I am a single dad with two kids. I am currently working on my next book. I drive a tow truck for a living. My kids are my whole world, everything evolves around them. I like to work out and go fishing. Or take my kids to a ball game. I restore old muscle cars and I love to ride my motorcycle. I read in my spare time.
SIX MINUTES WITH TJ WRAY:
Joining LitPick today for Six Minutes with an Author is T.J. Wray, author of Our Teenage Years: Growing up in a small town in the 80’s. This memoir has received a Five-Star Review from one of our student reviewers who was immediately hooked when she started reading it.
***How did you get started writing?
I had been saying I was going to write a book someday ever since I was a teenager. I had been telling Terry (my best friend who passed away) that I was going to write a book about our teenage years someday ever since we were teenagers. My children had been telling me all their lives that I should write a book. I have been sharing the stories from my childhood with them throughout their lives. They have always thought I should write these stories down and make a book from them. One day I got a fortune cookie that said, “If you use your creativity, you will be prosperous.”
So I started taking notes on some of my old stories. At first, I was just scratching notes down on a notepad. Then when Terry passed away, his wife asked me to get up and speak at his funeral. I told three or four of the stories that I eventually put in the book. After the funeral, several people came up to me and said I should write a book about the wild experiences of Terry’s and my teenage years. It took nearly a year to turn my chicken scratch notes into an actual book. Then even longer to edit it and come up with the title. But it turned out great and I am very proud of it.
***Who influenced you?
I think my influences are my friend Terry who passed away. I write a lot of funny stories thinking about our childhood and the way we met. Then my dad. I became the man I am from watching him work two jobs and doing the best he could to raise me and my sister. Nowadays I am a single dad with two teenagers. I get a lot of my strength from my memories of my father. Then also the influences from my impressionable teenage years. Like my youth pastor at church, who tried his best to teach me right from wrong. And my first two bosses from my first two jobs as a teenager. These guys were (real) men. They didn’t smoke or drink or do drugs. They set an example every day of what a real man should act like. They also taught me the value of an honest hard day’s work. And the value of being a true role model.
I read a lot of books, (more than 40 last year). But I don’t really have any influences in my life that are authors. I think I have a writing style all my own. I have never read any books that are like my books. I believe that because my books are about my life's experiences, that makes my books very unique and unlike any other books out there. So I don’t really have any authors who have influenced my writing.
Last but certainly not least, my children influence me. They give me the strength and motivation to live and write every day. They are my main influence and inspiration to write my stories and touch people's hearts.
***Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. I just love the adventure and the characters. As well as the love story and friendships made along the way. My favorite book that I read last year is Black Violet by Alex Hyland. If you read it, you will see why. Or you can just read my review on Goodreads. Very good book.
***What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
I would say, if you want to be an author, just get started. I thought about it for many years. Then I found once I started putting it down on paper it just came naturally. You know what they say. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.” So get started! Just start writing. Then when you have a few chapters written, get some people whose opinions you trust to read it and give you an honest opinion of your work. But the first step is to just start writing your thoughts down, even if it’s just chicken scratch notes that no one else can even read.
I sleep with a notepad by my bedside. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write things down. Just thoughts or dreams or whatever. It’s good to write them down so you can go back and reflect on them later. Then tweak it and change it to what you really want it to say.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I write at my desk most of the time. But it is great to get outside under a shade tree and write with mother nature surrounding you. With the birds chirping and the neighborhood dogs barking. I have gone to the lake and written by the shoreline a few times, just looking for inspiration. Also, I like to people watch. So if you go downtown to the plaza district or to the arts district you, will find lots of inspiration. It’s just whatever works best for you.
What else would you like to tell us?
Just that you guys are awesome and I really appreciate all your help with promoting my books. Thanks again. Have a great day!...TJ
TJ, thanks for joining us for an author interview. We loved finding out more about who influenced you and your writing, and we hope you continue telling stories about the people, places, and events that shaped your life.