Over on Instagram today I’m reviewing Love and Other Sins by Emilia Ares, but as getting lots of info onto a tiny square is tricky, I’m posting more about the book here. Read on for a Q&A with the author and check out the link above for my thoughts.
Oliver and Mina develop a strong bond as the threads of their old lives begin to unravel and they are forced to reckon with family history that violently refuses to remain in the past. Love and Other Sins is a moving story about what it means to be young and vulnerable in today’s society.
“I wanted to tell the story of a first-generation Russian immigrant girl and a street-wise foster care system boy who find love,” Ares, known as an actress for roles in American Horror Story and Bosch. “Love and Other Sins discusses the nuanced experience of growing up in America with immigrant parents as well as the critical flaws of the foster care system.”Readers who fell for Looking for Alaska and Thirteen Reasons Why will devour Love and Other Sins.
Emilia Ares is an American film and television actress. Love and Other Sins is her debut novel. She graduated UCLA with a BA in Economics, and a minor in Russian. Literature and storytelling have always been her true passion.
Connect with Ares at EmiliaAres.com, and on Instagram and TikTok @EmiliaAres.
Q&A with Love and Other Sin author Emilia Ares
1) You’ve been a working actress for many years, how has writing fit into your life or how did you transition to writing?
Funny enough, I began writing while on one of my sets. I was doing a film and sometimes we have to wait for hours in between takes. In those situations, it’s best to do something to take your mind off the scene in order to keep the acting fresh and the reactions surprising. Reading is a great go-to but there had been this story and these characters–Oliver and Mina, who were living in my head and nagging at my brain. I just had to get them on paper, so-to-speak. I wrote a chapter of their story into my notes on my iPhone and I also jotted down what else would probably happen later on in the story. When I got back to town, I wanted to show it to my younger sister, Sofia, who was reading a lot of YA at the time–she ended up becoming an English major. She’s the one who encouraged me to keep writing and turn it into a book. She said she loved it and couldn’t wait for more. I don’t think Love and Other Sins would have existed without her encouragement.
2) What have you learned about storytelling from TV projects you’ve acted in like American Horror Story and Bosch?
I’ve learned a ton about storytelling from the TV and film projects I’ve acted in, especially the importance of a strong emotional connection with my characters. Creating a backstory for my characters on and off the screen was vital. More times than not, my character’s backstory was not provided to me either because the project was high profile and the full script was kept under-wraps or because I was playing a guest-star whose history was not explicitly discussed or mentioned in the script itself. So, I’d have to invent the backstory.
That process is very similar to writing characters in a book. I used my knowledge of how the character was described in the breakdown that was provided during the casting process including any traits, qualities, strengths, weaknesses, quirks. I would then make an educated guess about what this person ultimately wants/needs from life, taking into consideration the character arc in the scene/overall story to create a reasonable history for them. In the case of American Horror Story, I would ask myself where does Princess Anastasia Romanova come from? What makes her tick? What life events shaped her? Empowered her? Scarred her? What are her secrets? And how do those things effect how she walks, talks, speaks, ect. The backstory is usually never discussed but always exists in the thoughts of these characters which ultimately informs their actions. The more specific the backstory, the richer–what actor’s call–“the life” of the character is.
This was great practice for when it came time to create Oliver and Mina’s backstories. I would just pretend they were characters I was going to play. I entered their minds the way I would when I played my characters on set. This might be a different approach than most traditional writers and it’s most likely why I wrote in first person. I was documenting the moments as if they were happening to me in real time. Later, I rewrote the novel into past tense to give the storytelling and pacing more flexability.
3) Why was it important for you to write young people who are independent and self-reliant on parental support to go after their goals?
I honestly didn’t set out with the goal to write independent and self-reliant characters. I just wanted them to be interesting and as it turns out, self-reliant people must interest me. But I’m glad Oliver
and Mina developed into the people they became because there are plenty of teenagers out there who are on their own and could use someone like Oliver to identify with.
Mina is actually very reliant on her mother for moral support when we first meet her. However, this novel begins during the part of her life when she starts to break free from that support and she ventures off to discover who she is and what she wants. She will have many hardships ahead. We get to follow her down that tumultuous road and witness her slay the dragons or succumb. Oliver, on the other hand, built himself up from the most terrible circumstances and found his own silver-lining. He doesn’t have any family. He’s alone, therefore he’s independent out of necessity, not choice. I hope his story is inspirational to the youth that feel hopeless.
4) How did your own young adulthood prepare you to write this book?
My time as a teenager was as dramatic and angsty as anyone else’s. Everyday there was drama, rumors, gossip, bullying. No matter how hard I tried to keep my head down it felt as though it was inescapable. When I talk to my adult friends about their high-school experiences, I come to understand that we all felt that way. You know, it’s funny…as trivial as everything seems now, in the grand scheme of things, some of those moments really did matter and did shape me into who I am today. The most painful moments became the biggest life lessons. I knew what I had to do to never feel that way again. I learned who I had to stay away from and who I had to gravitate toward. It wasn’t all bad though, I had some great friends to get me through the tough parts. Those were the parts that were most similar to my life. Nyah was written based on a combination of a few of my friends and my sister. Lily was inspired by my mom.
5) What books and authors inspired you along the way?
The Stranger by Albert Camus because it challenged everything I ever knew or thought I knew about the hero of a story and made me feel so uncomfortable reading it.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky not only for the revelation this novel brought to literature but also for the story behind writing it. Dostoevsky didn’t write it because he wanted to, he wrote it out of necessity. He wrote what he knew, the conditions and ramifications of a sick, drunk, impoverished Russia.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because by the time 2008 rolled around, so much had already been written and said about a potential post-apocalyptic nation but somehow, Collins was able to put forth a fresh take on dystopia. I admire that very much. There is always more room for your voice, your perspective, your story.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe because, again, it was very critically controversial. People didn’t know how to feel about it. On the one hand, Achebe ended up writing it in English, the language of colonialism which caused disagreement amongst many African critics in regards to the ultimate message of the novel. On the other hand, this was a novel that went against most of what was written about African culture at the time. It showed European colonialism from a different perspective portraying Igbo life from the point of view of an African man, a rich and sophisticated culture with a deep history, language, and beliefs.
But some of the first books and authors who inspired my love for storytelling were, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.