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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Author Interview: Minnie Lahongrais

Today I am pleased to present to you all the 95th in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the people-watching, salsa-dancing, Minnie Lahongrais, and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
Minnie:  Other than writing or researching every day, I don’t really have any rituals. More and more, I have begun listening to classical music when writing. There are no words in classical music and listening keeps my ADD at bay. I particularly like baroque piano pieces for writing scary or thrilling scenes and classical solo piano pieces for most everything else.
Paul:  What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Minnie:  I will read anything I can get my hands on. In order of preference, I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers (big surprise there, huh?), as well as biographies, historical fiction and fantasy -- including urban fantasy and paranormal tales.
With regard to favorite authors, I won’t name any specific ones lest I offend someone or leave someone out. However, my favorite authors are those that grab a hold of me from the very beginning of a story. The ones that make me feel like a voyeur, then drop me on my butt at the end of the story.
Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Minnie:  This question made me smile. Because I am always working on several projects, if someone had the power to step into my creative mind, they would probably feel like they’ve fallen into a rabbit hole. They would see a kaleidoscope of bloody images; images highlighting some other-worldly creature, or images of seemingly normal people but for some quirk you can’t quite put your finger on, all swirling about with colorful flashing lights highlighting whatever it is I’m working on at the time.
Paul:  What is a typical day for you?
Minnie:  I wake every day between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. and spend about an hour going through emails, tweets, blog posts and FB updates on my Galaxy Note in bed. On weekends, I go back to sleep until about 8 a.m. after I’ve done that, but during the work week I get up and go to my computer to respond to messages and the like until about 6:30. I stop at this point, put coffee on then exercise for about 1/2 hr. then get ready for work.

My commute is 1.5 hours door to door each way. I read on my commute or review a printout of either my WIP or research for any given project. When I return home in the evenings, around 7 p.m., I work on social media for about an hour then get ready to do it all again the next day.

Most Saturday afternoons and evenings I spend with family and/or friends, and Sunday is “Take Care of Minnie Day.”
Paul:  Do you have a favorite character in each of your books, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
Minnie:  In Sinner’s Ride my favorite character is Stana Gomez. Stana is Sinner’s conflicted best friend. She has a crush on Sinner and tries everything in her power to be the person Sinner goes to first whenever she needs something. Stana wants to be Sinner’s hero.

In Divergent Lives my favorite character is Benny, Adina’s first love because he is based on someone I knew long ago.
Paul:  In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
Minnie:  I’ve only been published for 2 years, but I have learned not to be so sensitive to negative reviews. A review is nothing more than opinion and like noses everybody has one. If nothing else, you have to have a thick skin if you’re going to get anything accomplished as an independent author. I made the mistake of firing off an email to someone whose religious sensitivities were offended by the material in Sinner’s Ride. I’ll never do that again, particularly since that person had not read the book but for the excerpt you can read on amazon.

I write not only because I truly enjoy and have a passion for it, but I because have to let these stories out. If people enjoy them, then that really pleases me. If people don’t enjoy them, then there’s really nothing I can do about it.
Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
Minnie:  I make time to write every single day, even if it’s just on my lunch hour, or on my phone on the train. If I can’t actually sit somewhere and write, I use voice notes to document my ideas until I can get someplace where I can incorporate those thoughts into my manuscript. Very often those voice notes are the beginnings of new stories.
Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Minnie:  What? LOL!! If I respond to this question here, then I’d be telling what I don’t want you to tell!
Paul:  If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Minnie:  Sinner’s Ride was published by a vanity press. Divergent Lives was completely self-published under the LAHONGRAIS BOOKS banner, my company.

With my first book, I was not fully aware of all that encompassed publishing a book independently. As I delved into marketing and promotions, I realized that although I was doing all the work, I had no control over pricing and my hands were tied when it came to promotions. So, even before I began writing my second book, I decided I would publish any future works completely on my own until or unless an opportunity presented itself where I would have some say in how my work was promoted/marketed.
Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Minnie:  Sinner’s Ride was written stream of consciousness during one frenzied month of weekends in November of 2010. With Divergent Lives I spent a lot of time doing technical and historical research and developing the psychological typologies for the major characters.  With regard to the plot, when I began thinking about this story, I only had a vision for the ending of the story. I wrote that down then let the characters tell the story.

