Friday, July 6, 2012

First Friday Author Spotlight: Ryan Winfield

This is a debut feature here on {Dive} Under the Cover.  I hope to do one every First Friday.  I already have August lined up, but I knew that I wanted my first month to Spotlight one of my favorite new authors, Ryan Winfield.

Hi, I'm Ryan Winfield. I'm a 37-year-old novelist, poet, and screenwriter living in Seattle. My first novel "South of Bixby Bridge" released in the fall of 2011. If your book club is reading South of Bixby Bridge and you would like me to attend your next get together, please don't hesitate to message me.

I've been asked why I write. I write because I remember.
I remember waking up to snow. Great buckets of it poured from the gray skies and blanketing everything in quiet white. I remember racing to dress, struggling with my boots. "Here, don't forget your mittens." I remember the soft thump of that first footstep in the cold and virgin powder, the tracks looking back, foghorns blowing on the mist-covered bay. I feel the canvas paper bag cutting into my shoulders, the weight of Sunday's headlines heavy on my mind. I see the trees bowed with armloads of white, as if to curtsey my passing. I remember rubber bands and ink stained hands. A car spun sideways in a ditch. Always a car. Then barking dogs, a distant chainsaw. Freckles throwing fastballs that hurt for the cold of them on my neck. I remember snowmen, and igloos, and icy trails through the white and wondrous woods. And I remember sweet Mrs. Johnson waiting at her door. The smell of Avon powder, her thin smile, an envelope pressed into my palm--ten dollars and a peppermint candy cane thank you. Evening now. I remember running downtown--Salvation Army bells, white lights strung in sidewalk trees, bundled shoppers bent against the wind. I remember the heavy door, the warmth, the wood. The bookstore! Smells of paper and leather and ink. Walls of worlds bound and waiting for me to read.
Nothing has affected me as much as reading has. Dickens, Tolkien, and Lewis raised me. And while I've walked through my own hell, made my own mistakes, and found my own redemption, always there have been books. Books to help me escape, books to teach me when to stay and fight, books to help me see where I've been wrong and where I've been right.
I write because I remember. And I write because I still dream.
Ryan is very involved with his fans in a number of ways.  You can find him on a variety of social platforms and when he comments or sends you a message you can be assured that it's really him and not a publicist answering his mail or posting his tweets or facebook messages. 

You can find him on the web here:

This is Ryan's debut novel, South of Bixby Bridge.  It was released in the fall of 2011 and has done quite well on Amazon with over 500 reviews and counting. 
Fresh out of drug rehab.
A young unemployed stockbroker, alone.
Struggling to survive the holidays on the San Francisco streets.
He wants his life back, he wants his girlfriend back.
Then his luck turns when he runs into just the right man--
A charming, sadistic hedge-fund owner with an intoxicating wife.
Success, money, a second chance . . .
But sometimes second chances come with a price.
Sometimes the price is your soul.

Warning: This novel is an unfiltered account of a young man's struggle to overcome addictions and it includes some graphic language, descriptive sexual scenes, and adult situations.
You can buy this book on Amazon in Kindle format or in Paperback by clicking these links.
You can read my review of South of Bixby Bridge here.

I was lucky enough to be able to do an email interview with Ryan.  I had a ton of questions that I wanted to ask him, but I narrowed it down to a few so it wouldn't be quite so overwhelming!  Here is my interview.

