Monday, February 27, 2012

He May Be Blind, But He Can See: An interview with YA paranormal author Emlyn Chand

Today, I'mm talking with Emlyn Chand about her YA paranormal novel, FARSIGHTED.


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1) Tell us about your book.

FARSIGHTED tells the story of Alex Kosmitoras. Here’s my mini teaser: Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider.

2) What inspired this book?


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. 

3) Main characters are important, but all excellent books have a great supporting cast. Can you tell us about your favorite secondary character in this story?

Shapri is definitely my favorite character even though she plays a more secondary role in Farsighted! Not only is she the most fun, but she’s also the kind of the person I wish I could have been like back 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.

4) YA Paranormal books are quite popular, but the huge number can make it hard for a book to distinguish itself. What makes Farsighted different from other YA paranormal books out there?

FARSIGHTED is different because of its characters. I didn’t set out to make Alex a fawned-over romantic lead. I want my characters to feel true to life and, yes, to be flawed. The fact that so many readers have dubbed Alex their “book boyfriend,” just flabbergasts me. I guess he’s pretty alright when push comes to shove. He is willing to risk everything to protect the girl he likes, so that’s not too bad.

5) Humans and human cultures are very visually driven. Even the relative complexity of the visual cortex speaks to the fundamental importance of sight. A sighted person might close their eyes, but they still carry with them the fundamental experience of having experienced the world through vision. With all that in mind, what sort of challenges did you face in trying to write from the perspective of a blind character?

Everyone seems to think writing blind was harder than it actually ended up being. I almost didn’t write FARSIGHTED, because I, too, was intimidated by the task. 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.

6) There's been a lot of talk about the relative diversity of characters in YA. There can be a tricky balance between representing diversity and avoiding tokenism. How did you approach this issue in your book?

I’ve always been interested in multiculturalism. I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s a huge part of who I am. I did my master’s in quantitative sociology, focusing on the sub-topic of race. I married a man from India and sometimes forget that I’m not an Indian myself. I don’t believe FARSIGHTED descends into tokenism, because multiculturalism is the norm, not the exception, in my books.

7) You've stated in the past that Farsighted is to be a 5-book series. How will book two compare to book one?


While FARSIGHTED is decidedly not a romance, OPEN HEART is. You can expect much more mushy gushy stuff piled on top of the paranormal and suspense elements. OPEN HEART also deals with an issue that is very important to me—body issues and self-esteem in teen girls. Simmi wears a size 14 and has an eating disorder, which is a big struggle for her throughout the novel. I hope many girls can relate and be inspired by Simmi’s journey.

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Thanks, Emlyn.

You can find more from Emlyn at www.emlynchand.com.

FARSIGHTED can be purchased at Amazon.

4 comments:

BK Walker said...

Thank you for hosting Emlyn today :)

J.A. Beard said...

Glad to help.

Emlyn Chand said...

Thank you for the fantastic interview questions, JA. You really made me think ;-)

J.A. Beard said...

You're welcome.