by Javier A. Robayo

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Gaze by Javier A. Robayo

   My best friend of 25 years and counting, Kristen, has the credentials to diagnose me with DID. (what we used to call multi-personality disorder)  I've argued that most authors have to have a degree of dissociative identity disorder, so she shouldn't worry about me. We are fine, thank you very much.
   Even my sister grows a bit concerned when I publish another character interview on my blog. She says it's almost creepy how fictional characters come alive, but that's exactly what an author tries to accomplish, to create people who become alive in the mind of a reader.  
   I started out this blog by using John & Ezekiel as a pilot. I wasn't keen on the self-promotion, but I was surprised at the feedback I received. I was asked about doing a post on my other novels, but I told them this is a blog dedicated to other Indie Authors and their magnificent work. The reply I got was "Duh?"
   How do you interview yourself? You don't. Even a state of semi-DID has its limits. In order to put together a good post, I reached out to some of my author friends for what questions they would ask. I'm still so flattered that I got so many terrific questions and it was a feat to narrow the list down to a few but after much deliberating, this is the result of that difficult selection. 

Let's clear the mystery once and for all. You've told the world your wife, Sheri, is the face of The Gaze, but really, who is she supposed to be, Samantha or Gwen?

JR: I will always leave that particular answer up to the reader.
Mystery... Okay, let's get past the cover. The Gaze is a novel set in different continents. What kind of research went into it? 

JR: I've always marveled at authors who take you to far off places, giving you a glimpse of other cultures. My dad knows a little about every part of the world and each time I asked how he knew, he'd tell me that he read it in a book. I always wanted to accomplish that: to place the reader in a foreign setting they could experience through the page. I was never in London. But I've been fascinated with England since the first time I heard Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. In a female voice, British English is alluring. As Gaze developed and my main character, Samantha, took me to London, I wanted accurate portrayals of her city. I spent countless hours virtually "walking" the streets of London with the help of Google Maps. To depict its atmosphere, I read several vacation blogs where I found impressions or curious tidbits from people who were actually there. It was daunting at first, but three quarters of the way into it, I had a pretty good handle on London, and I fell in love with the timeless city.

Was it easy to write the dialogue in a British tongue?

JR: Not at all. I had quite a bit of help from a British friend of mine, and I researched modern British expressions. Slang was the most problematic. I wanted to use it to make the characters' voices more realistic. I did raise a few eyebrows in the Queen's Land when I misused the word "fanny". Another very good British friend of mine brought this misuse to my attention, turning me fifty shades of red when she explained how she read it. I expect she'll reveal herself in a comment.

And that was...?

JR: The American fanny is another word for butt. We sit on our fanny, but the British fanny is the most private area in a woman's body. In the story, Lewis, Sam's best friend, slaps her "fanny". Knowing what you know now, imagine that visual. 

Oh, that gives us an idea of the magnitude of the risk of getting out of the comfort zone. As if setting the novel in a foreign land wasn't enough, you went a step further with the point of view. What were the challenges of writing in a woman's voice?

JR: Absolutely daunting, but Gaze wouldn't have worked out any other way. I had to draw from everything I've ever known about women, until the emotional landscape of Samantha's mind became an amazing labyrinth. Women have a much more complex intellect and emotional makeup. It's no accident that us men (simpler creatures that we normally are), fail to properly understand them. A woman is stronger in ways that no man could ever hope to be, even if that strength is a veneer protecting their vulnerability. In the novel, Lewis refers to women as bundles of contradictions and estrogen imbalances. I almost omitted the line, thinking it may come across as sexist, however, it seemed apt for a girl like Samantha. It was a huge challenge to convey powerful weakness, sad joy, selfish sacrifice, every mental struggle from the gray areas between love and hate, the battles with insecurities real and imagined, the type of stubbornness only women are capable of, and the unbridled passion of a woman in love.  Balance was elusive if not unattainable when it came to Samantha's tone,but getting inside her mind, taught me nothing is easy about being a woman, even one as well off, beautiful, and intelligent. I tried to think like a woman and let's just say that after that whole ride... I truly admire them even more.

The majority of the ladies reading that answer may be nodding right now. Readers may want an insight into Lewis or the enigmatic Jason Stephen or even the outrageous Audrey, but let's talk villains. Samantha's nemesis is one seductive snake of a man. Is there a real Brooks Waldenberg?

JR: If there is, I hope none of us ever cross paths with him. The story needed a certain agitator, someone to attribute much of Samantha's downward spiral of self-destruction; an anti-thesis to Lewis and Jason Stephen. Brooks embodies a different kind of evil. He fleshed out so well, fans can't wish him a crueler end for everything he does in the novel. When I finally got the chance to read Gaze for fun, I liked the way he slowly transformed from a dream man to a demon. It's disturbing to consider there might be someone like Brooks in reality.

