Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Next Big Thing

Karin Davidson and I are both alums of Lesley University's Creative Writing MFA.
Our time there never overlapped but our connection was Wayne Brown, Wayne had mentored us both. But sadly our only physical meeting took place during Wayne's memorial evening at Lesley in January 2010. I think Wayne would be so proud of Karin.  She's done us Lesley alums proud with achievements such as A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Spring 2012 Orlando Prize for Short Fiction, the 2012 Waasmode Short Fiction Prize, and a Peter Taylor Fellowship. She has been steadily accumulating literary prizes and building a solid reputation.
This is a blog chain that originates from She Writes.
 Each writer answers ten questions about a book in progress, posts on their blog, links to the original person who invited them to the party (in my case Karin ) and links to five other writers who pick up the baton and carry on the relay. Before I took the plunge I was able to enjoy Natalie's post, Barbara's, and even someone from another group called Cliff. We're all writers and we can't help but wonder about the process of the writer next to us. How exactly do these books get written?
So far my literary friends have been quite hard to pin down. So I am going to take the plunge and tag later.
 It's been a long time since I've blogged. I'm sure this has to do with shifting foci. But I'm still gardening and using the garden as inspiration and the blog is ever forgiving and always willing to come with me in new directions.
So here goes. Deep breath. My first interview on my work. By me.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?
The Dragonfly’s Tale
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The high incidence of murdered young boys; gang warfare, police brutality, corruption; all of a sudden it seemed that these things had become commonplace in my society. Where were the women? The mothers, wives, sisters, daughters; the women who cooked for both the murdered and the murderers, where were they? And what were they thinking? Are your hands ever clean of murder?  I wanted to write a story about the moral choices women make when placed in unimaginable situations. Not necessarily good or right ones. 
The story revolves around the death of a young boy and the events that have led to his death.  This began as a short story but it soon became apparent that I was writing a larger body of work. The idea of the missing body of anyone beloved has always been something that I’ve explored in my work. And I began from this platform and waited for the characters to show up. And they did, which is something that still surprises me! The story is told from three different points of view but right now but I’m struggling with the idea of letting the dead boy speak as well. It seems to me that his voice is missing.
What genre does your book fall under?
Caribbean Literary Fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This was great. I hadn't even realised that I knew what my characters really looked like until I started casting. Then suddenly they emerged in a way that was so surprising. This has been really useful for me because I now have some physical reference to help me through the difficult parts - what would this character do now? Those sort of questions.
Apologies to anyone who finds themselves cast in my novel and becomes worried. It's all in the imagination.

Andrew – The Pathologist  Andre Bagoo

Isobel – Andrew’s wife – Natasha Jones

Daniel - Ismael Cruz Córdova

Petal – Daniel’s mother –  Debra Mason Boucaud

Daniel’s girlfriend – Penelope Spencer

Ralph - Andrew’s childhood friend - Raymond ChooKong

Ralph’s wife – Cecelia Salazar

Mr Ali the taxi driver – Errol Sitahal

 Young Chale Jamiah  -Stephen Hadeed

Colin Beaubrun – Policeman and Petal’s cousin – Errol Fabien

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

For every action there is a reaction.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

A small press with a bomb editor. Just putting it out to the universe.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’m still writing and I’m two years in. But I did do a collection of short stories for my MFA thesis and even though the stories stand on their own, I may do some linking and tie them to the larger work. Cannibalise them, I guess. It’s a bloody business, this writing.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I think I’m writing a hybrid.  I can’t say I can think of any work that resonates with me or that is inspiring me. It’s the strangest thing – there’s definitely some Jean Rhys with the landscape but I don’t think we can get away from that writing in the spaces that we do. I was influenced Andrea Barrett, J. M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer,  Alice Munro, Earl Lovelace, Joseph O’Neill, Keith Jardim, and so many more.  You take different things away from different writers.  I tend to write green. Not in the ecological sense, I mean in the literal sense; when I am writing I imagine a green, lush, space in my head. It’s very important for me that sense of texture and colour in my head.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Wayne Brown told me that I could write. So I sat and did. And after a lot of hard work the story came. It’s been enormously empowering to address issues that are not discussed in our society. Issues that have become so critical that it seems as if we are unable to move forward as a society. The only way that I have found to approach these issues is through the writing. I see artists doing it as well. I thank Wayne every day because I really had no idea of the power of writing. It’s enabled me to investigate issues of identity and to query the things that drive people to violence on small islands.

The Who:
Wayne Brown. And after him all the people who helped me find my feet. Tony Eprile, Michael Lowenthal, Hester Kaplan. Monique Roffey, Amanda Smyth, Barbara Jenkins, Earl Lovelace, Nicholas Laughlin, Marina Salandy Brown, Annie Paul, Tanya Shirley, Keith Jardim, The Bocas Lit Festival and many others. So many reached down to help pull me up. It really does take a village to birth a book.

The What:
We have a serious crime issue in Trinidad and Tobago.

 I wanted to explore the polarising effects of the “them vs us” mentality.  This collective inability to take responsibility for our actions has created a fractured society. No one is completely good or evil; there are gradations and it is these subtle shifts that interest me. In the book, I try to flesh out the characters so that regardless of their actions, we are aware of their individual moral code.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It is a bit of a “whodunit” but I think it’s a glimpse into a world that is unfamiliar to the average first world reader and I’ve really tried to stay away from the stereotypes.  Interior worlds and internal conflicts, when done well, can be as exciting as warfare on the battlefield. I like to think I have a bit of both for the reader.