Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit www.emlynchand.com for more info. Don’t forget to say “hi” to her sun conure Ducky!
Farsighted is her latest book.
Alex Kosmitoras’s life has never been easy. The only other student who will talk to him is the school bully, his parents are dead-broke and insanely overprotective, and to complicate matters even more, he’s blind. Just when he thinks he’ll never have a shot at a normal life, a new girl from India moves into town. Simmi is smart, nice, and actually wants to be friends with Alex. Plus she smells like an Almond Joy bar. Yes, sophomore year might not be so bad after all.
Unfortunately, Alex is in store for another new arrival—an unexpected and often embarrassing ability to “see” the future. Try as he may, Alex is unable to ignore his visions, especially when they begin to suggest that Simmi is in danger. With the help of the mysterious psychic next door and new friends who come bearing gifts of their own, Alex must embark on a journey to change his future.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Emlyn. Can you tell us what your latest book, Farsighted, is all about?
Sure! Farsighted tells the story of Alex Kosmitoras, a 16-year-old boy who is blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider.
Lately, YA books have become too geared toward adult readers. I hope Farsighted can help bring the genre back to its intended audience with age appropriate and age-relevant content. It’s also a paranormal novel that is much more grounded in day-to-day reality than others in its cohort.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Our hero is Alex. He has had an unfair share of hardships in his 16-year-old life. Besides being blind and bullied, he must now deal with the arrival of uncontrollable, scary, and sometimes embarrassing psychic powers. He lives his life on the periphery. Part of him likes being independent, but another part would like nothing more than to be accepted by his peers. He has trust issues and can be a bit moody at times.
Alex quickly develops a crush on Simmi, a new student in school. She is very good-natured but sometimes too polite. At the time of the story, her family has just relocated from New Delhi, India. Simmi’s rhythmic accent and kind heart draw Alex in. He also loves that she smells like an Almond Joy candy bar. Yummy.
The third leg of this trio is Shapri Teak, the daughter of a palm-reader and another new student in the area. She’s strong, always true to herself, and won’t let anyone disrespect her. Sure, she has fears, but we all do. Her self-assuredness and tendency to move around a dizzying amount while talking irk Alex, but since the girls are inseparable, he has no choice but to play nice with Shapri.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
None of the characters are replicas of the people in my life, but I give each of them a little piece of myself to make them more real and likable to me while writing them. Alex has my split nature and passion. Shapri has my annoying self-confidence. Simmi has my desire to avoid confrontation. Dax, the mysterious villain, has what I’ve dubbed “writer’s personality disorder.” It’s kind of like bipolar disorder, but instead of having mood swings, the sufferer experiences dramatic ego swings.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
Both. I begin with a seed of an idea and work out from there. With Farsighted, I started with Alex and created the rest of the story and characters to fit around him. Using the runes as a structural framework for this novel created an outline for me too. I’m a numbers person as well as a word person. I love things to be organized just so. If you set a stack of papers in front of me; I’m going to fuss with them until they are lined up in a perfect stack. It’s just the way I am. Shaping each chapter around a rune gave the story order. Whenever I got stuck and didn’t know what should happen next, I was able to learn more about that chapter’s rune and get the inspiration I needed to continue. The runes themselves tell a story, one that is successfully completed. I felt that boded well for Farsighted.
Q: Your book is set in a fictional Midwest town called Grandon. Can you tell us why you chose this setting in particular?
Grandon is somewhat based on my hometown of Oxford, Michigan—or at least how I perceived it to be as a youth. It’s a small town where not much ever happens, and unless you’re one of the cool kids, you’re not anybody at all. When you’re alone in a place like Grandon, you’re very, very alone. Isolating Alex was important. I wanted him to face big problems in a small world. The setting made for larger upheavals when Alex finally made friends and when he learned of his freak-of-nature-ness.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Like I said, Alex’s world is small. Most of the story happens within only a few places—Alex’s home, the local high school, and a strip mall that houses Alex’s mother’s floral shop and Shapri’s mother’s psychic shop. Setting up the story this way created an intentional feeling of claustrophobia that works together with the first person narration of Alex, which is completely devoid of visual details. When Alex and his friends finally do leave Grandon to face their final challenge, it makes the adventure that more epic.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Oh, it’s one of my favorite scenes! It’s Alex’s birthday, and a pizza party is planned for that evening. He and Simmi are sitting outside the high school, waiting for Shapri (who just so happens to have invited herself along). They are having a deep conversation, and Alex feels the urge to kiss Simmi. Here’s a brief passage:
“I contemplate reaching over and kissing her, so I can know for sure how she feels. But I’ve never kissed anyone before. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to initiate it. Do I take her out for dinner and a movie first? Or make some lengthy speech declaring my intentions? Do I kiss her, just like that? Or do I ask for her permission before making my big move?”