Q:  If you had to choose your favorite book what would it be?
I’ve read so many wonderful books, and so many of them have impacted my life, I’m not sure I could pick just one. My reading career has developed in phases—discovering authors, searching out and exhausting their published work, and then moving on to discover another author—and I’m sure there are new discoveries around the bend.
Q:   I know you have stated that Cormac McCarthy is one of your favorite authors. If I could only read one of his books, which one should it be?
Suttree for sure. I think it’s his fourth published novel from around 1979. Set in 1951 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the narrative follows a curious fisherman on an emotional journey littered with as many colorful characters as the Tennessee River he inhabits is littered with filth.
Q:   I know that when you are writing you probably don't read much, but have you read something recently, something new, that struck a chord with you?
I try not to read at all while I’m actively working on a new story. There’s too much risk of another voice sneaking into my pages. When I take a break from writing, or when I move a completed story into rewriting, I consume books on my Kindle. There are so many great novels out there, so many great authors; it’s hard to know what to read. I recently reread East of Eden by John Steinbeck and was reminded how much I love his writing. I wish the first half of that novel would be made into a movie to supplement the one made in 1955 by Elia Kazan.
Q:   When you are actively working on a novel do you follow any type of work schedule or do you just write as inspiration strikes?
My writing schedule is as unpredictable as the characters that inhabit my stories. I seem to always be writing—taking notes, composing poems, creating character sketches. I just returned from a month long writing retreat on Oahu where I went to finish my latest novel. Almost every day of the 33 days I was there I’d wake at four am, throw open the shutters on the moonlit Pacific, do half an hour of yoga, drink a pot of coffee, eat a bowl of oatmeal, and sit down and write three thousand words. Every day, the same routine. I loved it. I’ve been back in Seattle for almost a month now and I’m writing until three am and sleeping until ten. It comes how it comes, I guess. 
Q:   How long after you finished writing South of Bixby Bridge did you sell your first copy?
I try not to track sales too closely. I know we threw a big launch party in Seattle the week after it was published and waves of people showed up with their books to be signed, so many I could hardly believe it. I’ve been blessed with wonderful support from day one and it just keeps getting better.  
Q:   What significance does the paperback image have to the story?  I know I think of the club scene when I see that image.  Also, have you gotten a more favorable response to the Kindle cover image?
The paperback cover is my favorite and the design is my idea. It’s a close-up shot of a fictional booze label with the amber liquor in the background swirling down a drain into hell. The near naked women on the label represent both the attraction of the booze to Trevor and the moral bankruptcy it brings him. The Kindle cover was designed for a promotion and it seemed more people responded to it, at least in a thumbnail size which is how most book covers are viewed nowadays. 
Q:   I have talked to readers (ones who have seen a photo of you, myself included) that picture you as Trevor when reading the book.  If you could cast the movie version of the book who would play Trevor?
Casting Trevor would be hard for me because he’s so real in my life. A lot of people ask me what Trevor went on to do south of his bridge and I tell them that if he ever shows up on my doorstep again I’ll ask him. I think Ryan Gosling could play him really well. I saw a small 2006 film he was in called HALF NESLON where he plays a crack addicted middle school basketball coach and it was a very moving, very convincing performance.
Q:   Considering that so many readers have come across South of Bixby Bridge due to the comparison to Fifty Shades of Grey, do you feel at all compelled to read it?  I actually came across it this way, but didn't think it was similar, really, in any way!
I haven’t read any of the Fifty Shades books yet, and I doubt I’ll have time to. I’m not sure how any comparison can be made except maybe because they’re both a little shocking and both have had viral reader success—Fifty much more so than Bixby, of course. I think whatever gets people reading and talking is great. 
Q:   Since some of the subject matter covered in South of Bixby Bridge comes from personal experience was it hard to put yourself through that as you put in on paper or was it a type of therapy?
It was extremely difficult. Trevor became very real to me in the writing, and because I put a lot of personal experience into his journey, so did the world he was fighting his way through. My family of origin and my past are both very different from Trevor’s, but we share many of the same wounds. I got sober about his age and I think the writing was a lot about me struggling to figure out my sobriety. There were some mornings after particularly late nights writing when I woke and had to check myself to make sure it was Trevor who’d been using the night before and not me. In the end, the writing made my sobriety much stronger. I think all good fiction begins when the author is wrestling with different themes or questions, and the best fiction never truly answers them as the characters investigate their worlds and their places in them. In that way, I was struggling with some of my daemons through Trevor, and when I wrote that last line, I wasn’t afraid anymore either.
Q:   You are very active with your fans on a number of social platforms and I think that your sincere personality definitely draws people to you.  Do you think that as you sell more books and get busier with the promotional aspect of your career that this will change?  Not your personality, obviously, but the amount of time that you will be able to dedicate to being so hands on.
I ask myself this question also. The short answer is I hope not. Interacting with readers is not promotion to me, and it’s not work either—it’s the main reason I write. I feel so fortunate every time someone picks up my work and reads it, and when they reach out to me to discuss it, or just to let me know that they liked it, those little interactions make my day. And it sure makes staring down four hundred blank pages easier. Writing is my fulltime profession and I feel so blessed to be making a living doing it that I hope I never forget to acknowledge my readers.
Q:   On Facebook you offer to attend Book Club meetings when your book is the topic.  I can only imagine the fun taking place at one of these gatherings!  What is the farthest you have travelled for one of these meetings?
I’ve attending many book clubs and every one of them has been an absolute blast. Most have been here in the Pacific Northwest, within an hour’s drive or so. I have been invited to book clubs as far away as New York and Florida, but so far we haven’t been able to make schedules work. Next month, I’ll be Skyping in to a book club in Kinder, Louisiana, and I can’t wait. The only regret is that I won’t be able to smell all that wonderful Cajun cooking on the computer. I’d love to explore Skype as a way to interact with more book clubs. But I’m always looking for an excuse to travel, too. 
Q:   I know that you are keeping the details of your next novel tightly under wraps, much to our dismay, but can you give us a general idea when we can expect to see it on shelves?
I’m very excited about this next book. It’s a complete departure for me from Bixby’s genre, but I can’t say any more than that just yet. I’m hoping it will be out by early fall, but we’ll see. I’ll be posting updates on my Facebook page
This was a fun post to do and I hope you enjoyed it and that you will look up Ryan on the internet, he really is just a super nice guy.  I also hope that you will pick up a copy of South Of Bixby Bridge and give it a read, I really enjoyed it and I hope that you will as well. 

Next month I will have a new author for you to get to know a little better. 

Happy Reading!


6 comments:

  1. Awesome first interview, Shelly!!

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  2. Thanks for composing such thoughtful questions, Shelly, and for putting my answers together in such a lovely post. I like this format. You have a GREAT blog here.

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  3. I agree! This was a great first interview and the questions you asked were wonderful! My favorites were the ones about who would play Trevor in a movie version of "South of Bixby Bridge" and if Ryan planned to read Fifty Shades. I can't wait for your next author interview =)

    And Ryan, your responses were honest, heartfelt, and a few of them made me smile.

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  4. What a terrific interview. Looks like I have a new book to put on my TBR list!

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  5. Awesome interview Shelly! :) I enjoyed reading your questions and Ryan's answers. And he's not to shabby to look at... ;) Will be picking up this book soon.

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  6. He's hot and so are his books. At first glance, I thought he was an actor from a televison show.

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