Tag Archives: interview

Interview with Bob Ravener

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does a boy from a heart-breaking childhood, a military veteran, and a very successful corporate executive have in common? A lot, especially when…they’re the same person.

It’s my privilege to share with you an interview with Mr. Bob Ravener, the man whose personal history involves all the things mentioned above. And more. I’m sure you’ll be blessed by this candid interview, in which Bob offers straightforward answers from his heart. His story is told in a wonderful book called UP! After this interview I will give my review of his book, and remind you how you can contact Bob and where you can find UP.

Bob Ravener can be contacted at BobRavener.com and you can do yourself a favor and get a copy of his book UP at

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=bob+ravener

Note:  The answers expressed below are solely Mr. Ravener’s and do not necessarily express the views or opinions of his employer.

1.  How painful was it for you to relive your childhood as you wrote this book?

BOB:  In many ways it was therapeutic. In the book I discuss never mentioning any of the family strife to anyone until I met my wife, so it was bottled up for a long time. Writing it all down brought back some very painful memories but was also cleansing at the same time. Once I began to realize that I could help others with my words and experiences, the agony transformed into a purpose, which ultimately eased my pain. My siblings initially had mixed feelings as it also brought back some painful memories for them but I believe the process has begun to heal these emotions and is bringing us closer. I know I am doing more now than ever to re-kindle our relationships and become closer with them. In fact, my brother Tom, his family, and mine even vacationed together this year, something that had not happened in the past. So in that respect, this book has even helped me.

 

2.  What did writing  UP do for you personally?

BOB:  There are really three reasons I wrote the book:

  1. Since my family lost most of our possessions, including toys, bicycles, furniture, photos and other memorabilia, I wanted to have some kind of family history to pass along to my kids.
  2. Once I started to write down the stories, I began to realize that I have experienced many events that put me and many other family members in very dire straits, ending with both tragic and positive outcomes. I felt like these life stories carried a message that could help others and give people hope.
  3. I am a big believer in giving back to others. Since I have received so much help and guidance from many other people along the way, I felt like I owed it to them to “pay it forward” for others.

I think it gave me a sense of accomplishment but more importantly, some closure to open and deep wounds. Through the process I found myself forgiving both my father and mother as I had held on to much bitterness because of the family circumstances. What I found most interesting was it wasn’t until I started putting it all on paper that I began to realize that my life had been a long, windy, and dusty road filled with lots of rocks but also one filled with many blessings along the way. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been able to be associated with so many good people along my journey. It is in this context that I have realized that there are so many wonderful people out there, willing to help you if you open your heart and mind to letting them inside the tough outer defenses.

 

3.  You mention that there were various times in your childhood when you faced the painful/humiliating realization that your family wasn’t like most other families. Why do you suppose such realizations will limit some people but launch others (like yourself)?

BOB:  A lot of the outcome is how people approach those circumstances. I became a fighter, not a victim. I was determined to break out of the cycle and not get caught in the web of despair. People make so many choices throughout life. I am far from perfect but have made a lot of good choices because I had the benefit of a lot of caring people who took me under their wings. But I also had the wherewithal to take their guidance and advice. Others make a lot of bad choices and find themselves in challenging situations from which they can’t always unwind. I have also found a lot of calm and compassion from faith. At the end of the day, some people start building from wherever they are on their life journey and make something of themselves. Others feel like it’s too late and spiral downward. I say, it’s never too late to start over.

For me, I knew that I did not want to be stuck in the misery of my existence all my life. I saw what it did to people. The issue for me, and for others in similar circumstances, is finding a way out. I had the good fortune to have a godfather who knew my parents at a different time in their lives, a time when life was much better and more innocent for all of them. This may have very well been one of the plans God had for me and for my godfather, Dick Orefice. He was the peek into the ‘possible’ as he showed me a glimpse of what a different kind of life could be like. Along with his son Mat, he took me to the U.S. Open in tennis when it was still being played at Forest Hills in New York. He brought me to see a major league baseball game in Philadelphia along with a tour of the city. He paid and accompanied me to visit the Naval Academy, the first time I had ever been on a plane. I may have never attended the Academy or been given the great training the Navy provided unless that trip had taken place. Dick Orefice was instrumental in who I became because he invested in me as did so many other people. He gave me hope…

 

4.  After reading UP, it is obvious to me that your family is a top priority in your life. In the midst of your busy life, how do you protect and preserve that priority? What steps do you take?

BOB:  I have come to believe that our worlds are blended together more than ever. I don’t separate my work and family time as sometimes I have to do work related activities at home and personal things at work. I work a lot of hours but I plan and organize to keep these things straight, which enables me to juggle them as well as anyone can. I also stay in the front of deadlines to avoid eleventh hour stress and communicate with my boss to keep him informed of what I have to get done on the personal side. My experience is that communication is the key as it helps everyone stay informed and manages expectations. I have always found the organizations where I have worked support the balance I needed in my life. If an organization does not support work/life balance, then it’s time to find another place with which to utilize your skills.

