Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: SANGRE: THE COLOR OF DYING by Carlos Colón

Nicky Negron is dead, or more accurately put, undead. And since he must take the lives of humans to feed on their blood and survive, he is very selective of who he thinks society can do without. Bronx-born Nicky was raised in a middle class Puerto Rican family until tragedy tore them apart. Years later, Nicky would put himself through school where he would meet his future wife Stefanie. With a happy marriage, two healthy children and a successful career as an insurance agent, Nicky seems to have it all, until in ends in a blood-spattered room at the New York City Ritz-Carlton. Since he was last seen going in there with a mysterious red-haired woman, the case is sensationalized by the press as a sex scandal, leaving deep wounds of humiliation with his family and tainting the memories of their lives together. Nicky is a man who has lost it all, twice. Such a fate could make a man bitter. But even with all that has happened, Nicky resists taking the lives of innocents. Having lost his own life, Nicky appreciates its rewards and prefers feeding on those that lower the quality of life around him. So if you are a sex predator, a domestic abuser, a child murderer or a drug dealer you may want to stay out of Nicky Negron’s territory. He doesn’t feed much, which means he is always hungry.

Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 5 stars

Review: Nicky Negrón is dead. Well, really, he’s undead. He’s a vampire.

A rogue vigilante, he feeds on the scumbags of society—prostitutes, rapists, murderers. You might call him a hero or possibly a grim reaper, but, in actuality, he’s just a conscientious vampire. He can’t fathom to feed on the innocent, yet he prefers to drink blood that is free of drugs and disease, because that would make him sick.

“My projection to those around me is the handsome Nicky (if I may say so myself) that died twenty seven years ago. To me that face is a memory from photographs. On the occasions when my projection is not present, like when I’m feeding or when my emotions take over, the only version I get to see of myself is that of my death face—the face that belongs six feet under.” (23)

This is the story of a vampire cursed to live out his immortal days with the memories of his past life and a heart for the innocent souls. Flashbacks of his childhood and family interject as he prowls the night in a wandering blood lust.  On the outside, he’s a fiendish monster; but the inside shows a sensitive and vulnerable creature. You can’t help but feel for him as he hovers near the presence of the family he left behind.

The book is a delectation of raw and powerful words that bring the story to life. The story line, as well as its soulful imagery and beauty, is reminiscent of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, which follows  a vampire named Louis as he relays his 200-year-long life story to a reporter. In Sangre, Nicky Negrón tells his story. He recounts his birth into vampirism and correlates it with the color red, which is the last thing he saw. Typically, red is “a color that humans connect with love—red roses, red cherries, strawberries, lipstick, hearts…it’s the primary color of Valentine’s Day, the color of love.” (90) But at the time of his transformation, when everything he loved was being taken away, he indicates it as the “color of dying.” Not only is this book poetic and insightful, but the author kicks it up a notch by adding his own Spanish flair with cultura and barrio phrases, settling the reader into a prideful comfort as if you were sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by tamales and familia.

Colón is a talented and witty writer that has reinvented the dark genre with candid prose and lucid expression. His knowledge and compelling fascination with vampires enabled him to craft a well-written story that you can sink your teeth into.  A remarkable tale!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Q&A with Carlos Colón

Carlos Colón is a Bronx-born Puerto Rican singer/songwriter. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY with a degree in English Creative Writing. His play "Jerome" won Honorable Mention for the Jacob Hammer Memorial Prize in 1979. Since then he has spent most of his years as a local musician, most recently as the charismatic front man for Retro Rock n’Roll band The Jersey Shore Roustabouts, one of the most in-demand entertainment acts of the Central and Southern New Jersey/New York/Philadelphia area.

   1.       What inspired you to write Sangre: The Color of Dying?
It was well over twenty years ago when I first got the idea of using the symptoms that created the vampire legend as a disease in modern day society. At that time, the hero of the story was Dominic, the NYPD detective. But then I realized that the real story was in Nicky, the one suffering the condition. Nicky may have been a threat to civilians walking the streets, but he was also a victim. He didn’t ask for this.

   2.       What differentiates your book from other vampire novels?
I’m glad you asked that because in today’s literary climate, the thought of another vampire novel is usually greeted with a roll of the eyes. Sangre: The Color of Dying is really two novels in one. First we have what is essentially an autobiography of someone that grew up in the Bronx during the 1960’s, who overcame a devastating family tragedy and was able to rebuild his life after meeting Stefanie Torres, a brainy puertorriqueña that would later become his wife.  Secondly, we have a current day tale that treats the condition of being a vampire with a realism and believability that blurs the genre lines so well that the reader doesn’t know where the reality ends and the paranormal begins. Think of The Exorcist back in the seventies. The fact that it felt so real is what made it so scary.

