As you will have gathered from the title to this interview, Felipe Adan Lerma is a man of diverse creative interests. His latest effort (released yesterday) is a thriller novella titled One Night in the Hill Country, and it follows on a rich portfolio of prior work spanning multiple genres, media and topics.
If you take a short ramble through Adan’s main web site, you’re likely to form a variety of conclusions quickly. First, he’s prolific. The fiction section of his site scrolls down impressively through short stories, novels and novellas.
Second, he’s a site-specific and family-centric author, with much of his work arranged by background: Texas, Vermont and Paris.
Third, he’s diverse not only in his categorical output, but also in the means in which he has made his work available: at his site, through Amazon and the other online outlets, through lending sites like Oyster and Scribd, and even, in the case of his poetry, printed on illustrated backgrounds suitable for framing.
The impression that appeals to me most, however, is that he’s someone who is obviously having a heck of a good time being creative and sharing his work with the world. That’s a state self-published authors can have a hard time achieving in the current world of social media and other harrying promotional “opportunities.”
I caught up with Adan last week to learn more about his newest book, his approach to the creative process, and how all of these disparate pieces fit together. Here’s what he had to say, and if you like what you read, why don’t you give his newest effort, or one of his prior works a try?
- It looks from your site like you’ve never written a thriller before. If so, what tempted you to write a book now in that genre?
I dabbled in a light crime fiction short story, “Dirty Sixth Street, Austin,” and wrote three (sorta) short story mysteries, which my wife says are more like suspense, but you’re right, “One Night in the Hill Country” is my first thriller.
A few years ago, not finding much I really wanted to “get into” time-wise or emotionally, I thought of how, when I was actively painting (water based oils), an instructor asked me what type of painting I liked looking at best. At the time, I was doing semi-abstracts and a few still-lifes. I knew the answer right away, impressionism.
It was time, I decided, to make myself answer the same question regarding books. What did I like reading best? Not quite as straight forward, I saw that I liked action stories that weren’t “all” action. That included nuance and humor and soft moments.
I began looking to see what appealed, but wasn’t having much luck.
By then, Joe Konrath had come up with an open offer on his site for authors interested in writing a short piece to see if Joe thought a collaboration might be a fit. I’d been reading his posts to learn about self-publishing, but hadn’t read anything of his yet. Honestly, I thought they’d be too comic book. I love comic books (wished I’d saved my childhood collections), but wanted more in a novel than what’s in a comic book. Besides being longer (smiles).
Well, to do a short piece, to see if he and I might collaborate, he strongly suggested (on online blog instructions) to read some of his work. Duh. Ok. And I read a Jack Daniels piece, “Shot of Tequila.”
I was flabbergasted. It had humor, action, relationships, emotion. Great fun to read. And I couldn’t stop reading it til I’d finished it.
I was hooked on thrillers.
And though I wasn’t picked to do a collaboration, that was where I wrote what became (converting the characters and moving them to Vermont and Texas) “Dirty Sixth Street, Austin.”
- Can you tell us a bit about your new book?
I’ll try to be brief now, as I think I used up a lot of space on #1 (smiles) – but I began by thinking it was an action adventure thriller with the female lead in “Dirty Sixth Street, Austin” Then saw it was more a psychological thriller.
I also initially wanted to say “something” that addressed the crazy immigration debate going on about illegal immigrants. But without going into a huge history of how this is nothing new, particular groups being hate-targeted, either out of convenience, power struggles, an on-going war, hatred, you name it.
In this I think I succeeded really well, simply showing characters, mostly young children, who’ve dared to come here, with all the images of what they think is great about America (the same things I was brought up being taught and believing from kindergarten in school).
But it’s also about Sam. And about the bad guy, Rolf. And what made him that way.
Merging and blending all these threads, was, ironically, it’s own thrill for me.
For readers, I hope this gives them a fun fast fictional thriller, plus a slice of current affairs, especially here in Texas.
- I also see that while the genre is new to you, the main character – Samantha – is one you’ve worked with before. Would you tell us a bit about her?
