[Exclusive] I recently had the chance to interview actor, writer, director and now novelist Kyle T. Cowan to promote his book Sunshine is Forever. Cowan has appeared on AMC’s Preacher, helmed an extremely important indie that deals with a school shooting called Camouflage — so we talked a bit about those projects as well. Read on below!
Sunshine is Forever synopsis:
After a life-changing miscalculated calculation, Hunter decides that he can’t go on…
…which lands him in Camp Sunshine, a rehab center for depressed teens. Hunter is determined to keep everyone there out of his head, especially his therapist. But when he meets Corin, a beautiful, mysterious, and confident fellow camper, all Hunter wants to do is open up to her, despite the fact that he’s been warned Corin is bad news. Hunter’s story culminates on the night Corin convinces Hunter and three others to escape. Will Hunter run from the traumatic incident he’s tried so hard to bury? Or will he learn that miscalculated calculations can land you right where you’re meant to be?
Cover design by Daniel Chase.
You can check out Kyle T. Cowan not only in Preacher during those badass Saint of Killers flashbacks, but also in War on Everyone, Manh(a)ttan and Odd Thomas. If you’re extra curious you can even watch the entire Camouflage flick below! But the main topic of discussion today is Sunshine is Forever, a novel that deals with an extremely important topic – depression. The way this book handles that is very unique and engaging — aka it’s not boring – quite the opposite in fact.
Keven: Sunshine is Forever. The “Camp” on the cover is crossed out, so it’s safe to assume that the main facility these depressed teens have landed in isn’t your typical rehabilitation center. Can you tease any unorthodox methods of treatment that will be taking place there?
Kyle: Yes, I tried as hard as possible to tell a story with the cover, so I am glad you noticed that! The novel is told from Hunter’s perspective. Hunter makes it clear that he doesn’t lie and he hates liars, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exaggerate just a tad. My main goal was to make the setting the villain for this story. Since the counsellors are a part of the setting, they are also considered antagonists. I think this type of camp can only really help kids if they are open to treatment. Hunter is clearly not receptive to any sort of healing, and he doesn’t want to be at the camp at all. The cover of the book encompasses Hunter’s story arc. He despises this facility, but clearly something that happens while he is at Camp Sunshine will stay with him FOREVER.
Keven: The novel deals with a dead serious topic – depression – and it makes no bones about it, as it’s also the reason why these kids are being held at Camp Sunshine. What inspired you to tackle this kind of story – I’m assuming it’s extremely personal?
Kyle: A few of my friends suffer from clinical depression, so ultimately it is inspired by my experiences with them. Acting is also a roller coaster. There are tons of very high highs in my life and really low lows. I can’t help but get depressed sometimes. I decided to take on this topic because there haven’t been a lot of stories told about depression in this way. I drew from the classics like Ordinary People, and A Separate Peace. The Fault in our Stars, Kings of Summer, and Perks of Being a Wallflower also specifically inspired me. I strive to tell stories with strong morals and life lessons. I try to keep my characters diverse and I am constantly attempting to push boundaries. Sunshine is Forever is the type of book that can appeal to everyone, and I think that most people who read it will be strongly impacted by its messages.
Keven: Judging from the excerpts you’ve released online, there’s a lighter tone to the material, especially through the words and eyes of our main character Hunter – how would you describe the overall vibe to the novel? Black comedy? Drama? Thriller?
Kyle: Sunshine is Forever is definitely a dark comedy, but it is also a mystery. What did Hunter do to make his parents hate him so much? Why is Corin at Camp Sunshine at all? Why do the counsellors keep advising Hunter that Corin is bad news? There is also a bit of adventure in the story later on.
Keven: What other work inspired your novel? Anything in particular that you drew from in coming up with the setting? I’m sensing some of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in here but maybe I’m off?
Kyle: In addition to the aforementioned works, I read all of John Green’s books while I was writing Sunshine is Forever. I’m also very inspired by movies. Super 8 is my all time favorite film. I like stories that are told through the adolescent mind because so much of our life is impacted through those formative years. Maze Runner, Bird Box, Game of Thrones, The Impossible, and most recently, Stranger Things are some other stories that inspire me.
Keven: What kind of readers should pick up a copy of Sunshine is Forever – and what would you say to someone who maybe has suffered or knows someone suffering from depression, who might be interested in reading this?
Kyle: I wrote this book for everyone, but if you like any of John Green’s books, you will love this one. I think most people can relate to at least one of the characters in Sunshine is Forever. I would say that if you suffer from depression, you would definitely get something out of this story. Each character at Camp Sunshine suffers from depression for their specific reasons, but the reasons why can’t be expressed in a few simple words. Sunshine is Forever is about making people with depression feel less alone.
Keven: You’re also an actor – obviously – I just saw you in the western flashbacks on AMC’S Preacher. That didn’t turn out so well – since you know – everybody gets some of that Saint of Killers vengeance by the end. What was Graham McTavish like on set – did he stay in character or what was the vibe like behind the scenes?
Kyle: I am an actor, and I certainly was in Preacher. Thanks for watching! The entire Saint of Killers cast got to spend a lot of time together. I really enjoyed talking to Graham, and Justice between takes and at our trailers. My wife, played by Beverly Sartain, and I also became really good friends. There were a lot of cool experiences on set, but just getting to step into that world was awesome. The design of the sets and costumes were flawless. You couldn’t help but feel like you were actually in the 1800s. Every actor has their own technique, and I can’t speak to what technique Graham specifically uses because I’m not him. I personally use Warner Loughlin’s acting technique and it works really well for me. I don’t stay in character between takes though, and to be honest, most actors don’t. I think Preacher cast some phenomenal actors.
Keven: Preacher is my favorite comic series – ever. So it’s cool that I got to see some of it adapted on your season – did you read it beforehand?
Kyle: I haven’t read the comics if I am being completely honest, but they had them on set for people to refer to. I hear the comics are awesome though, and I am sure I will read them eventually. I’ve been reading Walking Dead recently and can’t wait for season 7.
Keven: You directed and starred in this really intense film called Camouflage a couple years ago (Lew Temple – who is one of my favs co-starred which was awesome) – Now that movie tackled some really taboo subjects like school shootings, mental health and extreme homophobia. That kind of subject matter is even more important in 2016 – what was your main goal in creating such a dangerous movie like that one?
Kyle: I’m not one to shy away from taking a risk, and I am extremely saddened by the fact that Camouflage is still such a relevant movie today. The Pulse attack was truly horrific and I hope we can find a way to pass some sort of gun legislation that prevents these attacks from happening. The argument that we would be safer if everyone carried a gun is absolutely ludicrous. Camouflage is ultimately a story about acceptance. Hate breeds hate. If we continue to alienate facets of our society, we will only create more disdain for each other. All people are different. We need to start celebrating our differences instead of attacking them. All of the proceeds from Camouflage have gone to charity.
Please watch the film here:
Keven: Thank you so much for your time Kyle – any final words for FFFN readers?
Kyle: It would mean so much to me if you all would preorder my book!
PREORDER NOW: https://www.inkshares.com/books/sunshine-is-forever
$20 Signed Copy
I appreciate you talking with me.
[Check out a preview of the book as read by Kyle below]