publishing. I am still learning, and the learning curve is steep, at times. But I feel that I am part of the exciting, forward-looking revolution. As with any revolution, it is sometimes heart-stopping and confusing. But in the end, it ushers in the new energy our society desperately needs and craves.
8) Any advice for aspiring writers, or budding independent publishers?
My best advice for aspiring writers is to write. Write through thick and thin, master your craft, and if the first book doesn’t pan out, go on to the next, then, the next, and so on. There are plenty of writers out there, who only saw success after a long, and what seemed like, fruitless effort. But no effort is in vain and success comes to those, who don’t give up.
And most importantly, if your soul craves self-expression, don’t stifle it – release it. Let your soul sing, let it fly, let everyone see its beauty.
As Leo Tolstoy once said, “Don’t die with your song inside you.”
The Gold Train ebook is currently available everywhere at $2.99.
The Gold Train Paperback launch: April 25, 2012.
Where to buy Gold Train:
Gold Train Trailer http://www.youtube.com/LadaRay
Author Website http://LadaRay.com
All about Gold Train Paperback Launch http://ladaray.com/BlogTour.aspx
Lada Ray Blog http://ladaray.wordpress.com/
Goodreads Author Page http://www.goodreads.com/Lada_Ray
Thank you, Larisa, for a wonderful interview. I enjoyed answering your intelligent, poignant questions!
BIO: Lada Ray is a writer, internationally certified feng shui master practitioner, world traveler, linguist, financial consultant, nature/animal lover and spirituality & metaphysics researcher.
She is the author of GOLD TRAIN, gripping mystery/thriller, set in Russia and based on true historic events; Stepford USA, small town mystery/thriller, with international twists; and Green Desert, riveting story, set in Iraq.
Upcoming books include: The Earth Shifter, new YA fantasy/thriller, set in Russia (Moscow & Siberia,) US, China and other mythical locales of this surreal Blue Planet; the next Jade Snow International Adventure, set in Asia; and, if Lada can fit it in her busy schedule, Book of Predictions - After 2012 (non-fiction.)
Lada imagines her stories in bustling New York City and the beautifully serene Catskill Mountains, where she lives with her family and gorgeous calico cat Lily, who’d made her appearance in and .
Thank you Lada for a fantastic interview and I wish you much luck and happiness in your writing career and in life. :)