Angels of death, both good and bad, have haunted human thought for centuries. The Touched saga, a popular book series from Italy that is starting to take the world by storm, has recast these mysterious beings into a love story.
The tale is a love story between a mortal girl named Gemma and an angel of death called Evan, which has been described “As seductive as Meet Joe Black. As mysterious as City of Angels. As powerful as Twilight.”
And speaking of which, these books were so big in their native Italy that they even had their book trailers played in cinemas — right before the Twilight movies!
So, we arranged an interview with author Elisa S. Amore regarding the series for your enjoyment. Think of it as an early Halloween treat!
Benvenuto! First things first: is there anything you’d like to say to the people of New York?
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always loved stories, whether they’re on the big screen or on paper. At some point I began to be fascinated with the idea of being able to write a story myself. Writing has always played an important role in my life. I was a shy child and had difficulty socializing, so I used to create characters on paper, imagining new worlds where I could take refuge.
Even at the age of ten or eleven, I wrote short stories and poems for the school newspaper. Touched is my first full-length novel, the one that made me realize how important writing was to me. When I started writing it, the characters took over and guided me towards their destiny rather than the other way around.
What was the inspiration for the saga? Some sources indicate a Norwegian legend.
The story of Evan and Gemma came into my head suddenly one day while I was driving to work. I had a sort of vision—I saw a boy with eyes of ice staring at me from the side of the road and I immediately knew he would be the protagonist of a new story. I thought, “Who was that guy? And why was he staring at me so intently? What if I were the only one who could see him? And what if he were there for me?” Next, I came up with the most important question of all, the one that gave me all the answers: “What if he were there to take me away?”
It was while I was pondering that last question that the idea of the Angel of Death appeared in my mind. I immediately pulled over and started to write it down. I didn’t stop until I’d created the outline for the whole saga. During that time of my life, I waited tables at my parent’s cafeteria. That day I was definitely late for work!
When I finally got home, I couldn’t wait to find out how the story would continue. I sat down and wrote for hours. I fleshed out the plot based on a legend I found online while researching for the book. It’s an amazing Norwegian folktale about Subterraneans, people descended from the children that Eve hid from God because she was ashamed that she hadn’t yet purified them by bathing them in the sacred river. When God discovered those children, He decreed that, as punishment, what had been hidden then would remain hidden for all eternity. And that was Evan’s curse until he met Gemma—the only one able to see him.
Many literary influences added richness to the saga as I wrote it. For example, I love Romeo and Juliet, and you’ll find Shakespeare’s influence in Book 2. Since I’m Italian, I studied Dante’s Divine Comedy in depth at school, and you may see some influences from that in Book 3.
But what most inspired me to write this saga was an experience that was very difficult for me: my first adult encounter with death. I felt an urgent need to face my fears and try to analyze them. Though Touched of course deals with love too, its primary focus is on the threat of death that hangs over the protagonist and on how she copes with her fate. Slowly and painfully she learns to fight the fears that have made her a prisoner of herself, and grows tremendously in the process.
Your story has been compared to the Italian play La Morte in Vacanza, which many people may be familiar with as Death Takes a Holiday or Meet Joe Black. What are your thoughts on this?
I definitely love Death Takes a Holiday and Meet Joe Black. I consider them masterpieces. I’m flattered when people compare my novel to them. The story line is similar—we could say that Touched is a young-adult version of Meet Joe Black, though in my novel Death ends up falling in love with the girl he’s sent to kill. In spite of that, he must kill her and escort her soul to the afterlife. It’s his mission.
There’s love, there’s drama, and plenty of action, especially when the plot becomes more complicated and the protagonists are forced to journey through Heaven and Hell in order to defy Gemma’s fate. They fight for their love until the final page.
There have been many incarnations of a personification of Death over the years, ranging from Discworld’s Mort to Der Tod und das Mädchen. What do you think helps Evan stand out?
Evan has been a fierce, proud Soldier of Death for three centuries. He serves Death in obedience to the curse he was born under, but deep inside, he nurses a secret hope that he may be worthy of Redemption one day. Meeting Gemma sparks a battle inside him. As the perfect soldier, he struggles between continuing to do his duty and coping with the new emotions Gemma has triggered within him: emotions that are so strong they test the foundations of his very nature. The parts of the book narrated from his point of view give readers an intimate perspective on the inner battle that consumes him and the depth of his feelings for Gemma. Once he truly understands how deep his love is for her, he’s determined to fight against everything and everybody to save her from the fate that’s been decreed for her.
Evan’s character changes profoundly over the course of the saga: at the beginning, he’s a professional soldier whose motivation is blind obedience to the rules. By the end, his experience with Gemma has humanized the struggle for him, and he fights in the name of love.
What inspired you to set the story in Lake Placid?
I was searching for a village surrounded by lakes, so I asked a cousin of mine who lives in Rochester, New York, for suggestions. She mentioned Lake Placid and when I researched it, I totally fell in love. It was perfect. I started investigating real places in the town in order to be able to describe them and give the story a real-life flavor. I reached out to some young people who attended the same high school as Gemma and they answered all my questions, sent me pictures, and gave me a lot of information about their town. It’s been an ongoing adventure since then.
Your books have proven popular enough that their book trailers have even been shown in theaters, notably during the premiere of the Twilight movies. What are your thoughts on this?
When I first launched the book in the English market, I was so afraid because I was a totally unknown author in a foreign market. I didn’t know the language well, and whether the book became a success or not depended entirely on me. But Touched started to climb the charts very quickly, surpassing all my expectations. It became a #1 bestseller on Amazon, where it’s stayed for many months, almost since the beginning.
The best part for me, though, has been people’s reactions. Some readers write to me telling me that what I wrote about Death Angels, Heaven, and Hell, has changed the way they perceive death and the afterlife. They say it’s given them hope. That makes me very happy. Writing this story helped me through a difficult time as well, and it’s so exciting to discover that something you created is able to have the same effect on people you don’t even know. I receive tons of messages from readers of all ages, both male and female, who love Touched. They send me artwork inspired by my characters, have quotes from the books tattooed on their bodies, and anxiously await the next book. It’s a dream come true for me.
Speaking of movie theaters, is there any chance we could be seeing Gemma and Evan outside of your books in the near future?
I really hope so. I think the story would make a great movie. Partly because of the closeness readers feel with the characters, but above all because of the themes of the saga: death—something everyone has to deal with in their own life—and the hope of an afterlife. There are also many other key elements that would look great on the big screen, such as the exploration of other worlds like Heaven and Hell. Not to mention, of course, the depth of the love that binds the protagonists, compelling them to fight with all their strength to be together.
It’s a story of hope and love, but it’s also a drama; some might even call it a tragedy. I’ve been contacted recently by some Hollywood companies, which is so amazing! I don’t know if Touched will end up being made into a movie, but it seems that things are moving in the right direction. Fingers crossed!
Are there any links you’d like to share with your readers?
Sure! You can visit the Touched Saga Official Website at www.touchedsaga.com. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you. Thank you!
And of course, from us at Viral Pirate, thank you to Sig.ra. Amore in turn. She is quite an angel, herself. Be sure to check out the Touched website, follow Elisa on Twitter and the Touched Twitter in addition to liking the Facebook page.
You can pick up a copy of her novel on Amazon, and we highly recommend it!