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Interview: Sandy Nathan, Author of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

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Sandy Nathan writes to amaze and delight, uplift and inspire, as well as thrill and occasionally terrify. Ms. Nathan is known for creating unforgettable characters and putting them in do-or-die situations. She has an amazing talent which enables her to write in a range of genres including: visionary fiction, science fiction and fantasy, spirituality, juvenile nonfiction, and memoir.

“I write genre fiction for people who like to think and want the unusual. My reader isn’t satisfied by worn out situations and words. I do my best to provide what my readers want,”  Sandy Nathan states of her desire to bring entertainment and uniqueness to the world of storytelling.

Ms. Nathan’s six titles have won 22 national awards, including Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals in the IPPY (Independent Press) Awards. The IPPYs are the oldest and largest contest for independent publishers. In addition, she has also won two Silver Nautilus Awards, The Nautilus is an award given to books that advance spiritual growth, positive social change, and conscious living. Ms. Nathan has been a finalist in the Benjamin Franklin Awards and has won multiple awards in the Indie Excellence Awards and the Best Book Awards (USA Book News).

Sandy Nathan was born in San Francisco CA at the end of WWII. Her father, a first generation immigrant of Icelandic stock, created one of the largest residential construction companies in the USA. Ms. Nathan grew up in the hard driving, achievement-orientated corporate culture of Silicon Valley.

She comments:  “I’ve known people like those in my novels my entire life. The birth of the computer industry simply intensified the competitive, intellectual, and creative environment that was already present in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Sandy Nathan holds master’s degrees in Economics and Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. She was a doctoral student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and has been an economic analyst, businesswoman, and negotiation coach, as well as an author.

At present time, Ms. Nathan resides with her husband on their California ranch. They’ve bred Peruvian Paso horses for almost 20 years and continue to ride regularly. She has three grown children and two grandchildren. Ms. Nathan has written full time since 1995.

Readers can learn more about Sandy Nathan and her work by visiting the following links:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Twitter ~ Writer Blog ~ Personal Blog ~ Amazon Author Page

Could you please tell us a bit about your book? The story? The characters?

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is about a young couple and their friends facing the destruction of all life on earth through a nuclear holocaust. It has been described as follows:

“New York City on the Eve of Nuclear Armageddon, Late 22nd Century—Perhaps:

Tomorrow morning at 7:35 AM, a nuclear holocaust will destroy the planet. Two people carry the keys to survival: Jeremy Edgarton, a 16-year-old tech genius and revolutionary; and Eliana, the angelic, off-world traveler sent to Earth on a mission to prevent her planet’s death.

Join Eliana and Jeremy as they begin a quest to save two doomed worlds . . . and find each other.          ‘

There’s a story behind the story. I unintentionally practice what I call “literature through disaster.” When something awful happens to me, my subconscious seems to jump in and transform my pain into a book or a series of books. My first novel, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, came from the resolution of a very painful personal calamity. A few years ago, another exceptionally painful event occurred. My brother died. He was my beloved baby brother and only sibling. Outwardly, I looked calm, but inside I was screaming with grief.

About three months after my brother died, I had a dream in which a shimmering golden light floated above me as I slept. That light was totally conscious, totally alive, and beautiful in every way. It radiated peace and good will. As I slept, I felt it lower itself upon me. The bliss was indescribable. The light continued to descend until it became me, merging with me fully. I got to feel the inner state of an angel. (Did I tell you I like meditation and spiritual practice and have very dramatic spiritual experiences? I’ve had them most of my life.)

When the experience of golden light faded, a book rattled around in my head. My unconscious mind morphed the angelic presence of the dream into Eliana, the exquisite dancer from another world. She appeared in my mind as a waif materializing on the sidewalk of a New York street in the late 22nd century.

Within four or five days, the major outlines of the book became clear to me. They seem to pop through a membrane separating everyday reality from the vast inner world of creativity and imagination. The character Jeremy is based on my brother. Jeremy in the book may not be much of a likeness to my real brother, but he is my brother in my soul’s eye. I don’t know where the other characters came from.

I do know the origin of the setting and socio-economic aspects of the book. In The Angel, people live in a police state, civilization has degenerated, and nuclear Armageddon is on the horizon. It’s not a cheery place, and it shouldn’t be.

At the same time that one part of me was grieving for my brother, another part of my psyche was scared silly over the condition of the global economy. For many years, I made my living as an economist. I hold a BA and MA in economics, worked on a PhD, and was economic analyst for Santa Clara County. (That’s the southern part of Silicon Valley in California.) Our economy is in very bad shape. We need to work together to solve the problems or something like what’s depicted in The Angel may happen.

Historical precedent exists. There’s a parallel between the milieu of The Angel and what happened after WWI in Europe. Making a complex story ridiculously simple, Germany lost WWI. The Allies demanded reparations from them for the damage the country did during the war. The Treaty of Versailles granted the Allies the right to collect reparations. They did so and Germany fell apart.

