Guest Post: Minnie Lahongrais

Writing Divergent Lives

Divergent Lives JPEG One Page CoverIn July of 2011, I sat at my computer to write what I thought was going to be the story of a woman, born of Puerto Rican immigrant parents raised in El Barrio who was conflicted about the ideals she was raised with. I wanted to show how those ideals played out in the revolutionary times of the 60s.

The working title for the story was Standing on the Precipice. I thought I knew how the story would play out when I sat down to write it. I wrote the prologue as well as the first chapter in one sitting then printed that section with the intention of reading it on the train on my way in to work the next day.

The next morning, while putting on my makeup, a childhood memory came rushing back to me. I should have been asleep, but I was eavesdropping on my mother who was having a conversation with my older brother’s girlfriend when I heard this little tidbit:

“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.”

I was horrified because I knew the person she was talking about! I didn’t read that excerpt on the train that morning. Instead I played out several “what if” scenarios in my head.

“What if that child hadn’t died? What kind of life would it have had? What if the baby had been born with an abnormality? How would the family handle it? What if they gave up the child? What if they think the child is stillborn and it’s sold on the black market instead?”

While discussing the possibilities with another author one night, I decided on a title and release date. Both decisions were important in order to make an impact. Divergent Lives was born that night.

I threw out the prologue, made the first chapter the second chapter and wrote the ending. Now all I had to do was get there.

I began my research in earnest. I studied the differences between psychopaths and sociopaths but became frustrated because I found that both mental conditions could easily be confused for one another. I did find one tiny difference and settled on making these two main characters — the twins — sociopaths.

I studied Bolivia during the end of World War II.

I spoke with an OB/GYN who had knowledge about how things were done in the 60s. I met with a psychotherapist who practiced in the 80s.

I set about studying the laws governing drug sales in the 80s and spoke with real estate experts about amenities that were available in the early 00s in newly built condominiums.

I studied the growth of technology between 1990 and 2000 and I spoke with retired policemen about police procedures.

Once I had all that information in one place, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was pretty excited. The thoughts and ideas ran rampant in my mind 24 hours a day. I couldn’t get them all down on paper fast enough and resorted to voice notes. Today I listen to those breathless notes filled with excitement in my voice and I can only chuckle.

I would rush home to write. What was once the first chapter became the second chapter, what was once the last chapter became the first and I continued on from there, writing consistently and steadily for almost a year. Then I hit a brick wall.

A year after starting this story, I was two thirds of the way through – I had a beginning, an ending and a big hole in the middle. I called my manuscript my “donut” and put it aside to ruminate on how I was going to close up that big ole hole. I put together a list of thirteen issues I needed to address.

I was getting ready to go in for surgery and I knew I would be convalescing for three months. I figured I could address those issues during that time. Wrong again. The first six weeks after surgery were pure hell. I couldn’t focus, I was drugged up, and my characters abandoned me.

I was taken off medication during the 7th week after my surgery and my characters came alive for me again. I finished the story over the next five weeks.

Divergent Lives is a psycho-thriller with decidedly deviant twists to a sociopathic theme. It tells the story of RJ and Adina who enter the world as fraternal twins, one raised by old-world, controlling immigrants in El Barrio, the other sold into a religious home filled with lies and scorn. Both are sociopaths.

Turns out, RJ’s got a secret that enrages him with the flip of a switch. Adina uses her sexual power to dominate every man in her life. They are on a mysterious trajectory to cross paths in New York City, where the end of their lives culminates in an apex of horror and carnage.

A quote, written by Marquis de Sade in “Dialogue the Fifth” from his Philosophy in the Bedroom aptly states the message I wanted to convey with this story.

“One must feel sorry for those who have strange tastes, but never insult them. Their wrong is Nature’s too; they are no more responsible for having come into the world with tendencies unlike ours than are we for being born bandy-legged or well-proportioned.”

Think about that. Are we to blame for who we are?

 Divergent Lives is available now on Amazon.com in the US as well as in the UK Additional purchase links for other parts of the world can be found on my website.

Minnie Lahongrais

Contact Minnie on the following sites:

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My Website – Worldwide purchase links can be found here

Divergent Lives on Amazon.com

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Interview with Minnie Lahongrais!

                                             

I had the privilege to meet Minnie on Twitter over a year ago, in response to a blog post she’d written about dealing with the negativity family/friends can have towards your writing. Since then, we’ve become friends and have encouraged each other along the way. I’ve had the opportunity to read her first novel, Sinner’s Ride, and I have to tell you, that was a different type of story, nothing like what I’ve read before! I like different, something that steps outside the ‘box’ and breaks the rules, because it’s what I do with my writing as well.  December 12th was the release of her second novel, Divergent Lives, and let me tell you, it too is different! Next week, Minnie will be dropping by again to talk about her new release, so for now, I’ll let her tell you about herself!

Welcome, Minnie!

