Monday, 7 March 2011
Author Interview with T.L.Gray
TSR: A very warm welcome to you TL, and a very big thank-you, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.
TL: It’s my pleasure!
TSR: Can you tell us a bit about where you live and why do you like living there?
TL: I live in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in a cosy little town of West Georgia. Temple has all the convenience of the big city and the slow-paced family feel of the small-town.
TSR: What sort of books did you read when you were a child and what was your favourite?
TL: I love everything from Shel, Silverstein, Nancy Drew, Piers Anthony and Jane Austen. I was never pigeon-holed into one particular genre, I read anything that helped me escape the reality in which I lived. All of them were my favourite, especially the ones I made up.
TSR: When did you first start writing seriously?
TL: Not until my late twenty’s when I was making up stories for my children. As the stories grew bigger, names, dates and plots began to mix together so I had to write them down to keep them in their own stories. They were little ramblers back then!
TSR: Did you always want to become a writer and why?
TL: No, I never gave it a thought, however as I look back on my life I was always a story teller and a people watcher, never believing anything people said; waited to see the real stories develop by their actions and body language. I think that’s also what helped form my writing style, choosing active/showing, verses passive/telling.
TSR: What genre would you say your book ‘The Blood of Cain’ belongs to?
TL: Historical Thriller, paranormal, I’m not really sure. It could fit in many different genres. I didn’t consider a genre when I began writing the story, I never do. I just write and this is what comes out.
TSR: What inspired you to write a book based on the well known biblical tale about Cain and Abel?
T.L: The mystery was already written. I love unanswered questions, because they always send me on a quest for an answer. Here you had the first born son of humanity, the world’s first murderer, and the only human to ever be personally cursed by God with an unfinished tale. A few sentences were said about him, declaring this great consequence for such an evil act, positioning Cain to become un-relatable, even pushing him to an almost inhuman status, yet nothing else is ever said about him. He’s a blip that just disappears off the radar. Well, I saw Cain as a human being, a person with hopes, dreams, feelings, regrets, sorrows, anger, and so on... and I put myself into his shoes and asked, “What would I do? What is the true punishment for the sin committed? What were the circumstances?” Then from there I began studying everything I knew about Cain. I began polling everyone I met what they thought and overwhelmingly no one thought more of him than a mere murderer. I wanted to flesh him out, because he was someone’s son, he was someone’s brother, he was someone’s father... and he has a story. Thus, the Blood of Cain was born.
TSR: ‘What gave you the idea in having two timelines within your story?
TL: I wanted to incorporate a beginning, a history, a foundation, but I always wanted to pull the story into the modern day, to illustrate that actions have consequences, even if it’s not in our lifetime; that humanity though it has changed and evolved over the years, still face many of the same decisions, problems and pains.
TSR: How did you go about developing Teagan and the other characters in your story?
TL: I never really know what new characters show up, until I type their names on the keyboard. After I’ve studied and my brain sponge has absorbed all it can at a time, I release it on the page. I meet them and either hate, or fall in love with them, much the same way any reader does. I tell people often, I’m not really an author, but more of a scribe... writing down what I see, hear, feel and observe in my imagination as it is shown to me. But, I personally don’t create the characters or the story. I just have the privilege of writing them down and introducing them to the world.
TSR: How and why did you write a Christian based story with a story about vampires and immortality, vampires being generally viewed as evil (ok Cain killed his brother = evil), but vampires are also looked upon in a sexual way, in modern day writing about them. These are two opposing and conflicting themes, but yet, it has worked very well for you in your book. Can you untangle my thoughts and tell me your feelings about this, or have I got this entirely wrong?
T.L: Well in my study in the vampire lore, and having been a biblical scholar for more than fifteen years, I was very interested in the foundation of the vampiric myths - where it started, what does it mean, why can they do or not do what they do? I’m a 'why, why, why' person. I was that little girl that drove everybody crazy because I constantly asked, "Why".