People were starving. Society was disintegrating. Toss in the Great Depression and you had an invitation for a dictator and strongman to take over. One did—Adolf Hitler. The rise of Hitler and the Nazi movement occurred in large part because of Germany’s post-WWI economic disaster.

In The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, the fictitious Tsar Yuri takes over as the world staggers from a massive depression, which begins with the financial melt-down of 2008. The end state of The Angel begins in our time, as the recovery from the Great Recession stalls.

Do I believe what’s portrayed in the book could actually happen? No. But something like it could. Everything that happens in the book—people disappearing of off the streets, torture, illegal surveillance, the government not telling the truth, hidden military action, and more—is happening somewhere on the globe now.

One of the reviewers said that The Angel occurred in “a future world only heartbeats from our own,” which is why he found it so disturbing.

How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?

The book’s main characters, the angelic extraterrestrial, Eliana, and the sixteen-year-old genius/revolutionary, Jeremy, are the angel and the brown-eyed boy, respectively. Eliana has such a strikingly beneficent and luminous presence that it’s hard to think of her as anything but an angel.

Jeremy is African-American, a tech genius who may be able to save the planet, and a sweet, but very damaged person. When I think about Jeremy, his warm, very dark brown eyes grab my attention. There they are: The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy.

I had a great deal of influence on the cover. I conceived the image of the angel dancing through space and selected the images used in the cover. The designer did a masterful job of the rest.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?

I like the way Eliana appears in the first chapter. Here’s its opening:

“When the girl appeared on the sidewalk, the edges of her body and clothing were fuzzy, as though all of her hadn’t arrived. She looked up and down the street, the way a person would if she’d forgotten an address or lost her way.
Her hair was frizzed and matted, sticking out akimbo. She was thin, had a dirty face, and wore a scratchy coat that was far too big. Its sleeves were rounded little capes; her arms stuck out of them like chopsticks protruding from a napkin. The coat slipped off her shoulders, first to one side, then the other. She hitched it up and kept walking. When she walked, the coat opened to reveal her feet and lower legs.

Her thin socks, trimmed with grayed lace, were pulled up to make a ruffle below her knees. Pink satin laces held up the socks, their Xs snaking up her shins from her shoes. She looked pretty much like everyone she saw, except for her shoes. Long pink ballet slippers stuck out from beneath her coat, as improbable as roses sprouting from the cement.”

What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?

I recently had two sets of Amazon KDP free days in which my books did very well. The Angel ended up #1 in Free Science Fiction Adventure and stayed there for an entire day. The next book in the series, Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love, did almost as well, hitting #3 in the same category. I intend to do more of those.

I’m active on the social networks, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. I have two websites, a personal site, SandyNathan.com, and a site for our horse ranch, Rancho Vilasa. I write a blog fostering sanity for writers, Your Shelf Life, as well as a personal blog.

I love to do readings and signing in bookstores. Click here to be taken to a video clip of a talk I gave in our local independent bookstore, The Book Loft in Solvang, CA.

I like to talk to people on blogs, so feel free to comment and say hi!

What is a typical writing day like for you?

So much is involved in the production and marketing of books that “typical” and “normal” and “ordinary” get thrown out the window. Writing time becomes precious.

I write whenever I can. Knocking out four or five hours of writing every morning would be nice, but my life seldom seems to allow that. I have responsibilities to our family business as well as my writing. My horse and I also have an agreement that I will keep her properly exercised.

Here’s a glimpse into the way I’m forced to write:

Not long ago, I was wailing away at Mogollon, my visionary thriller about a Native American retreat and the sequel to my first novel, Numenon. I was making great progress rewriting the draft I’ve had on my hard drive for twenty or so years. Not only were the plot threads coming together, material for Mogollon’s sequel was popping into my head.

Then I had to go to New Mexico to work on an exhausting, but necessary, family business venture. I was there almost a month with my husband, working like a mad creature. I had a computer, but no writing time.

In New Mexico, I did complete two very successful “KDP free book days” on Amazon with two of my books, as I noted above. It was fun seeing The Angel arrayed next to George R.R. Martin’s books on the Sci-fi Adventure page. The only difference between us was that he got paid.

To get those results, I didn’t just toss off a note to my Facebook friends. I contacted every relevant on-line group, club, discussion thread, my entire 9,700 strong contingent of followers on Twitter, everyone I’d heard of on Facebook, my personal mailing list, and everyone else I knew. It worked, but I couldn’t write while I was doing all the above.

All that time, I was burning to write. A scene from the sequel to Mogollon was banging inside my skull. I thought about it in the shower, going to sleep, and every other moment. I had to write it or explode.

I thought I’d be able to write one afternoon, a draft maybe—anything to give me relief from the creative pressure. Unfortunately, an extremely talkative fix-it person came and would not leave. Sayonara writing time.

Add to all that the fact that I was starting a blog tour and sheets with interview questions had been sent to me from various blogs, I was “a one-armed paper hanger with a fire on the stairs,” as my dad used to say. If I couldn’t write that scene, I felt like my head would blow up.

