Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chris Rakunas - Interview

Today I welcome Chris Rakunas, author of The 8th Doll an interesting thriller that involves the Mayan Prophecy.

Here is a just a little about the book.
Alex Guidry has been called to Mexico to help solve a ritualistic murder that has taken place on the grounds of an ancient Mayan temple. Is it tied to the multi-national company that is drilling for oil nearby or something greater?

The 8th Doll is a fast paced thriller that uses aspects of Mayan architecture, geology, and the 2012 apocalyptic prophecy to weave a story that will keep you turning pages until the last chapter.

(From Goodreads)
Chris Rakunas is the 2012 Silver Winner at the Dearborn Street Book Festival. A native of Southern California, he grew up in Costa Mesa, CA, later moving to Berekeley to attend the University of California. While earning a Bachelor's in Molecular and Cell Biology there, he was initiated into Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity, the first non-discriminatory Fraternity.
After living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 8 years, he moved to Los Angeles to attend USC's Marshall School of business where he earned an MBA.

Rakunas spent 6 months travelling the world after finishing business school, including time climbing the Great Wall of China, living on the steppes of Mongolia, traveling on the trans-Siberian railroad, hitchhiking through the Baltic states, and living in Istanbul. 

He is currently married and lives in Western Oklahoma where he teaches.


Ruth: I know that a trip inspired your book. What else took you to write the story?
Chris:  This book was different from everything else that I’ve written.  It was the first time that I didn’t want to write, but had to write.  While we were in Mexico, I came up with the idea for the story, but when we got home, I just kept thinking about it.  It was almost like an obsession for me, and writing the story was more about getting it out of my head than anything else.  I liken the experience to a tea kettle that’s on the stove – the longer it’s there, the more the pressure builds up inside, and the only way out is to have some release.  Instead of whistling, however, I had to put words down on paper.
Ruth: How long took you to write it?
Chris: The entire process was 2 or 3 months long.  I dedicated most of my time to writing the book, and I wasn’t sure if my publisher was going to have any interest in it.  This book is quite different from my first, Tears for the Mountain, which is non-fiction about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  However, when I sent it in, they responded right away that they were interested.

Ruth: Did you have to do a lot of research about Mayan History?
Chris: I was quite fortunate that I was in the Yucatan when I started thinking about the book, so the questions that I had were able to be answered right away.  It also made it easy for the setting of the story since I had pictures and videos of the locations I was writing about.  Just about every step in the story is a place that I’ve personally been.  The one thing that I actually was the least familiar with was the Mayan calendar itself and what the hype was about it.  That took several questions while we were in Mexico and then I also had to do some follow up research so that I could fully explain it in the book.

Ruth: What else besides the prophecy you find interesting about the Mayans?
Chris: I have a big fascination about their knowledge of astronomy.  Clearly it was an important piece of their lives, but the depth of their science in astronomy was unbelievable.  Even by today’s standards, some of the things they did were amazing.

Ruth: Would you like to have written more about what happened to Alex’s wife?
Chris: Funny that you mention that…the third book is entirely about what happens to her.  If you go to, I have a picture of a castle there that is the scene for the book.  I won’t give away any details, but the story is going to be just as action-packed and fast paced as the first two books, and all of the details about her are revealed there.
Ruth: It is a fast novel. How was dealing with the timing of the action?
Chris: It takes a lot of planning to move through that much action in such a short space of time.   When I write, I tend to put down an outline that is around 10,000 words first.  That allows me to know when each event happens so that I don’t have continuity mistakes.  Without the worry of getting events in the right order, I’m free to focus on the smaller details in a scene that make it more rich – what the characters are feeling, what the scene around them is like, or what the air tastes like.  When I read, I love those sorts of details in a book.  It just makes the whole thing come off the page and become alive.

Ruth: Are you satisfied with the finished book?
Chris: I’m really happy with the job that Divertir Publishing did with the manuscript, and I really enjoy working with the folks there (Lisa Keele, my editor, and Dr. Ken Tupper, the publisher).  Now I just feel the pressure to finish up the series!

Ruth: Are you planning to write a sequel? (Because it surely feels like there is more to tell)
Chris: Yes, this is the first of a 4-book series.  I have completed the second book, The Eye of Siam already, and it is being typeset by the publisher now.  I’m not sure if it’s going to be released before Christmas, but I hope so.  I am working on the 3rd book of the series now and plan on finishing the 4th book by the end of next year. 
The books are not in chronological order, though.  The second and third books in the series are background on the characters.  One of the things that I enjoyed when writing The 8th Doll was referring back to things that had happened in the characters’ pasts, and I wanted to be able to expand on those past events more, so I decided to dedicate two full books to them.  The fourth book will wrap everything up and end the series.
After this series, I have another 6 or 7 books that I am thinking about writing.  A lot of what I have outlines for comes from places that I’ve travelled to and things that I’ve seen.  Sometimes a real life event can make a wonderful fictional story if you just change one or two little details.
Thank you Chris for this lovely interview :)

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