Hollywood Daze is always looking for local author and celebrities and this week we have had two authors local to Southern California. Marilyn Meredith, author of her latest novel, Bears With Us and today, Gregory Earls, author of Empire of Light. Both authors have revealed in their interviews some hidden secrets of California.
When Gregory Earls isn’t eating at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, he pays the bills by taking up space at 20th Century Fox in the Feature Post Production Department. He’s a proud graduate of Norfolk State University and the American Film Institute, where he studied cinematography. He’s an award-winning director who has amassed a reel of short films, music videos, and (yes) a wedding video or two. Empire of Light is his first novel. Steadfastly butchering the Italian language since 2002, he hopes to someday master the language just enough to inform his in-laws how much he loves their daughter, Stefania, who was born and raised in Milan, Italy. Gregory currently resides in Venice, California where he goes giddy every time he spots that dude who roller skates and plays the electric guitar at the same time. During football season, he can be found at the Stovepiper Lounge, a Cleveland Browns bar in the Valley where he roots for the greatest football team in the history of Cleveland.
Visit his website at www.gregoryearls.com.
About Empire of Light
Jason Tisse is in over his head. As a young black cinematography student at LA’s notoriously tough American Film Institute, he’s got the vision, but not the balls to battle the ruthlessness that is Hollywood. After a failed year at AFI, which includes nearly electrocuting a fellow classmate, Jason embarks on a trip to Europe to hunt down the works of his favorite painter. Armed with an enchanted camera gifted to him by an eccentric film professor, Jason is prepared to master the art of light and shadow as depicted in the infamous baroque artwork of the original Emperor of Light known to the rest of the world as Caravaggio.
What Jason doesn’t expect, however, is that the innocent-looking Kodak Brownie camera he’s been given holds remarkable powers, capable of miraculously bringing his idol’s artwork alive with each snapshot. Caravaggio’s work, packed full of sex, religion, violence and some outrageous hilarity, explodes to life and sends Jason spiraling from one escapade to the next. Spanning the bright lights of Paris, the grand churches of Rome and the cutthroat alleys of Naples, Jason must overcome his inhibitions—even at the risk of life and limb—if he is to one day rule his own Empire of Light.
Q: Will you share with us a little about yourself?
What it comes down to is that I’m a frustrated artist. If I could do it all over again, I would’ve started studying drawing as soon as I could walk, spending my adult life in a studio painting or illustrating bitchin’ graphic novels. But neither of these options came close to happening, so I direct, shoot stills and write. I’m constantly trying to find some sort of creative outlet. Empire Of Light is very much a symptom of that frustration, albeit a fun symptom.
Q: I understand you are an award-winning director and how did you get your start as a director?
I went to AFI as a Cinematography Fellow, and I still love the craft, but I wanted more creative control so after graduation I quickly migrated into directing. However, I miss cinematography a great deal and not a week goes by that I don’t regret sticking with it. Maybe I’ll shoot again, if I could bribe somebody into letting me photograph his or her project.
Q: Will you share with us what made you decide to become an author?
Well, I just became a bit frustrated with the Hollywood game of trying to get a script to the screen; not to mention the strict three-act structure and having to keep in mind the logistics and cost of production. It was just incredibly liberating to write for the sake of writing. The experience was incredibly freeing and I look forward to the next one.
Q: Will you tell us about your book?
Empire Of Light is kind of a coming of age novel. It revolves around an insecure film school student named Jason and his first trip to Europe. His voyage flips into mad adventure when his vintage Brownie camera magically unleashes all the sex, violence, religion and humor captured on canvas by the infamous artist, Caravaggio. During the journey, he finds the tools he needs to become a confident man and an artist.
Q: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
I actually took the same journey as my protagonist, Jason. My first trip to Europe entailed tracking down the paintings of my favorite artist, Caravaggio. I kept a travel blog talking about each painting - where I found it, the people I encountered, and posting a sketch I made of the painting.
One friend enjoyed the blog so much that she suggested I write a book! I was going to write a non-fiction travel log, but the desire to fictionalize and flip into fantasy was too much. I didn’t want to get involved with A Million Little Pieces type fiasco, so I just went straight up flights of fancy. I ‘m glad I did because Jason ended up having a much better time than I did! And so will the readers.
Q: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters; and what they would be?
If you only knew how many conversations I’ve had with my friends and family about this very issue. As an African American male, it reminds me of black stereotyping. All of them are false, except the one about brothas being well endowed! I want to take ownership of all the cool parts of Jason, but his journey is off the charts different from any I’ve taken. I didn’t get kicked out of film school, nor have I had sex in the Louvre bathroom. But hey, I ain’t dead yet. I’ve got time to top him.
Q: What is your most favorite part about this book?
There’s a very unorthodox part of the book where I imagined an argument between Caravaggio and a Vatican bishop, who is busting Caravaggio’s balls because he used a well-known prostitute as a model for the Virgin Mary, among other transgressions. I wrote that dialogue with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in mind, specifically the scene the two actors performed in Casino, the argument in the desert. I let one friend read an early draft of the book and he got it immediately, the cadence and the insanity of it all. He texted me right after he read it, cracking up. I had fun writing it and I’m glad people dig the read.
Q: What has been the best part of being published?
My dad bought five copies as soon as it was available. My mom had a Barnes & Noble clerk bring up my book on their computer, so she could show it off to her reading group. Making mom and dad proud, it’s that little boy giving his parents the clay ashtray he made at school. You can’t beat the experience, and it seems to transcend age.
Q: Your bio states that you live in Venice, California and that you have seen the guy who roller skates and plays the electric guitar. I understand he’s been in a number of movies. Isn’t he great?
Harry Perry! I love that man’s celebrity. That guy is famous for just bringing a pleasant vibe into your life. You’re on the beach and he passes by you and you just feel frosty. I haven’t seen him on the boardwalk lately, but I don’t hang out there like I used to. By the way, Harry Perry has one of the best websites, ever. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to look like, with this cartoon icon of him zipping through space behind a UFO. How is that not gold?
Q: Have you seen the old man with the white beard, asking for money because Santa needs a new sleigh?
Ha! No! But that’s the kind of creativity that gets a dollar or two out of me. Let’s hope Santa isn’t using it spike his own eggnog.
What would Venice be without all these characters and all that medical marijuana being prescribed? There sure is a strange smell on that boardwalk, not to mention ideas for novels wherever you look. Thanks for visiting Hollywood Daze and I wish you all best.
Amen. Let’s hope that the gentrification of the boardwalk is a fly by night deal. Let crazy be crazy. Thanks for the hospitality. Ciao!