A few weeks later and back in California, I was able to write the scene. Bliss! It came out exactly the way I imagined it. Apparently, being dammed up for a while doesn’t hurt my prose, only me. The next new scene is forming, as I begin a three-month blog tour requiring a new post almost every day. See you later, writing time. This time, maybe my head will explode.

What are some ways that you like to relax?

I’ve been involved with horses since I was ten. Spending time on or around a horse is my relaxation. We live on a horse ranch. For almost twenty years, my family bred, birthed, raised, trained, and showed Peruvian Paso horses. We’re in retirement mode now, with only six horses on the ranch, down from our high of twenty-two. I hadn’t ridden for years due to old injuries, but my husband coaxed me into riding again about a year ago. (Coerced is a better word.)

The last year has been rough, because when I finally started riding again, I lost two horses. My dear Tecolote, the hero of my kids’ book Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could, died of heart failure. Another horse I rode has been retired because of health problems. The good news is that we just got a splendid, beautiful new horse for me.

I also like to walk with my dogs. I have two cocker spaniel mixes from the pound. The dogs and I make a couple of loops around our ranch every day. Gives me a chance to watch the hawks and birds and remember that I’ve got a body.

I like going out to dinner, spending time with friends, and visiting our place in Santa Fe.

What author/s do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?

The thing about overlooked authors is that no one knows about them, including me. It’s hard to name them. Thousands of excellent independent authors are passed over because some readers think, “Independently produced books are junk.”

This is not so. I’ve made a habit of downloading free books from Amazon, almost all of which are independently published. Some are junk, and some are gems. The gems need highlighting. I will be doing that with a new column on my blog for writers, Your Shelf Life. It will be titled, “Independent Gems.”

There’s also me! I’m overlooked. Read my books and have a blast. You can also write to me and I will write back.

What author would you most like to meet and why?

How about Toni Morrison? Hard to go wrong picking Toni. She’s a professor, novelist, editor, Nobel prizewinner, and author of the highest order. Morrison is a role model not only for writers, but also for women and people of color.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?

I have so many irons in the fire. The book we’re discussing today, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, is the first book of the “Tales from Earth’s End Saga”. The following two books in the series, Lady Grace and Sam & Emily, are available in print and eBook forms. Readers can go directly from reading The Angel to the other two books. I’m doing blog tours with them, just like The Angel.

I’m going to write at least one more book in the “Tales Saga”, but it will be some time until it is completed. That’s because I’ve got two series going, the wild, futuristic sci-fi Tales and the equally imaginative, contemporary “Bloodsong Series”. A couple of characters from Bloodsong morph into the future and appear in Lady Grace, Tales from Earth’s End Saga II. The two series may merge in the future, or merely continue to flirt.

I need to bring the two series closer together in terms of time before writing the fourth “Tales” volume. That involves charging ahead with the “Bloodsong Series”.

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, is the first book of the “Bloodsong Series”. It has been out a few years and tells what happens when the richest man in the world meets a great Native American shaman. One reviewer called it, “Bill Gates meets Don Juan.” Numenon won six national awards and was a phenomenon in its day.

I’m currently rewriting the draft manuscript of Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem, the sequel to Numenon. It takes place at a Native American spiritual retreat. It’s shaping up very well and should create as much impact as Numenon did. It should be published in 2013. I’m getting ideas for Mogollon’s sequel, an ensemble piece occurring after the retreat participants return to Silicon Valley.

What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?

I have been called “the bionic woman.” My right knee has been replaced. It’s a concoction of metal and plastic. My right ankle has been fused and is held together by screws. I’ve got more metal parts than most clocks. Before they got those new x-ray machines, clearing airport security was an invasive procedure.

I owe my replacement and fusing to a skiing accident in the 1960s. I also have a bad back, and bursitis in my hip. I’m a cancer survivor. I would not care to repeat a few years of my life.

All my injury and pain set me back personally. The soul and body go together. Whack on one, and you hurt the other. I didn’t ride for several years, due to feeling too fragile.

“We shall overcome” is a wonderful saying, and a true one. We shall, and I did. Today, I’m happy, productive, and active. Just to demonstrate it, I’m going to ride my new horse, the magnificent and elegant Bright Morning Star, right now. Ya-hoo!

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About April Pohren

  • I’ve really enjoyed reading your interview Sandy! Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your life and work. I have a copy of Numenon and I’m looking forward to reading it even more now!

  • Sandy,
    I admire your authenticity and guts you display in your life and your writing. It’s been a delight to learn more about one of my fellow visionary fiction authors – one of my favorite authors in general! I am looking forward to the sequels to Numenon and I so enjoyed the characters and gritty story in Angel and the Brown Eyed Boy.

  • Hi, Jodine and Saleena! Thanks so much for stopping by my tour. And thanks again for the compliments. I’m glad you like my work. So fun to communicate with authors I’m in tune with. Go visionary fiction!

    I’m working on Mogollon, Numo’s first sequel. I must admit that this blog tour is slowing progress on that down. But working on Mogo (I love nicknames for books) is my way of having fun these days. I keep plugging away. It will be published in 2013, that’s after editing and all.