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
Readers really seem to enjoy this one. It’s the moment when Alex first meets the new psychic in town.
“Did Dad tell you? A new tenant moved into the old pharmacy next door.”
“Really?” I ask, not letting on I already know. If I feign ignorance, Mom’ll divulge all the details. “What is it?”
“It’s a psychic shop,” Her voice crackles with excitement like a fire that’s just beginning to burn. “The All-Seeing Miss Teak. Isn’t that cute? Miss Teak, Mystic. Ha, I wonder if that’s her real name.”
I laugh. “That is funny. Never had a psychic in town before. What’s she like?”
“Oh, she’s very friendly. Why don’t you go over and say ‘hi.’ I’m sure she’d like to meet you.”
“Okay, I think I will.” I’m incredibly intrigued, because first off, it’s a psychic shop—how weird is that?—and second, its presence made Dad super uncomfortable—also very cool. I waste no time heading next door to check out the scene.
As I step cautiously into the new shop, a recording of soft, instrumental music greets me. I can make out chimes and a string instrument I don’t recognize but for some reason reminds me of snake charmers. The smell of incense fills my nostrils, which explains the burning I detected earlier.
“Hello?” I call out into the otherwise quiet room.
Nobody answers. I walk in deeper, sweeping my cane out in front of me in a metronome fashion. This place is new to me, so I need to be especially careful while moving around.
Thump! Despite my precautions, I stub my toe on something hard, big, and made of wood. Just my luck to stub the same toe twice in one day. I reach down to press my fingers into my throbbing foot to alleviate some of the pain. Something teeters before rolling off of the chest and across the floor; the sound it makes indicates a curved path. Suddenly, the object stops. Somebody’s stopped it.
“Hello?” I call again.
“Hello,” a deep, feminine voice responds, placing more emphasis on the first syllable than the second.
“I- I’m sorry I knocked that thing over. I didn’t mean to…” I hope she’s not angry. Probably not a good idea to get on a psychic’s bad side.
“That wasn’t just a thing, it’s a crystal ball,” she says as she walks over, sending my blood pulsing through my veins. I sense her looking at me for a moment before she places the ball back on top of the chest.
“Can it see the future?” I ask, allowing my curiosity to outweigh my uneasiness.
“No.” After a pause lasting several beats, she continues. “But I can see the future sometimes when I look into it.”
“Oh, okay.” I tighten my hand around my cane and turn to leave. It may not be the most polite thing to do, but all of this hocus-pocus stuff is freaking me out more than I would’ve guessed.
The psychic lady speaks again, stopping me cold. “Don’t run away, Alex Kosmitoras.” She must’ve spoken to Mom earlier today. That must be how she knows my name.
“I’m not running away,” I say meekly. “I’m just going back over to Sweet Blossoms.”
“Don’t run away,” she repeats—this time she speaks louder and with more energy. “Don’t run away from your abilities. They are gifts.”
“What?” I ask in confusion. What abilities is she talking about?
“You already know. Watch. Listen. Be open to your gifts.”
I turn to face Miss Teak, but find she’s already gone, returning to wherever she was before I got there.
Is it safe to leave? I trail my fingers across the wooden box I ran into earlier; a thick coat of dust clings to the tips as I pull away. If this shop just opened, why is it already so dirty? I wipe my hands over my shirt to get the gritty substance off. Shivers rock my whole body. Something about this place is wrong, and I’m not sticking around to figure out what. Tapping my cane along the floor, I’m able to find the exit without knocking into anything else.
Thank you so much for this interview, Emlyn. We wish you much success!