Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday Spotlight: Interview with Javier A. Robayo, author of THE GAZE

Hey beautiful people!

I gave the blog's full spotlight to my guests this week, and it seems to me you guys didn't mind getting to know them during my MIA stint. *grin* Got someone else for you today - a wonderful, warm, and friendly author named Javier Robayo. Javier and I met through a mutual writing friend, and as most of the folks I've met online in the writing world, we hit it off rather well and I found an intriguing persona with an entertaining and open approach to life and people.

Javier answered my nosy questions with a very candid slant - cannot wait to show you his delightful answers. Read on for when I cede him the floor.

Tell us a bit about you, and something we don't know/wouldn't expect about you.

I’m terrified of inflated party balloons.  There.  Something you wouldn’t expect about me.  I’m a 37 year old father of two little girls, married to my Sheri for 13 years and counting.  The US became my home in 1988.  I don’t like to say I’m a college dropout, but I’ll say I dropped out on account of having no money to continue.  The day I graduate, I’ll be a professor in Spanish at the college level, which is ironic considering how much I wanted to forget the language when I first came to America.

Lol, I get that terrified feeling with clowns, so I do understand. And no shame in dropping out of college, even if that's not what you did. To each his/her own path - our future is what we make it to be. *smile*

What’s your favorite moment of the day, and why?

Anytime the sun is not shining in my face is my favorite moment of day.  I love cool winter nights, they seem to fuel my creative engine and I think I’ve done more writing I don’t have to correct so much at night.

Man, you'd make a good vampire, lol.

You're a color – which one are you and why?

I like to think I’d  be that unique shade of blue you see in the waters of the Caribbean, at least I think that when I feel I’m at my best, but most of the time I’m muddy water brown.

Caribbean waters? Try checking out Mauritius' lagoons - we can easily rival the C islands! J

Why become a writer?

When I was a kid, I wondered what possible enjoyment my dad found in the thousands of novels he read.  There were never any pictures in them, so I didn’t know what the attraction was.  When I turned 8, he gave me a hardcover of Jules Verne’s Dick Sand, Captain at Fifteen.  I remember rolling my eyes at it when I saw the only picture was on the cover.  It sat on my shelf for months, until I was grounded and with nothing to do, I opened that cover, and didn’t stop reading until I ran out of pages.  I felt as though I’ve had this amazing adventure and I felt I found friends in the story.  Years later, I gobbled up every Dean Koontz novel.  His writing evokes every emotion and it’s never limited to a certain genre.  I wondered how it would feel to create a character like Einstein, the smart dog from Watchers and a Laura Shane, this unforgettable character from Lightning
At 13, I found myself in America with an English vocabulary of about a dozen words.  Without friends, I started writing about anything and everything  that happened in school, in Spanish.  Once I’d get home, I’d translate word for word and over the course of a couple of years, I was writing in English.  I never stopped.
In college, my favorite professor, Dr. Elizabeth Curry, told us anyone can be a writer, but we had to choose between being a writer and being a novelist.  Once I understood that difference, I realized that writing is a part of you, something you’re born with.  Writers write ads and how-to manual.  Novelists, they manage to immerse you in their created universe where you’re subjected to an emotional rollercoaster ride you’re bound to remember for a long time to come, so long as the writing is rich. 
After writing THE GAZE, and receiving the feedback I received, I’ve guardedly admitted to myself that I’m a novelist.  Boy, was that long winded enough? lol

Now that's a delightful tale of fortitude and rising up against the odds. Hats off!

As writers, we are bombarded with ideas every minute of every day. How do you sort through these ideas, to stick to the 'viable' ones?

I have notebooks, and now a cell phone, full of first lines that I will use in a story.  I don’t know what that story is, but I get a feeling out of certain line that I compose in my head, such as Small towns in America are cradles of secrets
Believe it or not, out of that, I’ve a whole story.
Right now, my entire writing world is interconnected through my characters.  Samantha Reddick’s story THE GAZE, gave place to Lewis Bettford to practically demand his story be told in THE NEXT CHAPTER.  Through both stories, Tony Amaya has little involvement, but he’s enigmatic enough to justify his story.  Tony’s story will be a prequel of sorts in the series MY TWO FLAGS, and finally, there just might be another book born of the characters in THE GAZE and CHAPTER.
Once I have the characters established in my mind, the story seems to write itself as they react and express how the situations I throw at them affect them, and thus, a story is born.

