Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Michael L. Bernoudy, Jr., author of Ninjas & Vamps
FQ: Tony goes through some major life changes in Ninjas & Vamps - from a kid living in South Central to being "one of the jocks." Was this change based on a life change you experienced, or perhaps one of your friends experienced?
BERNOUDY: The entire book (save the vampires) is based on real life experiences. I lived in LA for a number of years then moved to Lewisville.
FQ: "Life really be about that BS" - It's a theme that runs through the book and helps explain what Tony and his friends are going through. Would you explain for readers who may not be familiar with it what you mean?
BERNOUDY: Well BS of course means "bullshit." It has a double meaning in the book. As a teenager there are al kinds of things you have to go through which you would consider bullshit. In Tony's case each chapter has additional shit to add to the pile. What complicates and adds to the BS of being a teenager, is being a black teenager.
FQ: I loved the characters of Bebe and Opal - they are quite funny and very real too. Are they based on anybody you know? Perhaps a beloved aunt?
BERNOUDY: My Aunt Berth Banks. She was always away growing up. I would often imagine that she was out doing something exciting. My cousin Celoa (who's mom is Ope) also only visited town occassionally. I expand on the few times in life I actually have seen her.
FQ: Without giving anything away, there were little hints that you dropped here and there, such as that shiny stone Tony was given. Did you plan these plot twists out carefully before you began writing or did there come to you as your wrote the story?
BERNOUDY: I usually do an outline of all the chapters in my book before I write a word. So the bones of the book are already set. I develop the details and twists as I'm writing.
FQ: There were some funny lines in this book, such as, "And apparently you can't put someone in an old folks' home without their permission," that made me laugh out loud. Have you ever considered writing a humor book?
BERNOUDY: Everything I write is based on putting black people in uncommon situations. I tend to think we would find a way to joke or be funny no matter what is happening. So hopefully all my books have a significant amount of humor.
FQ: There's quite a bit of African folklore (re: African vampires, Tikoloshe, etc.) in your story. Did this require a lot of research before you began writing?
BERNOUDY: It did, but luckily you can find anything on the internet.
FQ: Opal becomes the new "Izangoma" - would you explain what this is for readers who may not be familiar with the term?
BERNOUDY: Witch doctor, spirit woman. Someone who is connected to nature and the elements and knows their secrets and how to munipulate them.
FQ: You have a degree in Theology and have written a series of books ("The Kaleidoscope") that deals "...with the creation and destruction of the world." What drew you to theology and would you tell us a little about this series?
BERNOUDY: At the time I obtained that degree I was going through a seperation and life was really bad. I did an overview of my life and figured that I had a disconnect with God. I didn't think things would get on tract until I got that relationship right.
Ninjas and Vamps is meant to be a "young adult friendly" book that my 10 year old could enjoy. I'm not sure if I accomplished that.
Like Ninjas and Vamps, the Kaleidoscope takes black people and puts them in extaordinary situations. However, these books are not kid-friendly. The plots are more intricate and the stories are a lot more bloody and sensual. The main antagonist seeks an item (the Kaleidoscope) which gives God the ability to see everything everywhere in every possible reality simultaneously. An ordinary black family gets mixed up in this fight between good and evil.
FQ: I see you also run a law firm - The Bernoudy Law Firm. How do you find time to do all that you do? Is the writing an escape from your busy law firm?
BERNOUDY: This is my first book in almost 5 years. I didn't have the time. But yes I write to escape reality and bring others along with me.
To learn more about Ninjas & Vamps please read the review.