Balance for me with my family was ensuring I could be there to coach my three kids in youth sports and attend the important events in their lives. I lost count at more than fifty teams I coached but it was worth every minute and helped me balance the challenges that life threw my way. Along the way, I gained a great deal of additional experience in working with teams, dealing with defeat and learning how to graciously win. Volunteering is a gift in itself but always a growth experience as well.

 

5.  How important is God in your past, present, and future?

BOB:  God has always had a presence in my life. Whether it was praying to God on those cold, distressed nights as a young boy, seeking a way to rise above my circumstances, walking to church as an eight year old, or asking for His help and forgiveness too many times for me to remember, God has always been there. I have always been a believer that God has a plan for us all and believe the trials He’s laid before me throughout my life have helped me become who I am today. I faced a critical juncture in my life early in my adulthood and career as I became much more self-centered and selfish. Once I regained my God-centered focus, I not only became less stressed, I found a great deal of peace in my life. I didn’t start reading the Bible until the mid-1990’s, but once I did, the words helped steer me in a better direction. I am far from perfect and make mistakes like everyone. What helps me and will continue to guide me in the future is that I believe God recognized our imperfections and forgives us for those shortcomings.

 

6.  How do you define success?

BOB:  Success for me is to ensure that my family is taken care of; my kids are given the opportunity to realize their potential; the world can become a better place than when I got here. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than to help others succeed and realize their dreams. If I can help others, then their good can be multiplied to many others around them. My goal is to lift others up around me.

 

7.  In UP you mention that learning how to respond to circumstances in your life has been the greatest lesson of all. Do you think everyone is capable of learning this lesson? And what would you say to someone who doesn’t think they can learn this lesson?

BOB:  I use a quote in the book attributed to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who said: “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Tomorrow and next year will come whether we want it to or not. Life will happen. The question is what are you going to do about it? As I see it there are two choices: Give in or fight on. I have always chosen to fight on and so can anyone else. Part of it is a choice. Another part is a strong will and in my case, a trust in God that He would bring me through the trials of life and help me become better for it. I think the potential exists in every person.

 

Thanks, Bob, for spending time with my readers today.

Bob can be reached at BobRavener.com

And I encourage everyone to go to Amazon and get his book UP.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=bob+ravener

Briefly, let me add that I highly recommend UP to you. I found this book to be well-written, extremely revealing, and powerfully inspirational. Bob’s story is one of triumph over turmoil. UP left me filled with hope. And, as far as I am concerned, that’s a gift each of can use again and again. Do yourself a favor and go get this book.

 

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Filed under books, Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, family, Larry W. Timm, reading, Uncategorized, Writing

Terri Blackstock Interview

It is my great pleasure to bring you an interview I did with one of my favorite authors: Terri Blackstock. Terri is a best-selling, multiple award-winning, Christian fiction writer who has over six million books in print. Her latest release is called Truth Stained Lies, and is the first book in The Moonlighters Series. Truth Stained Lies releases on March 12, but can be preordered now at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, or Christianbook.com. You can learn more about this book–and all her great books–by going to her website at http://www.terriblackstock.com. With over 25 years of experience, Terri knows how to write books that will keep you up all night.

And now….my interview with Terri Blackstock.

*Terri, having already enjoyed great success as a best-selling writer (with over 6 million books in print), what keeps you passionate about writing Christian fiction?

Thank you for saying that. I think my ideas are what keep me passionate. God has always gifted me with ideas that I can’t wait to write. So even as I’m getting to the end of a book or series, I have new ideas that keep me going on to the next thing. And sometimes God is working in my life in a way that I think will help my readers, and because I believe that everything happens for a purpose, I try to fulfill that purpose by passing those lessons on to my readers.

*Where do your story ideas come from? Do you develop them from the perspective of a seat-of-the-pants writer or from the mind of one who carefully plots out the entire story before launching into it?

I’m a careful plotter. Usually an idea comes like a light flicking on in my mind, and I have to flesh it out and develop a plot that I hope will be a page-turner. I tend to do a loose plot for the whole book, then I very meticulously plot the first fourth of the book, write that, then plot the next fourth, etc. I use a storyboard to plot each scene so I know where I need to take the story each day.

*Emotionally speaking, which book or series has been the most difficult to write? The most rewarding?

Definitely the Intervention Series (Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall). The series was inspired by my experiences with my daughter who had severe drug addictions. The whole series was very personal to me, and the mother, Barbara, felt and thought things that I had felt and thought. But I’m really glad I wrote the series, because it brought healing to so many families. I hear from family members of addicts, and the addicts themselves, telling me that they felt they were alone until they read these books. They finally knew that someone got what they were going through. The books give them hope, because they remind them that God is the parent of prodigal children, and He understands the pain and suffering.

*Do you enjoy or endure the editing process?

I actually enjoy the editorial process. The worst part for me is the first draft, but the second draft, all the way through editorial, are kind of fun for me. With each pass I’m able to make the story better. I’ve worked with the same editor for over fifteen years, and he usually gives me a long critique of the story. Then I’m eager to dive back in and take it to the next level.

*One of my greatest highlights from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in St. Louis (2011) was the privilege of getting to meet you personally. How do you balance your time so that you can meet the demands of writing at such a high level with the need to maintain a certain amount of personal contact with your readers?