I can totally believe there's a story in that one line - it would make a great prompt!

How do you develop an idea into a book?

I refuse to outline my stories.  Dr. Curry probably rolls in her grave, but I don’t like that idea of writing within a self-imposed guideline.   I approach my stories in a way that will make my readers feel they’ve met this really interesting person who takes them along into their lives.  I write contemporary romances, but I infuse other genres into the story.  I’ve kept plenty of observations on notebooks from my high school days that I employ in the building of a character.  It’s difficult to list a writing process, I just write.  A lot of times it feels it’s not me doing the writing as much as it’s my characters telling me what they’re going through.
While writing THE GAZE, I had many moments when I could almost feel Samantha shaking her head telling me, “Not working for me, chap.  Try this…”

I'd love to be able to write like that. If I don't outline, I am toast. J

If there's one book you wish you had written, which one is it and why that book in particular?

THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks.  Because it’s such an endearing love story that resonates  with a heavy dose of reality, set back on simpler times.  The characters, Ally and Noah, stay in your mind for a long time after you turn that last page, and you feel so much of what they feel.  I love stories like that.  Not that I want to make someone cry.  My wife Sheri is not a crier.  She was my biggest challenge in writing THE GAZE, for I figured if I don’t get her to show me some emotion, I’m just not doing the job.  At first it was tough, but then it happened.  Her eyes got moist and a tear trailed down her cheek as she read what wasn’t a sad chapter, but one that was real emotional.  I try hard to provide my readers with a little episode of happy tears more than anything, like THE NOTEBOOK.

Which is easier for you – narrative, or dialogue?

I like to remove my voice from the story as much as I can.  The best thing that works for me is First Person Active Present.  The challenge is weaving the story  with the main character always present, but I found it comfortable, and I felt closer and more in tune with the story.  I like to move the story through plenty of dialogue, but I never want to give the readers the blank room image that Dr. Curry warned us against.  Basically, as you have your character talking, maintain a balance with their surroundings so it doesn’t feel like two people are floating in a white room talking.  It’s a fine line to walk.

Indeed, dialogue can sometimes take over...

POV of predilection? Which POV mixes with you like oil and water?

Point of View, definitely.  I don’t know that I’ve come across the oil and water feel.  I admit it limits the scope of the story to what the main character sees, lives, does, but it’s the one method that’s worked for me.  I feel more in control when I can drive the story through one character. 

Preferred genre to write?

I like a Sandra Brown quote that says “There’s nothing wrong with a love story, most often they have a happy ending”  I keep that in mind whenever I want to start a story.  I like to mix in different genres within the story but I won’t go over the top and put cowboys in space with a vampire as the good guy.  My favorite genre to write is contemporary romance.  Our world has changed so much over the past twenty years and it has so many new things to offer as vehicles and elements in a story.  THE GAZE has a pretty big vehicle in social networking.  I like to write within the parameters of my actual world, which is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Too true - reality is often stranger than fiction!

How do you get into your characters' heads and shoes?

Oh, that just happens the other way around for me.  Once I had a concise idea of Samantha and Lewis in my head, it literally felt like it was those two writing the story.

Drafts, edits, polishing – love or loathe? Can you please explain?

I love the polishing process, absolutely love it!  I know I could’ve polished GAZE to the point that I would’ve been writing it forever!  Dr. Curry told us to think of the first draft as a chunk of marble, the editing and the polishing turn it into a sculpture.  A lot of times I prefer my first readers to give me an “not working”, therefore challenging me to improve the scene or take it out altogether and write something different.  I remember deleting five chapters out of GAZE only to add eleven.  No lie.

What unique factor do you think you bring to the book/story market?

