Maurice M. Gray Jr.

Maurice M. Gray Jr.
"To Whom Much Is Given"

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
May 29, 2005

Q.    Who is Maurice M. Gray Jr.?

A.    I suppose it depends on who you ask. My parents would probably say that deep down, I'm still their little boy :. My sister would say I'm still her bratty little brother :. My church family would say I'm a faithful member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, DE who sings on two choirs (Men and Voices Of Light, our gospel choir) and plays on the softball team. My boss would say that I'm an HIV/AIDS counselor/tester at the Beautiful Gate Outreach Center (also in Wilmington, DE). A member of Kappa Alpha Psi would say I'm his brother. But if you ask me, I'll tell you in a minute that I am a writer, pure and simple.

Q.   What inspired you to write a story about two people having the same dream?

A.    When I got the idea that eventually turned into To Whom Much Is Given, for some reason I got stuck on the phrase "the woman of my dreams." I reversed that to "the dreams of my woman" and then that made me wonder what it would be like if Max dreamed about Donna before ever meeting her. I thought about how that would mess with my mind if it happened to me, and that was it- the creative floodgates were loosed :.

Q.   How did you come about Max and Fred's character?

A.    As the story took shape, I knew that Max had to be an all around good guy, but I wondered what would happen if he had a close friend who is his exact opposite. Since Max is a nice guy, a one-woman man and a Christian, I decided that Fred should be unsaved and the kind of guy who uses women like there's no tomorrow. Despite their many philosophical differences, these men are good friends. Like all of my characters, each of them is a composite of at least a dozen men I've known in my life.

Q.   How did you come about Donna and Yolanda's character?

A.    I needed Donna to be a woman of God capable of meeting Max on his level, and combining a dozen or so women I know gave Donna the spark I wanted. When it occurred to me that someone with the particular spiritual gifts that Donna has would have a hard time making friends, I decided that she would need a close confidante. I chose to make Yolanda biracial (African-American and Mexican) because I've had the chance to make friends of both races and I thought that would be a unique combination. And, making them lifelong friends just strengthens their bond.

Q.    How did you come about Merry's character?

A.    Merry Lucas was born when I revised the first draft of To Whom. She wasn't in the first draft, but a literary agent I submitted to advised me that I needed a "bad guy" to enhance the plot. I learned at a writers conference that a good writer should try to do the unexpected whenever possible. It occurred to me that since I needed a villain, why not make it a woman instead of a man? Once I decided that, I thought of the most unpleasant soap opera kind of woman I could imagine and then multiplied her issues times ten :. I wanted Merry to be totally ruthless, yet have a heart at the same time. There had to be reasons why she was so out there, and creating those reasons was a fun challenge. I've found that my readers respond to her more strongly than to any other character in the entire book.

Q.   How long have you been writing?

A.    I'm one of those folks who can't help but write :. As far back as I can remember, I've been playing with words and creating stories and such. I got the idea that eventually became To Whom Much Is Given back in the fall of 1990, so I suppose that's when I started the writing that led me to where I am now. To Whom was released in October of 2000, which is when my writing career officially began.

Q.    Are you currently working on another book?

A.    Sure am! As a matter of fact, I'm working on two. All Things Work Together is the sequel to To Whom Much Is Given, and I'm hoping to release that one this coming October. I'm working on a second manuscript called Female Problems, which I won't be self-publishing. I'll give that one to my agent and see what happens from there. Female Problems is a Christian male Waiting To Exhale kind of story, and I think my readers will enjoy my first effort with new characters as much as I'm enjoying writing it.

Q.   Does Max or Fred have any of your personality?

A.    I gave Max the career I chose not to have (in journalism) and like me, he strives to live a life that God is pleased with. Fred got my offbeat sense of humor :. Most of my characters have a little bit of me in there somewhere, even Merry (I gave her my impatience :).

Q.   What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

A.    I write best alone in my writing room, just me and the computer and some uninterrupted time to let the creativity flow. Sometimes I put some music or the TV on for background noise, but I can write in total silence too. I keep a notebook on me when I'm out in case I get ideas, but usually when I pull it out, folks insist on talking to me, even those who know I'm a writer and that I need to be left alone to do it properly. It could be dead silent and nobody has a thing to say, but as soon as that notebook clears my pocket, it's time for a looooooooong conversation :. Needless to say, I don't get a lot done under those kinds of circumstances.

Q.   What message would you like readers to receive from reading "To Whom Much Is Given?"

A.    That only the things you do for God will last. Without Him in your life, you can live large for awhile, but in the long run, keeping God out of your life will bring you down. God gives everyone some kind of gift, and He will let you know how you can use it if you just let Him into your heart and consider what He has to say. I particularly want any unsaved readers I might have to take a close look at the relationships in this book. I do have some romantic plots and subplots going, but in the middle of all that, the most important relationship is that between my characters and God. That relationship (or the lack thereof in some cases) makes all the difference.