A short interview wherein my guest, one of my favorite authors, answers questions about the writing life.
Q: What did you remove from the final draft that readers might like to see?
I deleted an opening scene from the Epilogue (Spring 2010) and a whole chapter just before that written in the male character’s POV, disclosing his feelings for Clarissa, and what happens after she kisses him. More intimate, it’s part emotional hook/part deeper characterization, but I decided it would distract from the story’s main themes and is out of sync with the story presentation that’s largely in the heroine’s POV. And why not leave something for the reader’s imagination? So, I excised it before I sent my draft to the editor. If you’re curious, you can download it from the sidebar at https://evyjourney.net/category/blog/ .
Q: Of all the stories you could have told, why THIS one?
First of all, I had planned on the last book in the series to be about art. I could have chosen to focus on canvas/wall paintings, but there already are a lot of published novels that feature such paintings. Very few focus on illuminated manuscripts, especially stolen ones. Then, as I researched art heists, I was amazed to find a real instance during WW II of an American soldier stealing medieval manuscripts that he kept until he died decades later. It gave me an angle too fascinating to pass up, so this book is loosely based on those events. It goes deeper into motives other than financial gain for art thievery, gives a glimpse into the underbelly of the art world, and suggests medieval manuscripts as precursors to today’s picture books.
Q: How do your personal interests and hobbies influence your writing?
I do art in various media (this, for example: https://tinyurl.com/mr2fx8n6 ). I love to travel and have traveled to Europe, parts of Asia and North Africa. I also love food. These three interests are woven into the themes of Books 4, 5, and 6 of the Between Two Worlds Series—food in Sugar and Spies and All Those Lies, travel in The Shade Under the Mango Tree, and art in The Golden Manuscripts: A Novel. I believe in writing about things in which I have some experience or knowledge. These books, The Golden Manuscripts in particular, also required research that I have fun doing because I always learn something new and unexpected.
Q: As a reader, what do you think is the most important element in a successful written piece?
To some extent, it depends on the book. What has made Pride and Prejudice, for instance, beloved by so many readers even now, two centuries since its initial publication? Whatever it is, it’s most likely not the same reason readers like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. These are two of my all-time favorites—books I reread more than once. Two things they do have in common: 1. universality in the experiences their protagonists go through; and 2. beautifully written narrative in voices unique to each author. The first entices readers and the second intrigues them enough to keep reading and to remember the stories for a long time.
Q: What’s your elevator advice (1 line, no more than 30 seconds) for new and/or aspiring authors? What warning can you give to aspiring writers?
Write, write, write. And don’t expect immediate success. Being an author is a lot of work.
Q: Best advice you received about writing / publishing? And the worst?
I would say the best advice comes from an essay on the Zen of Writing by Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451 now a classic sci-fi novel). In a nutshell, he says: Write, neither for fortune nor fame, but to find your own truth. Finding your individual truth takes lots and lots of writing. And you must do it until you don’t even think about what flows out of your fingers onto the paper or computer screen.
Implicit in this “Don’t Think” idea is that of letting go of control, being open to what presents itself, receiving what comes to you calmly. When you do, the story and its characters should write themselves.
The worst: An unquestioning faith in “Show, don’t tell.” There are times it works and times when instead of “showing,” you have to “write the one true sentence” (Hemingway). Like these, from All the Light We Cannot See:
That great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible if you listen closely enough?
To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.
Clarissa, an Asian/Caucasian young woman has lived in seven different countries and has no lasting connection to any place. She thinks it’s time to settle somewhere she could eventually call home. But where?
She decides to live in the city of her birth. There, she joins a quest for the provenance of stolen illuminated manuscripts—a medieval art form that languished with the fifteenth-century invention of the printing press—hoping it would give her the sense of belonging she craves. But will it be enough?
For her, these ancient manuscripts elicit cherished memories of children’s picture books her mother read to her, nourishing a passion for art.
The trail of the manuscripts leads to an American soldier who served in World War II. Clarissa is anxious to know what motivated him to steal and keep the artwork for fifty years. But instead of easy answers, she finds bigger questions.
Immersed in art, but naïve about life, she’s disheartened and disillusioned by the machinations the quest reveals of an esoteric, sometimes unscrupulous art world. What compels individuals to steal artworks, and conquerors to plunder them from the vanquished? Why do collectors buy artworks for hundreds of millions of dollars? Who decides the value of an art piece and how?
The Golden Manuscripts: A Novel is inspired by the actual theft of medieval manuscript illuminations during the second world war.
About the Author
Evy Journey writes. Stories. Blogs (three sites). Cross-genre novels. She’s also a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse (an ambler).
Evy studied psychology (M.A., University of Hawaii; Ph.D. University of Illinois) initially to help her understand herself and Dostoevsky. Now, she spins tales about multicultural characters dealing with problems and issues of contemporary life. She believes in love and its many faces.
Just as she has crossed genres in writing fiction, she has also crossed cultures, having lived and traveled in various cities in different countries. Find her thoughts on travel, art, and food at Artsy Rambler.
She has one ungranted wish: To live in Paris where art is everywhere and people have honed aimless roaming to an art form. She visits and stays a few months when she can.THE GOLDEN MANUSCRIPTS Book Tour Giveaway
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