Hello. Welcome to The Gal :) Tell us a little about yourself.
As a mother of two daughters, I understand the idiosyncrasies of balancing work, family, and creative endeavors. If life weren't a bit off kilter than what is the point of crossing that high wire in the sky? In other words, without the strength of passion, creativity, and ambition than we all might as well become nothing more than couch potatoes by the end of the day. It's all about making our lives productive, interesting, and adding value for the next generation. By the very nature of my existence, I am an artist. And by the very nature of my husband's insistence, I have adapted to become an entrepreneur. As a couple, we have ventured a music store, a restaurant, real estate, several internet businesses, and two recording studios. I also work as a graphic designer and in the publishing market since 1994. Aside from having a graphic arts degree, I have a history degree to satisfy my other passion. At first I imagined I would be an artist (drawing and painting), but when I realized there were people far more talented, I wrote stories to satisfy my need to be somewhere else. And as I red more, I wanted to write more. When teachers began to compliment the stories I was writing for class as a teenager, something clicked in my brain. And I also love history. By combining my two loves only increased my need to become more self aware of understanding the world. The great things about imagination is taking all the facets of experiences and then reinventing them into stories. The bottom line is that the more you write, the better you write. I had a teacher, Leonard Bishop (who unfortunately passed away over a decade ago), who believed that ANYONE who has the passion to write can learn the skills to write well. I have bore witness to this testament and am not a believer as well.
What are 5 things about you that most people don't know?
First, I'm a prankster who likes to keep my identity anonymous. Second, I'm both an optimistic and pessimistic, and I battle with the two constantly. Third, I pushed a boy off a bridge when I was three and thought I had killed him when he didn't move. To be fair, I did warn him that I would do something to him if he didn't stop teasing me for being a girl. Fourth, I once was chased by a bull when I wanted to pet a calf in my cousin's field, and almost didn't make it out of the barbed wire fence. Fifth, I'm dyslexic. There are eight tiers of dyslexia, ranging from mild to severe. Mine is mild, which is why I went through school undiagnosed, but it left me believing that I wasn't as smart as the other kids because I was slow and processed information differently.
What is the first book you remember reading?
Although I had read books for school, I really don't remember them prior to fifth grade. And that one book, I don't remember the title, but it still made an impression on me. It was about a girl from England who was sent to America, along with a group of other English children, to avoid the Blitz during WWII. I couldn't imagine being separated from my family and it scared me a little to think something like this could happen. It was the first historical fiction book I read and found the mixture of history and storytelling to be awesome. I was hooked on that genre.
What made you decide to begin writing?
It was a gradual evolution. Initially I wanted to be an artist - mainly focusing on drawing and painting, and I had a graphic arts degree. Because I'm dyslexic, reading and writing came to me slowly as a child, and I somehow compensated by memorizing the structure of words. I used to tell stories to my sisters as children, but later in school, when I felt forced to write stories as part of our English and grammar training, teachers would compliment my story lines.
I began to have awareness that I could create something in which people liked. And I kinda liked it, too. The biggest influence in school was my 8th grade English teacher who read four of my stories out loud to the class. That was the same year I wanted to write about the Japanese-American experiences. Up until I was a teenager, I didn't believe I had any other talent. After college, I was very lufkin in finding a mentor, Leonard Bishop, who had taught writing at Columbia and Berkeley. (I should be thankful he married a Kansas gal which was the reason he would even live in Kansas!) It has taken me some time t find courage to pursue a writer's career.
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
First I let ideas fester in my subconscious and when I'm ready to commit to writing, I begin researching about the time period and culture, and once I acquire enough information to get started, I begin writing incomplete scenes to see which part of the story feels right. It often starts out like puzzle pieces where I just pick out pieces and lay down a basic foundation until I start seeing who the story falls together. I don't work with outlines; too restrictive. I only come up with who the people are, their backgrounds, and how they interact with each other. The historical references come into play according to their personality type.
Do you have a special place you like to write?