In my thirst for answers, I discovered a lot of the foundational lore came from Judeo-Christian religious symbolisms used to teach safeguarding against attack or possession by demonic spirits. That's where things like the cross, holy water, having to be invited in, and blood consumption/transfusion became part of the lore. Of course sin, in its raw form became the 'personality' of the vampire, making them evil, lustful, and so forth. The immortality was introduced to mirror and oppose spiritual immortality, which of course is gained through the 'blood of Jesus Christ' and the practice of communion or passed/infected/consumed by the vampire.
The reason many Christian vampire stories don't work is because they're trying to mesh two stories with their own distinct foundations into one, but you can't do that unless you tear or change one of them down. In essence, Jesus is not Lord of the dead or demonic, but of the living. You essentially can't have a 'saved' demon under either established foundation. So I had to go back to the beginning - literally... all the way back and the story of creation and Adam & Eve. Cain held the perfect mystery, the perfect catalyst. Here he was the first human, first murderer, the only human every cursed or marked by God... and yet the story just fades away. You've got the story of the fall of humanity, God closing off access to the Garden of Eden, placing two cherubim with flaming swords to keep people from eating from the Tree of Life. Why? My thoughts instantly asked, 'Why - what would happen if they did'? And that led me to... "If they did, what does that mean for salvation?" There was a reason God separated it from us, but why?
Most importantly, I saw Cain as a human being with thoughts, feelings, emotions, faults and weakness... JUST LIKE ME. Yet, I found no one who shared the same thoughts. Most never gave him a second thought, simply labelling him as a murderer, evil, unworthy. I saw him as somebody's son, somebody's father, somebody's brother, somebody's husband - and couldn't help but think... "What would Cain think of how people think of him?" He's forever marked with a Scarlett letter by people who have done the same, if not worse, than he has. How would I feel living under such a stigma of knowing it was my parents who condemned the whole world? How would I feel knowing that I was the only person in all existence that was cursed for their sin for everybody in the world to ALWAYS see... and then marked and protected by God? There was a mystery that my imagination just exploded with... and there was no stopping it once it got started.
Then I read several vampire series and after reading them, felt really frustrated because NONE of them ever answered the simple questions like: "Who was the first? How did this happen? What's the purpose? What's the eternal result? Why can they do some things and not do other? What happens to a vampire when it dies? What is a vampire really, a demon, a soul-less human? What makes us human - that makes them vampire?
The next thing I know... I was answering all the questions... from the foundation of what I already knew from my study of the Bible. Cain is essentially NOT a vampire because he's NOT dead, but is immortally alive. With that immortality comes a certain supernatural ability. My science=geek turned into high gear and everything I knew about cell reproduction, DNA, blood, how our bodies work, tanning, the earth, gravity, our atmosphere and environment, etc... mixed with everything I knew about the supernatural... and then all of that mixed with all the things we don't know and only speculate - like the dead zone areas of our brains, telekinesis, regeneration, telepathy, etc.
Thus, ‘The Blood of Cain’ was born... and continues on in The Arcainian series. I guess it all comes down to the fact that I'm a biblical scholar, science geek, history nerd and supernatural enthusiast... who has a very big imagination and can't stop asking... "WHY".
I hope that at least starts to answer your questions. This is one of those things where I'd like to sit down to tea and can discuss each tiny segment for hours. I've got lots and lots and lots of research. However, all that research doesn't do me any good without the ability to transfer it onto the page in a format that is understandable to the reader. If readers would 'Google' most of what I wrote in that book... the story would magnify a billion times its 192 pages. I don't change one thread of mythos, religion, science or history. EVERYTHING, every name, every date, every theory is something based on something else. I'm not a ‘creator’, I'm a good manipulator - taking bits and pieces from things I've learned, mixing them together and painting a different picture. One I hope people will love and enjoy.
TSR: When is the movie coming out and who would you like to see in what roles?
TL: Hopefully soon! There is interest in the story. A movie producer and a screenwriter are considering the book now. Something great may come out of it and I may one day see my book on film, or not. Either way, I’m excited just because there’s interest.
