Welcome back to my author interview series – Q & A with D.G. Kaye. It’s been quite a turbulent year for me, but as I’m slowly getting back to regular program blogging I wanted to bring back my Q & A series. And to kick off the series, I am thrilled to have over my lovely Swiss author and friend, Leyla Cardena. Leyla recently released her newest thriller book – Existing Creatures, Living Dragons, and today we’re going to get to know a little about Leyla, her writing, and her books.
Leyla Cardena was born on the 2nd of August 1990 in Geneva, Switzerland. Since her childhood, she became fascinated by all creative mediums such as cinema, writing and theater plays, which drove her to write since the age of eleven. At 23, after night school in the domain of Swiss law and working as a corporate assistant, she followed her dream to become an author and wrote her first novel in French titled “Karmicalement Vôtre”, published in France in 2013. She then, in 2019, published her second novel written in English “Becoming Insane”, and its sequel “Existing Creatures, Living Dragons” in July 2021.
Underneath the earth, John Crane’s bones are cracking and his flesh is burning. His memories are at present as alive as his body, a body, preparing itself for metamorphosis and freedom. In the black box of Jack Vain’s mind, his belongings explode, his past life is an illusion, and ultimately, is a tower destructed by his unfulfilled desires. The recurring nightmare, the hand on Dr. Brooke Ashley’s thigh, is now a warning sign against danger, an appropriation that leads her instinct into the right directions. The djinn that Hassan Maroun met, is the little and magical voice that makes him wonder if the current events can be clearly and scientifically explained.
The creature from John and Jack’s dreams and fantasies, is the master of their evolution. Will the two childhood friends be able to accept their transformation in order to make the investigation advance?
Let’s get to know more about Leyla!
Where do your book ideas grow from?
I believe that book ideas can grow from anywhere at any time. For creators, I suppose they come from subjects they are passionate about, the same applies for me. For Becoming Insane and its sequel, Existing Creatures, Living Dragons, my ideas came from my personal experience with panic attacks and OCD which I suffered from for a period. It came during a time where I chose to leave my job behind (and a lot of other things) to start new and become an author. The issue of taking a risk without any guarantees, while also not taking any and feeling suffocated is the first main theme in Becoming Insane. The creativity that my main characters, Jack Vain and John Crane possess, becomes during their adulthood the unfulfilled and hungry creature that haunts and stalks them. The need to create comes back with a vengeance. Also, for those two novels, psychology is a very important subject. Probably because I have a great passion for it and did my best to convey my own emotional experience and a scientific point of view in the books. In other words, I would be reading books about psychology like the DSM when I was a teenager instead of doing my math! For the novels, it’s important to understand that what my main characters are going through, and what happens to them in a “horror and fantasy” way, is interpreted through a Jungian lens. The reason for that is Jung’s works which revolve around archetypes, mythology, and their interpretation, gives the novels the fantasy and fairy tale atmosphere which breaks reality. I thought it fitted well with my characters, who are creative.
D.G, – Sounds fascinating Leyla. I love psychological thrillers and looking forward to reading both your books. 😘
Did you have a passion to write as a child? Do you remember the first thing you wrote?
Always, however, it came first by simply wanting, then needing to create a story by using my toys when I was a child. To the point where my parents would go crazy because I would ask for so many dolls and plushies and whatever I could find that I could use as a character for the story I had invented. As I was only a very young kid my stories were still very basic, with a main character, usually a woman that had to go on a quest of some sort to save someone or the world. Or a more fairy tale-historical kind of story about a character climbing up the social ladder and becoming a leader. Also, some science-fiction when I felt like it. A child’s imagination has no limits! But I adored preparing the set before playing out my story. The first story I ever wrote was when I was about nine years old which I never finished. It was a very simple one about a young ballerina (because I used to do ballet and returned to it a few years ago) who witnesses some ghostly apparitions of another ballet dancer and must discover the secret behind her disappearance. Nothing original I’m afraid!
D.G. – You were certainly gifted the creative bug as a child Leyla. No surprise you became a writer. Maybe you should consider going back and rewriting that ballerina story? 😘
What would you like to see change to make the world better?
I’m extremely sensitive to children’s causes and cannot point out enough how much education is important. I unfortunately had to witness some degree of violence when I was very young, and then quickly was on my own to take responsibility of my own life when I was only sixteen. To the point where I could relate to a lot of the characters in Dickens’ books. That’s why I always say that every century and generation will have their Oliver Twists and David Copperfields. I cannot insist enough on how it’s important, and in some places urgent, to not only give knowledge, but understanding and love. And of course, a good and stable family structure so that the child can be emotionally fulfilled and feel good about himself/herself before diving into the adult world. Yes, I’m very sensitive to that. It’s always good to remember that we are not just raising children, but future adults, and that no matter the hardships and the struggles, to make sure that they have enough self-confidence to follow their dreams and avoid bad situations. The subject of childhood is immensely present in my two novels so yes, children, education and having people around them to help them grow and possess good health (physical and mental) is one of the things that can (or should) evolve for a better world. I suppose it will seem strange coming from me, as I’m not a mom and still haven’t considered becoming one.
