Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The 8th Doll by Chris Rakunas: Interview, Excerpt

 


 
 
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.
 
 



Tuesday 18 September 2012

Charlie Landry was running at full speed down the broken limestone path, the tufts of dust kicking up behind him like a roadrunner cartoon.  His lungs had long since given up trying to breathe normally, and now were diminished to the point of feeling like burning coals placed in his chest cavity.  As he came to the intersection of the three sacred roads or Sacbes as they were called in the Mayan dialect, he opted not to run down the fourth path, which would lead him back to the visitor’s center.
Instead, he continued down past the 16th century Spanish church, or what was left of it, because he remembered there were trees near the sink hole, and he thought he could find some cover there.  Cover from whatever was chasing him.
Oh, he knew what it was, but he couldn’t believe it had just appeared out of nowhere, on the day he had just discovered-
There were the trees.  He saw them, and darted into their protective cover.  It was not until he was safely inside the nestle of trees that he allowed himself to drop his hands down onto his knees and begin sucking in for air.  He had sprinted farther than he could remember doing so in decades, all of it out of fear, out of panic.  He thought now about the road back to the visitor’s center and wondered if he shouldn’t have taken it when he had the chance.
Although maybe he was imagining things.  He listened, and the ruins of Dzibilchaltun were completely silent in the Yucatan evening.  There were no birds, there were no people, since the tourists had left hours ago and the museum staff had been departing right when he showed up.  He was alone in the shadows of 1500 year old ruins, a place that had helped predict the end of the world.
When this thought crossed his mind, it made him think two things.  First was that, despite all the hype, the Mayans were right.  The world was about to end for humans, the same way things had ended for the dinosaurs and many other species.  The cyclical nature of life was suddenly visible to him, and he realized we were on the verge of the end, maybe only a few days away.  The second thought was that his life might end before he had the chance to tell anyone what was about to happen.  Not only did he know the date and time that the world was going to end, but he had the key to stopping it.  It was so simple to stop and save everyone’s lives, with just the flick of a switch, but someone needed to know which switches to flick.  He had to tell someone.
Charlie’s heart was still pounding inside his chest, but he knew he had to move on, that whatever was after him would be there soon.  He decided that he would have to loop back from the giant sink hole, go on the other side of the temples that lined Sacbe 2, and make his way back to the visitor’s center.  There would be no people there, but his jeep was there, and if he could get into it, he just had a chance.
He took 2 steps from the cover of the trees and stopped to look around.  It was still silent.  No noises from the mangrove jungles, no noises from the birds in the trees, just sheer silence.  That is part of the reason it was so surprising to him that he did not hear the fling of the atlatl or the sound of the arrow it had flung until it was right upon him.  There was the tell-tale whistle for half a second and then a piercing pain shot through his back, the likes of which he had never felt before.  It was so awful; it made the searing lungs feel like a pinch.
He tried to reach behind him, but as soon as he moved his arm, a shooting pain in his chest disabled him to move any farther.  Slowly, he bent his head down and rolled his eyes to the ground.  Protruding from his right chest wall was a spear at least 3 feet in length.  Since people fall back into their truest selves in time of crisis, Dr. Landry did not panic at that time.  In the blink of an eye, he assessed the situation, and realized he had a pierced lung that was filling up with his own sanguine end, and since there were no hospitals or doctors near him, these were to be his last moments.
He was about to die.
Suddenly fearless of death, Charlie looked into his left hand and remembered what he held.  It was cloth, and he could deliver a message on it, although it had to be short.  Simply moving his hand up to hold the object at waist level sent brutalizing pains through his person, but he knew this was his only chance to deliver his message.
It was mankind’s only chance for survival.
He coughed briefly, spitting up a thick, almost black liquid that had come from deep inside him, and oozed out from his mouth, already turning ashen with blood loss.  It gave him an idea, and he dipped the two fingers in his right hand into the mess of life that was now pouring from his chest wound.  He would be his own ink.
Footsteps coming through the foliage prompted him to panic.  He had to deliver the message in a way that his killer would be unable to retrieve it, change it, or even see it.  He looked up, and all he saw was the blue water in the sink hole.
With the last gasps of energy pouring from his soul, Dr. Charlie Landry managed to run just a few paces and then fling himself into the sinkhole’s waters.  His body would not have registered a high score for its dive having just barely been able to complete a belly flop.  As the momentum carried him towards the middle of the watering hole, he opened his left hand, and watched the doll sink down through the blue waters, the rays of light reflecting off fishes and shiny rocks.  He knew someone would find this doll and understand it.
As the blackness crept in on him, he barely felt the scratching on his left leg as someone hooked him and dragged him back to the shore.  The doll was almost deep enough to be out of his sight when a hand grabbed his shoulder, lifted him from the water and dropped him on the rocky ground, splintering the atlatl arrow.
He was bringing in his final breath when the face blotted out all light.  It was a skull, with a golden crown, feathers protruding in a halo around it, and war paint everywhere.  Charlie knew the face, but had always believed it was just a legend.  But this was no legend.  It was here.  He was already exhaling when the skull-faced deity pulled an obsidian knife and beheaded him.



Does travel play in the writing of your books?

 

Absolutely.  The 8th Doll was actually inspired by a trip to the Yucatan. I was standing in front of the Temple of the 7 Dolls and just marveling at how the Mayans built something so amazing.  My first book, Tears for the Mountain was also inspired by a trip that I took to Haiti.  I find that writing is so much easier when you can clearly picture what is happening in your mind, and I love to read books that talk about the small details that truly paint a picture for you.  I love when readers tell me, “I felt like I was there with you!”
 

Where do you dream of traveling to and why?


