Get a Free Ebook

Five Inspirational Truths for Authors

Try our Video Classes

Downloadable in-depth learning, with pdf slides

Find out more about My Book Therapy

We want to help you up your writing game. If you are stuck, or just want a boost, please check us out!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Author Interview~Lynn Lurie

Lynn Lurie is the winner of both the 2007 Juniper Prize for Fiction from the University of Massachusetts Press and the Chapter One contest from The Bronx Writers' Center. Lurie is a part-time Humanities professor at Farleigh Dickson University. She lives in New York.

Corner of the Dead centers on a Genocide in Peru and the main characters are outsiders. I know that you did volunteer work in Ecuador 25 years ago, how did that experience influence the story?
My experiences in Ecuador were nothing like what is depicted in Corner of the Dead insofar as I was never a witness to violence. In Ecuador there was no correlative to the Shining Path Guerillas and therefore no counter-insurgency by the government. The terror of the story is based on research, which among other things relied on reading countless first person testimonies as well as speaking with those who had been affected, but the latter wasn't done until after the book was finished. I wanted to make sure I hadn't misrepresented those who had suffered.
That said, the feeling of peace, the love of the Andes and it's people took hold of me when I was a Peace Corp volunteer. I lived in a remote indigenous community where the women spoke very little or no Spanish. I was tutored in Quechua and it was the language I heard everyday for nearly two years. I carried the village of Gatazo Zambrano with me over the next 20 years or so years even though I did not return until I had finished the book. The village I had lived in was nearly the same. I knocked on people's doors and they still lived where they had once lived. The cuyera, a barn for guinea pigs, where I lived was still there as were the remnants of my garden. The stand of the solar showers, built out of concrete blocks, had never been taken down. Many of my characters are drawn from people I knew then.
Of course there are differences between Andean Ecuador and Andean Peru but as I say in the book lines drawn by men across history are artificial boundaries. The indigenous population from both countries are descended from the Incas, speak the same language, although different dialects, have similar farming practices, produce similar crops, live in homes and communities set up in the same manner, so for the purposes of this story the differences of the post conquest history of these two countries was not relevant.
The terror in Corner comes from a very different place, from having had a very sick son. The first draft was not set in Peru but in a hospital. However, I realized no one, including myself would want to read what I was writing. I needed a different setting. To me political terror, losing one's home, not trusting the person in the next town, not believing in anything, losing loved ones, losing your sense of purpose, feeling vulnerable and under attack all the time, never knowing if or when normalcy might return, having virtually no control over the enemy, is how it felt to be a parent of a very sick child. The sounds of children crying in Corner are the sounds of the children in the pediatric neurology ward at a large NYC hospital. I have also heard the children in the Andes cry, I promise you, the voices of crying children are the same. Terror is terror. My son has been well now for six years.
What theme(s) exists in Corner of the Dead that you hope the reader grasps?
Corner of the Dead is an exact translation from the Quechua of the word Ayacucho, which is a department in Peru that was especially afflicted by the violence and political dislocation perpetuated by the Shining Path Guerillas in the early 1980's. So, it is a real place that has a history of real horrors but it is also a metaphor for human suffering quite apart from location or place on a map, referring to the terrain each one of us knows. That internal sadness one feels about the immense quantity of suffering that exists in the world. Yet in spite of what we know, for the most part, we are required to get up and go through all of what it is we do in a day.
What's something you wish you'd known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?
This will sound like the kind of advice your mother would give that you would like to dismiss outright but I do believe the journey writing takes you on is the most important part, not to say it isn't wonderful to see a cover and the text displayed in the format of a book. What you learn as you write or as you read is what is most important not the ISBN number on the cover. It's a luxury to be able to write and to be able to read, I wish more people valued reading as one of the few treasures in life.
What's your favorite writing tool?
I have no favorite writing tool. If I'm stuck I look at photographs or paintings, walk through any museum nearby or pull books from the shelves if I am not motivated to go out into the world. I find children inspirational, not just what they say or how they look, but the way they are in the world, it is completely different than adults. Just yesterday in the rain I saw a father in midtown in a great rush trying to get his daughter to walk faster but she was holding an empty styrofoam coffee cup outside the umbrella trying to catch the rain. I was hoping the father would stop tugging on her and realize it was really important that she catch the rain, that maybe he would realize that being five minutes late was worth it if you could arrive with some drops of rain in an old coffee cup.
Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would like to accomplish? A specific them you would like to cover?
I was working on a second novel which also took place in South America. I have a solid first draft but when I sat down to revise it I realized it wasn't the story I had to tell. I took courage from Corner of the Dead to do something entirely different, and number two was more of a continuation. I put it aside and I'm working on a story that takes a tremendous amount of courage to write. It gives me nightmares, makes me sweat, but I think pushing to do what you are afraid you can't do is what I want to do this next time.
What would you tell a person if they expressed a desire to become a published author?
Being a writer is a mandate for me, not a choice. I tell my children you do what you are compelled to do in life and do it at the highest level. If you are lucky enough to know what that is then that is half the war. What one is compelled to do changes over time, a human life is long. You can't start too soon. Writing is the most glorious gift I am able to give myself, to find a reader is the final stage, it means somebody understands, we look for that all the time even if we aren't writers. It is the instinct to be understood and to understand.


Post a Comment

Don't be shy. Share what's on your mind.