Interview with Rami Ungar, Author of VIDEO RAGE

Video RageCongratulations on the publication of your latest book, Rami. What is Video Rage about?

Video Rage is the sequel to my first novel, Reborn City, and the second book in the Reborn City series, a science fiction trilogy I’ve been writing since high school. The series follows the Hydras, a street gang in the futuristic city-state of Reborn City, a Vegas-like metropolis. The Hydra leaders have strange powers, and the origins of these powers are tied in with the mysterious Parthenon Company that rules Reborn City.

In Video Rage, the Hydras are currently on the run from Parthenon and its cruel CEO, Jason Price. They’ve been branded terrorists and are being hunted across the North American continent. They also have to deal with internal struggles and strife, which leads to some really interesting drama among the characters. It’s a very dark time for the Hydras, and they’ll have to band together if they have any hope of finding a way out of their troubles.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who is your favorite?

My protagonist is Zahara Bakur, a Sunni Muslim teenager from New York who found herself becoming a member of the Hydras by pure random chance. She’s the exact opposite of a gangster: she’s shy, modest, and timid, which makes her reluctant to take part in most of the Hydras’ activities. Despite this, she grows in confidence and courage throughout the books and establishes herself as an essential member of the Hydras, changing them and their outlooks on life as well. I really love her as a character, though I do have to put her through a lot of stress for the sake of story.

My other main character is Rip, a Hydra leader who’s a bit of a parody of the quiet and stern bad boys we see teenagers go crazy for in fiction these days. He’s tough and intense, but he can be too stubborn for his own good sometimes, and he actually has a phobia of talking too much, especially with people he doesn’t know. He has his own growth arc through the trilogy, mainly revolving around letting go of his earlier beliefs about the world and his place in it, as well as learning to open up to others, especially Zahara.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I think readers will relate to my characters mainly because they may have been in similar situations to the characters. The Hydras have lived through violence and loss for all their lives, and many of them have been under the impression that they’re only meant for violence and loss. Zahara is a Muslim in a world that can be hostile to her faith, and has experienced horrible discrimination. Rip has struggled with drug addiction. They’ve lived hard lives, and even people who haven’t experienced these problems can identify with the characters, and with their hopes that things can change and improve.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think that, at its foundation, Reborn City and Video Rage are sci-fi adventure stories. The books are filled with fights with superpowered beings, futuristic technology, gunfights, shadowy government figures. The characters are also lots of fun to get to know, and their journey and struggles are believable and real. I think there’s a lot here that will draw in readers and make you want to find out what happens in the story.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

While I didn’t originally have this in mind when I started writing the trilogy, I think what I want people to come away with is that just because people say you;re good for only one thing or you may believe that about yourself, doesn’t mean it’s true, or that you can’t be something better. The Hydras have erroneous beliefs about themselves, but Zahara challenges those beliefs when she joins their gang. She’s had people think the worst of her for years, but she’s never let those ideas shape who she is, and that’s something to the Hydras. I think that message is going to resonate with a lot of people, and I hope they take it to heart.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Finding the time! I was able to write Reborn City through two years of high school, when my audience was family and friends and teachers, and I didn’t have a deadline or anything to make me write faster. But then I hit college and started to build an audience. And then I started publishing books, and Reborn City proved to be the most popular of my work. And readers wanted a sequel, which is difficult when you have a busy college schedule and a part-time job to do. Somehow though I did it, and I’m finally getting Video Rage out. Here’s hoping the third book doesn’t take as long to get out as the previous two did!

Who designed your cover?

The cover of Reborn City I designed myself on Createspace with a photo I took myself as artwork. I did the same thing with the cover of Video Rage, except I had my friend and fellow novelist Joleene Naylor do the artwork. She did a fantastic job bringing to life one of the scenes from Video Rage. I think I might have her do the final book’s artwork as well.

If your book was made into a TV series or movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

I’ve thought a lot about this, but I’ve only been able to match two actors to two characters. Firstly, I would like Tyler Possey from Teen Wolf to play Rip. He looks very close to my vision of the character, and he has the range to play the character. I also would love for Jason Price to be played by Samuel L. Jackson. In fact, I based the character on some of Jackson’s performances. So if either of them somehow find this interview, I hope they would consider helping get this book to the big screen and playing the characters I mentioned!

Have you written any other books?

I’ve published a collection of short stories called The Quiet Game, and a thriller called Snake. I’ve also written two more novels, and I’m compiling another collection of short stories. I’m a busy, busy guy with more stories than I know what to do with it!

What are you working on right now?

I’m going to edit another of my already-completed novels. Then I’m going to probably work on some short stories till November, when I plan to start writing the final book in the trilogy for National Novel Writing Month. With any luck, I’ll have that book out before I’m thirty!

Where can people learn more about your books?

All of my books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo. If anyone reading this decides to read them, I hope you like what you read and that you find a way to tell me if you do. Positive or negative, I love hearing from my readers.

Blog: https://ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RamiUngarWriter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RamiUngarWriter

See also:
Rami Ungar, Author of “Snake”
Rami Ungar, Author of “Reborn City”
Rami Ungar, Author of “The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones”

Rami Ungar, Author of “Reborn City”

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEHi, 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?

cimg1481Reborn City is available on Amazon, Createspace, and Smashwords.

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.

http://ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/RamiUngarWriter
https://twitter.com/RamiUngarWriter

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.