Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Carlos Colon

Meghan: Hi, Carlos. Before we get started, I want to wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Thanks so much for agreeing to meet with me on your special day. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Carlos Colon: I am the son of two working class Puerto Rican parents born in New York City. That makes me a Nuyorican. I was raised in the South Bronx during the 1960’s and am currently living out on the Jersey Shore. Throughout most of my life, I worked in the insurance industry while dabbling in screenwriting and playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band. My first published novel, Sangre: The Color of Dying came out in 2016 and it is about an undead vigilante that was raised in the South Bronx and now resides in New Jersey. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, is entirely coincidental.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Carlos Colon: For the most part, I am an open book. There is not too much that the people in my circle don’t know about me. If there is something that they don’t know about me, it’s probably because I don’t want them to. For example, currently, I am recovering from a very recent stroke that sprung upon me shortly after the birth of my first grandchild, a beautiful baby girl named Cecilia. Not wanting to draw attention away from the happy occasion, I kept that information to myself, which upset my son. My daughter had bought tickets to a Broadway show that we were supposed to see that week, so I had to tell her. But she, in turn, divulged my current situation to my son, so there went my intentions. I have a wonderful, loving family. My wife was on top of things while my brain was in La-la Land, and outside of some vision problems and minor brain damage, I am doing well and living la vida loca.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Carlos Colon: Nice segue! In his armoire, my father had a softcover book with a dimly lit photograph of a naked woman sitting on a chair. It was called “The Pearl”. Well, damn, you just know I had to read that. It turns out that it was a collection of erotic stories written in England during the Victorian era. And let me tell you, for a horny little pre-teen, that book was hot!

After that, I believe it was either The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe. I was fascinated by how Doyle presented Sherlock Holmes’ deductive capabilities and by Poe’s methods in building suspense. Unfortunately, there were no nude women on the covers.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Carlos Colon: I’m focusing on independent writers, right now. I just finished The Amnesia Girl by Gerri R. Gray, which was an absolute blast, and am now in the middle of The Cabin Sessions by Isobel Blackthorn. She originally got my attention with a book of hers called Twerk, which was about Las Vegas strippers. And yes, there was a semi-nude woman on the cover. Some things just never change.

On the lighter side, I’m reading Howard Stern Comes Again, which is an interesting collection of interviews from his radio show.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Carlos Colon: I recently read a collection of short stories called Single Chicas by a talented, young Hispanic writer named Sandra Lopez. One probably wouldn’t have expected a book about the urban lives of young Latina women to have held my attention, but it did. It was funny, poignant and insightful, all at once. And the women were all fully clothed. I think I’m growing up.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Carlos Colon: I was a storyteller from the start. As a child, I wrote little comic strips for my parents. Then, in elementary school, I began writing short stories and little novellas. By the time I was in junior high school, one of my English teachers nicknamed me Hemingway.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Carlos Colon: I have an office in my house where I can close the door and let all the characters from my stories come to life. There was a recent movie called The Man Who Invented Christmas. It was about Charles Dickens when he was writing A Christmas Carol. There was a scene in that film that beautifully explained the mindset I’m talking about. He was alone in his room writing and all of the characters, Tiny Tim, Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and whoever else, were in the room with him. Then his wife opens the door and comes in and “Poof!”, the characters immediately disappeared. I go through the same exact thing. I would not only have the characters in my room, but my room would convert into the location where the scene is taking place. I could be on a New York street, a dark alley, or in an abandoned hospital with Nicky, Travis, Dominic or one of my other characters. I’m smelling the scents, hearing the sounds, feeling the air, and then my wife would yell out from the kitchen, “CARLOS, DID YOU PAY THE ELECTRIC BILL???” Again, “Poof!”, I’m back in my office where my cat is licking himself after stepping out of the litter box. And let me tell you, it is so hard to get back in that scene once you are taken out.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Carlos Colon: That’s the quirk! I need to be in that scene! If it’s a romantic scene on a park bench, I need to be sitting there and I need to be in love. I need to feel that love for that other person. If it’s a character that is in mourning, I need to feel that loss; the pain, the sadness. It’s like method acting. It can be grueling, but if I am going to take my reader somewhere, I have to get there first.

Another process I go through is that I envision my book as a movie and then pick out the songs that would be on the soundtrack. When I’m driving around, I listen the soundtrack from my book. This helps set the mood for me. I envision certain songs playing during certain scenes. So, if any of my books ever get adapted for the big screen, hey, don’t worry producers, I got that soundtrack thing covered for you.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Carlos Colon: Getting the damn thing published and read! Writing is the easy part.

In the “Sangre” novels, I wrote in a genre that had been so oversaturated in the past decade or so, that many readers jumped to the conclusion that, as a first-time writer, what I wrote was just another amateurish effort in creating another “Twilight” or LeStat world. Or maybe one of those vampire romances, which, there are literally thousands of those out there. And I’m not putting those down, by the way. Hey, if you like that, cool. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. I get it. They’re fun. But it’s not what I set out to do. To anyone, that thinks that’s what I did, I say, go on Amazon or Google and read the first ten pages or so. I believe they let you read a certain amount before you have to pay for it. If one does so, I am very confident that anyone that reads the first few pages of any of the “Sangre” novels, will realize that they are reading something unique.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Carlos Colon: Outside of a nasty email I just sent to my cable provider, I would have to say that the sequel, Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow was even more satisfying than the original, Sangre: The Color of Dying. Mainly, because I never envisioned a sequel to the first. The original did have an open ending but it was never my intention to continue the story. Besides, I normally hate sequels. But readers fell in love with Nicky Negrón. He is funny, badass, scary, and tragic all at once. Readers wanted more so I gave them more. When an idea came to mind as to where I could take the next story, I went with it. And I have to say, I felt both surprised and extremely satisfied with the result. It not only kept the story in the same spirit as the first, but it also went deeper into Nicky’s psych and expanded the world of “Sangre” without being a by-the-numbers repeat of the first tale – which many sequels are.

I never thought I could write a sequel but, damn it, I did, and it’s a good one.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Carlos Colon: This kind of goes back to your question about things that people don’t know about me. I would say that The World According to Garp by John Irving was probably the book that most inspired me to keep writing. His style was so flowing and easy to read it made me feel like, hey, you don’t need to be so showy with the words, just tell the damn tale! I don’t think anyone has been more of an influence in my writing style than he has.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Carlos Colon: Even if you have the most interesting your concept in the world, what will hold the story together in the end is the characters. Your characters need to capture that reader. The reader has to be invested. That’s what makes a good story.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character?

Carlos Colon: Well, I immediately loved that lady on the cover of The Pearl. I know, I need to stop.

A good backstory is essential in making the reader invested; an understanding of his or her mindset. It makes the difference between character and caricature. And you don’t need to spill that history all out at once. It’s always fun learning something new about the character as the story moves along. But that is the key; the better the characters, the better the story.

Meghan: How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Carlos Colon: The “Sangre” novels are very heavy in backstory. For some readers, it took a little getting used to because a lot of the flashbacks didn’t seem to be related to the present-day undead vigilante tale. But then, slowly, the readers started realizing that they weren’t reading a Gothic, slash and gore vampire novel. They were reading a grounded, adult novel about real situations like adultery, domestic abuse, and mourning the loss of a loved one, with real emotions like guilt, remorse, and longing. I believe I succeeded in creating a new type of genre, the horror tearjerker. In my stories you have the same characters involved in both normal and paranormal storylines within the same tale. Both mature readers looking for an adult novel with deep character studies and readers looking for dark, paranormal tales will find either “Sangre” novel to be an exceedingly satisfying read.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Carlos Colon: Ugh, I hate saying this, but since I used elements of my life in creating Nicky Negrón, it’s obviously him. It often makes for awkward dinner conversations as friends and family speculate, how much of myself I wrote into Nicky, and how much of my wife I wrote into Stefanie. Some of our friends and family have even had trouble reading the books because of the graphic sex, violence, and use of profane language – things they’d rather not picture us doing. I strongly recommended to our kids that they do not read the novels. If they were written by anyone else, they would probably love them. But since I wrote it, they would probably come back to me and say, “Eww, Dad!”

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover?

Carlos Colon: Well, I hated Kanye West’s version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Oh, you mean book cover. I don’t know that I would be so much turned off by a bad cover, but I can definitely be drawn in by a good cover. Let us not forget my experience with “The Pearl”. John Steinbeck probably would have sold a lot more copies if his version of “The Pearl” had the cover I came across.

