A lot of what readers take from a
work of art is what they bring to it...
|A return to "Paradice" isn't always easy|
First question, let's start with a summary of the book, in your own words?|
"It is a Caribbean novel of love, family, politics and personal discovery; it's the story of Nikki, whose journey home begins with her mother's death."
|Interview with - Joanne C. Hillhouse - Caribbean Author (May 2012)|
In reading the book, what messages or ideas would you like readers to take away with them?
"I believe a lot of what readers take from any work of art has to do with what they bring to it.
It's been interesting to me to see the variety of ways early readers have responded to the book and to indivdual characters; this one relating to this character, that one to that character, a lot of it having to do with their own realities and experiences.
For me it was less about making a point and more about journeying with this character through her sense of feeling lost and unrooted; through her desire to connect and her fear of trusting those connections, as she tries to figure out where she fits in this family, in this Antigua, in this world, as she finds the courage to make certain bold choices, and to stumble through bad decisions and life's blindsides but keep going. Family and loss, stumbling through both were preoccupations of mine during the writing of the book. But I suppose if there is a message, or effect more than message, since I am a Caribbean writer, hopefully being discovered by readers in other places; I want to share my world and for them to understand that the tourist brochures notwithstanding, even paradise (as the Caribbean is referred to) is far from perfect. Perfection is an illusion and, as Nikki is reminded, we don't get to pick and choose, do we, which parts of it, of life, we want to deal with, we have to stand up to all of it and no two people do that in quite the same way."
What was your mission in writing the book?|
"I don't really write with a mission. I'm driven by the things that unsettle me, the things that make me curious; that sense of discovery is a part of my process, I think, that sense of surprise when you think the characters are going to make certain choices, the story is going to go a particular way and it veers down an unexpected path.
I write because of the questions I can't shake, from how to deal with grief and situations that just floor you, to how to get inside of things when you feel like you're always on the outside looking in. I write from the dark and light spaces inside me. I write because I want to know these people, because they vex and enthrall me, because I crush on them or desire to understand them. And situations that concern me - family, grief, the cynicism of politics, the casualties of the tug of war between preservation and development, the thin line between mental stability and instabilty etc etc as well as the things that bring me joy, music, sunsets, the rhythm of my island - bleed into the process."
How long did it take you to write the book?
"Too many years, many more drafts. I honestly don't remember what year I started "Oh Gad!" but I know I had at least a first draft completed by 2006; I know this because I considered reading from it at a local literary event and then chickened out, and I know that between 2008 and 2009, re-energized by my summer at Breadloaf after having put it down for a while, I worked on what would be the final draft before officially signing with my agent who then shopped it; then between that, and landing a publisher and then the publisher getting it ready for the marketplace we have another couple of years before the 2012 release. Clearly, it felt like forever."
Thanks for your time, and finally, do you think you'll return to these themes in future work?|
"The ways people interact will always compel me I think, as I try to figure out why people do the things they do; hurt each other and so on. I'm an avid people watcher and absorb and store things, small things, instinctively for later use. I believe that the outsider characters, the people who don't quite fit will continue to be a signature of my fiction because I understand these people in way I don't really understand people who walk into a room and fall instinctively into the rhythm of things, people who belong without even trying. I believe that family dynamics will continue to compel me; the back drop of that will likely continue to be Antigua, as it's the space I know best. But I don't limit myself. I'm curious and so I'll go wherever my wandering mind takes me."
Buy Oh Gad! at Amazon.
Read a review at Caribbean Literary Salon.
Visit Wadadli Pen (a venture and Blog by Joanne).