Monday, July 5, 2010

Interview with Andrew E. Kaufman, Author of "While the Savage Sleeps"

My Interview with author, Andrew E. Kaufman

Linda: Andrew, congratulations on publishing your novel, While the Savage Sleeps, a forensic paranormal mystery thriller. It sounds like a fascinating novel. In reading your biography I see you received university degrees in journalism and political science and then went on to become an Emmy-nominated writer/producer in TV news media. So my first questions are: When did you become interested in writing? Did you write as a kid?

Andrew: For as long as I can remember I've always had a fascination with and a love for the written word. My mother (to whom I dedicated the book) was an avid reader, and I think that had a significant influence on me. Plus, I've always been a communicator and yet somewhat introverted. For me, writing seemed to work in both respects.

Linda: Who or what has influenced your writing and in what way?

Andrew: That's a tough one. I think for me, as far as writing goes, the influence was a cumulative process: One part actual life experiences, one part the many things I've read throughout the years. I don't think any one has had more of an influence than the other. More, my writing is reflection of all of those.

Linda: Who have been your favorite writers over the years? What books do you believe have influenced your writing? What books have most influenced your life and/or your world view?

Andrew: Every single one of them! It doesn't matter whether or not I enjoyed them; in certain ways they've all helped shape me and my writing. I've greatly admired many writers, and that, I think, drove me to be better myself. In others, I may not have admired them so much and as a result decided to avoid writing in the same manner. But yes, there are some writers I've enjoyed more than others. Dennis Lehane comes to mind, and Jonathan Kellerman, too. Both have a very unique voice, which to me is of the utmost importance. You could throw a page in front of me from either of them and I'd be able identify it in a heartbeat.

Linda: I love to ask writers how they receive their inspiration. Many feel their inspiration comes from beyond them at times as they are working with their characters. Have you experienced that in your writing? Do you visualize your scenes? Do you “walk” in your character’s shoes?

Andrew: I've been told by people who have read While the Savage Sleeps that my writing is very visual, that the scenes seemed to play out in their heads like a movie. I think that's because I'm very big on capturing the mood and visuals when I write. In my mind's eye, I'm constantly zooming in, panning, pulling away, and examining things—not in a lingering sense or to the point of distraction, but just enough to give people a sense of where they are while they're on that page. As for my characters, I think they are all extensions of my own personality. In order to portray them effectively and give them dimension, I think you have to really get inside their heads (or maybe it's the reverse, or both). If you don't do that, you end up with very flat characters. My protagonist, Cameron Dawson, has had a particularly difficult life. In order to effectively get that across to the reader, I needed to feel his pain as if it were my own. I was able to do that, but it was a very difficult and emotional process. There were times I literally had to take a break from him and move on to something else because I felt emotionally drained. I suppose for an author, portraying a character can at times be like getting into an acting role.

Linda: Tell us about While the Savage Sleeps, and how the idea for the story began.

Andrew: Believe it or not, it came to me in a dream; no joke. I'd been struggling for quite some time, trying to figure out my plot but not having much luck at all. I remember waking up one morning—or rather, sitting straight up in bed—and saying to myself: “That's it! I've got it!” I suppose my subconscious, or maybe something else, had been trying to tell me something. Perhaps the only way to get me to listen was while I was asleep and my defenses were down. Either way, it worked. The idea resonated strongly, and a novel was born.

In a nutshell, While the Savage Sleeps is the story of two strangers: distance separates them, a dark secret connects them, but a voice from the grave will draw them together. It begins in the fictional town of Faith, New Mexico where strange things are happening. People are disappearing and for others it's far worse. The answer lies not in their backyard but miles away where Kyle Bancroft's life is turning upside-down. She's seeing, hearing, and dreaming things she can't explain: flashbacks to World War II and an eerie hospital ward with locked doors, empty gurneys, and gutteral screams. To make matters worse, a ghostly green-eyed girl is complicating Kyle's vision with an urgent message: time is running out. Kyle’s otherworldly encounters are driving her straight toward Faith, where she and Cameron will need to find out whether the child speaking from the grave is dangerously evil or trying to help them uncover a secret the town has been hiding for more than fifty years.

Linda: You have taken what is becoming the new direction in publishing...self publishing, e-publishing, as many of us are doing. Why your decision to do so? Your book is available at Amazon Kindle. What other plans do you have for it? Will it also be in print soon?

Andrew: I feel very strongly about this. I spent more than a year querying agents, trying to find representation, and I had quite a few requests for the manuscript, as well as a lot of positive feedback. The comments were indeed very encouraging, things like: “It's very well written.” and “Compelling story.” and “Has tons of potential.” But in the end, many of them felt it was a genre that fell a bit too far outside their areas of expertise. Agenting these days has become extremely specialized. Most are very specific about what they feel they can sell. Because While the Savage Sleeps mixes two sort of unlikely bedfellows, forensics and the paranormal, I think that made it difficult to pin down, where genres are concerned and thus, a not-so-good candidate for agent representation. But I believe e-books and self publishing are about to change everything. This isn't your father's “vanity press” anymore. Amazon and many others are now paving the way for indie authors and allowing them to find their audiences, or perhaps visa versa. Regardless of what the naysayers think, this is a great time to be an author because it's a whole new game. Just look at Joe Konrath. He's selling his e-books hand over fist. As for print, yes, I'm currently in the process of working out the details on that and hope to have a hard copy available by the end of summer.

Linda: With your years of experience in writing, research, and skill as a journalist, how would you compare that to your experience of writing a novel?

Andrew: Two completely different worlds. When I wrote for television news, the stories were often 15 to 20 second blurbs—not exactly the most nurturing environment for creativity. Even when I produced special series, they were often only about a minute-thirty, and that was with soundbites. But on the other hand, it did teach me some valuable skills. For one, I learned to be economical with words. I admit I did go the other direction for a bit, a little crazy with words, but that I think was to be expected (I was verbally frustrated), however, I did come back around and tone it down. TV news also taught me to research my stories well. For While the Savage Sleeps, I actually attended an autopsy. I wanted my scene to not only be factually correct, I also wanted the readers to get a sense of the mood and nuances in that setting. I have to admit it was a truly nauseating experience, one I'd rather not have to experience again, but I don't think the book would have been the same without it.

Linda: One more question—what is your favorite quote?

Andrew: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” –Anais Nin

Linda: That’s a great quote. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to interview you for my blog, Andrew. Again, congratulations on getting your book out there, and the best of luck with it.

Andrew: The pleasure was mine. Thank you for having me!

Visit Andrew E. Kaufman's website and his blog.


1 comment:

Ricky Kendall said...

Andrew sounds like a very interesint person. It must have been a lot of fun speaking with him.