Meghan: To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Carlos Colon: I was 100% involved. I worked with a super-talented graphic artist called Keith Whalen. I told him exactly what I wanted and he came through beautifully – especially on Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow. The work he did on that one is some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Carlos Colon: Probably that the work begins after the book is finished; getting it published, sales, marketing, etc. Writing a good book is no guarantee that it’s going to be read.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Carlos Colon: Great question! Unfortunately, I can’t give you a great answer because it would include spoilers.

I think what has made the Nicky character so fascinating is that he has drawn a deep love from the readers despite some of the appalling acts he commits. Readers love that his heart is usually in the right place, even if some of his actions reveal the monster inside.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Carlos Colon: I want you to try and imagine a book about a mournful family like Judith Guest’s Ordinary People, the one that was made into a movie starring Mary Tyler Moore. Now mix in a somber, serious vampire tale like the Swedish novel Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Then throw in some Chris Rock-like observations, complete with the foul language. That’s what you get with the “Sangre” novels. Can you think of any book out there that would fall into this category?

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Carlos Colon: The title is crucial. And the process is torturous for me. Insecurity sets in. Did I get it right? Does it truly capture what the novel is about? With the first book, I wanted there to be an awareness that the novel will have a little Latin flavor. And since the lead character is a vampire, what better title than the Spanish word for blood “Sangre”. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to draw attention to how colors describe the moods in our lives; blue being sad, green being envious, yellow being scared. And that’s where I came up with the subtitle describing “Sangre” as The Color of Dying.

With Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow I wanted to convey the bleak future Nicky faced after tragedy struck his family. Nicky’s tomorrows are always going to be filled with sorrow. That being said, readers enjoy how, somehow, he manages to hold on to his sense of humor, which carries him into the next day, or more precisely, night.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Carlos Colon: Novels and short stories serve different purposes. And both can be equally effective. One of the best short stories I ever read was Duel by Richard Matheson, which Steven Speilberg later adapted into a TV movie. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart and The Black Cat still give me goose bumps.

I haven’t written a short story in a very long time so I’m not sure if one will ever come out of me again. It appears that novels work better for me because I’m a big picture type of guy. They allow me to explore each character thoroughly and take the reader through more of a journey.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Carlos Colon: The “Sangre” novels are adult novels. These are not YA. They are they are thought-provoking, reflective stories that take a fantasy concept and treat it as a reality. How would real people behave if something like the events in these novels ever really happened? In all my years, when reading something that takes place in this world outside of our reality, I rarely felt invested because it was rare that the characters felt like authentic people. Writers like Stephen King are good at making the characters in their paranormal world feel real, but I think the first time I ever got truly invested was when I read William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Those characters felt real and it made the book that much scarier. I believe that’s what readers enjoy about my stories. That they feel real.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Carlos Colon: I came up with the concept of what would eventually be Sangre: The Color of Dying over twenty years ago. It was called “Vampiritis” and it was based on homeless, mole people living below the subway tunnels in New York City, that were infected with this disease that made them act like vampires. The lead character was a police detective who later became Dominic in the “Sangre” novels. Working with him was an epidemiologist who in the current novels is divided into two characters, Dr. Gunder and Federal Agent Janet Howard. I scrapped “Vampiritis” when I decided to focus on one of the infected and create a less sci-fi oriented story. That’s when I came up with Nicky and dropped the whole subway tunnel, mole people idea.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Carlos Colon: Whoa, whoa! Hey! Back up, there, Miss! I’m a married man!

Meghan: Everyone has a book or project, which doesn’t necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a ‘rainy day’ or for when they have extra time. Do you have one?

Carlos Colon: Oh, that’s what you mean by, “ trunk”.

Okay, for about two years, now, we’ve been working on adapting “Sangre” into a premium channel or streaming network television series. There are a couple of teaser/trailers online. The problem has been, raising the money. Talk about rejection. I feel like I did back in high school whenever I asked out a cheerleader.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Carlos Colon: You have an exclusive! I have already come up with the beginning, middle and end of the third story in the Nicky saga, and it’s a doozy. It’s called Sangre: A Relative Darkness. I am waiting to decide whether I’m going to go through this grueling writing process again. Truthfully, I’m not satisfied with the amount of feedback I’m getting from the current novel, so I’m looking for a little more “Nicky love” before I put myself through this again.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Carlos Colon: Well, after that whole trunk thing, I’m not sure I want you to find me.