With my current WIP, Broken Wings (working title), I had more of a feeling. I envisioned two faceless characters coming together after tragedy and entering into a relationship wherein one character’s issues of lack of self esteem are resolved and the other character’s issue of finding self worth through his hero complex is examined.
Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Minnie:  Oh no. I absolutely do lots of editing. I never think, even after submitting a project for publishing, that my manuscript is the best it can be. I always, always ALWAYS find something wrong with it and I am constantly working to improve my craft.
Paul:  Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Minnie:  With each book that I write, I do more and more research. My goal is to have a product that is as fully formed and as realistic as possible.
Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it.
Minnie:  Divergent Lives is my most recent release. It is the story of fraternal twins born of Puerto Rican immigrant parents in the early 60’s. One of the children is born with a physical abnormality and the attending physician decides that the parents will be ill equipped to deal with the needs of this child, so he sells the child on the black market to a couple living in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

The story is told in parallel to show how even though these children are raised in different homes and different parenting styles, they both grow up to be sociopaths with one of them becoming a serial killer.
Paul:  What inspired you to write this book?
Minnie:  I had a vision of a dead woman lying in a foyer and thought: “OK. What happened? How did she end up there?” After ruminating on this a few days, I sat down at my computer and wrote the chapter I thought would be the last chapter of the story – it was not; it became the first chapter – then I printed it and went to bed.

The next morning, while putting on my makeup I remembered a conversation I overheard as a little girl my mother was having with my older brother’s girlfriend. The words The baby died in utero; choked by its umbilical cord when its twin, in a hurry to be born, climbed over it and killed it, smacked me in the forehead.
This got me thinking about how the surviving child might have gone through life knowing this, and the story took off from that point for me. During this process, I decided to allow the two main characters, the twins; to meet but kept them naïve to the fact that they were siblings.
Paul:  How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Minnie:  I use Twitter and Facebook for marketing and recently I’ve begun sharing my website more. That’s where you can go to read about all of my ongoing projects.

In the past, Sinner, my main character in Sinner’s Ride has conducted “Pink Diamond Interviews” with various other indie authors. This year, I’ve expanded that idea with “Pink Diamond Inspiration” interviews on my website’s blog – which is ever expanding. I’m also in the process of producing a radio show on of the same title. For more information on that project, visit
Paul:  What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Minnie:  My least favorite aspect of writing is editing. DISCLAIMER: I love my editor, Andi Reis of Ralph’s Design and Deli. I do. But the prospect of chopping up my baby, chewing her up and spitting her out – well, I’m usually ready for bear when it comes to the editing process in order to protect her!

I have two favorite parts of writing: research and the actual weaving of the story are my favorite things to do.

Does anything surprise me? Absolutely! Sometimes, I can’t believe that some of the dialogue that shows up on my screen actually came from me!
Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Minnie:  Well, I have a day job and before surgery last year, I used to dance. I don’t go to clubs any more, but was known around town for salsa dancing. Now, my hobbies are much more sedentary. I love to try new restaurants with my daughter and grandson or a friend. I love people watching and if I can do that from a street café or a restaurant that has outside seating, I’m a happy camper.

I love when my grandson comes over. I am always awestruck by the way he views life and the way he expresses those views in conversations with me. Sometimes I fear for him because he’s such a sensitive soul and the world can be so cruel. 

Paul:  Thanks, Minnie, that was most interesting. I wish you every success for the future.

About Minnie Lahongrais: Author Minnie Lahongrais works as a litigation secretary for an international law firm in her native New York City.

An avid reader, she would sneak books to read under her covers at bedtime by the light of a penlight her father secretly gave her as a child. This small gift gave way to a vivid imagination coupled with a seemingly unquenchable curiosity and thirst for knowledge.

She began writing thrillers and fantasy stories in earnest after her father died in 2005 as a way to deal with his death.

Minnie is the author of two psychological thrillers: SINNERS RIDE and DIVERGENT LIVES.

Time not spent working or with family and friends is split between her next novel (working title: “Broken Wings”) and the production of her PINK DIAMOND INSPIRATIONS talk show on which premiered in mid-July, 2013.

Minnie's Blog: Minnie Lahongrais
Minnie on Twitter: @lahongrais
Minnie on Facebook: Minnie Lahongrais
Minnie's latest book: Divergent Lives (Amazon)

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul!

    I've been so overwhelmed since late July, I hadn't seen this!

    Thanks so much for allowing me to visit! This was fun!