Thursday 5 July 2012

Interview: Emlyn Chand

Today. we have author Emlyn Chand on the blog. She is the author of the Farsighted series, and has two books in the five-book series out. I met Emlyn on Facebook, and I can truly say that I consider her to be a friend. I have read both the books and have reviewed the first book here. I was extremely happy that Emlyn accepted my invitation to come to the blog, as her books have left me with so many questions to which I hope to get some answers today!

So, I'll cut my ramblings short and get started with the interview! This is going to be awesome!


Describe your series? What genre would you classify it into?
The Farsighted series on the whole is YA. Since the main characters possess psychic gifts, you might class it as paranormal—but it’s also kind of anti-paranormal. The main focus is on the characters themselves, their teenaged struggles, and the burden having such powers has placed on them in the real world. Each book has overtones of a different sub-genre. The first, Farsighted, is more paranormal than the rest; Open Heart is more romantic; Pitch will be more suspenseful; Vertigo will be a mystery, and the final book, Refrain, will be more literary.

The idea of a group of people having special powers is not really something new. How is your series different?
Farsighted is different because it’s so strongly rooted in the real world. The characters are not defined by their powers and the powers are not just cool fun things to play with. There’s also no government agency or corporation conspiring to use the gifted teens for evil ends.
Ritesh: Emlyn, was that aimed at me?

How did you come up with the idea for the series? Was there a particular inspiration to which you can attribute this idea?
Everything started with a single image—my face in these tacky oversized sunglasses reflecting out at me from the car’s side mirror. I was daydreaming while my husband drove us across Michigan for my sister’s wedding. Something about my image really struck me in an almost horrific way. I felt the glasses made me look blind but found it so weird that there was still a clear image within them; it seemed so contradictory. At the time, my book club was reading The Odyssey, which features the blind Theban prophet, Tieresias. I started thinking about what it would be like to have non-visual visions of the future and began forming a modern Tieresias in my mind. Lo and behold, Alex Kosmitoras was born. I didn’t want him to be alone in his psychic subculture, so I found other characters with other powers to keep him company. Thank God for my poor fashion sense.

As President of Novel Publicity, you have a unique advantage in marketing your books. What is the one advice you’d give new authors who want to achieve the same success? What is the one thing done by most new authors, which you think annoys readers the most?
Only one piece of advice? Marketing is such an elaborate web, but I’ll try to boil it down to the heart of the matter—you’re not selling books, you’re selling an experience. I’ve gotten pretty far on charisma, joking with readers, forming friendships with them, being light and playful. People are attracted to that and think since they like me, they might like my books, too. Voila—there’s a sale. Beyond “selling yourself,” you need to sell what your book offers, not just your book itself. If you write character-driven fiction like me, you might want to emphasize the chance to make new friends in fiction. If you write something different, explain how it’s different. Tell the reader how they’ll feel taking the journey. Saying “buy my book entitled Jane Eyre” isn’t helpful, but saying “buy my book Jane Eyre if you believe plain girls can accomplish big things—romance, mystery, and a beautiful estate—you’ll never want to leave!” Actually, scratch that, don’t say “buy my book.” EVER. I think that answers both questions :-D

Who is your favourite character? Which character in the series you think the readers will hate?
Shapri Teak is my favourite character and seems to be the readers’ favourite as well. Not only is she the most fun of all my characters, but she’s also the kind of the person I wish I could have been like when I was younger. She’s strong, always true to herself, and won’t let anyone disrespect her. Sure, she has fears, but we all do. Shapri is the kind of girl I would love to be friends with. You know she’ll always go to bat for you when you’re too tired to step up to the plate. Readers’ least favourite character tends to be Shapri’s best friend, Simmi. Simmi is insecure about her weight and physical appearance, and this insecurity develops into a fixation. She so desperately wants validation that she is often too distracted to notice the people who care for her.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing the series to life?
I spent about three months trying to talk myself out of writing Farsighted. It’s too ambitious, my inner critic pointed out. You’ll never get it done, not in the way it deserves to be done, it pressed. But there was another part of me that couldn’t resist; I knew I had to at least try before giving up. I started by reading tons and tons of books—I read about world folklore and superstitions, religions especially Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, psychic powers, the occult, blindness, and even Nostradamus. I learned how to cast runes and perform a ten-card Celtic Cross Tarot reading. I had nightmares for several weeks, but then they eventually stopped, and I started writing. The second book in the series, Open Heart, proved to be even more of a challenge since it involved confronting my own low self-esteem and body image issues to bring Simmi’s bulimia to life.

