Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Author Spotlight & Giveaway ~ Lou Rera

My So-Called Book Reviews is pleased to welcome Lou Rera, author of Sign as its featured author for June 2015! He will be answering questions, sharing about his writing process AND best of all, giving away 7 copies of his book, one of these lucky winners will receive the grand prize of a signed paperback of Sign!

About the author: Lou Rera's first novel, SIGN, a supernatural thriller of deception and murder, was published by Netherworld Books in June of 2014. His flash fiction has won awards and has been published numerous times in ArtVoice Magazine, and in Twisted Dreams Magazine. Recently, three of his darker stories appeared in an anthology titled Queen City Flash. His collection of flash fiction stories, There Are No Doors On a Cocoon is available through Amazon. Lou is working on a second novel, The Tin Mask, a story of a young man that makes an unusual discovery in his great grandfather's storage trunk.

Lou Rera is a Professor in Communication at SUNY Buffalo State. He is a member of the Horror Writer's AssociationJust Buffalo Literary Center and the Short Fiction Writers Guild.

As some of you already know, I belong to the “Psychological Thrillers” group on Goodreads which hosts over 1400 members. Lou Rera’s book, Sign was chosen as our May BOTM (book of the month), if you haven’t read my review yet you can find it here. I can’t express enough how great & fun this book is, if you love Horror and/or Supernatural Thrillers then Sign is the book for you! What impressed me the most about Lou as an author was his drive to ensure that every member of our group who wanted a copy of Sign, was able to get one. He gave away a ton of digital copies for our readers as well as 5 signed paperback copies, I was extremely lucky and thrilled to have won a signed copy of Sign, I love saying that :) On top of this, Lou made daily appearances to our group discussion board where he interacted with our members and answered every possible question thrown his way. I even saw him talking members through how to download their copies of his book, offering up his email so he could help them further. It’s not often that you find an author who’s willing to put forth so much of their time for so long and I truly enjoyed getting to know him! I think everyone in our group would agree that Lou is a really cool guy, a great author & we would definitely love to have him back with his next novel!

As we passed the halfway point for May I started thinking about which author I’d like to feature for the month of June. I’ve read some great books recently by some wonderfully talented new authors but it was Lou that really stood out to me last month. When I contacted him about doing an interview for this feature he was instantly on board and he topped it all off by offering up a fantastic giveaway (see below) I am so pleased to be welcoming him today! 

Q: How was your experience participating in our book club?

A: I enjoyed the experience very much. Many of the questions posed were more in-depth than I had anticipated. Readers picked up on details in very different ways--plus the idea of a sequel. I am thinking about that possibility. I am in the middle of another book at the moment, though I believe Marlene and Detective Gibbons make compelling characters for a sequel. The GoodReads club members made me feel welcome during the initial launch. I think during the first 7 days we had over 300 posts. Lastly, I know the book club has a choice to read many well-known authors, and I am very appreciative I was given a chance to participate.

Q: You mentioned that you're a Twilight Zone fan "big time" What would you say is your favorite Twilight Zone episode?

A: There is a tie for the best--and there are so many that are great! These two: "Long Live Walter Jameson" starring Kevin McCarthy (also from the 1956 classic, "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" written by Charles Beaumont. In this one, Kevin McCarthy pays the price for his bargained immortality. The second, "Time Enough at Last" starring Burgess Meredith adapted for the screen by Rod Serling. Meredith plays a bookish man who survives a nuclear blast. He is a man who loves books and irony reaches in and deals him as unfair hand in a twist that guarantees no man is allowed to revel in victory. I had Burgess in mind when I wrote about the man stalking Deirdre (and Jim).

Q: You've referred to Stephen King as the "master of all this" (a man after my own heart!). This question is 2-parts; what was the first King book you read and what is your favorite King book?

A: The first King book that I read was The Shining. I thought it was brilliant. A fine mixture of the potential madness in all men and what lies beyond one man's personal struggle. In the Shining, a manifestation of evil that grows like a cancer. King in many circles is misjudged. He is one of the greatest writers of our time. He is a master of interweaving society and culture in his work in a way that makes his work infinitely accessible. He does have misses. But with the volume of work he writes, he is bound to have stories that fall flat. He's not from the "James Paterson" writing warehouse of ghostwriters. Even after he own brush with death, the volume of work from King is astounding.

There are two favorite stories. One is a novella titled, Big Driver from his collection Full Dark, No Stars and my favorite book is one of his newer and lesser talked of works, Joyland. I read Joyland three times. King tells the story looking back from an older man's perspective on one summer, when he worked at Joyland during his college years. It was an amusement park, and how, through some wonderful relationships he developed at the time, helped solve a crime. (no spoilers here). It's a wonderfully written story of the past, and lives that intertwine, if only briefly. The terror and suspense here are not other worldly creatures, but humans gone bad. Exactly the way life really plays out.

Q: I am a huge fan of books being adapted for TV and movies and I would love to see Sign up on the big screen someday. If you could pick your dream cast; who would you cast as Jim, Deirdre, Detective Gibbons and Marlene?