I have been very fortunate to have traveled extensively during my life.  I filled up the last passport I had, sent it back to the State Department to get additional pages inserted, and then I filled those up, too.  Mongolia, Lithuania, and Turkey are probably the best places I’ve been, and the people there are all very nice.  My wife and I try to take one trip out of the country every year, and we are looking forward to going to Germany next year. 

 

Probably the one place I haven’t been that I would like to go to is Morocco.  Aside from the fact that I’m a huge fan of Casablanca, the landscape and people in Morocco just are so beautiful and fascinating.  Morocco has beaches, mountains, and of course the Sahara.  It might be the desert draw for me – I’m from Los Angeles, which is nothing but a big desert, and I’ve gone exploring in the Gobi Desert and loved it.  There’s just something amazing about sitting on a camel atop a sand dune.


Tell us about your next release.

 

Well, the next release is the second book in the Alex Guidry series.  It’s called The Eye of Siam and is about a jewel heist in Thailand.  There have been a couple of books that I’ve read that used flashbacks really well to drag me into the story and want to know what happened before.  Steig Larssen and Joseph Heller both really are excellent at that, and I tried to use that element when I wrote The 8th Doll.  There are references to things that happened in Thailand, Eastern Europe, and of course there’s the cliff hanger ending to the book.  That’s pretty much the basis for the next 3 in this series.  Eye of Siam covers what happened in Thailand, and I have yet to title the book on Eastern Europe or the final book, but I do have the plots outlined already.  Those two will probably be out in 2013.


Tell us about your family.
 

I am married to a wonderful woman, and we live in Western Oklahoma. I have an older brother who just finished his first book, and he and his wife live in Los Angeles with my niece, who is 2 and pretty much runs everything these days.  A lot of the writing bug in our family comes from my mom who was the editor of her college newspaper and always made sure we were reading and writing something good when we were kids.  When I think of my dad, the first or second image that pops into my mind is him reading a Tom Clancy novel, or anything else that pits a US spy against the USSR/terrorists/some generic governmental bad guys.  It’s a very fun family, and we pretty much don’t take anything seriously.  When my brother and I get together it’s like a bad mash-up between vaudeville and stand-up.  


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

 

When I was a kid, I’m pretty sure I changed my mind every week when I was asked that question.  I’m sure it ranged from being an astronaut to making table candles.  I don’t remember all of the phases, but I do remember one of those conversations when I was six.  In 1st grade, our teacher, Mrs. Whalen, went around the room and asked us what we wanted to be.  Kids said all the usual stuff: policeman, fireman, president.  My best friend, Chad Smouse, raised his hand and said, “I wanna be a DINOSAUR!”  I’ll never forget the look on Mrs. Whalen’s face as she tried to muffle her laugh and explain to Chad that we can be anything we want when we grow up…except dinosaurs.

 

Chad started bawling and saying, “But I wanna be a DINOSAUR when I grow up!”  I will never forgive him because the next week, Mrs. Whalen put the word ‘paleontologist’ on our spelling test.  True story.


How do you react to a bad review of your book?

 

First I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut.  Then I re-read the review to make sure that’s what was really said.  Then I email my older brother and say, “Can you believe they said that?” And when he writes back and says, “Be glad you were reviewed, and write better next time,” I tend to forget it and move on.

 

I think of writing the same way I think of sports.  You’re not perfect all the time, so accept the mistakes and improve going forward.  Kobe Bryant doesn’t make 100% of the shots he takes in a basketball, and 100% of the words I write aren’t going to be brilliant.  The onus of improvement is on me, not the reviewer.

 

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

 

I was just loading an Avett Brother’s album when I read this question!  I listen to a ton of music all the time, but it really depends on the mood I’m in and what I’m trying to accomplish.  If I’m really exhausted and need to write, I might put in some old Rush, like Spirit of Radio.  If I need to focus down, it could be Avett Brother’s or Dr. John (I saw them both at a show in New Orleans this year, so in my mind they’re tied together).  When I’m already in the zone and need to just plow through 10,000 words in one sitting, then it’s either Counting Crows, The Highwaymen, or The Killers Day and Age.  Those three groups just let me zone out and go someplace else in my mind.

 

More than once in my life I’ve been in a band as a guitarist.  A pipe dream of mine is to jam with Stephen King and Dave Barry at a dive bar in Florida. 


How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?

 

Yes, I have a set formula: think of an interesting story, outline it, and write it out.  That’s pretty much it.  I don’t like the idea of having the same plot with different characters and settings because I think it would get boring for me and my readers.  I’d rather each book be very different and feature different things.  For example, in the Alex Guidry series, the first book is action-thriller, the second is like a summer block-buster movie.  The third is very dark, and the final one is…well, wait – I need to leave something for people to be excited about!  The last one is top secret!


Do you play any sports?
 

I love to play sports, and I love competition.  Unfortunately, I am no longer 18, so I usually regret it the next day.  I ran track and played basketball in high school, but now I usually just work out in the gym and scuba dive when I can.  It’s a little hard here in Oklahoma, but there are some good lakes and springs to dive. It’s a little different from when I used to drive down to the Keys in Florida and spend a weekend blowing bubbles with sharks, but I still love it. 

 

Who should play you in a film of your life? 

 

I would like to think it would be Brad Pitt, but Zack Galifinakis is probably more accurate.

 

Do you have a Website or Blog?

 

I post regularly to www.facebook.com/chrisrakunas


Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I am extremely thankful for everyone who has picked up one of my books and read it.  Whenever fans write to me, I always write back.  If you like what you’ve read, tell two friends about it.

 


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.

 
 

 
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Giveaway ends October 13th 11:59 PM Central Time.
 
 
 
 
 

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