A Conversation with Gregory Earls, author of “Empire of Light”

When Gregory Earls isn’t eating at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, he pays the bills by taking up space at 20th Century Fox in the Feature Post Production Department. He’s a proud graduate of Norfolk State University and the American Film Institute, where he studied cinematography. He’s an award-winning director who has amassed a reel of short films, music videos, and (yes) a wedding video or two. Steadfastly butchering the Italian language since 2002, he hopes to someday master the language just enough to inform his in-laws how much he loves their daughter, Stefania, who was born and raised in Milan, Italy. Gregory currently resides in Venice, California where he goes giddy every time he spots that dude who roller skates and plays the electric guitar at the same time. During football season, he can be found at the Stovepiper Lounge, a Cleveland Browns bar in the Valley where he roots for the greatest football team in the history of Cleveland.

Visit his website at www.gregoryearls.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Gregory. Can you tell us what your latest book, Empire Of Light, is all about?

A: Empire Of Light is kind of a coming of age novel. It revolves around an insecure film school student named Jason and his first trip to Europe. His voyage flips into mad adventure when his vintage Brownie camera magically unleashes all the sex, violence, religion and humor captured on canvas by the infamous artist, Caravaggio. During the journey, he finds the tools he needs to become a confident man and an artist.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Besides Jason, there’s his film school mentor and Cinematography Dean, Howard Edgerton. Edge is an old Hollywood cameraman, and he reminds Jason of an older silver-haired, Cary Grant. He also talks and thinks fast, like he’s in a Howard Hawks film. His idiosyncratic trait is that he’s always tipping Jason a twenty, in hopes that he’ll use it to improve his crappy wardrobe.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: This effort is a bit autobiographical; and it definitely references celebrities behind the camera and in the art world. However, this is an aberration for me. Most of the time, my characters are made up.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: When writing screenplays I’ve been hyper aware of the plot, mostly because you have to be conscious of production logistics (depending on the project). I was a bit loose with having the plot nailed down before beginning Empire Of Light. After being pigeon holed all these years, it was nice to let the plot somewhat develop organically.

Q: Your book is set in Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Naples. Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular?

A: Don’t forget Cleveland! Ha! This reminds me of that famous Willie Sutton quote. When asked why he robbed banks Willie replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” Caravaggio doesn’t have a large body of work, but these three cities seem to have the most of ‘em. If I do a sequel, I might have to include Texas, Dublin and Sicily.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Jason is a fish out of water, but he’s trying to evolve and grow some legs. He’s not the “Ugly American,” because the guy attempts to speak the language, even though he butchers Italian like it’s a side of beef. It’s funny and awkward to see him stumble through a new world and try to come out on the other end intact. His life, eventually, depends on him accepting his lot in life and embracing it.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: Jason is on the plane headed to Paris. A rude Frenchman sitting behind him has just shaken the hell out of Jason’s headrest in protest of him reclining his seat too far back. A gorgeous flight attendant is on the scene to apply justice.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A:

“There’s my little pyromaniac!”

Goddamn it. Edgerton is here.

Edge has been visiting sets all year, making sure we don’t do anything stupid (i.e. illegal Power Box tie-ins). I turn around and find him leaning on the camera, dressed as if he’s going to visit Hef at the Playboy mansion, fifty years ago.

“Tell me son, just what the hell are you wearing?” he asks, referring to my Flaming Carrot t-shirt.

“The Flaming Carrot? He fights crime while wearing this giant carrot mask with a huge flame shooting out the top of his head.”

“Why you little pervert. I know you little Neanderthals won’t wear ties on set anymore, but do you have to advertise your sick little desires on a t-shirt? This is the AFI! Leave the latent cock imagery for the hippies at NYU. What the hell did you do with that twenty I gave you?”

“You expected me to buy—”

“Would it kill you to wear a pair of chinos and a nice oxford?” he interrupts. “It could be a pink oxford if that turns you on.”

“I’m not gay.”

“Not my business and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?”

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Gregory. We wish you much success!

A: Thanks so much for the opportunity! Hope we can do it again someday soon.

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Dorothy Thompson is CEO/Founder of Pump Up Your Book, a full service public relations agency specializing in online book promotion agency.
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