A: Great question! Okay, here goes--my ideal cast:

Jim: Bradley Cooper
Deirdre: Evangeline Lilly
Marlene: Olivia Wilde
Detective Gibbons: Jeffrey Wright

Q: Where did the idea for Sign come from?

A: I woke up one morning with the basic story and I furiously wrote the premise before I forgot the whole thing. I didn't find this unusual in the sense of dreams or waking with ideas. I write very late, 2:00-3:00 am and I usually go to bed with my head spinning from my work. But SIGN had a long way to go from that one morning and the basic idea. It had taken me a few years to hammer out the book that people read now. It was a long, but very rewarding journey!

Q: Can you give us any information on what you’re currently working on or when your next book might be released?

A: I am writing a novel titled, The Tin Mask. Here is a brief synopsis:

In 1916, Lance Corporal Antonio Culletta, fighting in the trenches in WWI, is blasted off his feet in a hail of machine gun fire and shrapnel. His wounds are tragically disfiguring. This is before the days of plastic surgery, so Antonio is forced to wear a tin mask.

Culletta’s fiancĂ© leaves him, unable to cope with his injury. But love is redemptive. Mary O'Donnell, a nurse caring for Culletta, grows to love the man behind the tin mask. They marry and have children. But Culletta hides dark secrets. More wars follow and the world changes, while the remnants of Antonio Culletta’s life lie locked in a trunk, buried in the attic of his run-down Victorian home.

His great grandson, John Culletta, discovers the trunk. The oxidized tin mask lies dormant in an ordinary shoe box. When John straps on his great grandfather’s mask, he rips it from his face. He can see the world though the disfigured man’s eyes, first years of sadness, then of anger, and finally of rage. John becomes obsessed with Antonio’s tin mask. What happened to Antonio Culletta? Was it battle fatigue or shell shock, or did the mask merely provide cover for the darkness that had always inhabited Antonio’s soul?

The Tin Mask is the story of John Culletta’s journey from discovery to madness, and the most unusual love that brings him back from the threshold of certain destruction to reveal the truth behind the life of his great grandfather, Antonio Culletta.

I hope to finish the Tin Mask by the end of this year, and published by spring 2016.

Q: You've mentioned that you're a University Professor. While writing Sign, did you ever discuss your writing process or progress with your students? Did you share any early drafts with them for feedback?

A: I discuss writing with my students quite a bit. Some of my classes focus of screenwriting and film production. We are in script development for the early weeks of each semester. I did have test readers for SIGN. I tried to cover a range of readers. Men and women, young and older. I had two students read the final draft of SIGN before publication. I was conscious of the demographic potential of the novel and tried to write a story that might appeal to a large audience.

Check out this awesome Book Trailer for Sign by Lou Rera

Sign by Lou Rera

I for one am looking forward to The Tin Mask, it sounds so original and fascinating!! Lou also gave us some great insight into his writing process which I found fascinating! I love to hear how authors breakdown their characters and all the details for their stories and then how the final product comes to light! There were so many great tidbits of information that Lou gave but here are a few of my favorites:

“I must admit I (and other writers I know) have borrowed a few style devices from the master of all this, Stephen King. Okay, and a bit from his predecessor, Richard Matheson (and others). Since I was a new writer, I felt it was important to grab someone's attention immediately. This actually starts with publishers. If they, or readers don't feel there is enough to be invested in the read, they put it down, or in the publishing sense, reject it! I hope this doesn't sound contrived or manipulative. There are two main components really, well in my view: The creative--the story. Then, the technical structure of delivery.”

“Some of your comments are interesting in terms of the "trippy" nature of how I describe things. I think this is as good a time as any to describe my writing process.

First, I am a visual artist, designer and musician. I've produced lots of television and short film work. That's was my core background. When I research elements or areas for my writing, I do this visually. Here is an example:

For a couple of years (yes years!) as I was writing this novel I wanted to know exactly what someone could see only during a full moon, out in the middle of nowhere. I would drive out to the country in the summer and late fall, at night, during a full moon, park my car and start walking. I made sure there were no streetlights or houses: nothing! I needed to see what Jim and Deirdre would see. How would the world really look to them. It was during one of those trips that I actually wondered what I would do if someone was facing me, standing in the middle of the road, saying nothing. Just standing there. I must admit, the thought was very intense. And that idea manifested itself as a chapter in SIGN.

So this is how I write. Now, I don't need to kill someone to write about it. And now I'm sure some of you might think other things as well. What I'm really saying is each writer approaches research for a story in their own way--this happens to be the way I write.

“It's interesting when we think of fear or intimidation outside of the actual experience. It's sort of like empathy, we believe we understand someone's feelings, but to walk in someone's shoes so to speak, at least for me, frames everything from a different perspective. Conversely, when I did my work for San Francisco's warehouse district, I read a lot about that area. Then I put myself in my characters place, Detective Gibbons. How would he see the pier at night, in a light rain thinking about the case, Marlene and his daughter.”

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Hi Jen! Thank you for the feature in your Author Spotlight! I am available to answer questions or participate in a general discussion--Topics are open--Thanks!

  2. Hi again. I just received this review from by Matt Molgaard in Horror Novel Reviews!

    Click Here