From Within the Mind: Influences

In honor of the three months since An Absolute Mind came out, this month, I shall be doing a weekly series of behind-the-scenes glimpses at the process and the decisions made with the creation of the novel. Be careful for potential spoilers if you haven’t read it yet, and I hope you enjoy. (NOTE: While today is the last Saturday of the month, this isn’t the last post of the series. I have one more after this that will be released tomorrow.)

An Absolute Mind was an idea born out of nowhere and, throughout the course of a little over four years, evolved into something more than I could have ever imagined at the time of conception. While ideas for characters and plot maneuvers came to me over the course of working on it, much like A Moment’s Worth, I did have my share of influences from various people along the way. Whether I was influenced by their own style and approaches, ideas and beliefs, or even going off of who they are, I definitely had indirect help along the way of making An Absolute Mind what it is now. While there are quite a few to name, today I want to go over who my main influences were for my second novel:

Phil Collins

If you’ve read the novel, the fact that Phil Collins is one of my main influences should come as no surprise. For those who don’t know, Phil Collins is a British singer-songwriter and percussionist. He first rose to fame as the drummer-turned-lead singer for the band Genesis, before carving a path as a solo artist in the 1980’s. Some of his most well-known songs include “In the Air Tonight,” “Sussudio,” “Take Me Home,” and “Another Day in Paradise.” Of course, for many Millennials such as myself, our first introduction to him was via the Disney adaptation of “Tarzan,” where he did the soundtrack for it.

Going into the second novel, I knew I wanted to incorporate his music somehow into the story. Apart from making the character Gian a fan of him, I also wanted to incorporate the tone that can be found in Collins’s music into the story itself. As I had observed in an essay I had published a year ago about his musicality, his music can contain the perfect marriage between evident anger and an aura of soulfulness. While many of his songs are about love and heartache, looking at the lyrics, I felt that his songs could be applied to a wide variety of circumstances. Just to give an example (SPOILERS up ahead), “Another Day in Paradise” can easily be applied to the circumstances of the residents of Palekaiko. They’re not necessarily homeless, but still displaced, much like the people that the song otherwise describes.

This was the first time I drew upon influence from a musician, and I feel that it made for the perfect execution. Apart from the themes in Collins’s songs and my story syncing up in the most interesting of ways, it was also really special to pay homage to one of  my all-time favorite artists; especially in the same year where he officially came out of retirement.

Here’s a brief interview with Collins on the making of the songs for “Tarzan”:

Hayao Miyazaki

If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know that I’ve mentioned this man a number of times in previous posts. Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese filmmaker and co-founder of the renowned Studio Ghibli. A prolific auteur, he has directed a number of feature films for the production company, such as “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and more.

This isn’t the first published work of mine where I’ve credited Miyazaki as an influence, as he was also an influence for my short story, “The Shadows.” However, unlike with that story where I looked to him for capturing the essences in magic regarding spirits as characters, he served as a guide for me when writing An Absolute Mind in terms of making the characters as flawed as possible. When I realized what direction I wanted to take with the story when I reconstructed it from my original idea, I knew that I would be heading into territory that involved touching on important yet sensitive subject matter. Knowing this, I feel that the best way of developing characters and their motifs would be to not go for the Western portrayal of “good guys” and “bad guys,” but rather to make everyone various shades of gray. With the exception of gang affiliates, I wanted to give everyone a reason for the readers to care about them.

Miyazaki served as the ultimate guide for executing these characters, in the kind of story I was writing. Having grown up watching his films, I knew I made a wise choice to look to him when struggling at all with this approach. I want the stories I write to enhance beyond what the targeted audiences would otherwise expect going into them, and Miyazaki’s approach to telling stories coincides well with the direction and evolution I want to go in, in the long run. (How appropriate that this is coming at the heels of the confirmation that he’s, once again, coming out of retirement.)

Here is a clip from the documentary, “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness,” where Miyazaki makes an edit to the last scene in his film, “The Wind Rises”:

The Leaders, Rebels, and Freedom Fighters of the Past and Present

This is definitely a first in not only looking to a number of people as one major influence, but also that this is the first time I draw influence from activists. If you’ve read An Absolute Mind, then it should come as no surprise that events of my country’s past where people fought for the rights to live as the human beings that they are was a heavily driving force in making Sonya’s fight as authentic as possible. Some of their names even show up at various points in the novel; such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mildred and Richard Loving. In fact, even Sonya’s family members who were incarcerated during World War II have a tie to a freedom fighter, for Fred Korematsu rebelled and challenged the government for imprisoning thousands of people who’ve had nothing to do with the Pearl Harbor attack.

It’s a way of pointing out the irony in my country’s very flawed history. We say that we are all about liberty and justice for all, and yet so many people have had to fight for just that. Of course, this even goes for the present day as well, as I had mentioned in my novel regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, the current wave of feminism, and the long overdue legalization of same-sex marriages two years ago. But as you can imagine, as I’ve addressed time and time again, I definitely would have had to mention even more instances of fighting for rights given our current political climate, if I were still writing An Absolute Mind now.

It’s an ongoing irony in my country; false advertising even. Why say you’re one thing, when you’ve proven to be the polar opposite of just that? If you think I’m being controversial for addressing my country’s history and intentions through An Absolute Mind, suck it up! This is a subject that needs to be discussed now more than ever before. It’s only right that the novel had paid homage to the leaders, the rebels, and the freedom fighters who came before us, and those who are currently among us. (In fact, I even had a vision when I was sleeping one time, on how a scene where Sonya is looking out a window of the train is reminiscent of that famous photo of Rosa Parks looking out a window of a Montgomery bus.)

Here is an audio clip of Fred Korematsu, describing the day he got arrested:

While I believe that An Absolute Mind would still make for the kind of reading that needs to be done nowadays even without the named influences, I feel that it’s stronger because I looked to these individuals for guidance. In the event that any of these individuals read this, know that I’m grateful for your contributions, gifts, and influence to the world, as I continue forward on this journey as an author.

An Absolute Mind is now available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & NobleCreateSpace, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. If you read it, please leave a review, for they’re greatly appreciated and help me grow as a writer. Also, be sure to check out its Goodreads page, and feel free to leave any questions you have about the book.

Also, if you can, please donate to the Indiegogo campaign for “The Geek Show,” for we the cast and creators want it to be the very best when we put it on in April.




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