Author Spotlight with Minnie Lahongrais
A native of New York City’s “El Barrio”, Minnie Lahongrais is the mother of one daughter and the grandmother of a young boy. A litigation secretary for an international law firm by day, Minnie has always been an avid reader.
As a child, she would sneak books to read under her covers at bedtime by the light of a penlight her father secretly gave her. This small gift gave way to a vivid imagination coupled with a seemingly unquenchable curiosity and thirst for knowledge. So busy was her imagination that when her father sold a car to a stranger, her family began to call her “Perry Mason”. She was mortified by him when he sold a car to a stranger without a broker and questioned why her father would put the family at risk of imminent danger when he invited the man up to the house for some coffee and to sign the paperwork. She was convinced they would all be victims of some horrible crime committed by this unknown man. This event planted the desire in her to become a forensic scientist a la CSI but after a medical emergency, she decided she wanted to write fantasy stories and thriller/mysteries instead.
Minnie currently resides in The Bronx in New York City and has two works in progress. One is a series featuring a breed of creatures with vampire-like qualities and the other a murder/mystery.
K.S. Hello and welcome to the blog. I am very excited to have you here. This is a very special Author spotlight today. Minnie was one of my very first fans and supporters and we've been chatting back and forth ever since. I am so proud to know her and see how much she has accomplished. So, without further ado... Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell the readers a little about yourself.
Thank you Katie, for having me! I’m so excited to be here too! This is my first ever interview for the masses!
To answer your question, I’m a hard core New York City girl… a native of East Harlem; what New Yorkers call a “NuYorican”. And, no, I don’t know how to swim. People assume that because I’m Puerto Rican, I automatically must know how to swim! My parents immigrated here from Puerto Rico in 1945 then settled and lived on the same block where I grew up. They lived there until 1994 when they both retired and returned to what they considered home. My father passed away in 2005 but my Mom, still lives there. I am the second oldest of four children. I married young, divorced soon thereafter and am the very proud mother of a daughter and several foster children as well as the whipped grandmother of a nine year old boy.
Currently, I am a litigation secretary for an international law firm.
K.S. Any interesting writing quirks or stories you would like to share with my readers?
I have always had a very vivid imagination. I love cop shows like CSI and Law and Order and can figure out plotlines pretty early in the program. Sometimes I discuss storylines with whomever I’m watching offering differing scenarios and endings.
I’m not good in the morning, so I like to write in the evenings, in complete silence. Things just flow for me after dark. I really don’t come alive until around 3 pm. Maybe I’m really a vampire that hasn’t quite acquired a taste for blood?
I didn’t use an outline for “Sinner’s Ride”. That was stream of consciousness. I didn’t know where I was going with it, so I just let it flow. It was like a movie in my head for me. Some Friday evenings during November, 2010, I would go home and just write all day and all night -- through the weekend. My daughter would come over to bring me food. Whole weekends went by when I didn’t leave the house from when I arrived Friday night from work until I had to go back on Monday morning. I don’t think I saw my grandson that whole month until I completed the 50,000K words and then I only stopped because it was his birthday. I was exhausted, but exhilarated!
But seriously, I’ve discovered that when I’m engrossed with a story, that story becomes everything to me. I dream about the characters and often have to write thoughts down that come to me in dreams. I swear I’m thinking about these things even while I’m sleeping. While writing “Sinner’s Ride” and during the editing process, I would do or say things and then explain it away by saying: “That wasn’t me; that was Sinner!” Everybody thought I had gone completely mad. I could be having a conversation with someone, and have a thought and then I have to immediately reach for my blackberry to get it down I was so afraid I would forget it later. I was so rude!
K.S. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What sparked the desire to pen your first novel?
I’ve always been an avid reader. I was the one in the family who was thought to be anti-social. I was a loner; the original nerd. We were poor, so there was no money for entertainment. I had to use my imagination. Our first family vacation was when I was 14 years old, so other than love there wasn’t much of anything to go around. My father was taking English classes and I would help him with his vocabulary when I was in elementary school. I would sit with him, help him with his homework and teach him to read English using my school books. As his English got better, I had to amp it up and so I began to read more in all genres. He would let me read whatever I wanted. We would go to the library and I would pick books for him and when I got to be around 12 or 13 I’d be looking for books by Anais Nin. It wasn’t the erotica so much I was interested in –though that was interesting to me as a pre-teen, but it was the prose. I loved the vivid prose.
So, I think that is where it began for me. I thought it would be really cool if I could write like that. As I got older, and the internet became accessible to me, I began to study her and her controversial life and I thought: “My kind of girl!”
K.S. What genre do you write?
Sinner’s Ride is my debut novel and its fiction; a mystery/thriller. I’m not sure where I fit in because this is my first work and I am also interested in the mystical and magical. I am Buddhist and there are many, many stories of demons and evil forces in Buddhist teachings. I would like to explore those and see how I can incorporate them in future projects. I also want to explore different genres and see where my strengths lie. I’d be interested in doing some erotica as well.
