Today Minnie Lahongrais joins us to tell us all about herself and her book.
Welcome Minnie, glad you could stop by. Make yourself at home and don’t hesitate to tell us all about yourself before we do the interview. Oh, you have a real author bio? Go ahead, post it, but do show us your face too. 🙂
Minnie, you seem to be a very content and happy person. Your eyes have the glint of someone who is in their happy place. Good for you! Okay, bio time. 🙂
Native New Yorker, Minnie Lahongrais unwittingly kick-started her second career when she began writing an urban fantasy tale intended to help her cope with the death of her father. November of that year, she set that story aside to immerse herself in the annual madness of NaNoWriMo, meeting the challenge head on. Her first novel, “Sinner’s Ride” was published Spring of 2011. That summer, she found herself obsessed with the story idea for “Divergent Lives.”
Next on her agenda is the urban fantasy she began at the outset of her journey. She now plans to write that story as a trilogy.
Ms. Lahongrais currently lives in New York City. She finds time to write every day and spends her free time with her family.
And if your fans would like to find/follow you, where can we find you on this world wide web?
Great! Now let’s get started with what you’ve came here for. The interview and most important of all, tell us all about your book and whatnot.
Can you give me your best Whoop? Unless you have another one which works better for you?
Lol!! Thanks for having me here today, Lucy! So, you want a “whoop” huh? Well, here goes:
Whoop! Pink Diamonds are forever!!
Okay, never heard that one before, 🙂 but does it work all the time, even those times when the muse has gone and done a runner on you? And when did you first start with it?
Well, it worked just now. This is the first time I’ve ever used it!
Right, sounds like you should be using it a lot more then, seeing how brilliantly it worked for you. Wheeeeheeee! Let’s do a few of the yada yada questions before we move on to the fun.
What is the title of the book you would like to talk about?
Today, I’d like to discuss my sophomore release, “Divergent Lives.”
Love this cover! It speaks of the road through life, something bad to happen and DNA? Wow, what you can read in a cover. Now tell me am I right?
This story features fraternal twins – one male, one female – born to immigrant Puerto Rican parents in 1962 in a part of New York City called “El Barrio.” One of the twin babies is born with a physical deformity. Unbeknownst to the parents, the twins are separated at birth and only one remains with the birth parents, Jesus and Cruzita Rosario. The other twin is sold on the black market to Pastor James Ezekiel Preston and his wife, a former prostitute named Margaret. They reside in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
Released 12/12/12 and currently boasting several 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon, this tale is told in parallel to show how certain life events occur almost simultaneously, creating sociopathic tendencies in each. Each twin’s sociopathy dictates the inevitable path their individual lives will take. Those divergent paths, if you will, later converge in carnage.
It already sounds like a great book! How did you come up with the story?
The would-be characters of this story had stalked me since mid-2011. I had just released my debut, “Sinner’s Ride” and I was itching to get back to an urban fantasy I’d begun in May of 2010 when I suddenly recalled bits of a conversation I overheard as a child and the memory turned me inside out. I let my imagination wreak havoc on the page.
Isn’t it funny how the most innocuous turn of phrase can morph into something so deadly?
It certainly is, but sometimes we have no control over our own imagination and that is a good thing being writers and all.
But did you have difficulty coming up with the title?
I wouldn’t say it was difficult.
The working title for this project was “Standing on the Precipice.” At the time, based on the tale I thought I wanted to tell, this was an appropriate title. But as I delved deeper, the characters began to reveal themselves as unapologetic deviants, and this title didn’t serve. While discussing this dilemma with a friend, I decided on the title “Divergent Lives.” That led me to my cover design and a logo for the story, which will be my next tattoo. (Some people celebrate the release of a new novel with mirth and drink. I celebrate the release of my books with tattoos.)
Minnie, I love tattoos! Now you make me very curious as to how those tattoos look like and where you hide them. But I can imagine you want to keep some things private, so let’s just get on with the interview. Next question it is.
If you would have to change the genre, what would it be then?
Hmm, with regard to this story, if I had to change genre, I would have to add a few additional touches. I would have to go with paranormal.
Paranormal, eh? I luv paranormal, but where can we buy that book of yours?
And of course any other Amazon store across the globe.
Just to confuse you we’ll take the alternative route now.
What don’t you like about writing, or whatever you need to do marketing wise?
Ha! Woman, I’m not so easily confused!
Hahahaha, good! 🙂 Then tell me and don’t hold back a thing.
I love writing and weaving story lines. I love being uninhibited in the creative process and being absorbed by the research. What I abhor is the lack of time I have to dedicate to my passion. The fact that I have to spend so many hours away from what I love weighs heavily on me. But one must eat and provide oneself with shelter.
