Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Author Interview: Resa Nelson on Our Lady of the Absolute

'Lo Peoples,

Her Tangh-i-ness has been hanging out with other writers. I'm lucky I have so many interesting peeps.

Sooooooooo, we're talking with Resa Nelson the author of Our Lady of the Absolute. Ms. Nelson already has a published novel The Dra
gonslayer's Sword available. Our Lady of the Absolute will be her second title appearing in print from Mundania Press. See link for purchase info.


It's available now direct from the publisher as a PDF ebook and a Trade Paperback.
Amazon and Barnes and Noble will also offer it and you may see Ms. Nelson at upcoming New England events. Let's get right to the juicy questions.

Have you ever been to Egypt?

Yes, a couple of times. I've spent a total of four weeks in Egypt, spending time in Alexandria, Cairo, Giza, Memphis, Luxor, and Aswan. I've been to major attractions like the Egyptian Museum and the pyramids, and I've been to tiny villages to see examples of mud-brick architecture. I've visited the major temples located up and down the Nile. While in Egypt, I traveled by plane, train, automobile, bus, horse-drawn carriage, felucca (small boat), riverboat, and camel. There was one site that was accessible only by trekking through the Sahara by camel (it only took an hour or so), and it was about 112 degrees that day. But the desert heat is a dry heat and it was actually very doable. And very much worth the experience!

There a saying that all roads lead to Rome but does your book seem to be suggesting everything leads to back Egypt?

In some ways, yes. I think a lot of people all over the world are drawn to ancient Egypt. Because it was a civilization that lasted for thousands of years in a part of the world where the climate makes it possible to preserve everything from painted surfaces to sandals made from reeds, we're blessed to have a lot of artifacts in great shape. Scientists still don't know how the pyramids were built or how ancient Egyptians created paint that's still colorful and vibrant today, thousands of years after being created. And the ancient Egyptians documented a lot about their life (for example, receipts and records) in stone, and that reveals a lot about them and their daily life. Not to mention that everyone's lineage ultimately goes back to Africa.

What genre does this book fit?

Technically, it's a fantasy about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. It's a fantasy in the sense that there currently is no country where people dress like ancient Egyptians and worship their gods. But because I'm a big fan of mysteries, that influences my work. There are mystery/thriller elements as well as action/adventure in Our Lady of the Absolute. Right now my favorite authors are Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane, and reading their work makes me think about my own.

Who is the suggested audience for this book?

I always write for adults, but bookstore managers and owners tell me my work is appropriate for ages 14 and up.

So why shoot your own book trailers and post them on You Tube?

I've studied screenwriting for many years and have been a huge fan of movies since childhood. I watch at least two new movies each week. I study what other people have done so I can learn even more. I wanted to find a way to promote my new book in a way that was fun and different. I wanted to try something I've never done before, which is making my own book trailers. However, several years ago I participated in a project of making three short independent movies, which was the equivalent of student filmmaking. It gave me the opportunity to learn by experience in addition to the courses I'd already taken in screenwriting. For that project, I wrote two screenplays and was a producer. My pre-production work included running casting calls, set design, blocking scenes with the director, and getting sponsors. During production I was on set and helped out wherever I could, including a little bit of camera, lighting, and sound work. It was a tremendous learning experience, and I realized I already had enough experience to make my own book trailers quickly and efficiently and I already knew the resources available to me and how to tap into them.

You wrote the book but what about writing a screenplay for Our Lady of the Absolute?
I'd love to do that. Ironically, soon after I wrote the book I kept seeing it as a stage play. I saw it as a musical, and kept seeing scenes of the characters singing. It gave me chills. I've already studied play writing, so who knows?

Why did you present these four characters from the novel?

Three of the four characters in the book trailer go on huge individual journeys, which intertwine. The fourth character is a somewhat minor character, but even she learns and grows and changes by the end of the book. I wanted to give people a glimpse of who these characters are and what they're facing.

What did you intend for the viewer to take away from viewing all four trailers?

There's a story behind the story of these four trailers, which you won't understand until you read the book. My intent is for each book trailer to be like a piece of a puzzle. When you see all four book trailers, you can probably figure out how these characters are related to each other. Seeing all four book trailers will answer some questions while raising others. I hope I'm giving viewers enough to pique their interest in reading the book.

Do you have a specific "ethnic look" that you wanted for your characters?

Yes. A lot of my characters are people of color, and I was really hoping to cast to match the ethnicity of the characters in the novel. It's not as easy as you might think. First, I have a tiny budget and have asked actors to work for no pay -- that eliminates a lot of actors right off the bat. I'm hoping the experience and exposure will benefit my actors, but many actors won't work for free and I respect that choice. But it gives me a smaller pool of actors from which to choose. Second, I didn't want to specify race in the casting call because I've learned from experience that it's a really bad strategy to limit yourself. If I ran the risk of specifying race or color, I would end up with an even smaller pool -- and what if no one auditioned for one or more of the roles? Then I'd have to cancel the entire project, because I've written the scripts so they interweave and depend on each other. There was no way I was willing to take the risk of canceling the project. I'm not willing to waste that kind of time, energy, and money. It's a good thing I made that decision, because the worst happened. For one role, no one of color expressed an interest -- that meant my choice was to cast someone white or cancel the project. For another role, the only actor of color (who looked perfect) for another role scheduled to audition and then backed out at the last minute. I'm not going to give the part to someone who doesn't audition. For yet another role, a few actors of color either auditioned or contacted me after I'd already cast the role. Those who auditioned were talented but didn't have enough experience to grasp the role or the script fully. This is what my experience of casting has been like: when an actor who's right for the role auditions, it's as if the heavens part and a spotlight shines down on that actor. To put it another way, after completing a casting call, I can't remember the vast majority of actors I've seen. I only have a vague memory of what their auditions were like. But when the right actor comes along, I can't forget that actor's audition. It stays in my head like a movie that plays over and over again. Frankly, none of the actors that I chose looks like the way I envision my characters. But they ACT the way my characters act. In other words, the right actor captures the personality of the character. Without that, you have nothing.

Why use ancient Egypt as an example of a utopian community that turned dystopian?

Thematically, this novel says a couple of things. One is that the root of all evil isn't money -- it's the desire to control other people. Another is that nothing in life is black and white -- it's all shades of grey. One of the things I wanted to write about is that it's not always a good idea to embrace rules and regulations without thinking about them and maybe questioning them. I think this is especially true when it comes to organized religion. But I knew that if I wrote about any religion that exists today, many people would be likely to misinterpret the whole point of the book. So I wondered if there was a religion I could make up or an ancient religion I could write about. That's when it dawned on me that I've been a huge fan of ancient Egypt and have studied it all my life. I have my own opinions about the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt and what I think the religion might have been like. So in that way, the book is speculative.

How do readers stay in contact with you?

My email address is ContactResa@aol.com, and my website is at http://www.resanelson.com, where people can sign up for my monthly newsletter. In that newsletter, I talk a lot about writing and the decisions I make and why I make them. My intent is that I would have loved to have had this kind of information when I was first starting out as a writer, and I'm offering it to anyone who's interested.

End of Interview

Soooo that's it folks. Break out your beaded collars and your party sandals. Check out the trailers on You Tube for Our Lady of the Absolute and be sure to grab yourself a copy of the novel. Mine will be autographed.

Our Lady of the AbsoluteTrailers



Her Tangh-i-ness