You’re making it impossible to remain modest! LOL.  I’ll answer this way, I have a seventeen year old reader who fell in love with GAZE.  Out of the blue, she wrote on my Facebook wall You've inspired me to be the best person I can be and never give up.
Thanks Jav. :]

I felt a level of validation I never anticipated.  This young lady took something out of what I wrote and there’s no bigger compliment to me.  I can’t tell you about market trends because when I wrote GAZE, my sole goal was for ONE person to like it, someone who wasn’t a friend or relative, a complete stranger who picked it up and really liked and connected to the story.  I’m happy to say I accomplished that.


Best advice you've received, and that you'd want others to know?

I took a few risks that were met with complete approval and complete rejection, leaving me undecided as to what I wanted to commit to final print.  The best advice I got is from another author I admire, John W. Huffman.  He said to me, “It’s your story, keep your voice as yours and let your readers decided.  Avoid those English majors!”

Lol @ avoid the English majors! Guess that would be a mojo killer, innit?

Tell us about your latest release

THE GAZE is the story about a woman who’s looking for a restarting point before she loses herself to self-recrimination and regret.  The story has it all, (short of vampires and outer space) It’s a story of a unique brand of love that seldom gets the recognition it deserves, despite the fact that without it, none of would be who we are today, and that’s the love you find in friendships.

In 5 words:

      Your book:  One Hell Of A Rollercoaster
      Your heroine: An Ultimately Lovable Hot Mess
      Your hero: A Friend Like None Other
      You as an author: A Deeply Convoluted Word Lover

Let's say your book is a movie – which one does it most closely resemble?

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t watch enough movies to know how to answer that. 

Gosh, am I the only movie & TV show junkie of the writing world? *shamed* J

What real-life actors are playing the roles?

This one is easy:
Kate Beckinsale as Samantha Reddick
Jude Law as Lewis Bettford
Sophia Bush as Gwen Amaya
Adam Garcia as Tony Amaya
Chris Hemsworth as Brooks Waldenberg
Chris Evans as Jason Stephen McElroy

My author friends and I play this Fantasy Casting game and dream, and dream big, lol.

Awesome cast, and I agree - one of the most fun parts of writing is coming up with the fantasy cast. I love doing that too.

Now this movie needs a soundtrack – what songs/tracks best fit your book?

The main theme would have to be Silbermond’s Symphonie
The song is in German so most of us don’t understand it, but it haunting beauty and its poignant longing ARE Samantha.

Others are:
Def Leppard Hysteria
U2 With or Without You
Laura Pausini Viveme
Lady Antebellum  Need You Now
A Fine Frenzy  Ashes and Winethis one gets an asterisk because I played while writing a major turning point for Samantha.
Oasis  Wonderwall
Sinead O’Connor Last Day of Our Acquaintance
And a Cello number titled Unforgettable

You didn’t ask me about writer’s block, which I find surprising, but just in case, I break through it with a good song that feels custom made for that particular moment in the story.

I find music helps me break past blocks too, and funnily enough, I'd add an asterisk to Lady Antebellum's Need You Now as I wrote a complete turning point scene in my book Before The Morning (Corpus Brides: Book Two) based on the lyrics and feelings of that song.

Your characters end up in a world where everyone's a fashionista – how do they dress and what are they wearing?

Samantha is all about showing off her body, as Lewis is so fond of saying, she enhances the clothes rather than the other way around.  But she’s… I’ll say tastefully trampy, though she prefers pencil skirts and form fitting tops.
Lewis is incredibly formal and perennially elegant.
Gwen is the epitome of the pretty girl next door, so she’s all about jeans and comfortable tops
Tony is like me, white t’s and ripped jeans, old sneakers or work boots, whatever is available and comfortable.  We know as much about fashion as we know astro-physics.

Where can we find you and your books?

Amazon carries my books, my guess is that’d be the best way of acquiring it in Europe through Kindle.  I wouldn’t shy away from shipping a print copy anywhere, because to me that’s amazingly flattering. 

You can find me at WWW.JAVIERROBAYO.COM

Thanks so much for coming over today, Javier! I loved this insight into your books, your writing world, and your life - I'm sure my readers will love them too.

For me, I cannot wait to check out THE GAZE. Definitely a book I'm itching to read. J

From Mauritius with love,



Monica said...

Loved both the questions and the answers :) It was nice to read something more personal about Javier's life. The Gaze is a great story!

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