While writing The Blood of Cain, once a character developed on the page, my mind automatically tried to fill that image from an already known image, so I do have certain actors in mind for certain characters. Such as Steven Strait – Cain, Jensen Ackles – Teagan, Mila Kunis – Tatiana, Paul Bettany – Abital, Justin Bartha – Bartemaeus, Allison Mack – Blythe, Alex O’Laughlin – Carpus and Emma Stone – Chloe. These are not necessarily my favourite actors, but they fit very closely to the image of the characters I’ve created.
TSR: Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?
TL: Study, research, write, write, edit, study, research, write, write, edit, edit and edit some more. Put it to the side for awhile and work on something else. Then, come back to it, re-read, edit, edit and edit some more. Then let it go. Send it out into the world and see what it can do!
TSR: Where do you like to do your writing?
TL: Mostly in my home office. I do like sometimes to take my laptop out into nature, go for a hike, but usually when I do that... I never get out the laptop. I let my mind, my body and my spirit absorb all the beauty and inspiration around me... when I get back to my keyboard it spills out of me as I go through the story in various places. If I try to force it into a specific place, it usually doesn’t work.
TSR: Would you have any sound advice for those who would like to start writing a book for the first time?
TL: Yes – you must settle it in your heart to discipline yourself, because writing is a tedious task. While at the same time it’s the greatest excitement as inspiration hits and a story flows from your fingertips, you spend MORE time doing tedious work, editing, researching, posting, submitting, reviewing, networking and handling the business side of things. This area I see most people fall by the wayside. Be diligent and disciplined and you’ll get to experience one of the greatest joys... seeing your work in print and your characters come alive in the mind and imagination of other readers.
TSR: Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you enjoy?
TL: I love the outdoors and like hiking, white-water rafting, horse-back riding, camping, etc. I love teaching, helping others. I do a lot of volunteer work feeding the hungry. I’m very active in my writer’s group and community cultural arts. I love to travel and see EVERYTHING!
TSR: Are you currently reading a book at the moment and if so, what is it?
TL: ‘The Exiled Queen’ by Cinda Chima Williams. It’s the second book of the Seven Realms series. I’m a huge fan of Williams.
TSR: What is your all time favourite book and why?
TL: The Harry Potter Series – because it is able to take me out of my current reality and plop me right down into the middle of a magical adventure, every time, no matter how many times I’ve read it!
TSR: Are you planning to write any other books at the moment?
TL: I’m actually working on several projects: The Blood of Cain is the first book in the Arcainian series. The second book, The Arcainians – Atlanta, is already finished. I’ve got a few other projects I’m working on getting released first and then it will be available. I’m hoping later this year to start working on book three. This is my current work schedule:
• The Arcainians – Atlanta – Completed but want to go through another round of edits before I release it.
• Mary Perry Hudson Autobiography – Mary is the mother to pop star Katy Perry and I’m writing her authorized autobiography.
• Keezy’s Ten Awesome Rules to Teenage Dating – this is a little novelty handbook I’m writing with my 16-year old daughter about the pitfalls, perils and preposterous plots of teenage dating.
• I’m ghost-writing on two Christian non-fiction books right now. Both are due for publication soon.
• Bitter Tea – a fictional murder mystery I wrote about 5 years ago. I want to breathe new life into it and release her into the world.
• The Necromancer Series – I’ve already written the first two books – 'Orientation' and 'The Year of the Unicorn'. After I get some of these other projects cleared off my desk, I’d like to get these first two published and then start working on the third.
TSR: What simple things in life make you smile?
TL: Playing games with my family; watching a movie; reading a great book; debating plot points in movies or books; playing with my pets; having a girl’s spa day; being out in nature.
TSR: TL, I have been absolutely delighted and very honoured that you agreed to be interviewed by me for this site. I would also like to thank-you again for taking the time to speak to us today.
TL.: You’re very welcome!
If you are interested in finding out more about T.L. Gray and her writing, these are the direct links to her web sites: