Friday, July 22, 2011

FEATURE: Interview with Die Laughing author, Louis K. Lowy

When Louis K. Lowy contacted me about reviewing his new 1950s inspired sci-fi novel, Die Laughing, I had to let him know beforehand it was pretty much unlike anything I had ever read before.  I am certainly glad I gave it a try.  It was so much fun!  
Today, Mr. Lowy is visiting us for a little Q&A.  So don't be a wet rag and split.  Hang and see what's buzzin', cuzzin'...  (That was my sad attempt at 50s lingo ;-))... 

If you missed my review of Die Laughing, you can check that out HERE.

Author Interview
Die Laughing
By: Louis K. Lowy

GL: Everyone has to start with their blurb.  Tell us about yourself. 

Louis:  I was born in Pittsburgh and moved with my parents to south Florida when I was five. I grew up in Hialeah (home of the racetrack) where I worked as a firefighter. I also played bass guitar in many bands, mostly original music. My most well known band was Hemlock which had the dance hit “Disco Break.” I currently live in Miami Lakes (still south Florida) with my wife and daughter. Our son is studying Asian literature in Japan and our daughter attends a local college.

GL:  You have certainly had a well-rounded, interesting life so far!  I had to look up "Disco Break" and found a video.  Groovy bell-bottoms guys (and awesome bass around 2:35)! ;-)  I have a feeling this one is going to be stuck in my head for a while...

GL:  Another staple:  When and why did you begin writing? 

Louis:  I’ve always had a flair for words. In the bands I played in I wrote most of the lyrics. About four years ago I started drifting away from the music scene mainly because good bands by nature are volatile. It was starting to take its toll. As I became less interested in playing in bands I became more interested in writing. I enrolled in a couple of undergrad writing courses, applied for the MFA program at Florida International University, and was fortunate enough to be accepted. That pretty much set me on my course.

GL:  Die Laughing is such an entertaining read. Can you tell us what inspired this story? 

Louis:  One of my main inspirations was my love of 1950’s sci-fi and horror films. Growing up I enjoyed the really horrendous ones like I Was a Teenage Frankenstein as much as the really terrific ones like War of the Worlds. I also thought the 1950’s was an exciting period: the McCarthy communist witch hunts were going on, people were in fear of the atom bomb, racial equality was starting to come to the forefront with the Little Rock High School confrontation, and of course television and Elvis Presley and rock ‘n roll were being born. I wanted to recreate that atmosphere.

GL:  You did a great job!  I felt like I got a quick but thorough and extremely entertaining lesson in 1950s pop-history!

GL:  Who designed the cover? Any particular inspiration behind that? (A certain movie poster, etc.) 

Luois:  The cover concept came about, again, due to my fondness of the sci-fi and horror movies from the 50’s. I’ve collected some of the posters from that era. They’re hanging on the wall of my writing room. Most of the posters depict a do-or-die moment. The invaders are taking over the world; total chaos abounds, cities crumbling to the ground. I wanted that feel for the cover of Die Laughing. I had in my head a vision of the three protagonists being the final line of defense as flying saucers destroy New York City. My publisher, IFWG, hired a wonderful illustrator named Laura Givens. I gave her a mock up and some character descriptions and she ran with the idea. I loved what she did with it.

GL:  I would guess that you are more like Lee since he is the writer, but which character do you think you relate to the most? 

Louis:  Great question! Sam is outgoing but shallow and insecure, Lee is intelligent but distrusting and lonely, and Cricket is beautiful and tough but lonely. Each one of them is forced to face their demons in the course of the story which, for me, has always been the heart of the book. Actually I think there’s a little of each of them in me.

GL:  Are any of your characters (aside from the famous people the aliens copy) based on real people? 

Louis:  The characters aren’t so much based on real people, but many of the names are. I have many people in my life who are dear to me. As a tribute I slip their names in whenever I can. For instance there are two characters, Dick and Lois, who work at a café. My parent’s names are Dick and Lois.

GL:  That's so sweet!  I do the same when I can.

GL:  Sam E. Lakeside is a stand-up comic with an arsenal of great material. Where did you get all the jokes? Are you a bit of a comedian yourself? 

Louis:  The quips I mainly made up, but the jokes with punch lines were mostly reworked from joke books. The difficult part was taking them and reformatting them to fit the scenes I was writing. The other stipulation I had before using a joke was to make sure that it had been around awhile and was one that wasn’t credited to anyone. In other words, it would have been available for Sam to do the same thing that I did, take it and make it his own.

GL:  Is there anything that you really wanted to include in Die Laughing but had to cut because it just wasn’t working? 

Louis:  Yes. A couple of scenes. In one Cricket is poisoned. In another Sam, Cricket and Lee go to Greenwich Village and spend the night in the apartment of a stewardess who Sam meets. They visit a club and watch Charlie Mingus play (and it was the only time I included a character based on a real person that I knew, a man they meet at the club) but in the end neither propelled the story forward so I cut them. Who knows, maybe in a future edition I’ll add them as bonus “deleted scenes.”

GL:  Who was an essential source of support during the writing process? 

Louis:  I belong to Friday Night Writers, a writing workshop group headed by the highly regarded author John Dufresne.  The group and John himself were great support. My family, of course, for giving me the freedom to hole myself up for several hours a day to write. There are specific names, which I included on the acknowledge page.

GL:  If you had to pick one thing, what is your favorite aspect of the 1950s? 

Louis:  The birth of rock and roll.

GL:  Amen!

GL:  The character Cricket covets a green Thunderbird.  What car (from the 50s or anytime) do you like/want the most? 

Louis:  Wow, any car in the world? The Aston Martin DB5 that was used in the James Bond films.

GL:  Do you believe there is life on other planets? UFOs? Alien abduction? 

Louis:  Yes, I believe in life on other planets. The universe is too big not to have it. UFOs and abductions? As Fox Mulder says, “I want to believe.”

GL:  Since oil is an essential part of your story in Die Laughing, what is your opinion about the oil industry today? 

Louis:  The oil companies are rich and powerful. That, by itself, creates conflicts, and conflict is drama. Lot’s of drama when it comes to oil companies.

GL:  If someone approached you about making a movie or television show based on Die Laughing, would you consent?  Anyone in particular you would like to cast as Sam E.? 

Louis:  To answer the first part of your question – in a heartbeat! I’d love to see John Hamm, the star of Madmen, as Sam.

GL:  Are you working on anything new? Any plans for future work? 

Louis:  I’ve finished the third draft of my second novel. It’s a complete turnaround from Die Laughing. The working title is Pedal. It’s about a 49 year old fired music teacher who struggles to find redemption through bicycle racing. I’m currently working on another sci-fi story that jumps between time, location, and characters. It’s still pretty messy. Eventually I’d like to write a sequel to Die Laughing.

GL:  Both works in progress sound wonderful.  And, I can't wait for a sequel to Die Laughing!

GL:  Do you have any parting words of wisdom or anything else you would like to share with the readers? 

Louis:  If you’re a writer I’d like to say work hard, be sure and submit your work, believe in yourself and have a thick skin. If you’re a reader I’d like to say thank you for being one! And thank you, Cassie, for inviting me over to Gathering Leaves.

GL:  You're so very welcome, Louis!  Thanks so much for hanging out with us...

Die Laughing is currently available for Kindle on Amazon. Nook and PDF formats will soon be available. It will be published in paperback August 2011.

If you'd like to know more about Louis, Die Laughing, or his other work, you can visit his website: