This is Part 1 of the interview, which appeared this week on Goodreads. Adrift in the Sound has been nominated for a Goodreads "Reader's Choice Award."
Here's author and book columnist for the Examiner Laura Lafferty's part-one interview with me about my new book Adrift in the Sound, as well as the companion nonfiction read Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing and Publishing. She includes the second half of the interview and a review of the Adrift in the Examiner.
Adrift in the Sound, which takes place in 1973 Seattle and Orcas Island, tells the story of the exceptionally gifted and emotionally vulnerable artist, Lizette Karlson and her struggle to overcome mental illness while seeking love and acceptance. A full review of the book can be found on my October 29th Examiner column http://www.examiner.com/review/adrift...
Q: I was a little surprised by the way Lizette’s mother initially reacted to Lizette’s odd behavior, throwing her out and not wanting to see her. I expected her to be more understanding since she herself was an artist, and artists tend to be somewhat unusual. Did she push Lizette away because her own mental health was in question and it frightened her to see abnormalities in her daughter as well?
A: I’m not sure Lizette’s mother was a real artist. I think her mother was a pretender, which her husband sees and chides her for. Her mental health was ignored because it was convenient for her father and his career. But, I think Lizette’s mother recognized the authentic genius in her daughter’s work, envied it, coveted it, and killed herself over it. In the late 60s, early 70s, millions of kids were rebelling and running away from home—smoking marijuana, getting drunk, having casual sex. There literally were millions of young people living and getting high on the streets in America at that time. I think Lizette’s mother wanted perfection from her daughter and rejected her for embracing the hippie lifestyle, as well as disregarding her talent, which Lizette’s mother desperately wanted for herself.
Q: Did Adrift in the Sound require a lot of research?
A: Yes. I spent hours researching online and reading, particularly the history of the Lummi Nation and the Coastal Salish Tribes, but also orcas that live around the island and in Puget Sound. I took a research trip to Seattle and spent as much time as I could in the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington. I spent tons of hours viewing and exploring the University of Washington’s online photo archive, which includes extensive images of Native Americans from the late 19th Century onward. I also read Seattle newspapers from the time and dipped into the city and state archives.
And, I read books on the 60s and the problems of homelessness. I have worked as a volunteer at Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento, which serves the homeless, but I delved deeper. I love exploring new subjects and guess I caught a bad case of “research rapture.” With experience, I hope to learn how to research more efficiently. Research is fun, but it can be a time suck.
In addition, I read several works of fiction that helped inform the writing, including John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, T.C. Boyle’s Drop City, Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, and Toni Morrison’s Paradise. I had already written the snake chapter when I read Wonder Boys and felt like Michael Chabon was a kindred spirit, exploring some of the same creative ground as me. I read extensively about mental illness and how it was treated in the era, the impact of rape and the practice of midwifery. I read about how to cook heroin and shoot up, and I also spent time on the docks talking with inland boatmen and hung out in some very sketchy bars.
Q: Can you envision Adrift in the Sound on the big screen? If so, who would you want to see in the roles of Lizette and Rocket?
A: That’s such a funny question. They say every writer wants to see their story on the big screen, but I’m not so sure. I think Lindsay Lohan would make a good Lizette, if she could find the discipline to do the work, and Leonardo DiCaprio would make a good Rocket, if he could muster the humility. As the creator of the characters, it would be interesting to see how skilled actors interpret them.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with Adrift in the Sound?
A: That’s a good question, one I haven’t been asked before. My hope is readers will see themselves or something familiar in the characters and, in that recognition, understand the era and its importance to all of us. In some ways, Adrift is a morality play and a history lesson.
Q: You’ve written a very unique companion book to Adrift in the Sound titled Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing and Publishing. What can you tell us about this book?
A: I’ve known co-author Tom Thomas for nearly 30 years. He was my editor when I was doing corporate editorial work in the 80s and early 90s and I appreciated his quick mind. He went on to write more than a dozen books in a variety of fiction genres. I have great respect for him.
Tom took on the final editing and shaping of Adrift as a favor and during a three month period—chapter by chapter, line by line—he challenged me on points of fact, intention, language and style. His emails to me were filled with advice and valuable information about the craft and business of writing. I feel sincerely that it would have been a shame to bury the exchange in my computer and act as if this extraordinary and dynamic discussion had not taken place. I believe that beginning writers, teachers of writing and those who love words will gain a lot from peeking behind the curtain to see a writer and editor at work. I’m grateful Tom agreed to publish our exchange.
Q: What are your future writing plans?
A: Launching a book has been time-consuming. I was warned that would be the case and it’s true. But, I’m working on a book set in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. I’m about a third of the way into the first draft. The main character is focused on her career, getting to the top, but a serious misstep lands her in the delta where she’s given the task of turning a crumbling estate into a five-star destination hotel. She drinks too much, hates what has happened to her and wants out of the boonies. At the moment she’s stuck on a beautiful yacht in a mucky slough off the Sacramento River. The estate’s dock is falling apart and floating away. The mansion has no electricity or running water. I urgently need to get back to the story and figure out how to get my main character back on dry land.
I have a collection of stories, Songs from the Caldera, I’ve been working on for a while and want to publish it next year and I’m beginning research for a memoir. A number of readers have asked about a sequel to “Adrift in the Sound,” and I’m considering it. These projects will take me a number of years to complete. I’d also like to shoehorn in a couple of other books just for fun. I hate that there are only 24 hours in a day!
The second part of this interview can be found on Examiner http://www.examiner.com/article/inter...