What inspired you to write?
I have always been an avid reader and I still have books I purchased as a teenager. In fact, I was a member of the Doubleday Book Club as well as the Book of the Month Club since I was about thirteen until my early forties. I still have books I purchased that way. I absolutely love the smell of a new book as you crack its spine.
My father passed away in 2005 and I became increasingly despondent. Four years later, after enduring a really bad break-up that left me in the hole for thousands of dollars, I still wasn’t any better; in fact, my depression became worse. I was broke and couldn’t afford therapy and a friend suggested I keep a journal to pour my feelings into. I didn’t want to do that because if anything happened to me, I didn’t want anyone to know what I was really thinking or feeling. I put on a smile and every day I went to work.
The fact that there were constant terror alerts in the neighborhood where I work – Times Square – didn’t make it any better.
While sitting on the train one day, I glanced over at the woman sitting next to me who was holding a book opened to a chapter entitled When Dreams Die and I had an epiphany. I desperately wanted to know what she was reading but didn’t want to intrude.
As I walked to my office from the train station, I asked myself “What if dead dreams could be resurrected?” and Resurrection of Dead Dreams was born. That was on May 13, 2010, a week before my father’s birthday.
I began writing in earnest that day, at my desk, at my day job.
What genre do you write? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?
I’ve created my own genre: the Pink Diamond Genre! I am often asked that question and frankly, I don’t like being boxed in. Labeling myself feels claustrophobic to me. That is why I enjoy being an Indie Author. Both Sinner’s Rideand Divergent Lives are psychological thrillers. My Resurrection of Dead Dreamsseries is urban fantasy.
As a newbie author, I want to try different things. I do have a dark imagination so I will probably write more books like my two previous works, but I would also like to try my hand at erotica … oooh. That didn’t sound right! Ah! Double entendres!
What you probably won’t see from me – I won’t say never because never is a long time – but it is unlikely that I’ll be doing love stories with any happily-ever-afters. Call me jaded, but I can’t relate.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I have a very demanding day job where the hours tend to be long. I’m usually up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. when I automatically reach for my phone and go through emails, tweets, blog posts and Facebook postings. I then physically get out of bed around 6:15, perform morning prayers then get ready for work.
My commute is between an hour and an hour and a half long, so I usually read from an eBook or research I may have printed previously. If I don’t have lunch plans – which I rarely make – I write or research during my lunch hour and then I read some more during my evening commute.
When I get home during the week in the evening I do the social media thing for about an hour, exercise a bit and then I prepare to do it all over again the next day. I’m usually in bed by 9 p.m.
Weekends, I don’t leave the house unless it is absolutely necessary. A couple of times during the month I’ll hang out with my daughter and her family or I’ll have my grandson over. When I don’t have plans with them, I will leave my office Friday night and not leave my apartment until Monday morning because I’ve been writing or researching.
Since I’m just recovering financially, when I take vacation time, I stay close to home and spend 90% of that time writing. I am my most productive when I know that I have a big block of time that I can dedicate to writing.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can only write in complete silence because I am living what I write. I become my character. Also, I don’t drink alcoholic beverages when I’m writing and my best writing is done at night.
Are you a pantser or plotter?
I am more pantser than plotter though I have begun to list the issues I need to address in my manuscripts.
With Divergent Lives I did use the Marshall Plan to flesh out the characters but I couldn’t get into planning every little detail of the story. Whenever I tried to stick to the plan, the characters rebelled and went their own way. When I allowed them to take over, the story flowed and evolved organically.
I’m thinking I might try Scrivener for Resurrection of Dead Dreamsbecause it is a much bigger, more complex story. I’ve put together a masthead for the characters already created along with background information on each, psychological profiles and their connections to each other.
Are your stories based on experiences based on someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share and example?
All of my stories have a grain of truth in them. They all contain an experience, a feeling – something from my own life that I engorge with fiction.
For example: Like Adina and RJ from Divergent Lives I was born of immigrant Puerto Rican parents in the dead of winter in the middle of the night. I grew up in East Harlem in the late 60s and 70s — just like Adina.
RJ grew up in Lebanon, Pennsylvania where I have cousins.
I live near Riverdale.
I actually frequent the Thai restaurant Qi — the place where Adina has a major event.
Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Write, research and write some more. Never stop looking at the world around you. Let your imagination roam freely. Don’t be afraid to fail. Not everybody will like your work, but don’t stop writing.
 MJ: Wonderful advice and oh so true!!

Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?
Sinner’s Ride was published by a vanity press. Divergent Lives is published under my own banner Lahongrais Books.
I love the creative control I have being a self-published author. I love being able to see in real time how my book is doing. I love choosing my own team. I don’t love the expense, but I love what I do and I know I will always find a way to make things happen.
What are your current projects?
Right now I’m focusing on marketing and promoting Divergent Lives. Soon, I’ll revisit the eighteen chapters I have completed in Book One of my series Resurrection of Dead Dreams. I have a list of things I need to research before I can begin thinking about how this story is going to play out.
                    

Blurb: 
Divergent Lives is a psycho-thriller with decidedly deviant twists to a sociopathic theme. It tells the story of RJ and Adina who enter the world as fraternal twins, one raised by old-world, controlling immigrants in El Barrio, the other sold into a religious home filled with lies and scorn. Both are sociopaths.

Turns out, RJ’s got a secret that enrages him with the flip of a switch. Adina uses her sexual power to dominate every man in her life. They are on a mysterious trajectory to cross paths in New York City, where the end of their lives culminates in an apex of horror and carnage.

Links:

Check back next week for a guest post by Minnie sharing more about her current novel, Divergent Lives!