Interview with Estevan Vega
The Sacred Sin
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (2/08)
Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is honored to be joined by Estevan Vega, who is here to talk about his new novel “The Sacred Sin.”
Estevan Vega is the second of four sons and was raised in Connecticut. His path to publication began seven years ago. While in elementary school, he wrote short stories for class, and to his surprise, did rather well. His love and discipline for fiction launched his desire to become a fulltime writer. When he was fifteen, Estevan published “Servant of the Realm,” his first novel. In August 2007, “The Sacred Sin” was published. Estevan’s fascination and appreciation for great writers and filmmakers fueled an enthusiasm to write about what mattered most to him: humanity. His gift for vivid description, articulate dialogue and moving action, illuminate and leave the reader breathless. In his novels, he explores the realm between the supernatural and the world in which we live. Estevan is currently a freshman at Roger Williams University where he is studying creative writing.
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Estevan. “The Sacred Sin” sounds like quite an exciting book, a mix of horror, mystery, and thriller. To begin, will you tell us a little bit about the main character, Jude Foster?
Estevan: Ahh, Jude Foster. Well, for starters he’s a detective. He’s extremely irritable, blatantly insubordinate, cynical and on the brink of a mental crash. I think that about sums him up. A year ago, Jude was left for dead by his ex-partner, and yet in order to solve a case, Jude is forced to join together with an annoying new female partner. Let’s just say he’s anything but thrilled. Oh, and his brother’s a cocaine addict who’s in love with a prostitute. I wanted to make him as three dimensional as I could, and a cool way for me to do that was to create this chaotic world around him and inside of him. While he’s dealing with something on the outside, he often neglects the day-to-day battle tearing him apart on the inside. His “darkness.” Jude’s an interesting guy, a bit rough around the edges…actually, a lot rough around the edges. I wrote him as kind of an anti-hero, had a lot of fun with him. I got to channel much of my personal cynicism through him. In short, he’s the guy you hate, but at the same time you’re hoping that he succeeds in the end.
Tyler: A year before the action begins, Jude was left for dead by his one-time friend, Morgan Cross. Will you tell more about their relationship and what went wrong?
Estevan: Morgan Cross had completely succumbed to his darkness. The two were once close friends, but Morgan’s lust for absolute power took him to the dark side. In a way, Morgan Cross is a lot like Anakin Skywalker and Jude is a lot like Obi-Wan. But Jude’s also got some dark secrets.
Tyler: During the course of the novel, Jude is visiting a “shrink.” Will you explain why you decided to include this detail in the novel? Does Jude have issues to work out or a realization he needs to make that will change the novel’s outcome?
Estevan: The shrink, Dr. Irons, plays a very pivotal role in the novel, but I can’t exactly disclose such information in the interview. You’re just gonna have to read the novel in order to find out.
Tyler: Tell me more about Jude’s new partner, Rachel Cragin. Why does Jude find her annoying?
Estevan: Jude finds a lot of people annoying. He’s a real glass half-empty kind of guy. Although, all things considered, it’s a little hard to blame him for not trusting Rachel, because the last partner he had nearly killed him. But she’s not so bad. She’s from San Diego and was called in by the chief at the L.A.P.D. to assist on the case. Her father actually worked in L.A. and died there, so there’s this inevitable tension already existing between her and the city. And to push her even further, there’s this Odd Couple-esque relationship between her and Jude from the moment they meet. He finds her annoying primarily because he doesn’t trust her and because he has a serious ego. But Rachel’s a tough character, and gives him a run for his money, and his attitude.
Tyler: What is the investigation that Jude is involved in during the course of the novel?
Estevan: A body is found in West Hollywood. And to any CSI or Law and Order junkie, this might not seem like a big deal. But the body is “branded” with a cruciform, a technique used by a previous serial killer, a rogue madman Jude Foster and Morgan Cross had been hunting for years but never managed to catch. Along with the body, and those to follow, Jude finds a note, a verse, with a blood-stained letter(s). These letters are clues into the case, but in order for another piece of the puzzle to be revealed, someone has to die.
Tyler: Part of the plot has been described as Jude having to stop someone who is stealing souls without touching people. Will you explain what is happening here in more detail?
Estevan: That’s my supernatural side coming through. The killer is capable of stealing people’s souls without human contact, which makes it easy for him/her to escape without leaving fingerprints. Also, it begs the question: how do you catch a spirit, or a possessed person?
If I give any more away, it would ruin my book.
Tyler: Why did you choose the title “The Sacred Sin”?
Estevan: The original title was “Sacred Sins,” but I altered it because I realized of all the sins I had in mind, there was only one that really drove the story. The reason I chose the title is mainly because it is a paradox. I mean, how can a sin be sacred? But I guess that depends on who you ask, right? After all, if sin wasn’t sacred to us, why would we be still committing crimes and hurting others? But that’s a conversation for another time. Morality aside, I chose the title because it is extremely catchy and demands a second look. The meaning behind it comes at the end of the story, and has to do with the blood-stained letters. So, while reading, be sure to keep track of em.
Tyler: What is it about writing horror and mystery thrillers that appeals to you?
Estevan: I’ve always been intrigued by the unexplained and the unnatural. It’s so mystifying and perplexing. I happen to be a big fan of those cheesy (and sometimes freaky) slasher flicks, and horror films, too. Films like “The Ring” and “Cloverfield” come to mind. Stuff that might not be genre-classified by everybody as down-right terrifying, but when it boils down to it, in fact is. I don’t know, “The Shining” bugged me out, too. I would say a lot of what I write comes from what I see and what’s around me. Those are the biggest and most influential teachers: TV, books and real life. I’d say they’ve taught me quite a bit. I can’t forget about the classics, though. Authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, they rocked in my book. I can only hope to one day be remembered as something close to that.
Tyler: Earlier, you said that you created a world of chaos for Jude to exist in. Do you think this chaos is reflective of real life? Do you think thrillers and horror attract people because they reflect a chaos in our society?
Estevan: Oh, definitely. Chaos is a reality, even for the most organized, defined and focused individuals. Chaos is part of who we are. So, in that regard, chaos made this world in my novel real, redefined it as not just a world I created, but a living, breathing thing that existed apart from our reality, while at the same time remaining parallel to it.
Tyler: Why do you think “The Sacred Sin” will appeal to readers?
Estevan: On the surface, I’d say that it’s because the story is very fast-paced and the chapters are easy to get through. One of the benefits of having the entire book take place in a week. But other than that, “The Sacred Sin” isn’t just a mystery thriller or a horror story; I’m hoping that it resonates so much deeper than that. It stands against complacency and inner darkness. Some people might think that the battle between Good and Evil starts in the outside world, but I would argue that it starts in the mirror. Who are you underneath, you know? What secrets are you hiding? How long can you last against the darkness?
Tyler: I understand you have also written “Servant of the Realm.” Will you tell us about that book?
Estevan: I began writing “Servant of the Realm” when I was twelve. I had this crazy idea that I would get published and instantly find success. Looking back, I admire that little punk kid who aspired to be something great. Whether I’ve reached that stage yet is debatable, but it all starts with an idea. The idea behind my first book was: what if you could change your fate? Are we really in control of what happens, or is there a larger force at work? And what happens when we interfere?
Tyler: Estevan, you are only eighteen years old. What inspired you to start writing at such a young age, and why should people read an author who is so young?
Estevan: Well, I’ve recently had a birthday. So, I’m 19 now, caught in between my awkward teenage world and that other terrifying world known as life. But I get that question a lot, and what I always say is that inspiration does and can come from anything and everything. Take a look around you, and you’ll find something inspiring. Are you pissed off about what you see? Or are you thrilled with something? Then write about it (although happiness is sometimes a hard thing for people to relate to, sorry). Did your girlfriend break your heart? Write it down. You know that amazing movie you just saw, or that fabulous book you’re reading didn’t come out of thin air, it came from a mind, a mind just like yours. One that decided that they had something to say and it didn’t matter what anyone else said or did; they were going to write. So draw from your everyday life, draw from music, from film, from books, or your relationships. Anything and everything is fair game. Just always keep in the back of your head why you’re doing what you’re doing. While fame and fortune might drive our economy, as well as this world, know that words have the power to change things. And remember that F word? You know the one I’m talking about. I hope you haven’t forgotten about it since you were young. It starts with an F, then it’s followed by a U. Are we getting warmer? Okay, I’ll just spell it out for you F-U-N. Try to have some.
