Rai Aren lives in Calgary, in the province of Alberta, Canada.
She made her debut as an author with the publication of Secret Sands (RFS Publications, 2007), a novel she co-wrote with Tavius E.
The novel has been described as "fast, furious and absolutely mindblowing."
In this interview, Rai Aren talks about her concerns as a writer.
When did you start writing?
I have always loved writing; I started by writing my own Nancy Drew stories (early fan fiction) when I was 10. Throughout school, I always had a very easy time with essays, any kind of written question.
Then, about seven years ago, my co-author and I started talking about how we wanted to do more with our lives than just earn a living, we wanted to create something larger than life, to follow in the footsteps of the epic stories that we love.
From conversations we had over the course of a year, and a program I saw on the Discovery Channel came the inspiration for Secret of the Sands.
How would you describe your writing?
These stories are mystery/alternate historical fiction/speculative sci-fi tales.
The trilogy that we have planned, starting with Secret of the Sands, is like a combination of Indiana Jones meets The Mummy (the ancient part at the beginning of the movie) meets National Treasure. There’s the camaraderie of the main characters, the mystery at the heart of the story, and an exploration of a fictional past that is woven into actual historical events and monuments.
Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is people interested in adventure novels, especially those who are interested in Egypt’s ancient past. This series is suitable for anyone, ages 12 and up.
We write for this audience because these are our favorite books. Secret of the Sands is the type of story that we absolutely love and would scoop up in a heartbeat.
Who influenced you most?
For me, I would say that the movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars, are my big influences. Those stories captured my imagination so completely, so wonderfully when I was a kid, and they have stayed with me. Their popularity is directly linked to the heart at the core of those movies.
The story of the Lord of the Rings is also a big influence because of the stakes the characters face, how they handle it, how things are not perfect. There is tremendous personal courage at play, but also terrible loss and doubt.
How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?
It flavors every major character and conflict that I write. Literally. It imbues the characters and situations with life, with emotions that I feel and have experienced.
For the setting of Secret of the Sands, it is dealing with subject matter, Egyptology, which I have been fascinated with since I was in grade three.
For the solo novels I have planned, they are all exploring aspects of our society that I feel passionately about. They come from my observations of, and strong opinions, about our world.
What are your main concerns as a writer?
Just to be widely accepted and appreciated.
I am very clear on what I write, why, and how to go about it. I just want it to mean something to the world at large, in addition to myself, and those I am close to.
What are the biggest challenges that you face?
On one hand, it’s the seemingly endless waiting to hear back from agents and publishers.
On the other hand, it’s how to manage all of the ideas I have for novels, figuring out the balance to life that is needed for personal responsibilities to others, book promotion, and writing time.
When did you decide you wanted to be a published writer?
I decided that about twenty years ago. It was one of the things I wanted to achieve in my life, to be a novelist. It’s just something I respect deeply and am fascinated by.
When my co-author and I started talking about writing a story together, getting it published was one of our main goals. We want it to be out there, we want people to read and enjoy it, so we started sending it out to publishers, but the wait is long.
After getting a handful of rejections, we sat down and seriously re-worked the story, edited and whittled it down from about 173,000 words. We felt we had a winner at that point, so we decided to self-publish it and start building a readership base.
That has turned out extremely well, so we are actively seeking a publisher for a mass-market paperback edition of Secret of the Sands. We’d love to have a hard-cover special edition released one day too.
Do you write everyday?
I do something for the books every day, either writing or promoting. I just start as soon as my personal responsibilities allow, and only stop when I must, either I am falling asleep or duty calls. It’s the thing I love doing most.
How many books have you written so far?
One finished (Secret of the Sands), the sequel to it is over half-finished, and I have one solo novel, also about half done.
Which aspects of the work that you put into Secret of the Sands did you find most difficult?
For me, personally, it’s letting go of things that I have written.
I write tons more than makes it into the final draft, so there is always a lot that needs to be edited out. It’s deciding what the essential core is, and allowing the rest to be edited out. I dream about one day releasing the rest of the story, a la Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales …
Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?
Getting into the ‘zone’ -- where I am writing, but then it’s no longer just me sitting there trying to write a story, the story takes on a life of its own. That is so exciting, so rewarding. It’s what I call my ‘magic carpet ride’ -- where I am not thinking it up ahead of time, when scenes and characters just spring to life. The way I describe it is like reading a story you love, but it’s way more intense, you are experiencing it, feeling it come alive, and it surprises you. Quite enchanting.
What sets the book apart from the other things you've written?
This is a collaboration, and as such, I really feel it is much more than the sum of its parts, more than either of us would have achieved on our own with this story. There were many more things to consider with this, because both of us had to be satisfied and agree on the final draft.
In what way is it similar to the others?
It’s subject matter that I love, and will never grow tired of.
What will your next book be about?
The sequel Destiny of the Sands, carries on from where Secret of the Sands leaves off.
We also have a third instalment planned.
Each story gets progressively darker, the stakes grow higher and no one is safe.
What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
Finishing the first novel and having it be something I am incredibly proud of.
I have re-read it many times for editing purposes, and I never grew tired of it. I think we created something to last.