Christopher, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion for your book, Mona Lisa Speaks and thank you for chatting with me today. What a fantastic title for a story! Sounds so intriguing. Please tell me about your book.
Christopher: Thank you for hosting this chat! The Mona Lisa Speaks is a fictional art heist story, about a Canadian computer programmer hired by the Louvre to update its computer systems. However, he’s forced by a mastermind of the French criminal underground, to replace the Mona Lisa with a perfect copy to save the woman he loves. I also write a part for the Mona Lisa herself, who “speaks” to us in the grand tradition of magic realism. Writing her was a lot of fun!
Stephanie: Okay, I have to ask. What was the inspiration for your story and how did you come up with/decide for Robertson Ross, to be an outdoorsy Canadian computer expert? What a great combination!
Christopher: First, I was inspired to write this story by my own visit to the Louvre. I left wondering why the Mona Lisa was the most famous painting there – there are many great works in the Louvre – and went back to my Paris hotel and Googled “why is the Mona Lisa so famous?” The answer was news to me – she was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 and went missing for two years. The theft and her return catapulted her to worldwide fame. The more I read about this theft, the more interested I became in telling this story. I decided to update it to modern times because I felt like technology has so much to say about how we value and enjoy works of art.
As to Robertson Ross, my main character, I chose to make him a Canadian because I myself am Canadian, and I felt I could really capture his voice and character. I also know many outdoorsy computer experts in real life – the old stereotype of the shut-in programmer is changing, I think – so I wanted to depict them in the novel as well.
Stephanie: Without giving too much away. How does his skills help him in his adventures he will embark on?
Christopher: Obviously, stealing the Mona Lisa might be the most difficult theft possible. Without his inside knowledge and control over many of the systems of the Louvre, he wouldn’t have a chance. That is why Jacques, the criminal mastermind, choses him. But I like to think that his real challenges begin once he steals the Mona Lisa, and has to rely on wits and instinct to survive and save his love.
Stephanie: Were there any challenges in writing your story?
Christopher: A big challenge, but also a really fun part of the process, was researching the security systems of museums like the Louvre, and also looking into how computers and scanning technology could help someone create the “perfect” copy of the Mona Lisa.
In terms of the writing process itself, one of the hardest parts was trying to figure out how to realistically depict a couple falling in love, while not taking too long to get to the fun heist action. I found this a very challenging balancing act.
Stephanie: What about research? What made you decide on Mona Lisa as the art he Robertson would have to steal?
Christopher: I thought about other works of art, but kept coming back to the reality of the Mona Lisa’s theft in 1911, and the fact that seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre inspired me to write this story. The more I read about the actual theft, the more interesting details turned up. Without giving too much away, there are rumors of a criminal mastermind and a love interest in the real story of the Italian craftsman who actually stole the Mona Lisa.
Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and what is up next for you?
Christopher: It took about four years, although this was not full-time of course! I’m hoping to be much quicker this time as I write the sequel to this story that continues with Robertson Ross and Mathilde in Madagascar. This next book will be called “The Sapphire Screams.”
Stephanie: Could you give me a little background of your writing journey?
Christopher: I started writing not long after I returned home from the trip to Paris where I saw the Mona Lisa. I was in Paris for two weeks, which was a perfect time to soak in the feel of the city and imagine myself living there for a more extended time.
My favorite part of writing is imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, and creating interesting characters on the page. I also love writing foreign and beautiful settings. It’s like a repeated mental vacation, all from the comfy confines of my local coffee shop.
Stephanie: What made you decide to self-publish?
Christopher: For this novel, I ended up partnering with a small, independent publisher, Over the Edge Books. It was a natural fit – they were looking to expand their offerings from music and urban books to broader genres, and I love having their marketing acumen and knowledge of the publishing world on my side.
Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?
Christopher: The book cover was designed by a very talented artist named Miko McGinty, http://www.mikobook.com/ who has a small company devoted to designing and creating books for artists, many of which you can find in museum bookstores. She kindly agreed to help me with my cover, and I think the result is fabulous and so interesting.
Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?
Christopher: For a physical book, Amazon:
For e-books, (Kindle)
Barnes & noble
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Christopher: My publisher had heard about indieBRAG, and submitted my novel for me. And I’ve been so impressed by everything indieBRAG has done and the great books on the website.
Emmy nominee Christopher Angel was inspired to write The Mona Lisa Speaks, his first novel, during a visit to the Louvre, where he dared ask, “why is the Mona Lisa so famous?” The answer, in part, surprised him: few know that the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911, and went missing for two years. Wondering what happened in those intervening two years launched his own fictional update of the story.
A professional film-maker, Christopher’s most recent movie as a writer/director is This Is Not A Test – a satire about domestic terrorism that aired on Showtime. He was nominated for an Emmy for his work on James Cameron’s documentary, Expedition Bismarck, and won a student Academy Award for his short film, Mr. October. Christopher received his B.A. from Yale University, where he was a Humanities major, and an MFA in film-making from the University of Southern California.
Author Website: http://www.themonalisaspeaks.com/
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIUUkcRmUKE
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Christopher Angel, who is the author of, Mona Lisa Speaks, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Mona Lisa Speaks, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.