Samantha makes some similar transformations for many people. It's been said one minute you want to slap her and the next you want to hug her. Either way, she's memorable, but she does have a way of filling the page with the contents of her intricate mind.

JR: It was the first time I wrote without word limits. I didn't have an audience or genre in mind, and when it came to Samantha, I took my professor's words to heart:  "Pull out all the stops and take risks if you want to produce a memorable read; challenge your skill and think outside the norm, and don't play it safe." Believe it or not, I removed five chapters from the first draft, but by the time I worked out all the wrinkles, twelve new chapters appeared in order to justify new uncovered layers in her mind. I fretted over the length of this novel, but like any work of writing, it will be appealing to the readers who develop a connection. Some readers told me they wished the story went on because they wanted more. A reader from Florida sent me a message that threw me. She wrote, "Mister, you held my emotions hostage. I wanted to skip sections just to know what would happen to Sam, but each time I tried, I missed something. Honestly, I was upset to have only a few pages left."
I realize the length of The Gaze challenges the reader's patience, but I followed my instincts and didn't forsake its depth.  

A long novel that generates long reviews, a terrific compliment on all that work. What's behind the pages of The Gaze?

JR: A flawed and wounded woman's journey through a gamut of emotions and past torments in her quest for redemption.  She's armed with nothing more than the distinct brand of love found only in the truest of friendships. The Gaze was born out of a challenge to impress a friend. Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee writing as intricately as I did. The novel is character driven and Samantha took the reins and struggled to find a solid path out of her maelstrom while Lewis and Jason Stephen fought to protect her, and Tony and Gwen became her motivations.

* * *

For those of you who have made my dream a reality by reading my novel, thank you from the bottom of my heart. 
I'm open to any questions as all authors are. The Gaze changed me in ways I didn't anticipate.  A good part of it parallels my own life, particularly around Tony's dreams of becoming a writer. 
Despite the relatively small size of its following, the demand for more was big enough to produce its sequel, The Next Chapter. At the end of that second novel, I wrote an author's note in an attempt to bring an end to the series that began as a challenge... but did I?

   Javier A. Robayo

for links to The Gaze and its sequel, visit:


  1. Reading The Gaze and its sequel was truly one of the most stimulating experiences of my life!! Is it ended? Heck no. Those characters live, breathe and interact still in the very core of my memory. I don't think even old age can make me forget one second of that thrilling ride!! And I'm sure that with the depth of your imagination, there is still more of it in your arsenal! One day it will drive you crazy enough that you will have to spill it all onto yet another pristine, virginal page. That, indeed, is my prayer.

    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Jo. I'm glad I'm not the only one with Sam and Lewis still carrying out conversations in my memory. I do believe one or more of their friends has a story to tell. =)

  2. Very nicely done, my DID, friend! How interesting you should drop that particular analogy when my husband and I were speaking about that very disorder last night! Yes, we too are fine! It was nice to see behind the pages today, as I have never read a book that stuck with me for so long. I am a serial reader, but after the Gaze I had to take a break. The characters filled up too much space in my head. I think that was the true measure of success for me of the lengthy (?) work. I still talk in their voices and find myself borrowing their lingo. And wondering about a few that were not developed thoroughly. I do believe you should trademark "lms" and "lmm". My bf and I wish we had done so with bf, oh so many years ago, pre home computers and daily email. Cheers, on yet another job well done. Now if we could just keep you writing more hours of the day! Sorry family, he needs to write!!! Because I need quality material to read!

    1. Wow, talk about leaving an author without words! I'm so glad Gaze had that impact on you. I'm writing everyday with the hope I can create more characters people will remember. Off to write!

  3. Wonderful interview! I look so forward to delving into this novel one day. Clearly, you go deep, Javier. Regarding writing Samantha British, the slang is a toughy. I even search acronyms that I make up to reserve characters on Twitter now after a UK member suggested I search my acronym for "Have a great week" on the Urban Dictionary. Let's just say, it was what I meant at all. :)

  4. Oops, I meant *wasn't* what I meant at all. :)

    1. Oh yes, that slang can be a bloody wanker and a cheeky bugger, LOL. I'm glad I'm not the only one that fell for that kind of misuse. =)

  5. It's always fascinating to see what lurks behind the written words composing a story. Isn't it great that an author has the world at his/her fingertips nowadays? How cool is virtually walking through London to write a novel? By the way, I knew the Brit meaning for the word 'fanny'--I watch lots of BBC series--and I thought you meant it that way :)

    1. I which version did you like better, Monica? ;)

  6. Great post! I didn't realize how many risks you took in composing The Gaze, but well done indeed!