**AUTHOR PEEK** Interview with Author, MINNIE LAHONGRAIS
Before we get started talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you do for a living (if you’re not a fulltime writer) what hobbies you have, etc. Whatever you’d like to share.
First, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity. It means a lot to me that you would help me promote Divergent Lives on its release date.
I am a hard-core New York City girl. I was born of Puerto Rican immigrants, in the middle of the night during a snowstorm in February in the mid-fifties – much like my main characters RJ and Adina.
I grew up in a section of East Harlem in New York City known for many years as “El Barrio.” It is now, what with all the gentrification, known as “Spa Ha” – short for “Spanish Harlem” – just like Soho is short for “South of Houston Street.” I’m a little resistant to call my hometown some chi-chi nickname dreamed up by outsiders as it dims the hues of the neighborhood.
I went to New York City public schools and married young. I have a daughter and a grandson who both hold my heart hostage.
Currently, I live in the culturally diverse Northwest Bronx, a borough of NYC. My day job during the last ten years has been Litigation Secretary in the White Collar Crime department of an international law firm. I like to think of myself as a writer who works as a legal secretary.
When I have free time at home, I write. Bad knees called for replacement surgery this past summer, so I’ve had to give up precious writing time to physical therapy sessions and going to the gym. I love spending time with my daughter, who writes urban poetry, and my grandson, who likes to draw. My commute is long, so I read when I’m traveling back and forth. I’ve been an avid reader from a very young age and still have books I purchased as a teenager. I have enjoyed classic writers like Anais Nin and Leo Tolstoy and have read Anna Karenina twice. On the flip side, I enjoy J.A. Konrath, M.J. Rose, Octavia Butler, and works by Lara Adrian to name a few.
However, since I began writing, I find myself reading works by indie authors like us more and more. (I’ve just downloaded Catch That Santa and can’t wait to get into it!)
1. How did you get started writing?
I don’t have any formal training. I took one creative writing class in my freshman year at college.
My father was my best friend, my hero and when he died seven years ago, I became despondent. I too wanted to die and became obsessed with death. It was all I could think about. I embarked on an internal journey searching for answers. That journey turned spiritual and I converted to Buddhism in 2009. During that time, I met an indie author who spoke about Nanowrimo and encouraged me to take a shot at it as a way to release the pain. It was healing for me and I began writing in earnest. A year later, I participated in the November madness and I haven’t looked back since.
2. What genre(s) do you write in and why?
All my stories are fiction based on some real event in my life. I just add crazy twists. I hate having to box myself in to specific genres, but both Sinner’s Ride and Divergent Lives are categorized as psychological thrillers.
My next project is a series of urban fantasy stories taking place in NY, PR and Haiti with background scenes in 78 A.D. Mt. Vesuvius and Thrace, which is how Bulgaria was known in the fourth century.
When I sit down to write a story, I have a very general idea what I want to convey but I don’t have a fixed idea what genre it’s going to be. Admittedly, I have a dark, DARK imagination. Few syrupy love stories here, my friend!
Why do I write these stories? Here’s the thing: I am fascinated by the idea that everyone has the potential to be a really good person or a really bad person. Everyone is born a helpless child, with baby smells and a pure soul. Everyone. Then something happens to change that and people can go either way. I try to get my readers to sympathize with my characters – even the bad guys, if just for a moment – to show that given the circumstances, anyone and everyone is capable of doing horrible things. At the same time, I show that doing the “right” thing could be out of reach for some people.
3. What is your favorite part of writing?
My favorite part of writing does not involve actual writing. My favorite part of writing is research. I am a pure, unadulterated nerd hungry for knowledge. I want to know everything about everything and I love the euphoria – the excitement – I feel when I learn something new and apply it to the story I’m writing.
After that, it’s talking to people and getting others’ perspectives on scenarios I dream up because I get a glimpse of how the human mind works. That is just … simply awesome for me.
4. What is your least favorite part of writing?
Disclaimer: I absolutely love and adore my editor.
Now, that said, editing is my least favorite part of writing. After each round of editing, when I sit down to review an edited manuscript, I find something else I want to change in search of elusive “perfection.” I keep a death grip on my manuscript right up to the last minute before it goes to the printer.
5. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Ninety percent of the ideas for my stories come from tiny incidents in my life that I engorge with fantasy. Some come from discussions with friends and/or colleagues at my day job. Sometimes a whole story will come to me from some innocuous comment one of my young attorneys might make. There have been instances where, in the middle of some serious discussion, I’ll stumble over some legal term and we go off on riffs … you know, we make up words and come up with meanings and scenarios describing those words and I sometimes get story ideas from moments like that. Or my daughter and I will have a discussion and she’ll ask me a question and we go off on some rant and that will give me an idea. Sometimes I’ll be walking along the streets of NYC or I’ll be out people watching and something will happen that fills my head with ideas.
6. What is your typical day like?
I work out on my bike every morning for a minimum of fifteen minutes and I do some form of writing every day. During the week, I work at my day job and either write or research during my lunch break. In the evenings I strategize on my social media platform but it’s very difficult sometimes because I’m drained when I get in at night. During the weekend, I try to get together with my kids for a couple of hours, do housework and do whatever needs to be done on my current project: research, writing, editing, marketing, etc. I go to bed early because I’m not a nice person unless I have a minimum of eight hours sleep.
7. What is most difficult for you to write? Characters, conflict or emotions? Why?
Emotions are most difficult for me to write because I am one with my character. Prior to writing Sinner’s Ride, I’d written eighteen chapters in the first book of my UF series but stopped because it became too heartbreaking to get into. I couldn’t type through the tears. That was two years ago. I must be stronger …
8. Tell us about your next book & when is it being published?
Divergent Lives is the story of fraternal twins born in 1962 to immigrant Puerto Rican parents but raised separately. Adina remains with the biological parents while the other, RJ, is sold to a pastor and his wife in rural Pennsylvania. Each twin is a sociopath but one is a serial killer. The story begins with a murder and takes you through the main characters’ lives in parallel as their stories spool out.
Links to Minnie Lahongrais’s website, blog, books, etc.
BE SURE TO COME BACK to read more about Minnie and her release, DIVERGENT LIVES, on Wednesday’s Karen’s Killer Book Bench!
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Minnie will have an extra-special giveaway for one lucky reader on Christmas Eve!! Come back for her blog on Karen’s Killer Book Bench to find out how you can win this fabulous, secret giveaway! Thanks, Minnie, for sharing your story with us!