I’ve had to clear my calendar so that I can focus more on writing than other things. For that reason, I don’t speak or teach much, and I keep traveling to a minimum. But I do try to stay connected with my readers through Facebook, Twitter, and email. But I realize that there’s always more for me to learn about my craft, so I do try to make time to attend writer’s conferences when I can. I always enjoy meeting my readers and getting to know other writers. I love the wit and kindred spirit of fiction writers.

*The Restoration Series was a bit of a departure from the type of suspense you normally write. What drew you to that series?

Sometimes I get an idea that doesn’t fit perfectly within my genre, but no one can talk me out of it! That’s kind of what happened with that series. My publisher was concerned I was off-brand with it, but I was determined to write it, and I’m glad I did.

I got the idea for the series after Y2K, when everyone expected technology to stop when the calendar turned. When nothing happened, my imagination kept taking that story in a different direction. What if something actually happened that knocked out all our technology? I researched what could make that happen, and found that EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) are an actual threat. In the first book, Last Light, my middle class family finds themselves without electricity, transportation, communication, etc. I thought it would be interesting to see what a family like mine would do when all of our modern conveniences are taken away. How would they survive? Would they hoard what they had, or would they share at the risk of starving? And I realized that I could bring in the suspense element through the looters killing for food and provisions. In times of crisis, darkness is darker than ever, and light is lighter than ever.

I called it the Restoration Series because I wanted the crisis to be a time of restoration for this family. And at the end of the series, when the power returns, I wanted the family to be different. They have a choice to go back to the way they were before, or to embrace the changes in their family and live in light of what they’ve learned.

I have to say that the series has had renewed interest in the last couple of years, probably due to the economy’s downturn and TV series such as Revolution. My publisher is repackaging the series and will re-release it in the fall, hoping to give it a second life. The subject matter is pretty timely right now. Just for the record, my series began coming out in 2005, before all these similar programs/movies/books were written.

*Even though it was published under a different title and you used a pen-name, Shadow in Serenity represented a transition in your life as a writer. What was it like for Terri Blackstock the Christian writer to revise something by Terri Blackstock the secular writer?

It was kind of difficult because it’s not the kind of book I write now. But I liked the characters and the story–kind of a modern day Music Man–so when I got the rights back, I decided to rewrite it. I have done that with five other books. My Second Chances series was made up of four books that had been rewritten from my early days, and Emerald Windows was also “redeemed.” Revising those books wasn’t quite as hard as writing something from scratch, so it was a nice way to clean my palate between books.

*I’m very much looking forward to the release of Book 1 in the Moonlighter’s Series, which is about three sisters who try to prove that their brother is not guilty of his ex-wife’s murder. In addition to Truth Stained Lies, what can we expect to see in this intriguing series?

I got the idea for the first book during the Casey Anthony trial. I was very interested in that trial, and I followed some blogs written by people with legal backgrounds, who were digging for behind-the-scenes information, some of which wasn’t being allowed into court. It occurred to me that these bloggers probably made some people angry, and I began to do my usual What-If routine. What if someone set up the crime to turn the tables on the blogger? What if that crime put the blogger in the position of being judged? So I created Cathy Cramer, a former prosecutor who started her blog after her fiance was murdered. She’s determined to make guilty people pay–so she investigates and speculates, and posts her findings.

When a reader warns her that she’s about to get a taste of her own judgmental medicine, she shrugs the warning off. But then her sister-in-law is found murdered, and her brother is set up as the killer. The killer has orchestrated events so that her brother’s true story sounds completely unbelievable. Despite Cathy’s efforts to defend her brother, she knows that no one is going to believe the truth.

Cathy is one of three sisters–a blogger, a stay-at-home mom, and a ne’er-do-well taxi driver–who moonlight as private investigators to help solve these crimes related to their family. Michael Hogan, the brother of Cathy’s dead fiance, is a PI who eventually hires the unlikely trio to help him solve crimes. (And he’s Cathy’s love interest.) The personality differences among the sisters creates some humor and conflict as they learn how to work as PIs without getting themselves killed. Each book will feature one of the sisters, and I’m having fun exploring these characters and the relationships in this family.

*How do you handle the ups and downs of being a writer?

I’ve been doing this for a long time, so over the years I’ve learned patience. It used to be so hard to wait…to hear back from a publisher if they were going to buy my book or reject it, to actually get the contract, to get paid, to have a book come out a year later, to see if anyone bought it, to see my royalty statements. I was always waiting, and my emotions were like a roller coaster. One minute I’d be dancing because I’d sold a book, and the next I’d be devastated because someone wrote a nasty review. But I have to say that I don’t let those things bother me much anymore. Deadlines keep me pretty focused, I avoid reading most of my reader reviews, and I try to remember that God doesn’t judge me the way the world does. As long as I’m staying true to Him, I’m succeeding. That keeps me steady.

Thanks to Terri Blackstock for being a part of this interview! You can learn more about Terri and her books in the following places:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tblackstock

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/terriblackstock

Website: http://www.terriblackstock.com

 

 

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, family, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing