On Being Read To

I don't read anymore.

No, seriously. I don't read anymore. I haven't read a paperback or an electronic book in roughly a year. I don't have the time. Recently, I picked up a copy of The Mountain Between Us at a book fair and have progressed about 55 pages in a month. Given my lifestyle, reading a single book takes me an embarrassing amount of months. This is unacceptable, of course. Writing and reading are desperately intertwined, and depriving myself of fiction is not a viable option if I want to continue to write. So I bit and downloaded Audible last January. It was the same old classic story: you preview a book, you use that credit to buy it and finish it, and the rest is history-you're hooked. At least I am.

Of course, I understand that this is not the same thing as reading: using your ears vs your eyes is a whole other animal when it comes to processing information.  I haven't been tested on reading comprehension since taking the SATs (the second time), so naturally, I was apprehensive to give this thing a try. But, as I saw it, I had no choice: if I wanted to continue to experience fiction, I had to do something. I can't exactly manufacture a 25th hour and there are books to be read out there!

So Audible turned out to be a lifesaver.  And fast! I very quickly fell in love with being read to. In character! And with accents! I spend a chunk of my day behind the wheel and it's nice to have a trained voiceover actor talk to me. Or, rather, at me.

Now, to be completely honest, I'm not sure I appreciate language to the fullest experiencing it this way, but I find that experiencing the actual plot and the story is easier for me this way. It becomes almost like a play, a movie, even. There's no visual, of course, but that's why we have imaginary casting.

Rarely without a pet-peeve, I have to admit that, sometimes, for me, the narrator does affect the story in a way that possibly wasn't intended. Sometimes accents are too put on, sometimes you can't help but think that you'd read a particular line differently. But this aspect too comes with a benefit of its own: as a writer, you never know how your words will be interpreted once they are out there in the world and this serves as an illustration of just that. Every person will literally read the same passage differently. And that's ok. 

My review of "books on tape"? 4.5 stars. Depending on how you process information, and how sensitive you are to having narrators impose their voice onto something you would've potentially read differently were you actually reading, I'd highly recommend it. 

Author Interview Series-Ray Melnik

Ray Melnik

Ray Melnik

Ray Melnik

Just before college, Ray won first place in the National Pen Women Competition for his fictional short story, Distinction, as well as winning second place in the New York Best of City - The Written Word. While attending college, Ray Melnik's course on existential literature opened a whole new world for him. He pursued a musical career as a singer and lyricist, after leaving college. In the early 1980s he was the lead singer for One Hand Clap and then Fine Malibus, with Steve Stevens, current guitarist and song writer for Billy Idol. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ray was engineer and co-owner of MANNIK Productions, a recording studio in the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island, New York. In addition to lyrics, Ray, wrote a monthly column about pro audio for a music trade magazine, American Liverpool. Later moving into the field of technology as a network engineer and then architect, he wrote for the technology panel of a regional newspaper, Times Herald Record, and was the primary writer of articles based on home technology for the website New Technology Home.

Ray currently works as a Senior Network Architect in New York City, New York and is a resident of Staten Island, New York. His first novel, The Room, published in September 2007, is a story grounded in reason. His second novel, To Your Own Self Be True, the sequel, follows with the same intention. Burnished Bridge published March 2010 is Ray Melnik's first novella, and is a love story written on a canvass of fictional science. A series ending novel, Eyes In This World was published in September 2013. A novella, Ghost In The Park,was published in April 2016.

 

Marina Raydun:     What is the most difficult part about your artistic process?

Ray Melnik: I write science fiction, and given I’m an over the top skeptic, I take pains to make sure the events portrayed in my stories are realistic enough for the reader to suspend disbelief. For example, in my novel, To Your Own Self Be True, there is a scientific device at the center of the story. In describing some of the functions, it talks of harmonics and I made sure to use frequencies accurately matching notes on a piano. In another scene, frequencies traverse a field, so I looked up the humidity levels for that particular day in the area the novel takes place knowing that humidity has a small but measurable effect on sound speed. So, I would say it’s the extra research tangents taken to make sure the details described seem believable.

MR: What literary character is most like you?

RM: I would have to say that I have always related to Meursault, the protagonist in the novel, The Stanger, by Albert Camus. Not that I relate to his obvious detachment from others but to the way he perceives reality and sees the absurd in life. If I reference my own characters, the protagonist in my first novel, The Room, is modeled after my own beliefs and thoughts exactly. Doing so in my first story was an experience that made me feel incredibly exposed, but it was therapy at the same time as I was getting over a failed marriage.

MR: What book do you wish you had written?

RM: That would be, Contact, by Carl Sagan. It embodies everything I feel about the wonders of the cosmos. It is a wonderful story about science, the vastness of space, religion versus reason and a climax that makes you feel we are not alone in the universe.

MR: What is your biggest failure?

RM: Nothing to me is that permanent that it can’t be overcome, but that said, I would probably settle on my first marriage. Even then I would not have changed a thing since my children mean everything to me. Failures are temporary and we are human. Like Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

MR:  Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

RM: Just self-imposed. I purposely won’t read fiction when I am in the process of writing fiction. With all the moments between writing the passages in the chapters and keeping foreshadowing straight, it is difficult to read other fiction because it breaks my concentration.

MR:    What is your favorite genre to read?

RM: I enjoy fictional novels, but there is no question that my favorite books to read are about the sciences. I love them all, but my very favorite subjects are astrophysics and quantum physics. Not only because they fuel the ideas for my fictional stories but because they are two subjects that are beginning to reveal the true nature of reality, and perhaps the only two that really can. We are living in a golden age of both fields of study, and if people would open their eyes to what was discovered it might just give us the humility we so desperately lack. I believe it was Richard Dawkins who said that when it comes to life, there is no question why; only how. The how we are discovering. The why is up to us.

MR:    What’s the best and worst book review you’ve ever received?

RM: When I published my first novel I was taken aback by a few people who seemed to go out of their way to be mean. You pour your heart into the story and in the process, you expose yourself. But then someone writes a review that says they were so engrossed that they missed their subway stop, or that the story made them think long after they finished. My favorite good review called my first book, post existential; existentialism with hope.

MR:  If you could have drinks with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

RM: That would be, Carl Sagan. I have read every book he has ever written, at least twice. He died almost 21 years ago now, and the world is sorely in need of another person like him. His grasp of reality and the things that are important were second to none. What an interesting conversation that would be over drinks, although it had been rumored he preferred cannabis.

MR: What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?

RM: For short trips, just the task at hand with music, of course. On long drives, such as every few weeks to upstate New York, I think of possible essays. Sometimes they are put to paper, but many times just stored away.

MR: What does literary success look like to you?

RM: Writing is a side passion that I’m grateful I can pursue given a demanding career in tech. I have purposefully kept royalties at the lowest possible level in the hope that the price point would entice readers to give my stories a read. My goal many times is to introduce readers to characters of reason, not well represented in literature. It has attracted its share of religious backlash, but others have written to me to say it made them think differently than they had before. That’s success to me.

To learn more about Ray Melnik and his novels, please visit:

Website: http://emergentnovels.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRayMelnik/

 

 

 

Why write? An inherently selfish act.

I am routinely asked how it is that I find the time to write.

It's not an illogical or a particularly invasive question. I'm a mother, a wife, a student, a daughter, a sibling. Like everyone else, I am busy. Writing takes a lot of focus and time, and I have neither at my disposal. At least not in any wasteful amount. My children come before anyone and anything else, and I make that known to everyone who does and does not ask, so how is an understandable line of questioning. However, I would rather approach it as a why question. Because the "how" is easy-I carve out twenty minutes here, ten minutes there, I work in whatever small chunks of time and opportunity I have. I scribble notes in notebooks and type in keywords into my phone. I do what I can and when I can. Like everyone else. I don't sleep nearly as much as I would like. And my house is not as organized as I wish it would be. Because the few minutes I do have, I would honestly rather spend writing than color coordinating incoming mail. This is "how."

It's hard not to lose yourself in your responsibilities. Life is fast and life is hard. That's the beauty of it, if you're an optimist. On an average day, we forget to drink the requisite amount of water let alone what we wanted to be when we grow up. I don't do girls nights out or spa weekends; that is not my family dynamics. I don't have much down time. So when my house is quiet, I get to escape into myself. Writing is that magical "me" time. It is my therapy. It's important for me to be able to get lost in a fictional world of my own creation, where the characters I penned drive the dialogues. When I don't get to write, a part of me feels like it's missing. I am down and irritable. Beware! Even if it's something I will never use in any publication, even it is something not a single soul will ever read, my pencil has to touch paper, my fingers have to dance across the keyboard. High school through law school, when I wasn't taking notes on the digestive system or the dormant commerce clause, respectively, I was writing. I still do-on the school steps waiting for my child after school, at my desk while my professor is firing up her projector. This is the "why." And the "why" informs the "how." My novels take me a very long time precisely because of the time constraints my life imposes on me, my focus wavers along the road, but I still choose to do it. I'm no superhero. I'm certainly no role model. I write because I want to. It's my inherently selfish act. 

So welcome to my website. And welcome to my blog! Essays, book reviews, and author interviews are to come. Please stay tuned and bring your friends.

-Marina