Saturday, July 25, 2009

JO Chats With MO - Q & A

(Click on link to see Maureen's interview with Allison on TIC Channel 4 in Trinidad)

Q: One T&T reviewer, Debbie Jacob, likens your work to the magical realism of Wilson Harris, who is also Guyanese. Have you read him and has he influenced your style?

A: In my early youth I read a couple of Wilson Harris' books and loved them, and later devoured Gabriel Garcia Marquez's. I am not conscious of any direct influence of their styles on my writing, but these are authors whose works appealed to me. I must re-read Harris!

Q: What's the 'read for pleasure' culture like these days in Guyana?

A: It’s an uphill battle to get young coastal Guyanese to read books. Only books that have become popular movies stir our youth’s interest. In fact one question I got quite a few times on my visits to schools was, ‘When is the movie coming out?’ People in the hinterland, on the other hand, don’t have the same ease of access to the latest DVDs, television programming, computer and video games, etc., and so tend to read much more.

Q: What inspired Legend of the Swan Children specifically? and - How has life in Guyana influenced the work?

A: Some inspiration came from my nieces and nephews, Wanda, Ishaq, Damian, Omari, Kadir, and Talisa, who never ceased to amaze me with their insights, but the real impetus was a poignant dream I had of the boy who would later become the protagonist of my novel. As a young child growing up, I was influenced by that period of great cultural exchange between a newly independent Guyana and Latin America. Much later, during my years of hosting workshops for early school leavers, I was fascinated by students' tales of a free-spirited life on the borders between Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil. Not surprisingly in retrospect, Alex Springfeather is, like Guyana, a bridge between the English Caribbean and Latin America.

Q: Will we meet Alejandro again in a sequel? And are you working on anything else?

A: If everything goes according to plan, then yes, you will see Alejandro again. I have begun work on a sequel. I’m also working on a book for adults, and I’ve been asked to collaborate with a friend on the English version of a very touching biography published in Chinese.

Q: Your web site is so unique. I know you created it, including the illustrations yourself. Can you tell us about that process?

A: Many of the illustrations were created at the same time the book was conceived. It was a particularly fertile period in my life. I would visualize scenes, and then, using the mouse, sketch them on my computer, paying very close attention to details. That was my way of bringing my tale into reality. Most of these drawings have been shifted from the website, and will soon be viewed as part of my book trailer on YouTube. (STAY TUNED!)

Q: You were recently interviewed in Trinidad on CH 4 TIC by Allyson Hennessey. Any thoughts/ tips for other authors about that process - being interviewed on live television. (any chance of a clip and you tube link?)

A: Just be yourself, I would say. It helps to have someone as wonderful as Allyson on the other side of the table, of course, but you can’t go wrong if you keep it real. When my brain couldn’t find the right answer fast enough, I employed the tactic of slow emphatic speech learnt during my days of presentations and conferences. I’m happy to say it still works! A final word of advice: if you don’t want your speech to grow thick by the end of the interview, make good use of the glass of water the interviewer puts before you. I didn’t! Excerpts from the interview are now on YouTube.

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