27th April 2019
The Saturday Interview: Regie Khemvisay
Thanks very much for your time Ms Khemvisay. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I should be the one thanking you for having me. Awesome thanks Mike!
I don’t know why I start to blank out when I get asked this question, but Hello Mike, and to all those who are reading this.
I am Regie Khemvisay from El Paso, TX (temporarily) until we move to another duty location because my husband is serving in the Army. I was born in the Philippines and we moved to Las Vegas, NV when I was 15. I joined the Army right after high school until May 2018. I served for seven years.
Are you guys bored yet? Sorry.
Continuing on, we have a son named Skye (middle name) as a result of my obsession with color blue. Death’s Kiss is my debut novel and am working on several WIP. I am completely new to the writing community as I never really thought I will be publishing a book one day. But look at me now - I’m an author. Please read the interview: I promise my life story is the boring one and I have more to tell about Death’s Kiss.
Your debut novel, Death’s Kiss, is a young adult dystopian thriller. Could you describe what it is about?
Here is another question that puts a blank expression on my face. Whenever someone asks me this, I have to start with Uhhhhh...
Death’s Kiss is a character-driven story, plagued with secrets, lies, and many versions of truth that I have such a hard time trying to explain what it is about. But to answer the question, the story is set 38 years later after the outbreak of the BlackJack virus that killed everyone who was older than 21. Death’s Kiss revolves around the fate of Yuri and Ryoma who are now forced to serve the government as the new ACES as punishment for their parents’ treason. They must escape their fate before innocents’ blood are on their hands.
That sounds very exciting. What are ACES?
That is the exact question our characters will face in the beginning of the story. They are sucked in to this new government position that is not outlined in government books. Basically, there is a special form of department within the Joker System called the Court. The Court Department is divided into four levels Ace, Jack, Queen, and King. The main characters are given the position of Aces. Readers will just have to delve within the pages to learn more.
Will Death’s Kiss be a standalone novel?
Yes. Death’s Kiss is a standalone novel but I did leave a room for a possible sequel if I change my mind in the future.
What drew you to write dystopian fiction?
My bookshelves are populated with dystopian novels. I used to not read books at all before (shame on me, right?). But I think when I was in sophomore year (we all know we are forced to read) our book selection came from the most banned books in history and 1984 by George Orwell was selected. It was the first ever dystopian novel I read. Then we had an assignment where I drew a five-page graphic novel of it (sadly, I don’t know where it went) which was why I remembered it so clearly. Personally, I think Dystopian novels are so thought-provoking and the journey for readers is not how other genres are told. There’s darkness and hope, and I just loved that. It was only natural that my debut is a dystopian novel.
Could you see yourself developing Death’s Kiss into a graphic novel some day?
Interesting question because I am currently working on my Master’s in Illustration and taking the Graphic novel route. I had two finished short story graphic novels that I’d love to rework on again, and I can totally see myself creating a graphic novel version of Death’s Kiss. Also, my family do not read books like I do, so I think I can influence more readers by creating a graphic novel version of it.
Is expressing yourself creatively important to you then?
Absolutely. They say pen is mightier than a sword and I believe that wholeheartedly. I mean, I can use it to write words or draw illustrations to express myself :) That might sound cheesy but art is my favorite tool in expressing myself.
How do you think that writing for a YA market is different from writing for adults?
Thanks Mike for such an important question. Personally, I can’t weigh the difference since I don’t have experience writing for adults. But I wholeheartedly believe that writing for a YA market gives the writer so much more responsibility. There’s more pressure in writing YA, the pressure of making it right. Adults have their solid beliefs, views, and perspective on things. (As much as adulting sucks, we do have solid understanding of life. Hopefully. If not, it’s okay, we’re still evolving and practicing adulting.) As for the younger generation, they’re still learning, experiencing, and their thoughts are mostly still being challenged. They have so much to learn about society, life, and human nature that we want them to be able to understand it in their own precious way.
