Hello, everyone! I’ve been extremely MIA this past week and I don’t really enjoy being MIA but the stress level is Gone so thank God. But I’m crazy excited and happy to announce that this week is the release of “Sunshine is Forever” by Kyle T. Cowan! It was actually released the 29th of August, but my brain is dumb and I’m working nights this week so I’m all confused as to the days LOL. Anyways, I’m excited for Kyle and for the world just because this is such a great book and one of my favorite reads of 2017! As soon as I finished reading it, I had to know more and to just get some details on how the story came to be. So after a few emails, I was able to arrange an online interview and here we are today! None of these questions are spoiler filled and neither are the answers! Here is the Goodreads Synopsis for Sunshine is Forever just to give y’all a little more information on the story.
After a life-changing decision, Hunter decides that he can’t go on…
…which lands him in Camp Sunshine, a rehab center for depressed teens. Hunter is determined to keep everyone there out of his head, especially his therapist. But when he meets Corin, a beautiful, mysterious, and confident fellow camper, all Hunter wants to do is open up to her, despite the fact that he’s been warned Corin is bad news.
When Corin devises a plan for them to break out of the camp, Hunter is faced with the ultimate choice — will he run from the traumatic incident he’s tried so hard to escape, or will he learn that his mistakes have landed him right where he’s meant to be?
Sunshine is Forever captures the heartbreaking spirit of The Fault in Our Stars, the humor of Orange is the New Black, and the angst of Catcher in the Rye.
~ Q and A featuring Kyle T. Cowan ~
Q) Where did the whole idea of a Camp Sunshine come from? Do you know of any camps that are similar to this, that you pulled inspiration from? Or is there a deeper meaning that the camp is supposed to portray?
A )I wanted to write a movie about depression (yes, Sunshine is Forever started as a screenplay) and I had recently watched the film Kings of Summer—I absolutely love YA indie films—so I decided to write a YA movie in a summer camp setting. I wrote Sunshine is Forever into a book after a mentor of mine told me it is easier to build a following as a writer in novels first. He is also the one who guided me to my publisher, Inkshares.
Originally, I did some research and found out there are tons of camps similar to Camp Sunshine. I already had the plot for the film laid out and I intentionally decided not to make the camp overly realistic for a few reasons. I thought that if the camp was too realistic that it could be a trigger for people who had been in camps like Camp Sunshine. Also, every camp I found online treated mental illness and depression in a different way with various types of programs. I decided wanted the camp and counselors to represent how society treats mental illness as a whole. A barbed wire fence surrounds the camp as a reminder that society wants to lock mental illness away so that we don’t have to think about it. There are many rules in Camp Sunshine but the rules aren’t explained and often don’t make sense. Everything about the camp is a representation of how society handles mental health.
Q) In this book, there is such a diverse cast of characters, which I thought was amazing! I know for some writers (me included) that it is difficult to create so many characters and also, for each of them so have a sort of individuality. Is writing your characters intricate lives something that takes work? Or does it just all naturally come to you? Also, is including diversity in novels something you think highly of since the cast in this novel are so different and amazing in their own ways?
A) Thank you! I build every character from the ground up. I create pages of backstory starting with each character’s base human emotion, which comes from the acting technique I use—Warner Loughlin Technique. I try to get to know my characters inside and out before I start writing. Diversity is very important to me. I want every character to be authentic. Sometimes I play with stereotypes and intentionally go against them. I try to write stories crafted with all different types of people because the real world is full of various races and personalities.
Q) There were quite a few flashbacks in this story between Hunter’s past life and to where he is now in the Camp. Do you have a specific writing agenda that you use to plot out the story or do you just go from start to finish?
A) I typically write linearly. I really only use flashbacks for character development. Flashbacks can slow a story down, so I try to keep the story in the present tense as much as possible. I started the story just after The Incident because if readers knew what happened to Hunter they would hate him without getting to know him first. All humans are flawed and Hunter has made some pretty big mistakes in his life. I think we all know someone like Hunter and the point of the story is that humans can overcome anything. Mistakes do not make a person evil.
Q) In my own opinion, pretty much all of the counselors at Camp Sunshine seemed to just be confusing people! Was there a reason for writing all of the somewhat “authority” figures to be over the top, in either their rudeness or giddiness? To me, it seemed like the counselors just portrayed the different kinds of peoples thoughts on depression and suicide. The counselors were the embodiment of different opinions, but then again I’m probably really off aha!
A) The counselors represent the different ways society views mental health and yes, they are intentionally over the top. For example, C. Dermont sees depression as something that can be cured by babying, while Asshole Jim sees depression as something a person just needs to get over. At a certain point in my teenage years I remember that all adults suddenly became annoying. Since the story is told through Hunter’s perspective it was easy to justify this choice. The counselors are pretty worthless in his eyes. Once he clears his head at the end of the story, he starts to realize that these counselors are actually kind of knowledgeable and they are trying to help him. He has some pretty big realizations about himself at the end of the book and I think we can all relate to the final messages of the novel.
Q) The mental issues and depression issues in this book were such a strong presence. And they were just so realistically represented and seemed so authentic! Did you have to go through a lot of research for the different levels of depression or did you just have a different process with learning about these problems?
A) I based a lot of the depression issues off of personal experiences. I’ve been around people who suffer from severe depression. I’ve also experienced depression a few times myself. Depression is contagious and very hard to overcome. I wanted the book to be raw, unapologetic, and real about depression. I realize Camp Sunshine is far from realistic at times, but I hope that all of the characters come across as authentic.
Q) I absolutely loved your writing style and I was just wondering if you took any writing classes? Or if you have any kind of tips for beginning writers for motivation? I seriously just loved how well the story flowed together!
A) Thanks! I started writing my first screenplay when I was in high school. I also majored in writing and directing at the University of Colorado Denver. I force myself to write at least 1000 words everyday. My advice to writers is to always push through writer’s block by continuing to write, go into every story with a plan, and re-write everything over and over again to refine your voice.
Q) A majority of the scenes in this book were so visual and amazing that it seemed just like a movie going off in my head. I know you have an acting career and are pretty good at what you do! Does your acting help you to be able to write such vividly real scenes to where the pacing was perfect? Or really, does acting just help you write better in general?
A) Pacing is probably the most important thing to me when I am telling a story. I want to keep things moving all of the time because I know that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. I try not to over describe, but rather use concise images and descriptions that people can instantly see in their head. I emulate things that I personally like with my writing style. I’ve always been a visual person and learner so I basically just put what I see in my head on the page. I do believe that majoring in film has helped me hone in on my visual writing style.
Q) Are you working on anything new at the moment? Can we as readers expect some more greatness from you in the future by chance?
A) Actually, you can! Inkshares is a crowdfunded publisher. Basically an author has to get 750 pre-orders in order to get a publishing deal with them. I have really enjoyed my experience with the company, so my plan is to try for my second publishing deal in September. I’ve already posted the first chapter of my next book, which is entitled, KARID, at this link: https://www.inkshares.com/books/karid
You can easily create an Inkshares account with Facebook and follow the book so that you can be the first to preorder it when it goes on sale. I also will be offering some cool prizes/giveaways (including signed copies of Sunshine is Forever) as the funding process takes place.
There are a few teases for KARID in Sunshine is Forever. Did you notice them?
Thanks again for reading my work. Please be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—@KyleTCowan.
Sunshine is Forever can be bought on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Book Depository! Don’t miss out on this book, and there are definite triggers for suicide and depression, so be cautious. Thank you so much Kyle for the interview! And thank you to the publishers as well! I hope y’all have a great day, and happy reading.
Kyle T. Cowan is an actor whose first big-screen appearance was in Odd Thomas. Most recently, he appeared in Better Call Saul, Preacher, War on Everyone, and MANH(A)TTAN. He is also recognized for writing, directing, producing, editing, and starring in the indie feature film Camouflage. Cowan holds a fine arts degree in writing and directing from the University of Colorado Denver. He now resides in Los Angeles, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sunshine is Forever is his first published novel. Kyle can be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. As well as his profile on Inkshares!