Guest Authors

To Touch the Sun- Laura Enright Interview

 

ToTouchtheSun

Title: To Touch The Sun
Author: Laura Enright 
Genre: Horror/Vampire 
Length: 207 page, 100,000 words 
Release Date: 25th February through Amazon for paperback and kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Touch-The-Sun-Laura-Enright-ebook/dp/B00IMSSFDG

Synopsis:

1916: France, The Great War.

Narain Khan was 25 when he left his native India to fight in the 
trenches of the West­ern Front dur­ing WWI. It was his hope that he 
could stay on after the war to pur­sue his dream of study­ing the 
culi­nary arts and becom­ing a world class chef.

Instead, he fell to shrap­nel amidst the car­nage of that bit­ter war. 
Car­nage which, when dark­ness fell, attracted some­thing ter­ri­fy­ing: 
A roam­ing pack of feral vampires–mindless feeders–who fell upon the 
sol­diers left wounded and dying in No Man’s Land.

Attacked by the fer­als, Narain was trans­formed into the other type of 
vam­pire: A sen­tient capa­ble of mov­ing about in soci­ety with only a 
few restric­tions and able to feed with­out killing the host.

Present Day: Chicago, U.S.

After the death of his long-term partner and food source Sophie from 
cancer, Narain, now a successful chef and businessman, albeit with an 
unusual set of problems that make life in "normal" society difficult, 
has reached a crossroads in his life as a sentient vampire.

His growing attraction to Cassie Lambert, a scientist with an unexpected 
link to his past, the re-emergence of Reginald Jameson, his old captain 
in WWI and now a sadistic predator who shares the night with Narain, and 
a new, terrifying breed of vampire; Boris, a monster who destroys 
everything in his path. All these events will conspire to drag Narain 
into a climactic struggle.

A struggle against everything he holds dear, against himself, against 
Jameson, Boris and the forces that will stop at nothing to discover the 
secret Cassie has learned about the nature of Vampirism.

A struggle that will show Narain that to defeat the real mon­sters, he 
will have to embrace what he is and awaken the beast within. That to 
touch the sun, he will have to risk being burned up in its fury...

laura l. enright typewriter (1)

Laura, KEEP CALM AND ANSWER THESE TWENTY-FIVE QUESTIONS

1.  Do you consider yourself a logophile? If so, have you always been? I think I have. For example, I love superheroes but I’ve never been much for graphic novels because I prefer to lose myself in the written word. It’s fascinating how a choice of words can create a frightening story, a comedy, a drama. Add tension or romance. And a slight change in words or pacing can alter the mood completely. I love playing with words. I also like learning new languages too. One of my goals to be able to say “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you” in every language.

2. What is your favorite color? Green. I find it a very vibrant color.

3. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? I was born in Chicago and grew up in a suburb called Harwood Heights, about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago. My family has a long history with that suburb. My grandfather built a bar in 1938 and I grew up across the parking lot from it. My dad also had his business on that section of land. The bar is still there. Known as the Landmark Pub. I think it was and remains the only neighborhood tavern of its kind in that suburb, literally nestled in among the houses, in the village.

 4. What is your favorite football team? There was only one football team: the 1984/85 Chicago Bears. Nothing else matters.

 5.  Who is your favorite author?  & 6. What is your favorite book? I hear that novel Touch the Sun by that breakout author Laura Enright is pretty good. Okay, that was a bit of a copout. I’m really bad at naming favorite anything because it really does depend on the mood. Let’s put it this way in regards to both author and book: As a kid I fell in love with reading with Albert Payson Terhune’s “Dogs of Sunnybank” series (that also led me into the habit of spelling the shade “grey” instead of “gray” as we do in America). I realized how inspiring biographies could be by reading The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass in second grade. The collected short stories of Edgar Allan Poe made me appreciate horror while I got into science fiction through The Invisible Man by H.G. Welles. I fell in love with fantasy through “The Dragon Riders of Pern” series by Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series is the first series I collected obsessively (until I fell behind about book number 425 or so). The possibility of vampire stories became apparent through Anne Rice’s take on the genre in Interview with the Vampire. And I saw how easily science fiction and humor could mix with Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” series and Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide” series. On a more recent note, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson reminded me of the importance of well told history. And I saw through Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd how entertaining history could be in fiction. I’ve been reminded of that by reading Ken Follett’s historical series lately.

Just don’t ask what record I’d take with me on a deserted island. I’d probably need a barge.