D.G. – I’m with you on your thinking about children. I particularly liked, “we are not just raising children, but future adults” so much truth! It sounds like we both lived ‘interesting’ and colorful’ lives as children. 😘
Does anything you watch on TV prompt ideas for your own writing?
I haven’t watched TV in years! Except maybe for the daily news. I watch everything on Youtube and for movies I watch them on Netflix. There are a lot of subjects I’m passionate about that I explore by watching a documentary, then reading a book about the subject I chose to get more details and information about it. The subjects I usually enjoy discovering are (apart from psychology as mentioned above) history, true crime, nature, mythology, and its relationship with theology. There are so many things to learn about, and as I’m a curious person by nature I just can’t stop. I think it comes from my background. I come from a family with many origins, my father is Moroccan, and my mom is half British and half Catalan. My grandmother (on my mother’s side) is half Swedish too. So, I would be transported into different worlds and scenery just by being read a story to by my parents. It’s extremely enriching and makes a child open minded about different cultures while also spotting the similarities we share in storytelling. Music is also one of my greatest inspirations. I love all kinds of music, as it helps me visualize scenes and characters before translating all of it into words.
D.G. – What a fascinating mix of ethnicity in your bloodline Leyla. And good for you for not watching TV, lol. Seems we enjoy reading same subjects too! 😘
Would you like to share with us what upcoming projects and/or ideas for books you’re working on?
I’m currently working on a series of novels entitled “God, Men and Beasts”. We’re still in the thriller/horror genre, but the theme is about survival. Survival in society paralleled with survival in the wild. In Existing Creatures, Living Dragons, my main character John Crane, introduces the first chapter of God, Men and Beasts as his own work as a writer. This new series is about a journalist that must write articles about crime or court cases involving different people that are mysteriously linked to each other. Even though they live in different countries, have different lives, and have lived in different ages and decades, they share something between them that the journalist will discover later (I’m not telling what it is). These future novels are heavily influenced by the geographical location of the characters. For example, if I take England or the north of France, the story happening in this specific location will have a European fairy tale kind of atmosphere, in which the dark woods play a big role, and will represent the mystery, magic and horror of the story. You can also add in an air from the Arthurian legends. However, while Becoming Insane and its sequel Existing Creatures, Living Dragons talks about childhood, inspiration, imagination and even fantasy and how to implement them in our lives and not forget them, God, Men and Beasts is about reigniting our senses and instincts. Talks a lot about different species of animals and our relationship to them, what they used to represent before (which was power, freedom and a specific quality depending on the culture) and now. I’ve been diving into a lot of documentaries about animals, animal behaviorism and animism, which came before paganism and its different mythologies. I’m also continuing a story that is an homage to a Swiss artist that I admire a lot. But I won’t tell you who it is until the book is published!
D.G. – Wow, you have so much on the go! Good for you. All subject matter sounds fascinating to me. I love that your stories all encompass the element of human nature despite that there may be horror or fantasy with their themes. I wish you lots of success! 😘
Leyla is treating us to an excerpt of her book, Existing Creatures, Living Dragons
Too much pain, for too long. Worse thing is, it’s for free for everyone. Even if John knew that he wasn’t alone feeling such, and that there were far worse tragedies in the world, the suffering wouldn’t disappear, and now, it became physical, as he could feel each inch of his body itching and then burning every time his skin would peel off, revealing his red flesh exposed to the air. He cried, putting his two hands on his face, realizing that there wasn’t any skin left there either. He screamed, nearly fainted, hoped he would never have to see his face in a mirror again. The pain was constant, and sometimes came in violent shots to different parts of his body. But he knew that the suffering hadn’t climb to a climax yet, and that he could still do something to avoid it. In order to do that, he gazed around, crawling on all fours like an animal, staring at the grass, the trees and the earth, searching for any tool sharp enough, so that he could get rid of the pain, and eventually, himself.
“Help me!” John screamed. Only desperation was left in him as he could not find the tool that would release him, he suddenly felt another kind of physical pain in which he could feel something inside his back trying to get out, it wasn’t a beast, a creature, just something that was part of him…which frightened him even more. He crawled again far from the cabin where the hobo had sheltered him, he then found a dead tree with a hole in the ground beneath it, he ran to it.
“The pain will kill me before I cut it away!” John mumbled, tears streaming down the flesh of his face.
When he wished to dig the hole deeper, he saw that his hands, skinned, had long dark nails at the tip of his fingers, and had now become claws, which helped him dig the hole further into the ground.
