Interview With Author Rima Ray
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Hi, I’m Rima Ray. I’m an Indian American professor of Indian from upstate New York. I live with my husband and two cats. I have lived in several countries across the globe—spanning Kuwait, where my family and I became refugees in the Jordan Azhraq camp in the first Gulf War; to Qatar; to the Philippines, where I completed high school; to Canada, where my family eventually migrated to; to the United States for my college education at Cornell; to Japan for my first research job and where I survived the 2011 triple disaster; back to Canada for my PhD; and finally now in upstate New York, where I’m an assistant professor.
Despite the ups and downs, one thing that has been a constant in my life is my love affair with the mystery genre. I have loved mysteries since my fifth birthday, when my grandfather from India gave me a copy of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. So, when it came time for me to write my own mystery novel, it felt like a rite of passage: a natural progression from mystery reader to creator. And so far, I have enjoyed every moment of it.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My debut novel is “Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls.” I have had a long and colorful journey thus far. My experiences have shaped my unique multicultural perspective of how I see the world. Given the diversity of my background, I could have shaped my first novel on some of the more challenging experiences in my life. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I realized the importance of humor in our everyday life. And with my favorite genre being mystery, I decided to work on a humorous mystery novel.
Crime and mystery novels are interesting and exciting, but they make you witness the darker side of human nature. And sometimes you come out of that experience seeing the world as a grim place. And while we know that evil exists in this world, I wanted my book to bring joy and happiness to people’s lives. There will be moments in my novel when readers will get emotional, but by and large, I want them to smile and enjoy the reading experience. Also, as I was thinking of my story, I realized that there were not as many female leads in the mystery genre and hardly any fictional detectives who were women of color. In that respect, I never found a detective or amateur sleuth I could relate to. That’s where the inspiration for my debut novel, “Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls” came about which is about a plus-size, mixed-race academic, came about. She is loosely based on me, but I would say a more funny, exciting, and exaggerated version of me.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
With respect to my writing process, it’s very spontaneous. I usually start by mapping out a story in my head, then writing down a loose outline of how I want my story and characters to progress. Then, I start writing. It’s an iterative process of trial and error. I’ll write a paragraph, then I’ll read it, revise it, and rewrite it until I’m satisfied with it. Then I’ll revisit it the next day. The important thing for me is to be disciplined while writing. So, back when I was working on my debut novel, I had a rule that I needed to write one page every day. I have a day job as a professor, so it was not always easy as I have academic research, teaching, and service obligations. But I pushed myself to keep that routine, and that’s largely how I was able to complete this book.
One thing though that I have tried to maintain and hope to continue doing is having fun while I’m working on a book. So, little things make a difference—such as setting up my writing space and making it look aesthetically pleasing, getting some snacks that I enjoy, putting on music that I like, sitting on my favorite chair, and slowly relaxing into a rhythm as I write. I feel it’s very important that an author is enjoying the writing process, as that’s when true creativity emerges. If you are pushing yourself to meet a deadline or you’re stressed or unhappy, you’re not in the kind of mindset that will benefit a book—at least, I don’t think so.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
My favorite authors are the following: Judy Blume (her children and adult books), Agatha Christie (her entire collection), Satyajit Ray (in particular, The Adventures of Felu Da), Arthur Conan Doyle (The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes), Jhumpa Lahiri (I have loved all her books, in particular her Pulitzer winning debut novel The Namesake), Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go) and Mindy Kaling (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?)
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the second book in the Ruby Roy mystery series titled “Ruby Roy and the Hawaiian Mystery” which should be ready for release by next year. I also have an idea ready for the third book which is tentatively titled “Ruby Roy and the Fishy Affair in Kolkata.” So, for those who enjoyed the first Ruby Roy mystery, there’s a lot more coming.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
My book is on Amazon Kindle and in this day and age, I feel everyone is buying books on Amazon. So, that’s where I have promoted and published my book. Other than that, I have had a press release and some interviews, most recently I was interviewed by the BBC. And that’s another way of reaching out to my readers.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
My advice to new authors is to keep writing and to not get discouraged by criticism. There are a lot of people who will weigh you down and tell you that you’re not good enough or how challenging it is to become a successful author. And while the literary world is not an easy place to be, if you don’t strive for your dreams and don’t believe in yourself, then no one else will either. So, be your own biggest champion.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I don’t have a best advice but I do have a favorite quote by Norman Vincent Peale:
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”
What are you reading now?
I’m re-reading Agatha Christie’s “The Mysterious Mr. Quin” as part of my mystery book club on Instagram @rima_ray_author. I find the character of Mr. Quin to be the most enigmatic, magical and haunting of Christie’s creations.
What’s next for you as a writer?
As I mentioned before, I’m already working on the next two books in the Ruby Roy mystery series, “Ruby Roy and the Hawaiian Mystery” and “Ruby Roy and the Fishy Affair in Kolkata.” I’m also doing some publicity for my debut novel. It’s been a wonderful journey thus far.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
I would bring along the following books:
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
The Complete Adventures of Poirot
The Complete Adventures of Miss Marple
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