Before I had children, I used to write at coffee shops. The majority of my first novel was written in several local coffee shops. I began my second novel with this method until I had two children. Then, after six years, my time was very limiting so I had to write in my basement! Now I enjoy the peace and quiet of the basement and find difficulty writing in coffee shops.
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
I worry about maintaining authenticity within the time period and about the particular cultures. As much as I love delving into another world, I agonize over whether I can or do preserve the integrity of these issues. I have to keep reminding myself that people are people, regardless which time period and location: focus on the people first, and let the rest come naturally.
What do you think makes a good story?
Show that each and every character is imperfect, and that those characters have personal conflicts to overcome, whether they actually do, or try to, or fail to do. Within these sentiments, a storyline is surely to unravel before your very eyes.
What book(s) have most influenced you?
The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men are still inside my head. John Steinbeck mixes literary prose and realism with such grit and fortitude that I'm charmed by his depressing and enriching style. I also love how The Great Gatsby used cultural references of that time period to preserve the essence of the Roaring Twenties. I've also been inspired by Empire of the Sun, Lord of the Flies, and To Kill a Mockingbird when dealing with war, prejudices, and violent interactions between people under stressful circumstances. But most recently, I've enjoyed how integrating the art of storytelling with historical research have succeeded beyond a marginalized audience such as Middlesex, Water for Elephants, and The Help.
What inspires you most?
I have stories that deal with struggle for freedom, searching for identity and purpose, and have some sort of message that forces you to contemplate. John Steinbeck best made the claim: "The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit - for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature." And within the same context, he also wrote, "I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit."
Where do the ideas for your book come from?
From real people and real events. If a person is to become socially conscious as a means to understand the world around oneself, then exploring the past is a good way to start. For me, it began with the movie Cry Freedom, which was based on the friendship between Donald Woods and Steve Bike. The inhumanity shown in the movie left me horrified and emotionally displaced. I was only fourteen. Then, years later, I came across a documentary, the name I don't remember because I missed the beginning, about a white South African couple who had nothing in common. The wife was a liberal reporter, and the husband was a former army personal and police officer who had been fired as a scapegoat for apartheid's problems. They struggled with understanding each other's past. The other inspirations came from the book Kaffir Boy and A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid. In dealing with how to come to terms with violence and poverty, these two books opened up a world history books didn't touch.
Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?
OK! So I'm going to need to flush out my multiple personalities! Hmm. I would have to be a split between Joanne and Lena. Joanne is close to her family and seeks to have the truth be known. Lena struggles with depression, but finds a way out of it through trusting people. As I have mentioned before, I am both an optimistic and pessimistic.
What have you learned creating this book?
Ok wow. I've learned that apartheid was entirely more convoluted than I could wrap my head around. It was insane. And while trying to reinterpret it as I wrote in fiction form was the greatest puzzle I had yet put together. Because the system was so corrupted, it wasn't as difficult to establish a plot. Each character had a purpose to fulfill and fit naturally according to the development of the story. I loved it!
What do you t hunk your readers will take away from this book?
A haunting impression that still leaves you with a sense of hope. For those who never really understood what had happened during that period will at least have an inclination of why the system was so evil, and how it effected everyone, both black and white. If change is going to be resurrected, there needed to be an ambition of hope.
What makes your book different than others that fall under this genre?
Although I have it marked as a thriller, sub genre of psychological, historical, and political, despite of its backdrop, the story is about people and how they relate to one another. It's an intense journey that does have moments of humor and tenderness. If the reader cannot connect to any other characters, then the author has failed to make that connection.
What can we expect from you in the future?
More stories with historical content, of course! Currently I'm working on two pictorial ballads, one to be published this September, the other one by next year. What is a pictorial ballad? So glad you asked! You can read all about it HERE. And by next year, I will be working on another novel which is set during the Victorian era that deals with gender identity, duality, and colonialism.
One last thing. Where can we find you?
Thank you so much for stopping by. :)