“I’ll die inside of there. Like that no one, Mom, Robert, nor Jack will see me like this…” he thought to himself. When he felt that he hadndug deep enough, he inserted himself inside the earth with some agility that was left in him, which surprised him for just this onemsecond in which he didn’t think of his suffering. Once inside, he continued his journey into the depths, and breathed the air of nature.
“No one must see me…” John didn’t understand that it was his pain that was repugnant, not him. He would have given anything to disappear. Which was happening, but not as he wanted.
“Why do you think you can control death?” It is the most painful thing everyone has to go through.” said the voice of the creature inside John’s mind.
“I’ll wait to die in here…and while doing that, I’ll pray, and remember the best of my life…” John answered.
The suffering, the beast that devoured every centimetre of John’s body, the cancer, the virus, began its works, and inside the earth, underneath the dead tree, no one could guess, that a metamorphosis was taking place. It was by remembering what John considered the best times of his life that he could comfort himself inside his earthy refuge, like a story to be written, he made the effort of remembering each detail of the beginning until the ending, even though his brain would inadvertently follow the logical path of the story, even if it wasn’t a happy ending. It was an evening in which he and Jack were heading to Martha’s ballet repetitions to pick her up, as they would then have a drink together for Jack to introduce his best friend. They entered the corridor giving into the classroom, sitting down on the benches where several other people (probably friends and parents) were gazing at the dancers.
“Here she is!” Jack exclaimed trying not to be heard by others to John, pointing his finger towards a young and pretty Martha, standing on the dancefloor with the other dancers, waiting for the choreographer’s instructions.
“She’s beautiful!” John answered.
“Isn’t she? She looks like Audrey Hepburn…” Jack added joyously and proudly, hearts in his eyes and his mind on cloud nine.
Thirty minutes passed where the two friends stayed to watch the dancers prepare for their next representation, which was, as John recognized by the music playing on the piano, Swan Lake. Their main professor shouted, interrupted the dancers, made them do it all over again until each little detail was done at the utmost perfection, giving the pianist, that John had looked to for a couple of seconds, a bad time, having to stop and begin again. While Jack was beginning to be impatient for the repetition to finish, John continued to gaze at the frustrated pianist, staring at him with full admiration for his talent at the piano, and his handsome face. Elegant and classy brown hair combed back, golden skin and the most beautiful hands John ever saw…the hands of an artist. John guessed the pianist must have been in his late twenties, which agreed with him, as he was now twenty-five. He was so taken by the beauty of the musician that he could not even realize that the repetitions were finished, and that Martha was advancing towards them. She embraced Jack and said:
“I’ve got some wonderful news darling!”
“Really? What is it?” Jack asked unable to come back from her wonderful kiss.
“I’ll tell you later once we get out of there. I’ll just go and change.”
While they embraced again, John stared at what the pianist was doing. He was now talking to the choreographer while putting away his partitions, talking about the dancers and certain changes in the group. He got up, revealed his wonderful body, put his partitions in his suitcase, walked in front of John, said “Hello” rapidly, and vanished from the classroom, leaving John desperately lovestruck, and unable to say a word to anyone until he got a drink in his system at the restaurant.
“I was chosen to be the princess in Swan Lake!” Martha exclaimed happily. They raised their glasses when hearing the excellent news. John, who had previously introduced himself, asked by mere curiosity:
“What happened to the other dancer?”
“Well, I don’t know if you saw during the repetition, but she continued making the same mistake for her entrance so…they decided to have me play the Swan Princess!”
“Oh…” John could only say, as he realized that he hadn’t listened to what happened during the repetition as his attention had been fully taken by the pianist.
“I told you she’s the best dancer!” Jack added proud and in love.
It was one of the best evenings. An evening of joy, laughter, drinks, good food and love. Maybe even for John. They left the restaurant at 11 pm and dropped Martha to her parent’s place by using Jack’s car. They got out in front of a big residence, where John left the two lovers to say goodbye while smoking a cigarette near the car. Jack came back with a big smile on his face, and most importantly, hope for the future in his eyes and attitude.
“I’m so glad you got to meet her!” Jack exclaimed while lighting up a cigarette.
“Me too. She’s respectful, elegant, has a good vocabulary. She’s great,” John answered.
“If only I had my apartment now! If only I lived alone! I wouldn’t have to end my evenings with like this!”
“Listen don’t be too eager for that. The contrary is fine, she’ll have more confidence in you! And I find that romantic not to have to hit the sheets at the first date.”
I hope you all enjoyed this edition of Q & A with Leyla Cardena, and the excerpt. I hope you will check out her books!
Find Leyla on Social Media:
Blog: Blog | Leyla (leylacardena.com)
Twitter: Leyla Cardena (@CardenaLeyla) / Twitter
Instagram: Leyla Cardena (@leylacardena) • Instagram photos and videos
Facebook Page: Leyla Cardena – Becoming Insane | Facebook
Amazon Author Page: Amazon.com: Leyla Cardena: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle