Tuesday, March 18, 2014
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Laura Enright
1. When and why did you decide to become a writer?
I think I always had the itch to tell stories. I’ve always been a day dreamer (in fact I often write scenes in my head while doing other things). But when I was eleven I wrote a novel about a woman who finds a dog on the beach. The sort of subject tons of little girls no doubt have written about. I wrote it on notebook paper and bound it by stapling it. My own self-publishing. I even designed the cover. I think it was then that I fell in love with writing.
2. What books/authors inspired you when you were younger? Whose work do you enjoy today?
It’s always hard for me to name a favorite or most influential anything. There are just too many out there to love. I consider it this way: I fell in love with reading by reading Albert Payson Terhune’s Dogs of Sunnybank series when I was a kid. In second grade, reading The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass made me appreciate how inspiring biographies can be. The collected short stories of Edgar Allan Poe made me realize the power of horror while The Invisible Man by H.G. Welles led me to science fiction. I fell in love with fantasy through the The Dragon Riders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. The first series I collected obsessively was Piers Anthony’s Xanth series (of which I think there are about a 1000). Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (which I read about the same time) made clear the possibility of vampire stories. Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series helped me appreciate the mix of science fiction and humor. More recently, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson reminded me just how vital well told history can be. And Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd and the books of Ken Follett have made me realize how entertaining history could be in fiction.
3. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
I hope I’m a well-established writer with a number of popular series under my belt. I have a lot of stories to tell. I’d also like to get into other creative areas like TV, movies, etc. I like to experiment with different things creatively. Hopefully it won’t take ten years for that to start happening.
4. What was the inspiration behind your novel To Touch The Sun?
It’s kind of funny. I actually wrote To Touch the Sun in the hopes of finding an agent. I had been in cordial contact with an agent prior to this and noticing that the agency represented a vampire series, and knowing that it was a popular genre, I figured I’d try my hand at it. Other than that, while I loved reading the genre, at the time I really had no urge to write a vampire novel. I didn’t have a character or plot idea. Luckily, around that time I did have a slight idea that I could play with. Very slight. A two word description: Vampire chef. I basically built it all from the ground up. So I guess it was a desire to find an agent that inspired me to try writing the novel, and various things along the way that inspired the actual story.
5. Why vampires? Out of all the supernatural creatures, why did you choose them?
As I mentioned, it was in the hopes of getting an agent. But it was funny because unlike my other novels, I had no clear idea for TTTS, yet the more I saw it actually evolving plot-wise and character-wise, it became even more exciting to write than other novels I’ve written. Sometimes I was surprised at the directions it took.
6. Why did you choose to make this a more adult novel as opposed to something like the Twilight series?
Basically because I’m more interested in adult characters and their concerns. One of my problems with some of the Twilight-like books is the notion that these century-old vampires are still interested in hanging out in high school after having lived a couple of life-times. I just don’t find that interesting.
I think the Twilight phenom has been a double-edged sword for the genre. It’s certainly reinvigorated interest in the vampire genre but now mention of a vampire book instantly produces thoughts of Twilight or YA fiction. There are some fantastic YA vampire books out there. I list some in a chapter in my book Vampires Most Wanted: The Top Ten Book of Blood Thirsty Biters, Stake-wielding Slayers and Other Undead Oddities. But the genre is very versatile, open to so many interpretations and I think YA fiction tends to constrict it a bit to a sort of “vampire meets girl”.