Samantha (Sam), as I’ve mentioned, developed from trying to do a Jack Daniels co-piece with Joe Konrath. I switched her from Chicago to New England. One, just to change her, and two, to be able to take advantage of the only area I know decently enough to write about outside of Texas.
Who she is, is, truthfully, is still very much evolving for me.
I wrote the three mystery shorts exploring who she was. In those stories, (Vermont Shorts series) she tells the six young children she meets in “Dirty Sixth Street, Austin,” about growing up in Vermont.
She’s caring, smart, extremely capable, but seems a bit “off” – at least from where she wants to be.
She and her brother Matt were brought up by an uncle after their parents passed away, and she’s had challenges getting and keeping a steady male relationship.
She’s still working on herself, and I’m listening, very closely (smiles).
- Will your regular readers learn new things about her when Sam finds herself in this new type of situation? Will she as well? (And did you?)
Sam tried to “move away” from working with traumatized children (via police departments), but has to face if that’s something she can do. Simultaneously, she’s not eager to get real attached to someone romantically yet, but that also comes to a head.
I found out the character Sam is much more complex and interesting than I’d even hoped for.
Kinda like being married to a fictional persona, and getting lucky
- A lot of your work uses Austin and Texas as a background. Is that only because you know that area well, or are there special aspects that make it attractive to you as a stage?
Truthfully, it’s because it’s what I know best.
I do have a series of short stories and novellas set in Paris, and a series of shorts set in Vermont. Plus my WIP (work-in-progress, a novella, “Queen,” is set in Vermont).
But I was born and raised in Texas. Grew up learning that Texas history was as important as U.S. history. And was even told, in the Air Force, that solidiers from Texas are frequently grouped together, because of the fighting cohesiveness.
What’s interesting is, my wife was born and raised in Vermont. And the similarities between the two states, one being one of the largest in the nation, the other one of the smallest, is how similar their histories of independence and road to joining the Union were.
Plus, Texas is big. Ok, huge. With beaches, hills, mountains, heat, snow, and multitudes of cultures obviously still struggling to find a balance. So there’s lots of scope here. But I do love Vermont and Paris also (smiles).
- What got you started producing and sharing so many different types of work?
Though I grew up desperately searching for and wanting to do one type of work – doing only painting, or only writing or dancing or sports, left me, for lack of a better word, irritable (smiles). I found I function much better continuing to be creative in different areas.
Would I have “succeeded” in doing better work, or being better known, if I had stuck to one “thing?” Maybe. Maybe not. But I definitely would have been very unhappy, I believe.
And though I returned to college relatively late, in my later twenties, after the Air Force, and with GI Bill benefits in hand, I still didn’t have “a field.” What I decided, on my own, was to take 2-3 core required classes, and 1-3 elective “let’s-try-this” classes. I worked my way from business to philosophy to sculpture to theatre and literature. Art and dance remained outside curriculum. It was as if I knew they wouldn’t survive required academic cadences, for me to continue to enjoy them. I needed something just me. Eventually, writing worked its way to that required status also.
It turned out, an old favored English professor of mine was right. It would be a long time after formal training, that I would be able to put “me” back into my writing. My interests. My style(s). My preferences.
I would suggest, if someone has a similar challenge (smiles), that if they decide to “try” out different creative things, do it with a full intent to do and be your best. Don’t scribble words if you want to write a story. Write a story. Even if the reason it makes you cry is because it’s the worst thing you ever read. If you want to paint, drag and dab and scumble that pigment. Feel it vibrate through your brush into your fingers and heart. Dance your heart out. Shake whatever wiggles on you. Whatever it is you do, let it light your eyes up. You’re touching yourself Those things that touch you the most, are keepers.
- What can we look for from you next?
Most immediately, a new thriller novella, “Queen,” to follow my first, “One Night in the Hill Country.” That’s not counting quick fun stuff like my tiny photo-memoir, “Walking to ACL in Our Sixties.” Remember, being married to one’s work, is to the form of work, not the piece. I think. (smiles)
8. Any tips you’d like to share with other self-published authors?
I think if one is to give a go at creative work – and I see self-pubished authors like I see the visual artists I know around me, doing the full load of creating, presenting, marketing, communicating about their work – then I’d just say, aim to hit.
