Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Interview with novelist Izai Amorim

Author Izai Amorim is here today and we’re chatting about his new literary fiction (with humor), On the Run.

“Make me think, make me laugh, make my day!”
That’s why Izai Amorim reads and writes books. He has great interest in the interplay of media, information, and politics in a globalized world and the quest for identity and borders in a worldwide cultural melting pot. Izai was born and raised in Brazil but spent most of his adult life abroad, briefly in the USA, mostly in Germany.

He was trained as an architect and worked many years in this profession. But his real passion is storytelling. At some point in his life he decided to mix storytelling with architecture, changed professions, and became a branding consultant, something that he loves and has been doing to these days with his branding company BRANDLEAGUE. He also runs a social business, CERTIFIED COOLNESS, where he uses his branding and storytelling skills to advance the cause of sustainable behavior and environmental protection.

Izai also does sculpture and photography. He has already published two photography books: The Lace Curtains of Berlin (2013) and Sky Over Liberty Farm (2014).

His first novel, The Games (2013), is a humorous but dark, even mean, political thriller. This mother of all conspiracies shows how information is processed to create and spread the stories needed to establish power structures not accountable to anyone.

Welcome, Izai. Please tell us about your current release.
On the Run is my second novel and is about identity. It's the story of Pablo, a young, rich, and well-educated Central American man on the run from the police and Colombian drug dealers. He is accused of crimes he didn’t commit. Ready to do what it takes to survive, Pablo ironically embraces the very drug trade that threatened his life in the first place. Who is he? What is he really capable of? More than a contemporary story of survival, it’s a journey of self-discovery.

The story is set in New York City in the early nineties and is told in the first person by Pablo. His voice is funny, sometimes mean and merciless. He moves with nightmarish ease from recounting his adventures to recollecting his early life. Not always politically correct, On The Run gives you an insightful, twisted, humorous, and often disturbing view of conflicting worlds and beliefs: North and Latin America; black, brown, and white; rich and poor; rational and esoteric – and shows how they mix, match, and clash.

What inspired you to write this book?
As a person who has lived in a lot of different places and cultures, I’m very interested in the issues of identity and borders, especially our own limits, taboos, and red lines. How do we feel when we are forced to cross one of those red lines? And after we’ve crossed it, how far will we go? How does our moving between cultures change our sense of right and wrong? If we were given the chance to start over, to build up your identity from scratch, who would we choose to be? Which values would we have? How would we behave? I find these questions fascinating and I tried to answer them.

Excerpt from On the Run:
Some people say that when you’re about to die, you see your whole life flashing before your eyes, like you’re watching a movie. Others say that you see angels. Some talk about out-of-body experiences. These different theories have one common characteristic: it’s supposed to be a cosmic experience.

It’s all bullshit. I didn’t see any movie. I didn’t see any angels. No out-of-body experience. As the bullets were flying around me, all I could see and hear was Mom screaming at me, “Shame on you, Pablo! To die wearing dirty underwear! How could you do this to me?” There was definitely nothing cosmic about that.

I had picked a seat opposite the entrance, with my back to the glass wall. That way I could observe the whole restaurant. I had been doing that since my nightmare started two days before. Never sitting with my back to the door. Always keeping an eye on everything happening around me. Looking out for cops or killers.

The moment I saw the guy coming through the door, I knew that he was trouble. Big trouble. His eyes looked weird. As he walked in, I scanned him from head to feet. I saw the bulge under his sweatshirt, and I instantly knew that it was a gun. In my head all bells started ringing. The Colombians found you, boy. You’re dead. You can run but you can’t hide. But then I noticed something strange: he was a redneck. Blond and blue eyed. Not the Latino killer I was expecting. Could he be an undercover cop? No, he didn’t look like a cop. Unless he was a cop on drugs.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m still working on On the Run! The project is not over when you finish writing. I have spent the last months getting the book reviewed. I’m very happy that it has received such a good response. Now that it is finally published, I have to promote it. The Frankfurt Book Fair is coming up soon. I guess I’ll be busy with On the Run until the end of the year.

But I have been thinking a lot about my next project. My first book, The Games, is set in Europe. On the Run, in America. Maybe time has come to write a book set in Brazil. I’m considering writing a family saga. Right now I’m doing some research and thinking about plot and characters. But I’m at a very early stage.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I did the first version of On the Run many years ago. It was a very short novel, about forty thousand words. I started it just for fun and it turned out really well, though everything was still very sketchy: characters, plot, etc. Last year I decided to develop the story into a full-length novel. But considering oneself a writer and feeling like one are two different things. I really felt like a writer when I got a hard copy of my first novel in my hands.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Due to my work in branding and environment, I can’t write full time. But in my free time I work on the story all the time, inside my head: under the shower, jogging, riding the subway, etc. I only write things down when I know exactly what I want to say, so I don’t have writer’s block. Of course the story has a life of its own and sometimes I end up writing down something completely different from what I had initially planned. I find these surprises very gratifying! Then I spend my free time thinking about how this sudden development affects the story and what should follow up. And so it goes...

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Because, as I said before, I first develop the story inside my head, I tend to get lost in my thoughts a lot and forget the world. This can be very annoying to people around me. I hear very often, “Are you still there?”

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Lots of different things, all related to building stuff: architect (buildings), civil engineer, (bridges) mechanical engineer (cars and machines), aircraft engineer (airplanes), marine engineer (ships)... I ended up choosing civil engineering and architecture.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Many thanks to you, Lisa, for inviting me here – and to everyone reading this interview. Gaining exposure as an indie author relies mostly on word-of-mouth. Please spread the word!


Thanks for being here today, Izai!

1 comment:

Amorim said...

Thank you very much for the interview, Lisa. It was great talking to you.