I definitely don’t have a problem connecting with readers and other writers. I don’t even have a problem receiving critiques and/or reviews that are less than glowing. None of that bothers me. In fact, I crave it because it pushes me. All of that motivates me to become better at my chosen craft.
Even blocks are a positive thing because what it means to me is that I need to give that particular project a break. When I’m blocked, I work on something else. I walk through other creative doorways.
As far as I’m concerned, it is all part of the process of learning. I don’t ever want to stop learning.
Tell me, when your muse is visiting and you’re on a roll, what would seriously drive her/him away?
Good question. I just had a vision of my muse frowning because of the “him/her” reference. My muse is completely androgynous. It thinks that being categorized by gender is limiting. So, whenever I have to humanize my muse, I refer to it by the very epicene name of “Jheri.” In reality, my muse is more of a feeling than a being.
You know that might be a very good way of regarding your ‘muse’. Go on, please.
Jheri is very domineering, and can’t easily be driven away. The only time I had any trouble summoning Jheri was when I was recuperating from knee surgery this past summer — I was either hospitalized or at a nursing home AND heavily medicated for almost three weeks. Once the meds wore off and I was back home, Jheri returned with a vengeance!
What does your muse look like?
Jheri is a shape-shifter. Whatever character I am writing, that is the shape Jheri takes on until that character’s identity has been fully formed. And that doesn’t usually happen until the story is done and/or published. It’s like giving birth and just as arduous.
Do you ever speak to your characters and do you get along all the time?
They tell me nasty things, and I’m all, “Whaaaat is this? I can’t say that!” but then I have to. While in the midst of writing, I only listen and allow myself to be guided by the characters. We often go back and forth as we tweak scenes. I’ve not yet had a character that gave me such a hard time that I get stuck for very long.
Great! Sounds like you and your characters have a very good relationship.
Can you name the food and drink that will surely get you started?
1.) I don’t write on an empty stomach and 2.) I don’t drink alcoholic beverages when I’m writing. I do, however, celebrate with wine when I’ve reached a milestone in any project.
Would you be able to come up with an excuse on why you haven’t written a whole day, and have me believe it too?
No, no excuses. I am in the practice of writing every day.
How very structured of you, I admire that.
And finally why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard slaving over a manuscript?
For more than 30 years, I’ve sat behind a keyboard slaving over documents written by others. To be able to give it all up and live a life behind a keyboard and make a living at it would be heavenly. It wouldn’t be “slaving” to me. Working on a manuscript is a labor of love that I offer of myself to my readers, my fans. In a manner of speaking, I am humbly offering up a piece of my soul.
And we, your readers accept that precious gift gladly.
Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. But please no cats, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂
What I’m about to share is somewhat of an exclusive and will help you understand why I write what I do.
Oh! I have an exclusive! Yay! I’ll shut up now and let you do the talking.
I’ve had people get all up-in-arms about my graphic scenes and the blunt, matter-of-fact way that I parcel out deviant details. Interviewers (present company excepted) probe me and try to get me to admit which scenes are factual. My response to those questions is this:
“Everything that I write has a grain of truth in it. I just inflate it with my imagination.”
But many are dissatisfied with that answer.
The fact of the matter is that there are events in my life that have caused me much pain. That is the reason why I don’t do Happily Every Afters in my writing (and maybe in life, too, hmm). There are plenty of those already written. I believe in examining both the dark and light of everyone, even if it is in the guise of fiction.
I know I am perceived to be a certain way. By day, I am a professional in a very stiff environment. I’m all over social media with a big, bright smile. I am personable and engaging. But real life is rife with taboos never spoken of. Taboos that I want to know everything about. But by their very nature, taboos are relative depending on where they originate and where they thrive. What may be taboo in one community may not be taboo in another.
That is undeniably true Minnie, but not always recognised as such.
There are less than a handful of people who know me so well that when I begin to ponder and discuss certain things with them, they let me go there. They know I am being real; that I’m not doing it for shock value. They know there is a real desire in me to understand the unspeakable.
I am a woman; a non-conformist who is not afraid to cross boundaries. The bottom line is that I have to be true to myself.
Ugly things have happened to me. Often, there was no one for me to turn to. I had to suck it up and keep moving, so I buried those painful and hateful feelings. Writing is my outlet for those burdens, and it helps me transfer that vitriol to paper. It’s not always easy to read AT ALL. Anne Lamott once wrote in Bird by Bird, “We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you were told not to go through, you must. …Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer’s job is to see what’s behind it, to see the bleak unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words…”
It was Good Friday, 1982. It had snowed and my father begged me not to go to work. He said he had a bad feeling. We fought about it. I thought he just didn’t want me to move out and was trying to scare me. He knew I was trying to get money together. His tirade continued with him saying I would go to hell for working on such a sacred day. I scoffed at him and off to work I went with two tokens for the subway and five dollars for lunch.
