Hi, Rami. What is “Reborn City” about?
Simply put, my book is about a young girl forced to join a street gang in a city similar to Las Vegas about forty-five years in the future. And forty-five years in the future, the world’s pretty different. For one thing, the United States doesn’t exist. Instead, the world’s become divided up into city-states and small nations. Another interesting thing is that my main character’s religion, Islam, has been demonized in certain places, so she’s got a tough time of things. I thought those elements would make the beginning of a great novel. I hope the readers agree!
What inspired you to write this particular story?
I was walking home from the library one day listening to a CD I’d just checked out. There were rap and rock tunes on it, and I thought it would be a great soundtrack to a gangster movie. And at that point I thought to myself, “Why not write a story with gangsters?” That was really the basis of what would become Reborn City.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
Mostly finding the time to write! I wrote this for two years in high school, and I took a lot of breaks for homework, an after school job, five weeks in Israel, and a few other factors really slowed me down. It’s a wonder I got the manuscript done. But finished it I did, and then I spent an extra two years editing it. I’m happy with how it turned out though, so I’m glad I took the time to write and polish it. With future projects though I’d like to cut down the time from writing to publishing it by at least half.
Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?
Mostly I did research on gang violence and Islam, subjects I was mostly unfamiliar with. I read the memoir Monster by Sanyika Shakur to learn about the former, and I read The Idiot’s Guide to Islam for the latter. I also did research on drugs and drug addiction, because one of my characters is a recovering drug addict. I also looked at some pictures of different Las Vegas casinos, because after all the setting is a city modeled after Vegas. It took a lot of time, but I got the information I felt I needed to make the story seem authentic to readers.
Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite?
Most of my main characters are gangsters, so they’ve been brought up in a culture where they’re revered, where they are considered superheroes of a sort. The only exception is my main character Zahara, whom is not accustomed to this life but is forced into it because of circumstances beyond her control. She has to learn to live with a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense to her, so that’s part of her character development. In sequels I look forward to seeing how she further develops into a stronger character, someone you want to admire and emulate.
Why will readers relate to your characters?
I think that if any readers have been in a gang or have been discriminated against because they are Muslims, they might empathize with either the other gangsters or with Zahara. That’s the hope, at least. I’m an outsider to both of those groups, so I had to really think on how these characters would think and act in certain environments and how those environments would color their lives. if the readers think I’ve done a good job, then I’ll know all the hard work paid off.
Where do you get the names for your characters?
That’s a tough one. I get my character’s names from all sorts of sources and places. Zahara, I think came from the Sahara desert, and her last name is from a famous figure in Islamic tradition. Ilse, Zahara’s best friend, had her name borrowed from a Stephen King novel, while Rip, the male protagonist…well, if you read the book and see what he can do, it’ll be evident where his name comes from.
If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?
Well, if RC was lucky enough to be made into a movie, I’d like Tyler Posey to play Rip and Jennifer Laurence to play Ilse. I’m not sure who would play Zahara though. Maybe that one would be left to an open audition. And as for my villain Jason Price, there’s only one person who can play him, and that’s Samuel L. Jackson, whom I modeled Price on. If I have him in the movie, I’ll be happy.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on RC’s sequel, Video Rage, and a political thriller called Laura Horn. I’m also editing a suspense/thriller called Snake, and I’m about halfway through the edits on that one. I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing though because I have to focus on my school work. I’m going to get back to writing soon, but first I have to find the time.
Where can people learn more about your books?
I have a blog called Rami Ungar the Writer, and a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, all of which I regularly update. If anyone wishes to, they can find out more about my work there.
Thank you for talking with me today, Rami. Best of luck with your books!
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.