Ray Sutherland is a Kentucky native who grew up on a farm outside of Bowling Green. He served in the Army, spent two years in Germany, received his B.A. in religion from Western Kentucky University, and his PhD in the Bible from Vanderbilt University. Ray has served of Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke for over thirty years, pastored a small church for nine years, and is retired from the Army Reserve. He and his wife Regina live in North Carolina and have two sons and four grandchildren.
Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
If angels are God’s secret agents then you know there are some really good secret agent stories they could tell, and my first novel Secret Agent Angel tells some of them in first person as told by one of the angels. Samuel is an angel who often comes to earth in human flesh and blood form to be God’s secret agent. Samuel specializes in persuasion and encouragement of people in a crisis, refers to God as “the Boss,” enjoys the unpredictability of humans, has a weird sense of humor, and is a junk food junkie. By design, he often is as unaware of the Boss’s real purpose as are the humans he comes to help and as a result has some significant misadventures along the way and even some failures. But he persists in the certainty that God will put it all to good use, even if humanity and even Samuel himself don’t see how.
The immediate influence on the novel was my decision to write it in a style reminiscent of the first-person mystery novels of the 40’s -60’s. I always admired the writings of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, and Donald Hamilton, all of whom often had their protagonist narrate their own adventures. I started by imitating their style, but quickly discovered my own voice and style. I still claim their work as inspiration.
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
I selected Black Opal Press, which I think would be called a small traditional press. I liked the availability of the publishing staff and the community of authors on-line that write for Black Opal. The best part of publishing with Black Opal is the personal contact with the staff there.
How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later?
The basic idea of the book, the title, and the general plot all came together about the same time. A lot of details still had to be worked out but the general plan was in place before I got very far into the project.
Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
The cover idea came about at nearly the same time as the other things. The idea of a stereotypical secret agent in a trench coat and a fedora but with angel wings and a halo was the first concept and remained fairly constant throughout the process.
Who is your cover designer and how did you find him?
The cover designer is Black Opal’s in-house cover artist, Jack, who was great to work with. I had the option of using an outside artist at my own expense but I was very happy with Jack’s work.
How was your experience working with the designer?
Jack was very helpful, answering my questions and taking my rough amateurish concept idea and making it a polished, professional cover. I would gladly work with him again.
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
The reactions have all been positive. The general response is that the cover is very indicative of the concept of the book. It’s fairly obvious that the figure is a secret agent and the wings and halo are clear signs of his heavenly, angelic nature.
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
The publisher gave me the names of several artists who would do the cover for a fee, or I could utilize the in-house artist for free. Since I had my own general idea about the cover design I went with the in-house artist and was very happy with the process and the result. Jack thought the idea I had was fine and made my rough idea into a professional cover.
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
I hope that you will enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.