03 May 2011

The Deep: Captain Val's Answers to Last Week's Questions

Gobsmacked: Celebrating Me Birthday Month with a Giveaway!

            For the month of May, I’ll be givin’ away a signed copy of my France, a Love Story, along with a surprise: a signed copy of a book by another author who … I'll just keep ye guessin’.
            Here’s me instructions: leave a comment on me blog, and your name goes into the end-of-the month drawin’. The more comments, the better your chances. If you subscribe by email, send your name and comment to valinparis (at) earthlink (period) net. If ye wish me to post yer comment to me Captain’s Log, tell me, and it’s done!

Bonus! Every captain needs followers and here’s how to serve yer captain. Bring a mate on board Gobsmacked by having them sign up to receive me blog. For every mate you bring aboard, your name goes into the drawing three times. I’m using the pirate’s code of honor for this. Just tell me you signed ‘em up. No cheatin’ now or it’s the gangplank!

The Deep: Captain Val's Answers to Last Week's Questions

Last week, I wrote ‘bout how a writer’s job resumé offers nothin’ but a skeleton of their experience. Writers ha’ to dig deep into personal experience to understand human nature and create living, breathing, believable characters. Some authors might disagree, but they don’t sail on my ship.

That’s why I suggest asking more personal questions of authors at readings. Depending on the nature of the book (‘cause you want to ask pertinent questions, not superficial, sensationalistic ones), the questions can be related to what the novel or memoir brings to the surface for you emotionally.

Here’s where I dive in deep water. Remember the questions I posed from last week?

“Ha’ ye ever been close to dying?”
“Ha’ ye ever taken a dark road and been lost?”
“What terrifies you and why?”

As promised, I’ll ask ‘em of meself and tell ye how they relate to life and work. A’right?

Ha’ ye ever been close to dying?

Job experience in me twenties:  drive-in restaurant waitress, telephone switchboard operator, movie theater ticket sales person, keypunch operator for a woolen mill (Ah, that dates me!)

Life experience and answer to the question:

Aye. At age twenty-three, I was beaten and had a knife put to me throat by a bi-polar, alcoholic Vietnam Vet who I was divorcin’ at the time. I’ve used that fear and aspects of the experience in me writin’. I’ve also used the characteristics that kept me alive—strength, determination, resilience, and street smarts. I learned first hand about PTSD, what war does, how it effects families, what violence looks and feels like, and can empathize with those who continually face the threat of violence and death during war and at home.

Ha’ ye ever taken a dark road and been lost?

Job experience during my thirties:  artist, editor of a literary arts magazine, graphic artist, cultural resource coordinator for the arts

Life experience and answer to the question:

No. I’ be lost a time or two, but ha’ ne’er taken a dark road. Even when I was wi’ me ex-husband, we had a child, traveled, and moved to Oregon from the East Coast. My son and Oregon were my greatest gifts from the ex, and I troll those waters, too, for me writing. The dark always yields to the light.

What terrifies you and why?

Job experience from forties onward: strategic planner at a community college; graphic designer and illustrator; writer

Life experience and answer to the question:

Nothing terrifies me, not after the experiences of my twenties, after the death of my best friend in high school, the suicide of my father, the terror of my ex. I follow me passion, have a terrific family, live in paradise, have the love of a great man, and if anything would frighten me, it would be the thought of losing any of my family, especially outliving the young ‘uns. But I don’t live there. I do however explore the possibilities, using those fears in the current work in progress “Parallel Crossings” where the five-year-old daughter of the main character is kidnapped by her ex-husband, and the girl is never found. That’s how I work the whole bloody thing into a story.

Guest author Erika Dreifus answers one of me questions

To show you scallywags what happens with authors when you ask questions like the ones above, I contacted Erika Dreifus, author of the brilliant debut short-story collection Quiet Americans. The connected stories about the Jewish experience during and after the Holocaust are so different and rich with characters who feel so real, I had to ask Erika the following question. Her answer follows.

Have you ever had a personal tragedy that gives you a strong empathy for your characters and what they had to endure?

“I think that the opposite situation may be true, that the immense good fortune and privilege with which I have been blessed are what have attracted me to the characters, themes, and events in Quiet Americans. It is because I find it so difficult to envision coping with the challenges that are woven into the stories that I have tried so diligently to do exactly that: envision. Then, too, the fact that certain characters and circumstances are so closely modeled on my beloved grandparents and what they did, in fact, have to endure does add a strong dose of personal connection to the mix.”

* * * * *
So there ye ha’ it! All told, if ye do one thing this month to celebrate me birthday, go to an author’s meet and greet, reading, or signing. No bones about it. They put their whole life into their work, and we benefit.

From the Gobsmacked ship to yours, a hearty hi-ho!
Captain Val

Coming Up!
May Giveaway!
“Platform, Flatform”
“A View of My Writers Room Wall: What Inspires Me”
“Oh, Google, My Name is …”

… and soon an interview with Jessica Maxwell of Roll Around Heaven