Today, I’m honored to interview a true pioneer of paranormal/urban fantasy. She writes in a style so realistic you walk with her character, Sinner, through the scenes and feel her emotions. Welcome, Minnie Lahongrais.
Wow! What an introduction! Thank you! And, thank you for this opportunity to talk about this passionate love affair I am having with writing. I am honored to be here.
A good friend of mine has had two knee replacements in two years. I know second hand the difficulty you’ve faced. So let me ask, how is your knee doing, and did the recuperation time steal precious moments away from your writing? I have pictures in my mind of you, leg up and braced, typing away at the computer.
First, I will say that pain and I have become intimate, which will enable me to write more honestly about it. Initially, I didn’t believe it would ever get back to normal, but I’m now feeling I will recover within the time frame my doctor said I would (12 – 18 months for full recovery). That wasn’t the case six weeks in.
Your friend is extremely courageous! I had a knee cap replacement on my right and arthroscopic on my left. To have two knee replacements in as many years, takes a lot of guts! Kudos!
Did my surgery and recuperation take away precious time from my writing? Yes, it did. I had the same vision you did. When I was told I’d be off from work until the end of October I thought: “Wow! Three months! I’m going to be a writing goddess!” Not! It was terribly difficult for me to do any writing while at the hospital and later at the rehab center because of all the interruptions. Then when I was released and went home, all I wanted do was sleep because I was so heavily medicated. Once I got off the medication, I suffered from insomnia and couldn’t focus on anything but trying to sleep. I was a zombie.
The muscles in my leg are stronger now, thanks to two-hour physical therapy sessions three times a week. I’m sleeping regular hours now and I’m rising at a regular time so I’m writing more now. I’m a happy (sober) camper now because I am doing what I love.
Minnie, your themes show the dark side of life. How did growing up in the Bronx influence the stories you write, particularly Sinner’s Ride?
As background, I didn’t grow up in the Bronx. I grew up in an area of NYC’s Manhattan called El Barrio or “East Harlem.” It is now called “Spanish Harlem” or “Spa Ha.”
I became socially conscious at a young age. It was the 60’s and the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing when I noticed certain injustices because my family was directly affected. I wasn’t entirely sure if what I was thinking was correct because it was the exact opposite of what my parents were teaching us at home. In other words, it doesn’t matter what we look like; we all bleed red.
It wasn’t until I began middle school that I realized how idealistic that mantra was. Talk about culture shock!
I married in 1979 and moved to the Bronx knowing full well that it wasn’t Park Avenue. I wanted to get away from the neighborhood I had grown up in but didn’t want to live a “white bread” life, so I moved to the South Bronx until the early eighties when, as a divorced mother I went back to East Harlem to be near my family. When my daughter was 13, I bought a co-op in a section of the West Bronx that offers all the multi-cultural differences that I crave.
Now to answer your question, there have been many influences from my life in my writing. Everything that I write is based on some true event in my life. Sinner’s story evolved very organically. It wasn’t even supposed to be about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of her father. But when I sat down to write the story it just came out that way. The prologue is the result of a conversation I had with my daughter regarding how we would do a video for Mary J. Blige’s hit “I’m Going Down” after we had gone to see her in concert at Radio City Music Hall. In the song, she sings about the “sound of the rain against her window pane slowly driving her insane” and that part made me think about a hospital or mental ward and the story took flight.
I have known people that have been sexually abused by family members. I have never known someone who was abused by their Dad, but I have known people who had Dads who creeped me out.
The event that inspired this story was not perpetrated by the person’s father, but I thought “What would this person do if it were their father? They’d probably kill him.” Once that thought was planted in my brain, I let my imagination run with it.
I read an interview you did with Sinner where she interrogates you about your second novel, Divergent Lives. Like most authors, I believe my characters are real. Apparently, Sinner doesn’t appear in your second novel. How does she feel about that, about are you going to bring her back?
Sinner is very real to me. She’s a bit touched (meaning “in the head”) and there are people in my life she reminds me of and vice versa. I still love them just as I love her. She’s my baby, my first born so to speak, but once Sinner’s Ride was done and released, I thought her story was done as well.
Afterward, as I got into the technicalities of writing, I began to think I should revisit that story and re-write it with an alternate ending. Now, I’m sitting on the fence about that. It is imperfectly written, and having learned as much as I have since its release, I feel I could improve on it but I’m not sure when I would do that or even if I would.
By the same token, I wanted to keep Sinner alive … because she bugged the hell out of me! LOL! So, I decided I’d let her do the “Pink Diamond Interviews” and give her an opportunity to show me something; show me what she could do with the mess her life was left in at the end of her story.
Up until I gave her the interviews to do, she was very noisy and annoyed that I had turned my attention elsewhere. But she’s maturing and understands that I too have to grow. So, we’re ok now.
Tell the readers more about Divergent Lives, its premise and significance to you.
Oooh!! Divergent Lives!! In the beginning, this story was so hard to write but now, I can’t believe the things that show up on my screen.
Again, this is based on a very small true event in my life. I overheard a conversation as a child that stayed with me. It haunted me my whole life. The wheels got to turning and I thought “What if?”
