Monday, November 1, 2010

Sue Guiney's Blog Book Tour Stop

Though born and raised in New York, Sue Guiney has lived in London for twenty years where she writes and teaches fiction, poetry and plays. Her work has appeared in important literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic, and her first book, published by Bluechrome Publishing in 2006, is the text of her poetry play, Dreams of May. Her first novel, Tangled Roots, was published in May ‘08, also by Bluechrome. Her second novel, A Clash of Innocents, was chosen to be the first publication of the new imprint Ward Wood Publishing and was published in September, 2010. Sue is also Artistic Director of the theatre arts charity which she founded in 2005 called CurvingRoad.

Sue Guiney has stopped by Thoughts from Botswana today as part of her blog book tour promoting her new novel A Clash of Innocents.
Welcome Sue!!
Let's get into some questions.

All of the "expats" in your books seem to be running away from something. As an expat of sorts yourself, do you think we're all doing that in one way or another?

The expat community is a very funny one, I’ve found. There are some who are dragged kicking and screaming into the experience and spend their entire times waiting to go ‘home’. There are others who stay abroad happily for years and years but always seem to be looking over their shoulders wondering what’s happening ‘back there.’ If anything, those sorts of expats don’t start their running until after they’ve moved. But then there are others who leave without the intention of going back to wherever, with the full determination of making their new country their ‘home.’ And of those people, some are running away and others are running to. I think I am one of those running to. But I agree, my characters are usually running away and that is a predicament that fascinates me.

Why did you decide to use first person with Deborah as your narrator? How did that limit you?

This is an interesting and important question for me, because it goes to the heart of something I still haven’t gotten my head around as a writer. After writing my 1st novel. Tangled Roots, in the 1st person I was determined to write my next book in the third. I didn’t want to have to limit myself to the knowledge or understanding of only one person which a 1st person narration necessitates – ie, unless you are the one having the sex, or you are there peeping through the keyhole, you can’t really know or describe what is actually going on. But I seem to need to know who my narrator is. In order to write in a voice of any kind, even an omniscient 3rd person voice, I need to know about the person from whom that voice is coming. In other words, the narrator becomes another character to me and from there it’s a slippery slope into 1st person. I don’t have this problem when I read. I can readily accept other writers’ 3rd person narrators. I just can’t seem to do it myself. But I’m determined to keep trying. But having said this, I didn’t conceive of this book as Deborah’s story. It was always supposed to be Amanda’s story only with somebody else telling it. But Deborah is a pretty strong and pushy broad. Once she got started talking, the story became more and more about her as well.

It felt to me when I finished the book that perhaps this story might not
be finished. Will there be a sequel? If so, I sort of hoped Deborah would get together with the doctor. Any chance you could work that in?

Wow! I’m so glad you got that inkling of a relationship between them. I thought maybe I had been too subtle! Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that I am thinking long and hard about setting my next novel in Cambodia as well. There is still a lot there I’d like to explore. And I love having characters weave their way from one book to another. Careful readers of Tangled Roots might recognize that the character of Amanda in A Clash of Innocents is the same young woman whose wedding opens up that first book. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Deborah and the others end up in a new novel, though I would be surprised if it was a sequel. I’d prefer the novels to be able to stand alone. Though there is something delicious about realizing you already know a part of the life of a character you are now meeting.

Where is Cambodia now? Is there hope?

Cambodia is much better off than it was, but it is far from being sound. It is still a country with some of the worst poverty anywhere in the world, with terrible problems of human trafficking, a very corrupt government. It is a country at a crossroads. But yes, there is hope. There is always I hope, I believe.

What is your next project?

For now I am concentrating on getting as many people to know about A Clash of Innocents as possible and I am planning a trip to SE Asia where I will do a series of charity workshops and events – my way of bringing the fruit of my inspiration back to the people who inspired it. But I am starting to plan my next novel and, unofficially, there’s a good chance that interested people will be able to read a lot more of my poetry soon.

Fantastic! Thanks for stopping by Sue. Best of luck with the book.
If you want to buy Sue's book A Clash of Innocents click HERE.


Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Interesting interview, Lauri!

Sue, I particularly related to your discussion on 1st/3rd person narrator. I read & enjoy either, but when I write my best & mots intense writing is in the 1st person. I try 3rd person but there always seems to be a distance between me and that character. Interestingly, when beta readers have read my multi-voiced novel (still unpublished) most of them related best to the character whose voice was 3rd person, and she was the character I was least satisfied with. Go figure!

Good luck with your books!

Sue Guiney said...