Although in this novel, the protagonist is just 18 years old, I think future protagonists will be middle aged because I feel women my age, 54, have a lot to offer. We are seasoned so to speak. I think I can still get young readers – people in their 20s and 30s to read stories where the protagonist could be their cool mom.
K.S. What would you say has inspired you most in your writing career? Or, who is your favorite author and why?
This is probably the best question you have for me! You inspire me, Ms. Salidas! You are my favorite author!
I stumbled across “Immortalis Carpe Noctem” Mother’s Day 2010 while browsing through my kindle after a wonderful dinner with my daughter. It was sunny, it was late afternoon; there was a beautiful sunset and I didn’t want to sit around and watch TV. I got out a bottle of wine, and before I knew it the wine was gone and I had finished reading your story … you left me wanting more. I immediately googled you, read your blog and just had to write you a note to tell you how much I loved it! You made me feel the way I felt reading Anais Nin. I had never read a description such as yours with regard to how a newly turned vampire experiences the physicality of a turning. I thought that was magnificent! I thought, “Wow! This chick has got it going on! I’ve gotta tell her about herself!”
A few months later, we were chatting about “Hunters and Prey” and I talked to you about another piece I had an idea for and you gave me sound advice. “You said keep at it.” When you started posting about NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d give it a go and when I completed 50,503 words by November 24th, I was beside myself. That was when “Sinner’s Ride” was born. I knew it needed a lot of work but I was ok with the skeleton. I just had to fatten it up. I did research for some of the scenes, I joined the Critique Circle on your advice, I sent the manuscript around to close friends for feedback and was buoyed by the responses I got. You, my friend, are my fairy godmother. I am so very grateful to you. You are right up there with my father for nurturing me and bringing this newfound passion to light. Thank you!
K.S. What does your family think of your writing?
At first, I think everybody in my immediate family was skeptical. Although no one said anything negative to my face, I think they thought this was just another one of my crazy ideas. I mean, don’t forget, I was raised by a generation of people who thought I should have gotten married, had babies and stay married. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just didn’t feel right for me. I was the first in my family to divorce. I worked full time; raised not only my child, but my nephew as well. I helped raise my niece and another child. That was the extent of my family’s expectation for me. I have a weakness for children; what can I tell you? So I happily raised these kids, but I wanted more out of life. I wanted to live, not merely exist. What message would I be sending my daughter if I didn’t go against the tide; if I didn’t take chances? What kind of life would my grandson have to look forward to if I was complacent in dealing with the circumstances in my life?
Now, I’m hearing from members of my family I hadn’t had any contact with in years! I have second cousins; kids in my daughter’s generation who are all purchasing copies and giving me feedback! I’m getting “mad props” from them and their friends! The ones in my age group call me “nasty girl” and they are all wearing knowing grins as they call me that. The older members of my family are shocked. My 90 y.o. Mom cries tears of joy when I talk to her about my projects. I think she’s proud, not just of the body of work but also that I wrote certain scenes so realistically. Sex was not a taboo subject in my house once we got older and started having it. It wasn’t graphic talk, but it wasn’t taboo.
But I wish my Dad was here to see all this happening….
K.S. What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book/s?
I was most surprised that I could actually do something that people enjoyed and want more of. I can’t believe I had it in me!
K.S. What inspires you?
My daughter is a huge inspiration. I was very young when I had her and we basically grew up together. We became women together. She is my friend, my sounding board, my soul mate. By extension, my grandson is the reason I breathe. I look in their eyes, and I can’t believe they came from me. They’re awesome!
K.S. Can you tell us a little about any of your novels?
I do have to say that it is very graphic, and it is gritty but it is also poignant, hard hitting and shocking. This is not for the faint of heart. You’ve got to remember, it’s written in the voice of a young girl who is experimenting with a great many things. Something happens to her that changes her life forever. The people around her aren’t who they seem to be. Her very soul is being chipped at slowly until there is only a shell of her former self left.
As far as works in progress, I have an outline for my next novel for NaNoWriMo which is called “On the Precipice” also a thriller/mystery whose protagonist is a middle aged woman and my ongoing WIP “Resurrection of Dead Dreams” which also features a middle aged woman and is an homage to my father. This is the first project I ever started to write seriously and is in the urban fantasy genre.
K.S. Where can we buy your novel?
You can go to www.minnielahongrais.com to purchase a copy. To read an excerpt click on “order now”. Half way down the page, click on “order a copy now” and a new window will pop up. Scroll down to the bottom to read an excerpt.
“Sinner’s Ride” is also available at Barnes and Noble and Borders brick and mortar stores as well as their corresponding websites. It is available in all three formats.
K.S. Do you have a website, fan site, or Blog that we can visit?
Yes, my blog is www.lahongrais.blogspot.com. Please visit. The older posts have more detail about my journey.
I am also on Twitter @lahongrais!
K.S. Do you have any closing advice to aspiring writers?
Never stop looking at the world around you. There are stories there. Never give up and as one sage author once said to me “Keep at it”!