7. What do you do when you are not writing? When not working at my day jobs, I’m working on my writing so there’s little free time for me to do much else. It’s been that way for quite some time. When the time comes that my writing becomes my only career and I actually have some time for hobbies and such I’d love to get back into music. I can play guitar and sing and when I was younger wrote a lot of songs both serious and comic (the comic ones as part of a fake punk band called The Dead Punkheads that my friends and I made up). Eventually I bought a four-track and keyboards and recorded a lot of the songs just for fun. I’d like to play around with doing that again.When I do take a break from writing, I like to read, catch up on movies, go out to see live bands play. I’m pretty lucky in that I rarely get bored. I can usually find something to keep me occupied. I’m fine alone or in crowds.

8. Do you have a day job as well? I work in the circulation departments of two libraries, one of which I’ve worked in for 15 years. It can be fun and challenging. Some of the patrons can be fantastic (some a little high maintenance). You see people for years and years; you really get to know them. And actually it’s sad sometimes when you don’t see them anymore (if they should move away or die). Many of the patrons have been really enthusiastic when I get my books out there. The first time I checked out one of my books to a patron was really fun.

9. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? The best advice I think would be to be very clear on what you want. Writing can be a wonderful hobby, so if that’s all you’re looking for that’s great. But if you want it to be a career, then it’s going to take a lot of hard work and the business end of writing can take more time and effort than the actual writing. And sometimes you have to zigzag on the way to a goal. For example, my goal was always to get my fiction published but after many frustrating years where I couldn’t find a publisher for novels I’d written, a friend suggested I try nonfiction with his publisher. That’s what led to my first published book Chicago’s Most Wanted: The Top Ten Book of Murderous Mobsters, Midway and Windy City Oddities. My hope was to make a name for myself to help when trying to sell my fiction. Sometimes those sorts of projects you agree to take on along the way can surprise you. To Touch the Sun was an unexpected project. I actually never had a desire to write a vampire book, I didn’t have a character or plot in mind. I decided to write a vampire novel to try to attract an agent who I’d been in cordial contact with whose agency represented a vampire series.

By the time I was finished I’d fallen in love with To Touch the Sun and what I’d created. My book Vampires’ Most Wanted: The Top Ten Book of Bloodthirsty Biters, Stake-wielding Slayers and Other Undead Oddities was written after I finished the novel in the hopes that it would help in my hunt for an agent or publisher for To Touch the Sun (the agent I had been in contact with left the business completely shortly after I had a proposal put together to send him).

So my desire to publish fiction was eventually realized, but I took a little detour along the way and got a couple of other wonderful accomplishments from the trip. It’s important to be flexible and keep an eye out for opportunities, even if they don’t seem to be what you’re going for at that moment.

 10. Is being a writer a curse or a gift? I think it can be both. When you’re pulling together these threads to weave into a story and you see it really coming together, it gives you this fantastic high. That’s definitely a gift. And being able to share it with the world is a gift. The curse part comes with the frustration and worry when you’re stuck and nothing seems to help pull it together into a story. And there’s frustration and worry over not being able to show your baby to the world because you can’t find a publisher or a venue to reveal it. Writing is often a lonely game too. Many hours of creating, then hunting, then marketing. So that can be a drag for some. But then there’s a gift when you marketing a book and you meet all these enthusiastic readers. I love giving talks on books and doing book signings. So I think it really depends on where you’re at emotionally on a particular project. For me, at least so far, any gift outweighs the curses.

 11. Where do you write? I write wherever I can. It’s easier for me to write at night, I’m more a night person, so usually I’m at home. But I’ve always been a bit of a day dreamer so I’ll dream up scenes and dialogue while doing other tasks during the day. That’s how To Touch the Sun was written. Since it was originally written to try my hand at the genre, unlike other novels I’ve written, I didn’t start off with a clear plot, a narrative, or even characters. Really just a two word description: Vampire Chef. So my thoughts meandered around a bit as I slowly settled on a direction and I was going over ideas in my head day and night, no matter where I was. Often times I would come up with one scene—prose or dialogue—that I really liked but wasn’t sure where to fit it in. So a lot of the scenes had to be woven in as the general plot began taking shape. It could be creatively fun too because sometimes I’d have to come up with logical ways to link scenes together. It tested me. As I say, when I came up with an idea, normally a very linear plot immediately forms. This wasn’t the case with To Touch the Sun but it made it very exciting. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure where the story was taking me.

12. Do you prefer silence or some noise while you write? I use this answer a lot but I think it depends on the situation. I think one reason I feel more comfortable at night is because for the most part the world is asleep. Little less distraction. But I’ll sometimes pop on a CD when I’m writing or going through things. Or I’ll have the TV on. I guess it’s okay because it’s noise controlled by me. I’m fortunate in that I can usually tune out noises. As I stated, I can be at a busy store or working at the library (and believe me, libraries are not necessarily quiet, especially in the lobby) and I can start day dreaming scenes. So luckily if I’m not in a situation where there is silence, it doesn’t necessarily stop me from writing.