3.       What are the struggles that Nicky goes through?
Nicky struggles with the fact that he needs to take lives to exist. There is not enough access to alternate sources of human blood to keep him moving forward without doing so. That’s why he feeds on criminals and lowlifes. But the bigger struggle for Nicky is the ongoing love that he has for his wife Stefanie and his children. His inability to let go, now that he is not among the living, results in him performing misguided, well-intentioned acts that hurt them even more. He is also haunted with guilt over a tragic accident that he felt responsible for. Yeah, Nicky’s definitely got some issues.

4.       Would you classify Nicky as a hero character? Why or why not?
I would classify Nicky as a flawed and dangerous hero. While Nicky’s heart is very much in the right place, he also has a judgmental quality and a cruel sense of humor that can be unbecoming. He judges Veronica’s promiscuity while overlooking his own lustful behavior, he makes homophobic remarks to his gay friends, Travis and Donny, even though they’ve done nothing but support him, and he is forever taking cheap shots at his brother-in-law Dominic about his weight gain. And then there’s that other thing about feeding on humans. 

5.       Do you feel Nicky changed in any way at the end of the story?
One of the qualities readers love so much about Sangre is the emotional journey that Nicky has taken from the first page to the last. Readers love that he often demonstrates an ability to recognize his own, sometimes, questionable judgment and his own prejudices. By the end I think it’s safe to say that the reader will witness an emotional growth and maturity in Nicky that wasn’t there at the beginning of the novel.

6.       What are some of the main themes and issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
One of the things that I am so proud of, that makes this book so different, is that it is a psychological character profile that explores grief, guilt, and uncontrolled desires. I love how three Latinas, the most important women in his life, play a big part in forming Nicky’s personality; his mother, who took the love out of his life, his wife Stefanie, who brought love back, and his friend, Veronica, who is trying to teach him how to love again. The reader will find that the novel carries many allegorical passages that address issues like lust, adultery and divorce.

The reason I explored these themes and issues is because I did not just want to write a pulp, genre piece. I wanted to take that kind of genre and make it as real as possible. The more real and universal the themes are, the more the readers can identify with the character, and the more willing they are to go along in their journey.

7.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I am hoping that my description doesn’t sound like a too-deep, analytical character piece that can be a chore to read. The story is intended to be an entertaining and refreshing effort to mix reality with the supernatural. Rather than pursuing the vampire legend from the gothic angle, I take a scientific path to make the story more real. The emotional depth of the characters is also something I emphasize in the tale. So many horror or action pieces treat the killing of characters as collateral damage without showing the toll that is felt when they are lost. That does not happen in Sangre.  Readers will find that when someone dies in this story, they will feel the loss along with the surviving characters.

But don’t for a second think that this book is a self-serious downer. All of the fun stuff is there, too; the stakes in the heart, the hypnosis, the not being seen in mirrors, etc.  Why write in this genre if you’re not going to have some fun with it? And for the not-to-squeamish, there are also a couple of sex scenes that are sure to be conversation starters around the water cooler.

With that, I hope that readers will gain an acceptance that, even when they think they’ve read all they’ve cared to read in a particular genre, there is still some writer out there that could have the ability to surprise them.

8.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
There was a wonderful meme going around in Facebook, which was a quote attributed to Victor Hugo. It goes, “A writer is a world trapped in a person.” Man, that says it all. There is a world inside you and writing gives you the access to bring that world out.  Very often writing is not something you set out to do. More often than not, it is something that you have to do. It just comes out like a bodily function. I’m sorry if that sounded disgusting.

As for what I like least, it’s the time that the writing process can take. So often you are excited about something you’ve written and you just want to get it out. But that’s the worst thing that you can do because it is probably not ready. That’s where the grueling process of proofreading comes in—and what a painful process it is.

9.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
I guess it would come as no surprise that Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorites, but I’ve also enjoyed John Irving in the past. I think that readers will find some very Garp-like qualities in Nicky.

10.   If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.) I can see either Gael Garcia Bernal or Lin Manuel Miranda as Nicky. Those two need to read this novel; either one of them would be perfect, although I lean towards Miranda because he’s Nuyorican and that’s a big part of the story. As for Stefanie, I think Gina Rodriguez would capture her beautifully.

11.   Are you working on anything right now?
So many are surprised that I never intended on the Nicky saga continuing. They talk about how the ending begs for a sequel. Well, actually, I think the ending is perfect because it leaves what happens next up to the reader. That being said, popular demand has won over and I am about a third of the way through in completing Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow. This one is going to focus more on Nicky’s upbringing in the Bronx in the 1960’s, while the current-day tale goes into the consequences following the events of the first book.

12.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
I think right now the vast majority of Latino literature has a lot of educational qualities that explain our culture and who we are. So much of the world knows so little about the Latino experience that the outside interest lies primarily in that category. But we are more than that. In the many ways that we are different, there are also many other ways where we are the same, we like romance, humor, pulp, gothic, paranormal, science fiction and so on. I think the key to exposing more Latino Literature out into the general public is to demonstrate our versatility and combine our efforts to show the riches of talent that the Latino community has to offer.


For more info on Carlos Colón, visit