Interview with Ray Slater Berry

Novelist and alumnus Ray Slater Berry.

Novelist and alumnus Ray Slater Berry.

We were lucky enough to catch Ray Slater Berry at the Lighthouse Launch this week. Here he shares his thoughts on writing, getting published and his time at Falmouth.

Tell us who you are?

My name is Ray Slater Berry. I’m a newly published author and beach volleyball player! That’s my second defining feature. Volleyball. I work in content marketing in Barcelona. I have been there for 4 years, now! I’ve always been in content marketing and social media – my degrees certainly helped me get into that industry. I wanted a job where I could write every day and, when I graduated, I found that there were lots of opportunities in that field.

When did you graduate?

I graduated from my undergrad at Falmouth in 2013 and from the MA in Professional Writing in 2015.

So, welcome back to Falmouth! What are you doing back here?

It’s the Lighthouse Launch! I was invited down to host a workshop called the ‘Pathway to Publication’ and to read an excerpt from my novel, Golden Boy, during the launch event tonight.

What’s your novel about?

My novel is a psychological thriller. It’s quite a dark novel. It’s the story of a lady called Barbara who has a still birth. The novel follows a series of letters that she writes to her son about the loss. As the story goes on, Barbara develops a very questionable relationship with a child who lives in her town as she tries to deal with her grief.

Wow, Ray, why all the dark themes?

The idea for the novel started in a creative writing workshop at Falmouth. The writing exercise involved taking a saying that you use every day and making it literal. I chose, ‘You have a heart of gold’. I made the saying literal and thought to myself, what would happen if someone was born with a heart of gold, of course they wouldn't be able to live but the premise is still there that they have a good soul. So, Barbara's son Aiden was born still and the story grew from there.

Did it make you sad, writing this story?

Oh my goodness. I remember I wrote the book over the course of a summer. I’m not someone who can plan; I knew who my character was and I let her write for me. There were times when I was crying as I was typing. Writing the story was reading it as well. I'd experience the plot unfurl on the page in front of me and be distraught about what Barbara was going through. There were days when it was truly emotionally exhausting and I just wanted to go to bed. I really don’t know why I put her through it.

How did you get your book published?

I took a very non-traditional route. I was traveling in Colombia for work. I was sat next to a woman who worked as an editor for a publisher that I hadn’t heard of. We were all at lunch. I happened to mention my novel and told her that I was looking for an editor. She asked to read it. Then one thing led to another and she asked if she could publish it! So, I signed the contract last year but my publication date was a couple of months ago – it was actually on my 28th birthday, July 15th.

Has this experience been a positive one for you?

Hmmm… Highs and lows. You think you’ve seen the finish line and you realise there’s another marathon to run, another mountain to climb. It’s certainly been a journey.

What’s your most vivid memory from your time here at Falmouth?

Do you mean course related or any memory at all?

Whatever you want!
Well, one of them is…I’m not sure if that’s legal…I’ll say it anyway. It was the summer between my first and second year of undergrad. I’d found my clique and we road-tripped around Cornwall, camped on the beaches and played volleyball all day – it was bliss, absolute bliss!

Er, Ray, that sounds wonderful but not very illegal?

Well, I wasn’t sure about the camping bit…

If you could give one piece of advice to our budding writers, what would that be?

So the workshop I did yesterday, ‘Pathway to Publication’, was made up of seven chapters. I think ‘Rerouting’ is the chapter that resounded with me the most. During the period when I was writing Golden Boy, I was evicted from my house, I lost two jobs, I lost three grandparents and went through a really tough breakup. What I want to say is that there are things you can’t plan for. They change you and where you are going, but that’s okay, it’s okay to reroute. Maybe you’re not going to take that journey you originally planned, but you’ll still get there. Don’t be afraid to stray off track, as long as you keep moving forwards. You’ll get there and maybe your initial route is no longer the right route for you.

Thank you, Ray. Lovely to meet you. Will you come back to see us again?

Yes, of course! My plan is to support the University in whichever way I can. I’m looking forward to coming back soon.

by Amy Lilwall and Ray Slater Berry