#YourNextBeachRead is a way to introduce you to a new author and their works in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.
Today’s featured author is Clay Rivers, author of The Raindancer: Finding Joy in the Storm.
What’s your name and where are you from?
Clay Rivers, hailing from the city of Orlando in the great state of Florida.
How long have you been writing? How did you start?
I’ve been writing all my life; first in years worth of journals I kept in middle school, high school, and in my mid-twenties to mid-thirties. Blogging became my outlet back in 2001. And professionally, maybe ten years.
Who are some of your influences?
Maya Angelou for her raw emotion and the way her writing lands with impact and finesse. My other favorite has to be John Irving for the heart, humor, and ease with which his stories unfold.
What is your book about?
My book, The Raindancer: Finding Joy in the Storm, is about good friend’s battle with cancer. I know . . . people hear/read the word cancer and all the fun is instantly sucked out of the room. And that’s understandable as cancer is a horrible disease. Couple that with the knowledge that the titular character dies and yes, you might assume the story’s going to be a downer—but it’s not. What makes Rich’s story different is his how he lived despite cancer; and used his faith, optimism, and sense of humor to turn having cancer into an opportunity to help others. And that’s something you don’t read about everyday.
Where did you get the idea?
Actually, the idea came looking for me when a friend attempted to foist the project on me. I had no desire to write a book about something so very intimate. I said “no” more than once, but once I spoke with Rich’s wife Connie and immersed myself in their world via interviews with his family and closest friends, I felt it was an honor to be entrusted with his story.
How long did it take you to finish it?
About a year. After a false start of treating the story as fiction inspired by true events, Connie and I realized that the best story was the one that had been lived. Plus, it fit my penchant for nonfiction.
Is this your first book, or have you written more than one?
The Raindancer is my second book. My first book was a memoir, Walking Tall; the third is a pithy little personal growth book entitled 3 Things I Know; and the fourth is a madcap holiday fictional novel set in New York City dubbed, Christmas Is.
We all like to write about people we know, even if we never name them. Who are some people who inspired characters or situations?
Every character the reader encounters in The Raindancer is a real person, as are the situations are real. They’re all ripped from the headlines. Well, not headlines exactly . . . but you get the picture.
I think one of the reasons this book is so appealing is that readers learn about the people in the book by reading their interpretation of events in their own words. It’s amazing what people reveal about themselves in the words they choose and how they use them to relive memories. And what’s amazing though is how different people describe the same situation. This gives a more three-dimensional view of people and events.
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
I honestly can’t say that I have a favorite “scene,” per se, because I love the people in the book so dearly. Each one of them is a treasure in that they share at least one nugget of truth. But if I had to choose one, I’d say it’s the sequence involving Rich’s brother, Paul. My meeting and interviewing him brought writing the manuscript full circle in that I had questions that had gone previously unanswered. Even the circumstances surrounding our meeting were serendipitous in retrospect. When you get into the book, you’ll see.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
This is going to sound trite, truth can be that way sometimes . . . but I’d have to say: write what you know. I take that to mean more than writers should only write what they’re familiar with. I stretch that to include all that a writer knows about the world, people, places, things, and their life experiences. It’s all relevant in that they help shape a writer, their writing style, and point of view. That’s the magic in any artistic discipline: applying what one’s lived in the creation of a work—be it dance, song, acting—it helps the artist inform others.
What’s the worst?
I can’t really answer that. No one has all the answers and no one’s answers are 100% foolproof. It’s up to the writer to “eat the fish and spit out the bones.” You know, keep what’s useful and discard what’s not applicable.
Where can we buy your book?
Wherever fine books are sold. Ha! You can find print and digital versions of The Raindancer and all my books, here.
For over two decades, Clay Rivers has communicated stories as a writer, artist, and actor. His varied professional experience gives him a well-rounded base from which to draw. Clay is keenly aware that in order for a message to resonate with its intended audience it must first connect with both the head and heart. And the most lasting connections always begin with a compelling story.
Clay has penned three nonfiction books: Walking Tall: A Memoir About the Upside of Small and Other Stuff, The Raindancer: Finding Joy in the Storm, and 3 Things I Know: Facing and Embracing Life’s Challenges. Each takes a different look—first, second, and third person points of view—at how to effectively mine the best from life’s most trying circumstances with a positive attitude while holding one’s head high.
Clay’s nonfiction writing entertains with sharp wit, enlightens with subtle revelation, and inspires via quiet whispers. His credo of self-acceptance while embracing life’s challenges is a constant thread in his work, sometimes laid out for all the world to see and at other times veiled. His essays have appeared in The Daily Dot, The Mighty, the popular and innovative Medium publications
Crossin(G)enres and The Mission, and most notably in The New York Times. His essays, which have amassed a passionate and devoted following, disarm without force, inform without condescension, and issues a joyful call that inspires readers to become better versions of themselves. He is also the founder and editorial director of the Medium publication, Our Human Family.
Clay lives in Orlando with his family, and is always up for good conversation and a Manhattan.