7. How did you decide to make Rain want to be a cook of all things? Do you, personally, enjoy it?
It goes back to my experiment with the genre. Before deciding to write a vampire novel, I was joking with someone about an “evil chef.” I’m not sure what in particular made the chef evil, we were just joking and I liked the concept. When I decided to use it for the vampire novel, I jettisoned the “evil” and replaced it with “vampire”. Because I wanted a sympathetic character, I got rid of the notion of him being evil all together. One of the things I liked about the idea of him being a famous Chicago chef was that it puts a lot of pressure on him to retain a sense of normalcy despite the logistical inconveniences of his condition (especially when old “ghosts” start popping up). There’s a lot riding on him pretending to be normal. For example, in one scene, he’s musing on what he’s going to do regarding his staff, most of which have been with him for many years and who may start asking why a guy who opened a restaurant in the late 80s still looks as young as Narain looks. He doesn’t want to fire them, but he isn’t sure he can trust them with the truth. It’s a dilemma that is unique to his condition. One thing I wanted to do with the novel was to consider what someone in Narain’s situation would do when the realities of his condition warred with every day situations. It adds tension and drama to the plot as well as a chance for humor.
8. What author would you like to collaborate with one day?
Well, I’m sure many would like to do this, but it might be cool to collaborate with J.K. Rowling. I love Harry Potter but I’ve really been enjoying the past non-Harry novels she’s been writing.
9. Can we expect to see another story featuring some of the characters in TTTS?
Well, funny you should ask. Actually, while I was hunting for an agent or publisher for TTTS, I wrote three more novels in the series and a spinoff novel featuring paranormal investigators that appear in the third novel. I started out with no real inclination to write a vampire novel, now I can’t stop telling the stories. I really fell in love with the characters and would love to continue exploring them in a series as well as a series on the paranormal investigators.
10. Do you have anything in the works that you can share with KSR?
Well, I need to go back to those other novels in the series which are in various states of drafts. I’d like to get the second novel in the series tweaked for publication. I also have an Asian dragon novel that I’d like to find a publisher for. That was the one I was shopping around when I was trying to interest that agent in my writing. And I’m working on a nonfiction project with the son of a man who was falsely accused of being a loan shark in the mob during the 1960s in Chicago. It’s a compelling story.
11. Would you like to see TTTS made into a movie? If yes, what actors would you like to see play your creations?
I’d definitely love to see a movie. I think it would work great as a movie. When I wrote the character of Narain, I had Shahrukh Khan in mind. Now he might be a bit old to play a vampire who stopped aging at age 25 and looks no older than 30. But hey, movie magic and his own youthful appearance--maybe he can pull it off.
For Jameson, I could see David Tennant. Tom Hiddleston might be nice too. I need someone who can portray a bastard yet is alluring. Jameson isn’t pure evil or anything. But he’s not above doing evil things to protect himself or his interests.
Cassie and Dom would be a bit harder. I see Cassie as pretty but also a little geeky. She’s close to 30 and doesn’t spook easily which comes in handy considering what she gets mixed up in in the novel. She can get very drawn into scientific mysteries. The actress would have to balance a maturity with that tendency to geek out over science. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence could pull it off.
Dom is husky and a bit short but cute. Like Cassie, he’s very even-tempered which is helpful considering that he’s business partners and friends with a vampire. He’s also intensely loyal. One thing is for sure the actor would have to be able to pull off the Chicago accent. That twang is very much a part of Dom’s character.
Blythe would be someone who is physically big but with a touch of the decent character he was during the war. He regained sentience 90 years after WWI literally falling asleep in one world and awaking in another. Waking up a whole different person. It would need to be someone with an intimidating stature yet who could portray that vulnerable confusion.
Boris’ stature is a bit smaller but he has a crazy energy to him. Psychotic. Aside from his deformed features, that’s where his intimidation factor comes in. Relentless.
12. Since I grew up there, I have to ask: why did you set the novel in Chicago?
Partly for convenience sake. I’m familiar with the town and surrounding area. Researching settings for scenes is easier. The third novel is set partially in Chicago but mostly in London. That’s going to be a bit more difficult. Of course it would give me a reason to do a road trip to London, which would be fun.
But I also love Chicago. I grew up in the area and always liked the city but never realized just how fascinating it was until doing research for Chicago’s Most Wanted: The Top Ten Book of Murderous Mobsters, Midway Monsters and Other Windy City Oddities. Well, you know yourself having grown up there. It’s a fantastic city. It’s a relatively young town but it has a lot of interesting history to it. A lot of stories to tell. I set the fourth novel in 1930s Chicago, which was fun.
Besides, the town is known for its restaurant and food and Narain is a chef, after all.
13. Deep down, a part of the book is about love and loss (especially between Sophie and Rain). Will you ever delve deeper in the drama/romance genres in the future or would you rather stick to paranormal stories?
I actually think I write better when my work has a mix in it. I don’t think I could do pure romance or pure drama. In terms of the series, the second novel has quite a lot of drama in it. I also delve deeper into Narain and Cassie's relationship (as well as featuring the story on how Sophie and Narain met). I also bring a lot of drama and romance in the third novel. So much of it hinges upon the character development. Especially as Narain regains a sense of himself after experiences in the first and second novels and this helps the relationship between he and Cassie. The fourth novel which is a sort of origin story of a character that makes his entrance in the second novel takes place in 1930 and involves gangsters. But it's possibly the most romantic book in the series. I kind of surprised myself in that.
But in terms of any project, I think I work best when I can incorporate a number of elements into the story. And then depending on the story you may go heavier on one thing over another but generally I like a mix. 'Cause life has a number of elements in it. As to sticking to paranormal, I've had ideas for nonparnormal stories. A couple of mysteries have come to mind as well as a historical novel. And I might try giving those a spin one day. But I find paranormal, fantasy, etc. a bit easier. I like a bit of the magical. The beauty of course with fantasy or paranormal stories is that you can still have drama, humor, romance, etc. You just have a little touch of fantasy. The best superhero stories for example give us a taste of the fantastic but are grounded in the sort of life experiences and motivations that everyone has.
14. With the varying emotions and themes (going from a brutal murder to Cassie and Narain dancing together) what is it that you most want readers to take from the story?
When I decided to write a vampire novel, I wanted to address vampirism as a life altering condition. In Vampires’ Most Wanted I write about legends and old folk tales and in a lot of those tales a person is normal one moment, then wakes up (however the vampirism is passed on) a vampire, usually through no fault of his own. One minute he's human, the next he's vampire, his life and probably his dreams changed forever. In the novels for the series, all the vampires deal differently with this condition that has so altered their lives. Jameson for example is very pragmatic about it (but then he has the money to ease the inconvenience of the condition). For Narain it was a bit more of a struggle to find his footing until he met Sophie. She was able to help him achieve a relative sense of normalcy. I didn't realize it until very recently but even though Sophie only appears in a few flashback conversations and some references, she's key to the plot because her death leaves Narain not only scrambling emotionally but he also has to figure out how to hold on to that sense of normalcy Sophie's sacrifice offered him for several decades. Even something like an attraction to Cassie is made difficult by the condition. With Sophie's death Narain finds himself again having to make adjustments to another life altering situation. So even though there is the fantastical element to the novel with it being about vampires and all, I hope people appreciate my attempt to consider the question, “What would it be like to have your life so drastically altered.” What would an average person thing? And in Narain’s situation, he’s had his life altered, found some sort of footing for several decades and is now thrown back to another confusing life altering event.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
Thanks for interviewing me. It was fun.
A few surprising things about me might be that I used to run a receiving dock, emptying 75 foot trucks on my own and processing freight. That kind of surprises me when I think about it. That was a lot of fun, especially in the morning when I would deliver the pallets of freight out to the floor then ride the pallet jacks like a scooter back to the stock room. If the pay had been better, I would have kept that job.
I can sing and play guitar and have written and recorded (on a personal 4-track) songs both serious and comedic (the latter as part of a group my friends and I made up called The Dead Punkheads. I joke that they won the 1988 Grammy for “best unrecorded album.” We did actually record a few Christmas albums that we gave away at parties we held).
My DVD collection would surprise people. It’s all over the map taste-wise. It includes Godzilla movies, Bollywood, Martial Arts, British Comedy, Old U.S. TV shows, Classic Hollywood, MST3K, and Superhero movies. Oh, and of course Vampires.
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