Meaning, whether fiction or non-fiction, no matter the genre or size of the work, have the conscious intention of doing the best you can, in a flow, with intent.
It’s like after taking a few practice steps, maybe with the footprints on a mat or pieces of paper, eventually you gotta let go, into the music – and flow.
It’s not wishy-washy. A dance / writing / painting flow has rhythms, it has beats, it has pauses, it has variations of speeds, nuances of stress and push and lightness – all alternating to the beat you hear in your heart.
- How can readers help spread the work about One Night in the Hill Country?
As it’s been said to me many times, do what’s best for you. Which way do you like communicating? That will carry your own conviction of how you feel about anyone’s work, including your own.
So for me, I have several avenues folk can “talk” about me, or spread the word about “One Night in the Hill Country.” I’ll just list these, and thank you in advance for any good word or mention that appeals for you to give (smiles).
Website : http://www.felipeadanlerma.com
Amazon Author Page : http://www.amazon.com/Felipe-Adan-Lerma/e/B005XCUUK0
Pinterest : http://www.pinterest.com/felipeadanlerma/
Twitter : https://twitter.com/FelipeAdanLerma
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/FelipeAdanLerma
Tumblr : http://yesadanlerma.tumblr.com/
Google + : https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AdanLerma/posts/p/pub
10. So. With all said and done. With all these creative outlets, what is your creative writing about? Or, for that matter, your paintings, and other arts? Is it the same for each of your creative interests?
That’s a very good question
Not that these all haven’t been, they have, making me think and assess my feelings and awareness.
But this is something I hadn’t much considered before. All the arts are – things “I” do. So they should be the same, right? Well…not exactly…
I do think all my arts activities are ties to some one thing that’s me, or I am part of, in this universe. God preferably, for a unifying (vs fighting) word.
But it does seem each art form has something special, within itself as a distinct art form, that appeals to me. And allows me to express some specific part of myself.
With dance, I’d have to say it’s a sense of literally belonging in a specific time and space – the now. One can not move for long with freedom and spirit without abandoning oneself to the instant of time.
With painting, it’s a transporting, via the eyes, inside, and finding, when I’ve created a perfectly captured moment in life, of a held peace – via a balance of colors, forms, and (especially for me) textures. It’s captured in stillness on canvas, and can be gazed upon time after time. On rare moments, of really striking that point, it would elicit an involuntary stutter-intake of breath in me. Like when an infant finally lets go of its anguish, releases, and rests.
With acting, it was an immersion into a full “doing” of character – feelings, thoughts, movement, listening, reacting, expressing. Since a script was involved, there was a certain wantonness, a not fully awareness, a totally engulfing experiencing of being with other people. Sorry, best I can do with that one.
This is a good spot to point out, these are only what I understand at this point in time. Awareness changes. Engulfs, includes.
With writing, because I can edit, because I can (try to) be spontaneous in inital drafts, because I can, as with “One Night in the HIll Country,” literally let the work sit, both outside and within me – I can come to varying degrees of satisfaction. It’s kinda like being married, and knowing you have another evening, another night, another day to work this out, make them better, make a memory, and truly have something to cherish.
What I have seen, in all my writing so far, at least since I resumed non-poetry writing a few years ago (2011, i.e., my poetry work had a different point of being, as did my fiction of the 80s) is –
All my stories have to do with family.
Nuclear family, extended family, generational family.
That’s why even “One Night in the Hill Country” has adults and lots of kids, ages 9-12.
And the children are important. In this new thriller, there are illegal immigrant children, and their are Texas born and raised children. They interact, butt heads, mingle, merge, and learn surprising things about each other. They are integral to the story.
Yet they would not be able to, without the actions of the adults around them.
There’s humor, anguish, fear, anger, and danger.
I hope you’ll take a look at it.