My friend, Andrew Hill (author of the outstanding, exciting, beautifully crafted and necessary Crowed series on Kindle, a multi-generational story of a black family in the South and their struggles for identity in the face of racism http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Hill/e/B00DV2DFS8/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 ) has invited me to participate in a blog tour of international writers.
Here’s how it works. Each writer answers the same four questions about their writing process, then introduces the following three writers in the blog tour. I am going to answer the questions today and introduce the writers tomorrow, so please stay tuned and please follow their work on their blogs as the tour goes on to new creative horizons.
Okay, here are my answers to the four questions:
What am I working on?
Right now, I am completing the novel I have been working on for some years, entitled Edenvale. It’s a story of obsession and history, set in the Santa Clara Valley, where my father’s family had a prune and apricot orchard in the 1930s and 1940s. This entirely fictional account uses the Eden-like account of Sunday dinners “up at the ranch” which I heard about throughout my childhood as the basis for a hillside property named Edenvale which becomes the focus of two families’ desires and the symbol of their broken dreams. Though set in the early 1970’s, the novel shows the devastating effects of World War II on two families who lived side-by-side up in the hills, an Italian-American family and a Japanese-American family. Two stories of love and obsession also mirror one another as the daughter of a missing ex-World War II soldier and a family lawyer uncover secret after secret related to a mysterious incident in 1945 which has affected all their lives and now is a matter, once again, of life and death.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
In real life, no Japanese-American, to my knowledge – and I have researched this extensively – ever sued for monetary compensation or repossession of property which they were forced to sell at fire-sale prices before being shipped off to the camps in 1942. For one thing, they entered into the sale “willingly.” For another thing, the majority of Issei in the camps got out of the camps, picked themselves up financially, and made successful lives for themselves without looking back. In my fictional account, the grandson of one the camp survivors, a young law student, is the one who is angry and is the one who presses for legal redress almost three decades after the fact.
In terms of writing style, Edenvale combines aspects of the family saga with a mystery.
Why do I write what I do?
I believe I have two main influences on all my work: dreams/the subconscious mind, and mysteries. I love mysteries because the basic premise in that genre is that we all hide behind façades. That plump, kindly woman behind the postal counter who bakes brownies is actually a killer…that kind of thing. In a less dramatic way, that is our everyday experience. We don’t know what people –even those closest to us and often even ourselves – are really thinking, feeling, or, more darkly, harboring behind our social selves. Every one of us is a mystery, including to ourselves, which is where dreams come in. Dreams are clues to our real selves, our real feelings. Furthermore, they are packaged nicely in narrative, perfect for the writer. Every night, if you listen, you are delivered a new story with a protagonist, a goal, obstacles. Dreams figure prominently in my short stories and poetry. In Edenvale, the mystery of what occurred in 1945 is the pivot point for the book, and the means to tear down the façades people have adopted and expose the truth.
How does my writing process work?
Again, dreams have helped me in my creative process. Dreamwork has led me to a study of archetypes and fairy tales and ancient narrative structures. Too, writing down my dreams every morning without allowing myself to edit them in any way and without worrying about style has completely erased writer’s block from my writing experience. Write now, get it down any way it comes out, edit later. That editor is a different person, anyway. The writer I see as a woman dressed in a flowing blue dress, sitting at her table early in the morning writing down the stuff of dreams. The editor is a director in his camp chair, overseeing a million creative decisions at once, barking orders, ever keeping his overall idea of the movie in his head. You need both to finish a work of art…but they are two very different personas and basically have artistic conflicts with one another. Best to keep them apart.
Tune in tomorrow for the identities of the next writers on the tour. I think you’ll be impressed….
Image: Daubigny’s Garden by Vincent Van Gogh