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'Eternity' author and Pennsylvania native Andrea Kohalmi talks with Philly2Philly.com

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This week, Philly2Philly profiles Andrea Kohalmi, a graduate of St. Joseph’s University who is currently a marketing communications manager in the mobile marketing industry in San Francisco. Last March, Kohalmi’s debut novel, 'Eternity' was released. The book is a blend of mystery, adventure, and romance that oddly enough, stemmed from a rather unpleasant dream Kohalmi had as a child. Kohalmi however, was able to turn her ordeal into a positive, and ‘Eternity’ is garnering rave reviews.

The first-time author recently spoke with Philly2Philly about ‘Eternity,’ and how her experiences at St. Joe’s inspired her to take her writing to new and exciting heights.'Eternity' author and Pennsylvania native Andrea Kohalmi

The inspiration for ‘Eternity’ comes from a nightmare you had as a small child. Is it ok for you to talk about it?

Sure. In the nightmare I was a high-school cheerleader travelling with the boys’ basketball team to a game. For whatever reason, we decided to take a detour and visited a haunted castle. I separated from everyone to explore the upper floors of the place and found myself on the lanai of a room in the corner tower. As I looked out over the property and green hillsides below, I watched my yellow school bus drive away.

Horrified by the thought of being abandoned, I turned back to the room only to see a black being with deep red eyes cornering me. I was about to become his dinner. At eight years old, that dream made quite an impression. It’s captured in Eternity’s first chapter and the main setting of Endymion Manor is based on the details of that dream. While the dream itself has obvious coming-of-age-growing-pains elements, its combination of themes—friendship/team, loss, fear, independence, vampires—provided the basis for the Eternity series.

Did you start to write at a young age?

I loved poetry as a kid. My first attempt at creative writing was in the winter of 4th grade. Staring through my living room windows, the new fallen snow shimmered under the outdoor lights as a mesmerizing pink glow illuminated the heavy clouds bursting with a thick shower of snowflakes. The next morning, the ground’s coat of white sparkled like a sea of diamonds in the bright sun. It was my first moment of inspiration. I wrote a little poem that rhymed the last word of every line and gave it to my teacher. Even at 9, the rush of adrenaline from producing something creative became instantly addicting and motivating.

I know it sounds so cliche-ish, but you can now officially say that your work was inspired by some sort of personal, inner turmoil. Congratulations!  You’re an official author!

(LOL.) Thanks!  Yes, somehow writing managed to be the tunnel of light through the dark woods of personal pain. Turmoil is an amazing catalyst and source of inspiration for driving people to different outlets. Thankfully mine wasn’t so much self-destructive as it was creating an intriguing world that tied together all of my favorite themes in one place. It’s like watching all of your favorite movies simultaneously and at the end, breathing a sigh of contented, satisfied relief.

Did your time at St. Joseph’s University shape your writing and/or your desire to take things to the next level in becoming a novelist?  

Absolutely! I had some amazing English teachers at SJU and they still inspire me. Four in particular taught me to see writing as an artistic form. In my first Freshman English assignment, Dr. Schmelzer had us write lyrics. She taught me to make every word count. Studying Charles Dickens with Dr. Fusco made me appreciate the historical and real-life inspiration for bringing fiction to life. Fr. Feeney’s wisdom sticks with me today—we need to push the envelope and be creative even when our audiences might interpret it differently than we intended. Dr. Marsilio’s Latin class fanned the flames of desire to learn as much as possible about ancient Rome, Greece, and their mythologies. My experiences at SJU and my amazing teachers there and at Reading CCHS made me truly believe that I could accomplish my dreams of writing. Thanks to their support and encouragement, getting published was more of a question of when than the limitations of how or why.

I would imagine a read such as ‘Eternity’ could really generate a lot of buzz in the wake of the ‘Twilight’ films as well as shows like ‘True Blood’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries.'

Vampires are certainly the genre du jour right now. Fans of the movies and shows you mentioned will likely enjoy ‘Eternity’ as well. For me though, it wasn’t so much about capitalizing on the current popularity of the theme as it was that the stars aligned for me to finally write and publish the type of book that I’d always wanted to read. Based on the feedback I’ve gotten from my readers so far, they’ve been pulled into the fictional world of ‘Eternity’ right along with me. As a writer, that is the best compliment ever!Eternity by Andrea Kohalmi

The summary of the book states that only one “angel” can take on the most terrifying forces to save mankind from eternal damnation. Any influences taken from “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer”?

Actually, “angel” is a play on words. It happens to be the main character’s name and the story incorporates angels as well. I tried pretty hard to stay away from similarities with popular shows and movies. Although, certain elements are inevitable. I can honestly say that shows like “Buffy,” “Charmed,” “True Blood” and others did not influence this story at all. If readers find similarities, it would be purely coincidental as I didn’t watch those shows. Eternity’s plot was entirely born out of my childhood nightmare and the desire to build a story around ancient mythology and modern interpretations of the supernatural.

At first, one might place ‘Eternity’ in the same realm upon reading its basic premise, there also seems to be elements of Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and even a little bit of The DaVinci Code. By incorporating these, it doesn’t make the read seem like your typical vampire fare. Is that what you originally intended? Sometimes written works can take on a life of their own.

“Typical,” this story is not. It blends genres to make a new type of world that combines everyday reality with the supernatural, philosophical, mythological, and biblical. For those interested in a contentious vampire-werewolf-witch truce about to burst into a gory war, they will find it. Those looking for a romance that transcends time will find it. Readers seeking adventure, historical symbolism, and deeper meanings will find it. Even elements of New Age occult are interwoven with traditional religious beliefs. There’s a little bit of everything for readers of (almost) all ages and different backgrounds.  

Are there any elements of ‘Eternity’ (minus the vampires of course!) that you’ve taken from particular real-life experiences?

What? Vampires aren’t real?! Just kidding. Sure, real-life experiences inspired interactions between some of the characters, but a lot of the character developments are grounded in my own growth and changes over the past 25 years. Life’s questions, learnings, and fascinations are neatly tied together with my own never-ending quest for finding the “truth”—whatever and wherever it might be. But these elements are subtly hidden in the characters and the subplots of the story. And no, there are no specific moments or scenes in ‘Eternity’ that are actually plucked from my reality. (A side note to my family and friends reading this--none of you appear in the book, I swear!)

The book is the first in a planned series. Any ideas for the next edition yet and is there a timetable for its release?

The next edition is already complete minus another round of edits as is book number three. In the sequel, which will be published in 2013, the adventure continues as Angel finds herself on a collision course with her enemies. Her romance takes a twisted turn as new revelations offer confusing insight and complications in the notion that a soul’s true love never dies. Knowing that life is a snapshot in her soul’s journey, the bigger question remains: will she and her friends survive the epic battle between gods, angels, vampires, werewolves, and witches in this lifetime? With a traitor in their midst, people will die. Who will be left to continue their mission to protect humanity?  

Where can readers find ‘Eternity’?

‘Eternity’ is available in print and Kindle formats on Amazon at this link right here

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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