13. What do you typically drink while writing? I love iced tea. Not really one for hot beverages. Sometimes I may have a cocktail or two but I’ve never been a big drinker when at home. If I go clubbing I don’t worry about it, but I don’t really care to have it at home. That could be because my parents were alcoholics. Tea is fine though I think at this point I’m immune to caffeine I’ve drunk so much of it.

14. What challenges have you had in regards to your writing life? I wish I had had more contact with the writing community when I was younger. I was just too shy. When I was young the biggest challenge was a severe lack of confidence. That pretty much affected everything and it took me a lot of years to get past it. There were some emotional challenges because of the dysfunction in my family that I now see have helped me become a better person and helped with my writing. But going through them at that time was kind of tough. Hindsight is 20/20. There is part of me that is glad that I went through it. It tempered me. But it also held me back for a while too. I sometimes feel like I’m making up lost time.

15. When did you first start and when did you finish your book? Actually I can’t really remember how long it took to write. As I say, initially I had nothing but a sliver of an idea so there was a lot of building and tearing down involved. I remember I wrote this whole monologue for the character that would become Narain because at the time the narrative was going to be in the first person, but I eventually went in another direction and scrapped what I had written. Once I understood the plot and the characters, especially Narain’s motivation, the writing went pretty fast. I think it may have taken three months for the first draft.

16.  If your book is made into a movie, which actors/actresses do you envision playing the parts? When I was writing the novel I had Shahrukh Khan in mind for Narain. As youthful as he comes across though, Khan might be too old to play a vampire that stopped aging at the age of 25. Though who knows, maybe some CGI he could pull it off. Narain is playful yet can be very serious (and takes a great deal on his shoulders when it comes to protecting those he loves). Khan could portray that well.

David Tennant might be good for the role of Jameson. The further I got in writing the novel the more I realized that there had to be more to Reg than simply being Narain’s nemesis. So I’d need someone who could pull of a character willing to do anything to get what he wants (and in his mind to protect what’s important to him) yet sympathetic. Tennant could do that. I think Tom Hiddelston also showed he could with his performance as Loki.

Cassie is a mix between bubbly and down to earth (something Narain needs in a partner). She can geek out about things a bit, especially scientific mysteries, but doesn’t panic easily. Scarlette Johanson may be able to put that across. Cassie isn’t a fool; she’s just able to find the humor in practically anything.

Dom is a bit tough to pin down. He’s cute but husky. Unflappable (a good thing when your business partner and friend is a vampire). And incredibly loyal and patient. I’m not sure who should play him but whoever it would be would need to have that Chicago twang to his accent. That’s a key part of that personality. Dom very much has that same earthiness that Chicago has.

17. What does your protagonist think of you? Would he/she want to hang out with you? That’s a hard one. I think we’d get along well. I think we’re both old souls (he being so through circumstance of course). I think I could get along with all my characters, even crazy ol’ Boris. I was the one in high school who never entered a clique but had friends from them all.

18. How do you market your book? What avenues work best? That is something I’m still trying to figure out. I’ve been working on doing marketing on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, etc. I think it helped to post reviews on Goodreads even before the book was out. I don’t think the personal touch should be ignored though. I was recently a guest on a radio show in Chicago. This host interviewed me a few years ago when Vampires’ Most Wanted was released. It was fun and have had some great feedback from it. So I’m putting out feelers to other radio shows, podcasts, TV shows. I think it’s also really important to show a presence in book stores. People love autographed books and meeting authors. Talking to them. I’ve done talks on Chicago’s Most Wanted and they were very successful. So I think it’s important to get out there as well.

Unfortunately, so far I haven’t really struck upon a strategy that seems to work best. I think it may depend on the project and the audience. But that’s why I say, the job isn’t done when the novel is done. It’s just beginning.

19. What has been the toughest criticism so far? I really try not to let the criticism get too me. If I feel it’s valid, then I consider it. But I also understand that not everything is for everybody. I’ve had people offer criticism over things that others have enjoyed. One review I had was troubling only in as far as I couldn’t tell if she enjoyed the novel or not. She gave it two stars but had some really complimentary things to say about it. It was a little confusing quite honestly though I suppose I should go with the good. Apparently she found something to enjoy about the book.

