Thursday, October 11, 2012

Author Interview: E Journey

Today we have another wonderful author with us to tell us a bit about herself and her work.  Please welcome, E Journy and her book, Margaret of the North.

Most writers are readers. What are some of the books you have on your nightstand and/or on your "must read" list?

I read a lot of art books so I have a big thick paperback, Kant After Duchamp that I am slowly finishing. It is too complex to rush through. Next up for me is on the kindle called The Age of Insight, another art book. I intersperse these books with relatively lighter fiction reads. On my to-read list are Lorca in a Green Dress a play by Pulitzer prize winner Nilo Cruz and Scent of Apples by Bienvenido Santos, recommended to me by a friend.

What is your favorite genre to write?

In fiction, it has to be romance. But since I define romance rather broadly, I do believe that even in my short nonfiction book of travel essays, it is the romance of the transient life abroad that keeps me travelling and looking at art. And it is the nostalgia looking back at those experiences that make me write.

What is one silly fact about you?

I don’t think I have much of an imagination. How silly is that—for someone without good imagination to want to write fiction? I can’t write fantasy, sci-fi or paranormal. I can conjure up scenarios but I can’t embellish them with what I have not seen or experienced. I do see, in my mind's eye, how a character acts, down to their small gestures but I get all that from watching people.

What got you started on your writing journey?

I have always been fascinated with words and the potential power you can wield with them. When I was going off to university, I wanted to major in journalism but my parents, who were paying for my entire college education, would have none of it. I was young and unassertive so I did as what I was told. The jobs I've had since graduating all required writing—technical reports for bureaucrats and information for consumers of mental health services. Those years taught me how to write for different audiences. They got me away from the academic style they teach you in grad school.

I've always done some writing. Before I started my blog, I wrote travel essays that I shared with friends. Early last year, writing became a retreat, something I fell back on for respite from a lot of stress I was going through.  It was from that period that my first novel was conceived and so, it probably has an element of escapism in it.

Why do you choose to write clean/sweet romance? Do you write steamy romance as well?

I am a sucker for romance. I grew up loving Jane Austen. She was my antidote for the "deep" existentialist stuff like Dostoevsky who was my companion through my young adult angst. I find I like fiction better when it has romance in it: My preference is for romance that deeply engages minds and hearts and not just bodies. Bodies give way a lot sooner than hearts and minds. Still, I am not averse to describing an intimate love scene when the story calls for it. But I do stop short of anything graphic. Very tasteful, as one reviewer said. I see romance in other things, too—in making art, for instance, or in taking in a foreign land in a more mindful way.

I have not written steamy romance. To me, it is often not really romantic and I think, after a while, most erotica books all begin to sound, smell, and taste the same. Even the covers of those books never vary unclad or very scantily-clad Adonises and Venuses in some form of hot embrace. How many of those do you really see around? For me, they get stale pretty quickly. I guess I am an old-fashioned realist even in the escapist fare I choose to read or to write.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

I think it comes from giving some readers a few lovely moments when they read my book. The idea that you could do that—give others you don't even know some warm and fuzzy moments —is a happy and humbling experience for me. Humbling because I realize how much I depend on them to make writing more meaningful and rewarding. I always start writing for myself but when a book or blog is out there to become the readers' property, I get almost teary-eyed when I find someone has put my book on their "favorites" shelf or was moved to travel to certain places because of my posts.

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

If I culled stuff out of my own life for my first novel, it probably intruded into the characters’ thoughts or in the small gestures that flesh out a character, but not in their specific experiences. Well, perhaps, some of the Paris scenes were inspired by the months I have spent in that city.

I did do some research for this book so the tenor and look of the times and the setting should be as close to real as could be gotten from the internet and a few literary analysis books I read on Gaskell’s novel. I also have a chapter that describes what was happening in Paris around the 1860s when the characters go on their honeymoon. That comes from my Paris stays and from having had courses and having read books on artists, art history, and the Parisian caf√© culture.

Please share about your book

Margaret of the North is a sequel to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and its retelling in a BBC series. Having said that, I do believe—based on at least two reviews—that this novel can stand alone. I did write it that way. Gaskell's book has been described as a romance set against a backdrop of industrialization in England and the sometimes violent strikes that it spawned. I look at mine as some kind of Victorian feminist
bildungsroman (coming-of-age or growth-into-maturity novel) interwoven into a lasting romance. The love between the main protagonists is probably the main draw. But I also see romance in the adventure and excitement that Margaret goes through as she discovers herself and fully realizes her womanhood.

By refocusing on Margaret’s journey, not only across the country (south to north) but also psychologically, I meant to pay homage to Ms. Gaskell and return to the themes that underscore her concerns about being a woman, themes that were buried when Charles Dickens asked her to change her book's title from Margaret Hale to North and South..

If you could sum your main character into five words, what would they be?

Introspective, passionate, stubborn, naive, testy.

Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?

Maybe, who should rather than why? If you find guilty pleasure—guilty because the modern view is, romance cannot last—in enduring romances between thinking, internally-oriented individuals, read the novel. One Goodreads reviewer called it a deep and complex read that cannot be rushed.

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