Around mid-day, a well-dressed man walked into the office and said he needed a lawyer to defend his brother on a weapons charge. He was handsome, clean-shaven, and had long tapered fingers with manicured fingernails. He wore all black with a camel colored, cashmere overcoat. His hair looked freshly cut. He looked dressed for Easter service.
In spite of his dapper appearance, I got a chill. I went ahead anyway and asked the standard question: “How did you hear of Mr. So and So?”
The man said that a court bailiff had given him the number. I narrowed my eyes at him; he was lying. A bailiff isn’t allowed to make recommendations — he or she would have directed him to the phone book.
Peering up at him, I handed him a clipboard of forms and left him in the small reception area. I went into the back office to speak to the lone attorney scheduled to work with me that day.
My colleague, Bill, assured me he would speak with the stranger and dismiss him because he wanted to close early. A short while later, I escorted him into the back office then went back to mine to do some filing. About twenty minutes later, I heard shuffling, saw a quick flash of hands, then, startled by another noise not typical for an office environment, I leaned out.
That handsome man was now holding a gun to Bill’s head. I froze but a gasp escaped me. That’s when he saw me.
He pushed Bill toward the conference room and screamed at me not to make a sound. He began waving the gun at me, yelling for me to go to him. I shuffled in his direction, my feet leaden. My mind was racing, searching for an escape. But there was only one way in or out of the office. I was trapped.
When I reached him, he pushed us both into the conference room and had Bill lie face down on the floor. Holding the gun between my shoulders, he made me take Bill’s tie off and secure his hands behind his back. Then he pulled the phone cord out of the wall with a snap and ordered me to bind his feet. Now the gun was at my head. Fingers flying, I tied Bill up quick and tight. I didn’t want this idiot to get mad at me for not getting the knots tight enough and spray my brains against the wall with a single shot at close range.
Then he robbed us. He took my rings, my measly five dollars, which was a lot for me at the time, and had me take my earrings off and hand them over. He barked at us about valuables either in my pockets or my office. I told him all I had left was a subway token and he couldn’t have it because I had a baby to get home to. I was scared shitless, afraid he would rape me. I know that rape isn’t about sex, it’s about control and I had just challenged him with my attitude. Anything could have happened. In my powerlessness, time moved slowly.
He grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward the window. He ripped the cord from the window blinds with a hiss and snarled it around my hands, which he held behind me. I can’t tell you all the ridiculous thoughts that went through my head: the fear and astonishment of being in this position is what I remember most clearly. He knocked me to my knees with an elbow, and I fell to my side. With Bill and I both completely vulnerable, he left after warning us not to move for five minutes.
There was no freaking way I was waiting for five minutes. After a minute or so, I crawled over to Bill and released his hands with my teeth then sat up. I watched him as he undid his ankle ties; amazed he wasn’t disgusted I had slobbered all over his hands. Isn’t it strange what goes through your mind at times of high crisis?
The next thing I knew, Bill was freeing my wrists.
At first, we didn’t speak, both of us stunned into silence. I felt as if I floated above, looking down on the two of us. Still not speaking, he took hold of my shoulders, looked into my eyes. I stared back, jaw slack. Seeing that I was physically ok, he rose and locked the front door. I struggled to my feet, dazed, and then called the police.
The man had disappeared. It was a few weeks later when we learned he committed a similar crime and was arrested. Again, I thought hard about how lucky I had been and I obsessed over it for years.
With the gun at my forehead, my life didn’t flash before my eyes. I thought of my baby and what would become of her; where she might end up if this freaking idiot pulled the trigger. I thought about what my father had said about going to hell if I went to work on that sacred day. And I did visit hell. They say violence changes you. It changed me. So now I wander to the dark side, peering behind locked doors — breaking and entering into the psychologically deviant because of that day.
Today, I am a proud Latina with a whole lot of living to do. My stories serve as my therapy. Some of the things I write about, the things that my characters do are things that I do to my demons. In my stories, my characters think they are getting over like fat rats in a cheese factory. They never think they will pay for their transgressions. However, in reality they lose something of themselves.
In my imagination, when I am the protagonist, I ALWAYS win. I ALWAYS come out on top.
Wow, Minnie, thank you for sharing all of that with me and my readers. No doubt some of them will be your readers too after this.
I want to thank you again for granting me this interview and hope you will remember me when you have another book coming out and give me a chance to post about your work again.