YA market is so popular these days that many writers are using that to their advantage to tell their stories, as for my case in writing DK, it was to inspire. This was a rather hard question for me because Death’s Kiss is actually a New Adult fiction. The main characters are 21 years old. But I do categorize it as a YA than an adult fiction because when I was writing it, I had my young adult readers in mind. I was in the Army with mostly middle-aged men and women and I couldn’t see them reading my book because I targeted it for young readers.
Do you think that YA literature needs to have a message at its heart?
Considering the popularity of the YA market, I believe it is a writer’s responsibility to use that as an anchor to influence and teach their readers. All of the YA novels I’ve read, they always had a message to tell and I think that’s how readers relate to the characters in their journey.
I’ve read positive comparisons between Death’s Kiss and other YA dystopian books like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Do you read a lot of the genre yourself?
Yes! I’m obsessed with Dystopian novels. More than half of my Read-pile are dystopian novels, (Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, The Selection, Delirium, The Testing, Prodigy, etc.) I’ve read 1984 so many times that it made several appearance in Death’s Kiss. It’s one of my favorites. The short story The Lottery was also an inspiration for the novel.
Have you read Brave New World? I find it difficult to decide which dystopia is worse: the one where people are manipulated and crushed into obedience, but occasionally retain a spark of rebellion or the one where people are conditioned from birth and drugged into happiness, so lack that spark. What do you think?
Unfortunately, as much as I love 1984, I have not read Brave New World. Now, I’m thinking of rallying all classic dystopian novels and binge read them because of your question. But if I were to put myself in those two situations, I think the latter is worse than the former. I think the main difference of these two dystopias is that one has will and the other has not.
My opinion will be based on “if I live in that dystopia”.
The former dystopia still gives me that freedom to think for myself (internal thoughts that I might not voice out but it’s there). They said rebellion is sparked by hope, which ultimately gives the people to make that step of changing how things work. Ultimately, as long as there’s that one drop of hope, there is life and optimistically, I believe society will find a way to free itself from manipulation. After all, if power was able to create a manipulated society, changing everything and crushing people’s freedom, a greater power will one day emerge to make things right. (See here, I can still speak positivity.)
For the latter dystopia, when I was reading blurbs of Brave New World, I saw this question: “If you cannot feel pain, can you ever truly feel joy?” If I was ‘conditioned from birth and drugged to happiness’, how could I possibly know what true happiness was? My parents, my ancestors, they were probably scientifically engineered like me, so how would I see or understand what happiness really means? These thoughts plagued me. I don’t want an artificial way of living. I’d rather be fighting in a rebellion that will probably die later, than to be engineered to be happy and not feel pain. The perfect world cannot exist no matter how many times someone destroy and rebuild it. (I’m all negative over here.)
So Mike, to answer your question, for me, the latter is worse.
What common themes do you find between them?
Common themes that I find in dystopian novels are “fighting for what you believe in”, “there is hope in darkness”, “peace has a price”. Every journey the characters take on, it changes them, makes them stronger, and they look back from the person they used to be, they see that change and there’s the struggle of accepting it or looking away from it. The characters’ beliefs start to change or solidify as they learn more about the world. Dystopian novels embody darkness, showing us how one can overcome that darkness no matter how powerful it is.
Why do you think it is that YA dystopias are ultimately uplifting - ‘overcoming the odds’ - whereas adult dystopia are not, very often ending with defeat and failure?
Ah, another interesting question. I think because YA dystopias have characters that are usually in an adventure of finding themselves, understanding their purpose in life, and most of the time these heroes and heroines are the center, the HOPE in the story. Writers want to give them the hope that they will find themselves, their purpose. I mean who wouldn’t want these young ones achieving their passion or their dreams? We want their journey to end in a satisfying way to make up for the losses or the pain they went through.