Meghan: Anywhere you’re okay with fans connecting with you.

Carlos Colon: I can be found on Facebook. There is a Sangre page as well.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Carlos Colon: If anyone has the name and contact information for the woman on the cover of “The Pearl”, please pass it on to me. It would be very much appreciated.

After receiving extraordinary praise from literary critics and the unexpected devotion of readers to his sullen, but oddly endearing, foul-mouthed anti-hero Nicky Negrón, Carlos Colón knew he had little choice but to begin working on a follow-up to his debut novel Sangre: The Color of Dying. Since then Carlos has been dividing time between work on the sequel, Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow, while also adapting the first book into a graphic novel for a limited-edition series. And since there has also been interest in adapting “Sangre” into a television series, Carlos has also been writing scripts for a proposed first season. Having dipped his toes into the new media, Carlos also formed Ventana Luz Productions, LLC and co-executive produced “Bite”, which won the Best Comedy Short award at the 2018 Culver City Film Festival.

Born in Spanish Harlem and raised by Puerto Rican parents in the South Bronx, Carlos began writing comic strips in his pre-teens and drew attention in school by writing dramatic short stories. His teachers quickly noticed and nicknamed him Hemingway. After graduating from Herbert H. Lehman College, CUNY in the Bronx, Carlos dabbled in screenwriting for a few years before settling into the insurance business. Several decades later, Carlos returned to the entertainment business when he formed the retro rock ‘n’ roll band, the Jersey Shore Roustabouts which produced two albums. After performing their farewell concert in July of 2018, Carlos then took a short break before returning with a new rockabilly group called the Blue Suede Quartet.

When not busy with his multiple projects, Carlos enjoys time enjoying the Jersey Shore area where he resides with his Maria, his wife of 39 years and their cat, Tuco.

Sangre: The Color of Dying

Introducing Nicky Negron, a Bronx-born, Puerto Rican salesman who has suffered enough tragedy for multiple lifetimes.After a business dinner in New York City, Nicky’s life is cut shortat the hands of a ravishing undead woman at the Ritz-Carlton, resulting in a public sex scandal that leaves a legacy of humiliation for his surviving wife and children. When herises from the dead, he becomes a night predatorthat feeds on human bloodas well. The difference is, Nicky has agenetic resistance that retains his humanity – a trait that makes him reluctant to victimize innocents. Hampered by conscience, he instead decides to feed on what he deems are the undesirables of society-prisoners, sexual predators, domestic abusers and others that lower the quality of life around him.

Sangre: The Color of Dying features rough language, jaw-dropping sex, and abhorrent acts of violence, but its real emphasis is on the human being living inside the undead night stalker. Nicky values his family, his ethnicity, and is determined to hold on to his humanity, even if it’s just by rooting for the Mets, watching old Seinfeld episodes or reminiscing about the love he once shared with his wife. Readers are already falling in love with Nicky and this thrilling tale that takes supernatural horror in a completely new direction!”

Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow

The harrowing saga of Nicky Negron’s tortured soul continues as the inner and outer demons shadowing Newark, New Jersey’s undead vigilante have no intention of letting him rest in peace. Knowing his paranormal existence can only lead to complications, Nicky tries not to draw too much attention to himself. This becomes difficult as he learns that he has captured the interest of an unrelenting federal agent. Suspected of being an assassin for a South American drug cartel, Nicky finds himself dealing with the exact kind of scrutiny he’s been trying to avoid since he was turned almost thirty years ago. It complicates matters even more when Nicky is confronted with another undead presence that is threatening to commit atrocities to the children of a friend Nicky had sworn to protect. This pits the foul-mouthed night stalker, Nicky Negron, against the most horrifying monsters – both the human and non-human variety. An absolute rollercoaster of a novel, Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow delivers even more suspense, insight, laughs, and emotional wallop than its predecessor. Nicky is back! See you on the other side…

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