INTERVIEWING SHANN RAY, AUTHOR OF “BLOOD FIRE VAPOR SMOKE”

If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I’d love to have dinner with Debra Magpie Earling, Emily Dickinson, Jim Harrison, Layli Long Soldier, Edward P. Jones, C.D. Wright, Melanie Rae Thon, Shusaku Endo, Makoto Fujimura, and Li-Young Lee all at one long rough-hewn table out in the wilderness of southwest Montana, with venison and golden trout shaken in a bag of flour, herbs and spices, sauteed asperagus spears, and fresh buttered bread. Water and wine. The questions for the evening would be of life, love, and death.

What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
Long projects, when they are born and growing. I often feel desolated and that the work will never come to a decent place. I usually pray. I ask my wife and daughters to pray for me too. Then I listen to beautiful music, go to sleep, and try again.

Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Michael Ondaatje, for the beauty, the power, and the soul laid bare.

What books are on your nightstand?
Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis, Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, The 7th Man by Melanie Rae Thon, Deepstep Come Shining by C.D. Wright, Joy: 100 Poems, edited by Christian Wiman, and A God in the House, edited by Kaminsky and Towler.

Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
I feel deeply loved by my wife and daughters. I feel gratitude. I feel humbled by those who face violence with courage and love, worldwide. All the ideas come from love.

Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The comma, for it’s transitory nature, and for how it is a pause between here and there, like us.

What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
Most of them, sadly. Then I met my wife, and her radiance made me a reader.

What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
The Beartooth Range in southern Montana.

Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
To give love and beauty.

If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
We believe in you. We love you. Keep going.

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A bold, egalitarian small press in the PNW.