Thanks so much for giving me this chance to think out loud, Lauri. And thanks for commenting, Judy. This question of narrative voice really does continue to haunt me.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Its such an important question - great discussion, both.

Lauri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauri said...

Judy that's funny that readers like your 3rd person parts better. I write in first person but I do sometimes feel cramped, I want to move around, that's why I really like books that are in first person but changing with each chapter, like Andr Brink's Chain of Voices for example or parts in The Lacuna which I just finished. I think each has it's good and bad points. But I do get you Judy that as a writer you feel a distance in 3rd, I often go a bit narrator/god-like in a bad way when I write in 3rd.

Sue- thanks for stopping by my blog, you're thoughts are always intersting and get me thinking.

Hi Vanessa, glad you stopped by, haven't seen you around for awhile you must be busy with your novel.Hope it's going fab!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

LOL, Lauri, one of the things I like about writing is that I can be god-like (or at least a control freak) so I should LOVE 3rd person. Oh well. Maybe when I'm more experienced I'll actually enjoy writing in 3rd. But I suspect, like Sue, this issue may haunt me for ages...

Not Hannah said...

Interesting a control freak, the 3rd person-heavy writing I'm doing starts to make sense...

Adele Ward said...

I'm amazed at how each interview intrigues me with something new. I've lived as a Brit abroad in Italy so could identify with the expats.

I've also written in first and third person, and once changed a whole novel from first person to third person to see if it worked better. It did.

The first person narrator was a man doing wrong things for the right reasons and he just sounded too self-centred and self-justifying in first person. The sex bits also felt odd to me writing as a man in first person!

I'm just starting a new novel and thinking of writing it in first person by alternate characters, or maybe third person, so this is a timely discussion.

Glyn Pope said...

Born in the UK, live in France. I don't even think about the UK and never want to return.
First and third person, I find a fascinating topic. I tried to get my writers group to discuss it but no go.
Clash couldn't have been written as third person. What was going on, particularly with Amanda, Deborah, didn't know, so we didn't either. Though like Deborah I didn't trust Amanda from the moment she walked through the door.
The novel I'm writing at the moment has to be written in the third person as I want to switch from scene to scene, other people's reactions and thoughts. So its not an effort to do so, it's a necessity as to whether to write in the first or third person.

Lauri said...

But you know Not Hannah that even in first person you can control a lot of things. Like Glyn says Sue controlled information getting to the reader regarding Amanda by sticking with Deborah. Third person would have let a lot more info out to the reader before even Deborah knew.

Glyn I'm surprised your writing group didn't want to discuss this. It makes such a difference in the writing of a book. I, like Adele, have had to change a section of a book from first to third and it changes the entire tone of the book. This matters too not just perspective and whose head you're in and what you have access too.

I put the term expat in quotes as it's a word I tend to raise hackles over. I hate to be called it myself. I was born in USA but am now a citizen of Botswana and have no interest whatsoever in living in the land of my birth again. Expat, at least in Bots and likely most of Africa, is very linked with colonialism.

But it rang true Deborah's position in Clash of the Innocents- maybe we all initially run, away or to as Sue has clarified, I'm not sure which applies to me. In many ways once I got here I felt for the first time in my life- at home, so perhaps I was running to.

Glyn Pope said...

Lauri, I hate being called an expat or Brit. I hate the way British people around me still have to send to the UK for their bacon and sausages. Why didn't they just retire to Brighton? I live in France because it is beautiful. I'm the last cottage in a village. I look out onto miles and miles of countryside. But not because I love France, I'm not a Francophile. I'm a European.

Sue Guiney said...

Great discussion, everyone. 1 last thing from me - now that I'm thinking about structure for a new book, I find myself thinking of doing things that are "fun" or "clever" etc, rather than making a choice because it works best for a book. Maybe you don't really know until you're in the middle of it. But the thought of starting 1 way and changing it to another - yikes! I did that with my 1st novel and it took me 9 years to write. I'd rather not have to do that again :-)

Lauri said...

Glyn I know exactly what you mean. I used to get family in USA always asking me what they should send me. I felt like you if I wanted to import everything from USA than why live in Bots?

Anonymous said...

I also enjoyed the discussion on first person vs third person. What a wonderful and inspiring writer you are, Sue. I wish you every success with your book and hope you enjoy the rest of your tour.

Glyn Pope said...

Yesterday most of the afternoon at my writers group was spent discussing the fist, third, second, fourth and omnipresent writing person. It was a fascinating discussion. I can see my children yawning now and saying, 'Yeh, right on Dad!'