Welcome Randy to Introvert Problems! Randy Ribay was born in the Philippines and raised in Michigan and Colorado. After a decade on the East Coast, he now lives in the SF Bay Area with his wife and two dog-children, where he teaches high school English. Read on to learn about his latest work, After the Shot Drops.
1.Congratulations on the upcoming release of AFTER THE SHOT DROPS! Although this is your sophomore work, please describe your overall road to publication.
I wrote a book, queried a bunch of agents, and watched the rejections roll in. Then I did it again. And again. Feeling some special love for the second one I had written, I went back to it, did some heavy edits, and re-queried it. The rejections rolled in again—but this time there were a few requests for the full manuscript. None of those agents ultimately picked it up, but encouraged by the progress, I edited it some more and pitched it at the Writers’ Digest conference in NY that year. From that, I ended up with an agent and publisher, and the book came out in 2015 as An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes.
2. What was your inspiration for AFTER THE SHOT DROPS? Do you think you’ll stick with contemporary for future works?
I taught for a while at an all-boys’ high school in Philly, and my students there loved to read about basketball. I was always looking for ways to get them reading more, so I figured why not write another book about basketball. I tried it out first as a short story after reading LeBron James’s biography Shooting Stars, except instead of focusing on the star player, I wrote the from the perspective of an imagined friend who had been left behind while the star player experienced success. I expanded that story and included both perspectives so that it was more about the dynamic of their friendship, and it eventually became After the Shot Drops.
As for future works, I’ll probably stick primarily with contemporary, though I may venture into other genres in time. I have the attention span of a squirrel, so I get bored easily.
3. AFTER THE SHOT DROPS is told from alternating points of view. Tell us about Bunny and Nasir. What makes their friendship unique? What realities are you lending voices in the story?
Bunny’s the basketball star, but he’s the quiet, hardworking kind. Nasir’s the friend who feels like he’s getting left behind by Bunny’s success. They’re similar in that they’re both the type of kids who try to stay out of trouble and want something more in life, but Bunny feels the weight of responsibility to his family and his community in a way that Nasir doesn’t. I hope that the portrayal of their friendship counters some of the toxic masculinity in the world by showing more nuance and sensitivity between male characters than we’re typically used to seeing in books and other media.
4. What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or pantser?
Somewhere in between. I start with building my characters, and then I determine the main struggle they’re going to face. I usually have an idea of the climactic scene that the story will need to move toward, but I figure out the details and ending as I go.
5. What’s next on your TBR?
It’s an overwhelming pile, but some of the books include Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down, Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied Sing, Jay Cole’s Tyler Johnson Was Here, and Mia Alvar’s In the Country.
6. What has been your favorite book of the year? Of all time?
What a ridiculously difficult question—so I will cheat and name multiple. Some of my favorite books I’ve read in the last year: Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda, The Refugees by Viet Tanh Nguyen, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Story of Your Life and Other Stories by Ted Chiang, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, and Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. I’ll also throw Life is Strange in there—it’s a video game, but it’s ridiculously story-driven.
Of all time is probably a multiple-way tie between Jean Toomer’s Cane, Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, anything by James Baldwin, and the entire Harry Potter series.
7. What do you wish you’d known when you first started as a writer (that you know now)?
Be patient. People will always read, so publishers and agents will always be looking for new books to put out into the world. Take your time, learn, revise, and put the book out there when it’s ready.
8. Who reads your first draft?
Different folks. Sometimes my wife, sometimes other writer friends, and sometimes my agent. It kind of depends on the timing of everything.
9. What is your dream project?
I’d love to write a character-driven YA video game. Also, if Disney wanted to hire me to write a YA version of Rogue One’s Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe, I’d be down.
10. What’s next for you?
I’m working on revisions on a secret project!
Keep up with Randy