Your book is unique as it is told from the perspective of a blind protagonist. What were the unique challenges in writing from his perspective?
Everyone seems to think writing blind was harder than it actually ended up being—including me in the beginning. Yes, it required strenuous proofing and beta-reading to rid the manuscript of my visual snafus, but mostly, it wasn’t so bad. To connect with Alex, I read books about coping with blindness in a school setting and spent a great deal of time pondering how I might behave if I couldn’t see. In the story, Alex has always been blind; he’s always known the world to be a certain way. Not everyone understands that, and they have trouble talking about it with him. I gave Alex a tendency to overcompensate. He knows who he is and what he’s capable of, and he wants the world to know it too, so sometimes he overdoes things a bit.

While reading the book, I found that each character had flaws. There was no one perfect character, one character who I could really back all the way. Why do you write flawed characters? Do you think this is an advantage or a disadvantage in the long run?
I write flawed characters, because I write real characters. People are not perfect—no, I’m sorry, they’re not. As an avid reader of YA, I’m often frustrated by how many one-dimensional characters populate our favorite stories. They are brave, tough, strong, sexually desirable. Personally, I can’t relate to that. I’ve got flaws—and I wanted to write characters who have them to. I’m also a huge fan of literary fiction—particularly the Russian classics—I like the warped, ragey, mental instability of the characters in that genre. After all, there’s a reason why the classics have stood the test of time.

Do you believe in the quote from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility”? Do you think your YA characters will ever adhere to this?
Of course, I believe it, and, yes, Alex from Farsighted does, too. He even compares himself to Spiderman at several points in the narrative and quotes that exact line. Alex never asked for his ability to sense the future, but he can’t just stand back and let the “love of his life” die a gruesome death, either.

Destiny vs. Free Will. Where do you stand, in this eternal debate?
This is a huge question and an important one for this series. Farsighted is heavily influenced by the ancient religion Zoroastrianism—particularly the concept of dualism, the yin and the yang, darkness in light. I believe in both destiny and free will, although many would consider this a contradiction. As Alex notes in the book trailer (Miss Teak raises this point within the book), ““There are two types of visions. Those that will happen no matter what, and those that can be stopped. Now more than ever, I wish I could tell them apart.” 

I personally dislike Simmi (like really dislike her). She seems manipulative to me. Was her character hard to write? 
Simmi is a rewarding character to write, because she grows more than any other during the course of the series. She has the most complete character ARC, as opposed to Shapri and Alex who have more headstrong personalities. We’re in Simmi’s POV for book #2, Open Heart, and that was a challenge to write, because she truly hates herself and eventually resorts to bulimia. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, and even at 27, I still sometimes hate myself. I had to dig into that pain and put it down on the page. Yes, tears were shed.

Who designed the covers of the books? (I have to say, they are lovely!)
That would be Mr. Damon Xeda. I totally agree, he just nailed the covers. That’s why I have all 5 designed even though the series doesn’t conclude until 2015. You can check out Damon’s bio and portfolio at

What are your current projects?  When is the next book in the series coming out? Could you describe what happens in the next book in the series? Can we get an excerpt?
The third book in the Farsighted series is told from Shapri’s POV. It’s called Pitch and comes out May 2013. The whole series plays around with sensory details—from Alex, the blind seer, to Simmi’s extreme tactile interpretation of emotions. Shapri is a medium and knows a ghost is around because of sound vibrations in the air (rather than seeing a translucent body). I don’t have an excerpt available yet, because—truthfully—I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and planning Pitch, but I haven’t started writing it yet. I’m gearing up for a new series called the Timewalker Chronicles. The first book Fall Back comes out November 26, 2012. Get ready for an epic 12-book YA time travel series. The first book takes our protagonist to the year 1852.

What book are you reading now? Which are your all-time favourite authors / books?
Right now I’m reading Forgive Me, Alex by Lane Diamond for a Novel Publicity blog tour. It’s pretty twisted, and I like that. Lane is my friend, editor, and the co-owner of my publishing home, Evolved (although the Farsighted series is self-published). My all-time favorites are Lolita, Les Miserables, Jane Eyre, 100 Years of Solitude, Everything is Illuminated, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Harry Potter, Tiger’s Curse, and Hunger Games—I told you I was split between YA and lit fic!

Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you, something you could not read just about anywhere.
1.  I’m a study in extremes. I’m really cocky about certain things I can do, but at other times I
     just have no self-esteem at all and can be emotionally abusive to myself.
2.  I wish my parrot, Ducky, was secretly put under a curse and will one day turn into a handsome
     prince. That’s how crazy in love with my bird I am.
3.  Sometimes I have prophetic dreams. I’m a very vivid dreamer and can remember almost every
    detail upon waking. If I take the time to analyze the dreams, they are often things that come true. I
    also write prophetically or unintentionally bring out experiences my subconscious has suppressed
    when crafting fiction. I learn some really weird things from sleeping and writing!

    Quick-fire questions:

    ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?

    Cats or dogs?
    Birds (Okay, dogs)

    Coffee or tea?

    Favourite food?
    Anything with chocolate in it

    Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
    Asked and answered

    What are 4 things you never leave home without?
    My wallet, my keys, Kleenex (hello, allergy season), and my Droid

    Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
    Panera—at the time they cut their wi-fi off during peaking hours

    If you were deserted on an island, who are 3 famous people you would want with you and why?
    I answered this question before about literary characters, and liked it so much, I think I’ll share here:  First up, we’d obviously take Robinson Crusoe. He knows what he’s doing, and he can be the provider. I’ll also take Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games—if we get in any kind of danger, she’d be a great protector. Lastly, I’d take Ron Weasley. Ron and I can live the good life, while the other two make sure we all stay safe and well-fed. I know I would never get bored with Ron around—he’s just 24/7 entertainment.

    List 3 of your all-time favourite movies? Which is your favourite Bollywood movie?
    Favorite Bollywood movie—Fanaa. 3 all-time favorites—Girl Interrupted, Aladdin, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

    What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
    Favorite TV shows—Glee, Big Bang Theory, and the Bachelorette (don’t judge me!)

    I know you have playlists for your books. Which is your favourite song from these lists?
    My favorite is the one I did for my next YA novel, Fall Back—it features a lot of Johnny Cash—nuff said!
    (You can find all of Emlyn's playlists here.

    What is the one superpower you’d like to have the most? Super speed, so I could get everything done faster—and, therefore, get more done. Zoom zoom zooooom!           


    About author Emlyn Chand

    Emlyn Chand emerged from the womb with a fountain pen clutched in her left hand (true story). Since then, she has always loved to hear and tell stories.

    When she's not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm Novel Publicity.  

    Emlyn enjoys connecting with readers and is available throughout the social media Internet world.  Don't forget to say "hi" to her sun conure Ducky! 
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    About Farsighted (Check out my review)

    Alex Kosmitoras's life has never been easy. The only other student who will talk to him is the school bully, his parents are dead broke and insanely overprotective, and to complicate matters even more, he's blind. Just when he thinks he'll never have a shot at a normal life, an enticing new girl comes to their small Midwest town all the way from India. Simmi is smart, nice, and actually wants to be friends with Alex. Plus she smells like an Almond Joy bar. Sophomore year might not be so bad after all. 

    Unfortunately, Alex is in store for another new arrival—an unexpected and often embarrassing ability to "see" the future. Try as he may, Alex is unable to ignore his visions, especially when they suggest Simmi is in mortal danger. With the help of the mysterious psychic next door and friends who come bearing gifts of their own, Alex embarks on his journey to change the future.

    Buy on Amazon: Kindle  |   Paperback



    1. Great interview! This author sounds like she really knows what she's about. Her insights about flat vs flawed characters were particularly refreshing! :D

      1. Hi Liesel, after having read her books, I can tell you that it takes a little getting used to the flawed characters, but in the end they lead to a more realistic and believable story. And that is something I believe every author should aspire to achieve.

    2. Thank you for the mind-numbing interview, Ritesh. By the end, I just let my crazy flag fly--maybe I was too tired to remain composed the whole way? ;-) You're right: we are friends. I enjoy chatting with you on Facebook, and I love hearing your predictions for the Farsighted series (even though they're all wrong, muahahaha)!

      And hi to Liesel, thank you for the kind comment. I'm glad you agree with me on flawed characters. Many prefer to read as an escape and don't mind inhumanly perfect protagonists. I read to be entertained and to think--and I think harder when the characters have more dimensions.

    3. Great interview! I came followed Emlyn over from FB! I did not know you liked the Russian classics and got your core idea for Farsighted from The Oddessey - VERY cool!! Now, I am even a bigger fan :)

      Great interview questions, Alexia. Now I'm going to have to start stalking you on FB and Twitter too!

    4. Awww, thanks, Libby. Oh, yes. I love the Russian greats--Lolita is like the best book ever! I also have a warped sense of reality like Chekhov :-P