Tyler: Have you had fun since you started writing and publishing your books? What has been your biggest learning experience as a newly published author?
Estevan: For me, the most fun comes when I don’t think I can figure out how to end/start a chapter, and I just sit down at my laptop and write something amazing. That’s a great feeling for me. But the most fun comes after the hard work, the frustration, the writer’s block (which you just have to write through; there’s really no way around it). The most fun comes when you see your name in print, for all the world to see, and you realize that this is it. You’ve made it. Well, almost. You gain new experiences every day, and I would have to say that the biggest learning experience anyone can get is rejection. It brings you back down to earth and reminds you that you aren’t the best there is…yet. Everything a writer does is a learning process. The best advice I could give is to keep doing what you’re doing, seek wisdom anywhere you can get it, read, write and pay attention to things around you, and attend conferences. It’s hard, I know. But if you do all those things, you might just make it.
Tyler: I understand you have done a great deal of traveling that will inspire your third book. Would you tell us more about your future writing plans?
Estevan: That’s true; I have been to Europe, the Bahamas, and Canada. I definitely feel that travel has made me a much more well-rounded human being, and that it has allowed me to see this world. And while it may come into play later down the line, my third book (which I’m currently about 180 pages into) hits close to home. My next book takes place in a small town, nearby where I spent some of my childhood. It’s much more personal. They say the third time’s the charm, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Tyler: Would you tell us about your writing process, such as where you come up with ideas, to how you organize and write the book?
Estevan: I am probably the most unorganized person, so it doesn’t come from listing off things or topics. And I’m not the type of guy to sit down and write an outline. For me, it starts as a thought. Some crazy idea, which through time, evolves into something even crazier and hopefully better. My ideas come from everywhere, whether I’m in the middle of a class, or watching a scene in a movie, listening to rock music, or reading a cool book. Ideas are a lot like inspiration, and can virtually be found anywhere. It’s weird, sometimes I have to conceive a concept and let it stew awhile, allowing it to develop in my head, but then there are other times when it just hits me like a brick wall and I’m sitting there with my mouth open wondering where that came from. My dad plays a huge part in all of this, too. Has ever since I started writing eight years ago. We talk about ideas all the time, and he’s always there to give me something new or to listen to what I’ve written lately; he’s a vital piece of my writing identity.
Tyler: Now you are attending college to study writing. Since you’re already a published author, unlike your classmates I imagine, what do you hope to gain by attending writing classes?
Estevan: There is always something new. I’d be foolish to think I knew everything. A lot of people tell me that since I’m already published, what am I doing at college; but I haven’t read every book known to man, haven’t been to every conference, haven’t met all the people I need to meet. So, I’m studying creative writing, like with anything, to get better at it. I don’t want to become just another writer. I want my name to mean something. I realize I’m only 19, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m only just beginning my roller-coaster writing life. My prayer is that college continues to prepare me for what’s ahead, giving me more knowledge and more discipline than just some ordinary writer. Will it pay off? Hey, it can’t hurt.
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Estevan. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information can be found there about “The Sacred Sin”?
Estevan: My website is estevanvega.com. I just launched a new version of the site, one that fits better with the new book, and one that’s just plain cool. Check it out. I was also recently interviewed on a local TV Show called Ghost Chat. It came out pretty nice, so after you’re done checking my new site, which contains info about me, my books and has my blog The Closed Door.
It’s been a pleasure to talk to you. Look for me at the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, as well as numerous other book signing events this spring.
Tyler: Thank you, Estevan. I wish you a long and prosperous career as an author.
Estevan: Thank you.