Who has been your biggest support or inspiration? Support: My wife. Without her, I couldn’t do what I do. She’s a world class quilter—you can see her work at http://helenremick.com –who understands obsession, compulsion, and the drive to perfection. We co-exist in a world of art and artists.
Inspiration: M.C. Escher, the man who taught us to see backwards—all those woodcuts were made in mirror image. Christine de Pisan, a poet working to find a place in a man’s world. Jack Moodey, a poet. I once asked Moodey if he’d ever written an epic. His answer: “Six lines or eight?” If that’s not a treatise on art, I don’t know what is. I can’t forget Natalie Goldberg and Robert J Ray. Natalie opens doors to the gifts of the unconscious and shows you it’s good to go deep. Bob Ray is a genius who understands the structure of story in ways no one else ever has. From these people, I derive not just inspiration, but a gentle quieting of the noise in the world. In the quiet, you find truth.
Could you share about any current writing projects? I’m deep into The California Quartet right now. Two novels, The Deification and Valley Boy are already out. I’m working with my publisher on the next two—The Book of Changes and Trio of Lost Souls. I like to work on multiple pieces so I’m also writing the back story for a novel with the working title Prisons of Desire. I know nothing about it yet, and the characters aren’t talking to me.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow? In the early stages of discovery writing, I let it come. I practice timed writing—setting a timer for five, ten, fifteen or more minutes then write until the clock stays stop. I spend a lot of time “writing about the writing.” This is a process that precedes any scene writing but does go into backstory, time, and setting. For example in Gabriela and The Widow, my novel just coming out, I spent a couple of weeks working out the clothing details for Gabriela long before she ever appeared in a scene. Once I understood her character, I could map her clothing changes against character development. When I’ve gotten deep enough into the story through writing about writing, I then write a treatment. This is a technique I picked up from some screenwriters I worked with. After the treatment is fixed, I sequence the scenes to connect objects or characters. Here’s an example from Gabriela and The Widow:
We see Gabriela in Oaxaca through three changes—
She buys a real dress with blue and red flowers on it and she buys a pair of real shoes with laces. What we don’t see is that she has no idea how to tie laces.
Next we see Gabriela buying a pair of Nike running shoes like the shoes las Norteñas wear when they come to the shop where she works.
We are with Gabriela when she buys a pair of white shorts to go with her running shoes but this combination angers Nando who throws her out into the street—what we do know is that it isn’t the shoes and shorts that anger him, but Gabriela’s failure to give him a son.
On her own, Gabriela goes to Mexico City to work as a maid in a hotel. She now has bought a pair of Levis and two blue chambray shirts that she wears when she isn’t in her maid’s uniform. Her shoes are still the Nikes.
When the story has taken shape and I understand more about it, there’s not much need to plan anymore and this relates to your second question…
Do your characters ever want to take over the story? They don’t take over the story, but I get out of the way and let them act and talk and get into trouble. What this means to me is that the “author” has to disappear. It’s their story, so let them tell it.
What is your favourite food? It has to be what the Peruvians call “pachamanca.” In Quechua that means earth pot. You dig a hole, heat rocks, layer in pork, beef, chicken wrapped in banana leaves, lay in whole ears of Indian corn (choclo), cover it all and let it steam. A couple hours later, you unwrap this feast, spread it out on a table and you have one magnificent dining experience. Lots of beer is required.
Are you a morning person or a night owl? I’m up at 5 or 6 each morning, but I stay up late. I like the quiet of both morning and late night. I do my best work then and there’s an added dimension—I’m working while everyone else is wasting their time in dreams. My books are my dreams so the sooner I can return to them, the happier I am.
The Widow (La Viuda) is ninety-two years old. She lives in a house filled with photos and coins, jewels and a sable coat. Aware that her memory is failing but burning with desire to record the story of her life on paper, she hires Gabriela, a nineteen-year-old Mixteca from Mexico. Gabriela is one of the few survivors of a massacre and treacherous journey to El Norte. Gabriela and the Widow is a story of chaos, revenge, and change: death and love, love and sex, and sex and death. Gabriela seeks revenge for the destruction of her village. The Widow craves balance for the betrayals in her life. In the end, the Widow gives Gabriela the secret of immortality.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Women’s Fiction
Rating – PG
More details about the author
Connect with Jack Remick on Twitter