20.  What has been the best compliment? It’s going to sound funny but I think the best compliment came from my sister. She enjoys reading biographies and histories, but she isn’t much for fiction and doesn’t like science fiction, horror or fantasy at all. I asked her to read the novel out of curiosity to see what she’d think of it (she’s never actually read my other novels). She was incredibly enthusiastic about it. Got totally into the storyline and said she really loved the characters. And she enjoyed it so much she was happy to read the next three and was even asking me questions about the characters. For me the strength in this novel is the characters and the relationships between them. For someone who doesn’t like to read horror novels to enjoy this one so much that she’s willing to continue on with the series was really a thrill. And I know that even though she’s my sister, if she didn’t like it, she would tell me. I had a similar reaction when I asked a page at the library to read the book. She was into cop thrillers, but didn’t care about vampires at all. Yet she read the novel and got so into the story that she went onto read the second novel (sadly, she died right after I gave her the third one). And she was very enthusiastic about me getting it published. That’s incredibly exciting to me to give someone a novel in a genre they don’t care about and have them really like it.

21.  Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination? It’s generally all imagination though there was something I didn’t even realize until after I was done with the novel and I was trying to write a synopsis. Through flashbacks we learn that when he left for WWI Narain had three siblings: Aziz age 13, Zaheer age 10 and Ujaali age 5. He loved his siblings but there was a bit of a distance between him and them that such an age difference would cause. Then he disappeared from their lives after he was “killed” in the war (he could never bring himself to reunite with them after he became a vampire). There were four children in my family. My brother Dennis was the oldest, my sister Barbara came along two years after him, then there was a seven year gap before I came along followed the next year by my brother Robert. Now it wasn’t as wide an age gap (certainly not a wide one between he and my sister), but Dennis never the less was often away from the family. He started working for my father when he was a kid, so he always seemed to be at school, working or hanging out with his friends. Rarely at home. Then at age 19 he moved out and led a very private life, blowing into our lives every now and then. Barb stayed at home longer and she, my younger brother and I were more of a unit. My older brother was off on his own and in many respects a mystery to me. I have very few memories of him when we were young. So there’s a similar dynamic in my family. (He actually died at a relatively young age. He was 42 when he died of lung cancer. And as shocked as Narain’s family would have been upon news of his “death”, my family was equally shocked since we only found out about Denny’s cancer two week before he died). I don’t know if the creation of that particular dynamic in the Khan family that was similar to the dynamic among my siblings was a subconscious thing. I know I didn’t give my family a thought when creating Narain’s family. But I was a bit surprised afterward when it dawned on me how similar the dynamics were. And it did give me pause for thought (and honestly, made me a little misty when it first dawned on me).

 22. How did you come up with the title? For the longest time I couldn’t come up with a title for the book so the working title was “Vampire Chef.” I even still have it in files on my computer as “Vamp Chef Chapter 1,” “Vamp Chef Chapter 2” etc. I had a really hard time trying to figure out a title for it. There’s a flashback scene where Narain and his little sister talk about trying to touch the sun and I just thought that was a cool title considering the fact that the daylight hours are eventually off limits to Narain after he becomes a vampire. Curiously, I didn’t stop to think about the connection with the sun and Blythe’s ability to go out in the daylight. So the sun plays a bit of a part in it. I wanted to make the sun dangerous to vampires to help add to the tension. It’s one more thing that makes Narain’s life as a vampire logistically difficult. One more adjustment he has to make. In some respects one more thing that his condition takes from him.

 23. Will there be a sequel? There are already three. While hunting for an agent or publisher for To Touch the Sun, I went on to write three more in the series and a spinoff novel featuring paranormal investigators that appear in the third novel. And I have ideas for more in the vampire series. That was the funniest thing about this project. I really didn’t have a desire previously to write a vampire novel. Now I can’t stop telling the stories.

24. What project are you working on now? Well I could say marketing the novel because that’s a whole project in of itself. As far as a writing project, I would love to sit down and get at the sequel to this novel. It’s in second draft state and needs tweaking. I also have an Asian dragon novel for which I would love to find a publisher. One project I do need to get back to is a nonfiction book I’m working on with a man whose father was falsely accused of loan sharking in 1960s Chicago. It’s a compelling story. I had to put that aside for a few months to concentrate on getting To Touch the Sun out there. But I need to get back to it.

25. What question did I leave out that you’d like to answer? I can’t think of any off hand.

Please fill in the blank: Keep Calm and Pretend it’s All Going to Plan.

Thanks for the interview.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Kristy, thanks so much for sharing news of my new novel on your blog. I’m very excited about it. I hope people have as much enjoyment from reading it that I had from reading it.

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