This story is about fraternal twins born to Puerto Rican immigrant parents in 1962 in New York City. At the time of birth, one of the children has a physical deformity. The attending doctor decides that he will sell the imperfect child on the black market and only tell the parents of the one healthy child.
The parents go home with a child they named Adina Cruz Rosario and the other child is sold to a couple in a town called Lebanon in rural Pennsylvania. The adoptive parents are a former prostitute and a Baptist Pastor and they name the child Rhys John Preston or “RJ” for short.
Adina grows up in a happy household and RJ is consistently and repeatedly verbally and physically abused throughout his life.
The story is told in parallel. Adina and RJ experience life changing events almost simultaneously that affects their mental health. In early adolescence they independently show signs of sociopathy. Each of their sociopathy is treated but only one is treated by a doctor. One grows up to be a serial killer. The twins never learn of each other but their paths do cross.
How’s that? LOL!!
I’m a researcher. It takes me two month of research before I write a novel. What’s your method—by-the-seat of your pants, a general outline, or an elaborate amount of pre-planning?
I do a lot of research as well, and with each piece that I work on, the research becomes more and more intensive. I spent about 4 months doing research for Divergent Lives and as I begin the editing process, I am still double checking some of it.
Sinner’s Ride was a word dump. I had no plan, nada. I had no clue what I was doing. I wrote it during a month of weekends during NaNoWriMo, November, 2010. The following April, I published it because I was so proud of myself. I didn’t think anyone would read it but at least my name would be in the Library of Congress. How naïve was that?
I had a very different approach with Divergent Lives. I didn’t outline but I used the Marshall Plan Novel Writing Software to flesh out the characters and nail down a general idea for the novel. Once I had the characters locked in and the ideas in place I began my research on psychopaths vs. sociopaths; serial killer typologies and police procedures.
After reading all that material, I had conversations with psychologists, ob/gyn doctors, police personnel and lawyers. With each professional that I spoke with, the more excited I got about this project and the more excited I got, the more wrapped up with the characters I became.
I know your trilogy centering on the Radocian Clan still in the making. Can you give us a peek into what’s coming?
Absolutely. This is the first piece I ever sat down to write. I started writing it as a way to deal with my father’s death. It is a very personal piece and one that I am itching to get back to. Originally, it was going to be just one book, but the more I thought about it, the bigger the story became. There are three main arcs, each demanding its own book, and I had to create a masthead of characters and their backgrounds.
Here’s my premise: Have you ever missed someone who has passed on so badly that you wished you could see that person just one more time? Hug or kiss that person just one more time; have just one more conversation with that person just to hear their voice again? This is my wish every day. My father was my best friend and I miss him dearly. The Radocians is to pay homage to him.
When the story begins, the protagonist, Mica is a single woman in her late 40’s. She has a grown daughter and a grandson. She adores them both but she is struggling with life in general. She’s unhappy at work, she’s just broken up with her cheating live-in boyfriend and she’s depressed because she hasn’t come to terms with her father’s death. She’s suicidal. She makes an attempt but survives only to die when a bomb goes off in her office building in New York’s Times Square.
But does she really die?
She’s “rescued” by a fireman, Anatoly Dimitrikov, who in reality is a centuries old creature with vampire-like qualities. He tells her he can bring her to her father if she so wishes, but she only has a small window of time in which to decide: Does she want to go to her father’s dimension or does she want to die an Earthly death and maybe reincarnate only to do it all over again? Initially, Mica is stunned, but she sees that this is an opportunity to have what she’s wanted since her father “died” and she chooses to accept Anatoly’s offer.
It is only once she arrives at this new dimension that she thinks about the consequences. How will her disappearance affect her daughter and grandson? To add another layer of craziness, Mica is unaware that there is a shape shifting creature that is now impersonating her on Earth and is wreaking havoc. When this is revealed, all hell breaks loose.
In closing, I need to ask you about Indie Publishing. I noticed you switched from Xlibris to Indie Author’s Press. Have you found the switch to be beneficial to you? Even the big New York houses can see that the wave of the future is small publishing houses, Indie publishing, and digital E-books. Otherwise Penguin wouldn’t have bought AuthorSolutions. Please comment.
I published Sinner’s Ride via Xlibris simply because someone who is not a writer gave me a list of vanity publishing houses that I called. Xlibris were the only ones who called me back
Though Indie Authors Press was very good to me, I’ve decided to end that relationship and go the fully independent route. As a very hands-on type of person wanting to learn as much as possible about this industry, I thought independent was the best route for me.
Thank you so much for taking your time. I’m enclosing a link to your Amazon page and mine at the end of our chat. Best of success to you in the future. Write on!
Thank you for having me! This was a lot of fun for me. I am very excited about Divergent Lives entering the world on 12/12/12 and I can’t wait to see how my readers react to it. Also, I particularly appreciate your interest in my Radocian Series.
As a woman of a certain age and background, I write about characters that resonate with me; that are like me: though experienced in life, still confused about certain things; sometimes even a little bit idealistic who maybe has a little child tucked away somewhere inside who just wants to have fun.
I’m often asked what genre I write in. To answer that question would be limiting, it would put me in a box and I’m claustrophobic. So I’m creating my own genre – “The Pink Diamond” genre.
To purchase Minnie’s books, click on this link.
To purchase my books, click on the link below.