Adult dystopia, on the other hand, we all know how life or the world works. It’s plagued, dark, and as sad as that sounds, that is the truth. We can’t sugarcoat that life is a struggle and I think that Adult dystopia are created to embody the real world and societal problems that exist. And most of the time, life do end with defeat and failure. Adult dystopias stay true to that statement.
Those are some interesting points you’ve made there. I enjoy dystopian fiction but I’m never really sure why, considering the general state of the world. Do you think its popular because we can experience these worlds safely through a book, that they help adults to better understand disasters when they happen, that some people like imagining being the survivor of some terrible event or something else entirely?
Oooh, another difficult question. I’m sure everyone has their reasons why they enjoy reading dystopian fiction, it could be just as you described, to experience without living in it, to understand the consequences of evil actions, and to imagine ourselves being that person who overcame the terrible challenges of the world. Now that you pose that question to me, I tried to understand my own reasons why I love reading dystopian novels. It is just as you mentioned above, but most of all, as much as there’s darkness, there is also light. No matter how dark the world is, humanity will find that spark of light to survive and will understand what it really means to live. Dystopian novels reflect these light and darkness of society.
Interestingly, your question is also asking me: To who did I write Death’s Kiss for? And my answer to that will be found in my dedication page. :)
What are your passions outside of writing?
Storytelling is in my veins. I just love stories, so I read, I watch American TV series, Korean Dramas, and of course I am an Anime addict. I love stories that inspire me and Animes have influenced my life and are still influencing me. I get most inspirations from them. (I’m a binge eater of Anime and Korean Dramas)
I have a degree in graphic design and I’m pursuing Illustration now so in the future I can also write and draw children’s book and graphic novels. When I’m not writing, I’m probably drawing, painting, or daydreaming of my scenes rather than typing them. Recently I’ve been finding myself stuck on Twitter, watching out for great content in the writing community.
How do you find the Twitter writing community?
I regret so much joining late. The writing community is full of helpful writers, bloggers, and book lovers. I’ve learned so much already in the past months and met so many amazing authors that I admire and I get to connect with them. As a book lover and an author, the twitter writing community has influenced and helped me grow as a writer. And I get to meet and do this interview with you and share my thoughts, Mike! I’m totally loving the community.
I find it an awful lot friendlier than the toxic swamp that is Politics Twitter. Do you think that, generally, writers are more empathic, nicer people?
As I mentioned, I just joined Twitter’s writing community. I was late because I thought Twitter was only about politics or celebrity ramblings. I didn’t know there was a writing community that is one of my best support group and advisers.
Did you just ask me if writers are more emphatic, nicer people? Haven’t you read how many people we killed, sacrificed, and tortured in our books? We have the nerve of destroying the world and create our own countries, languages, religion, etc. We’re the craziest beings living in the planet. Hahaha (evil laugh).
I love the writing community because writers are (maybe not more emphatic, nicer people) wiser and brave for putting themselves out there, for telling their stories, influencing readers by putting their thoughts in a page, bare for everyone to see. I truly believe that other writers are extensions of myself, they’re not my competition, but the ones that fuel my creativity, inspire me to keep writing, and the people who could probably understand my anxiety or worries more than others. We might have different sizes, but we’re in the same shoes. We might not fit, but we ride the same boat.
Do you think it’s important that authors are engaged online?
Certainly. I wish I had been more engaged years ago. I recently just joined the writing community on Twitter. I learned so much in the past months that I wished I knew before I published my book. As a reader, it was definitely amazing how I can talk to my favorite authors and tell them how amazing their stories are. So as an author, it’s very important that I have a way to communicate with my readers and other authors. Online presence is important because you can connect with everyone around the world.
If people want to interact with you online, what’s the best way to do that?
Thanks Mike for this interview! I can’t describe how much this meant to me. So I’m just going to thank you! Cheers and more power to your site!
Thanks again for your time. 'Death's Kiss' is available to purchase through Amazon and all other good outlets.