Tell us a little about yourself.
I actually grew up in North Carolina, attended the University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina where I met my husband on my first day at college, and graduated Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
I married in 1982 when I graduated Duke with a Bachelor of Health Science Degree with a certificate in Medical Technology. I then moved to Boston, Massachusetts where I worked in a HLA Lab typing organs for transplantation, and then a Blood Bank while my husband studied medicine.
I remained in Boston for nearly a decade while my husband did a surgical internship and then entered a residency for urology.
I gave birth to our first child while in Boston. I also made the decision to become a stay-at-home mother.
In 1991 we moved here to Oakland, California where I gave birth to our second and middle and then our last and youngest child.
At the outset of my second pregnancy I entered graduated school studying psychology. In 1995 I graduated the California Institute of Integral Studies 1995 with a MA in Psychology and in 1999 became licensed to practice Marriage and Family Therapy. It was during this time that I studied Old Testament Literature at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California.
I gave birth to our third and last child one month before sitting for my oral exams towards licensure.
My education and work experiences in Boston provided me a professional understanding of medicine and the anxieties people face when patients or they have family members in the hospital. That my husband was studying surgery provided and even deeper and more specialized understanding of medicine--both professional and personal.
During our last year in Boston, I and our daughter accompanied my husband to Ahmedabad and Nadiad, India in the state of Gujurat, where at the Mujibhai Patel hospital my husband assisted staff surgeons and performed urologic surgery. During the 6 weeks there we also travelled to Mt. Abu in the state of Rajasthan, the capitol, Delhi, and the Taj Mahal in Agra. While there I read The Psychic Being by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Our time in India stirred my spiritual longings.
I had always held an interest in psychology. Growing up in the Southern United States also gave me an interest in understanding human individuals and myself. When I became a stay-at-home mother in Boston, I began to read Freud and Jung. Moving to Oakland in Northern California, a bedrock of self-introspection in America enlivened my interest in studying psychology. But I also have this spiritual side. California Institute of Integral Studies, founded by Haridas Chaudhuri, allowed me the opportunity to study psychology along with taking courses in Eastern Philosophy.
It was during this time that attended The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. I wanted to study the Christian literature of the Bible while I was studying the Buddhist texts of the Kama Sutra, and the Hindu texts of The Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.
My three years at The California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA was like being on a spiritual retreat. It was also challenging since I was wife and mother of two young children. I had to take my child, two at the time, to school and then to the baby sitter before heading to my classes in San Francisco.
I worked really hard.
Studying psychology gave me a strong background for developing characters. That I also studied various spiritualities and religions gave me the understanding of how a person’s spirituality and religious beliefs, or lack thereof, reveal another important aspect of personality and character that provides the basis for plot.
What books came along at just the right time to influence your reading/writing?
I have several books that have inspired me and influenced my writing. he one that stands out from some time back is A Sin of Color by Sunetra Gupta. I also have to say that The Inheritance of Loss by Kirin Desai comes in at a tight second.
These two books explore aspects of life for which words most often provide insufficient demonstration and explanation.
Sunetra Gupta and Kirin Desai craft scenes containing action, dialogue and setting that show long distances the heart and soul travels within myriad interactions with those we most love and least understand.
In short, they explore alienation at its deepest core, the disconnect that most often lies between family members, unspoken and many times unacknowledged, but all the more present and palpable--and how we are made better or worse or left unchanged by these experiences.
What is your most rewarding experience during the writing process?
I write full-time a luxury provided by work as a stay at home mom and my husband’s unfailing support of my art and business.
NOJ Publications produced The House. N-O-J is Jon spelled backwards. My husband read The House and said, “This is good! It needs to be published.”
“I’m not about to waste your money and my time seeking representation from an agent or the attention of a publisher,” I responded. “The economy is terrible, the state of publishing even worse. No one is buying manuscripts, and certainly not from an unknown like me.” With tongue and cheek I then said, “The only way this story will go public is through self-publication.”
“Then I’ll self-publish it,” said my husband.
His words placed the onus on me. Refusing to look a gift horse in the mouth I took hold of the opportunity to publish with my husband supplying the funds. That was two years ago. I did not always know where I was going with this project of both writing The House while at the same time seeking out and nurturing ways of promoting and marketing it. But here I am with The House having debuted in October 2010, reviewers liking it and connecting with more readers in this interview.
Tell us more about The House. Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?
The House is a work of Women’s Fiction that explores the life of Anna Manning when on receiving the divorce she has requested and the opportunity to see their home, she learns that her husband of over 3 decades is dying.
The underlying theme of The House is that all of us hold regret for one action or another that we have committed. And if given the chance we would change or alter that action or make another choice. As such we are all seeking forgiveness.
All of us have injured someone. And all of us have experienced emotional hurt.
And yet ultimately our salvation, our ability to transcend the wounds and turmoil of this life rest in the co-creative hands of others and ourselves in our ability to seek atonement for the wrongs we have committed, particularly to those we love and who love us, and in our ability to forgive.
The House is available at your local bookstore, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0978796721/httpanuellec-20
Readers can also purchase signed copies @ my website.
What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
Anna is a devoted and loving mother as well as a committed wife.
And yet she has difficulty receiving love and remaining comfortable in experiencing passion. In a strange way she thinks she does not deserve happiness.
Anna’s mother, Elena, was emotionally distant. That she marries Edward, who holds his own secret hurts is not coincidence. I wonder if Anna, when she was in her twenties, could have accepted Inman and all he had to offer.
Anna is very similar to the description she gives Inman of Millicent’s mother, Henrietta Regarde. Hearing Inman’s story pierces the surface of Anna’s defenses.
With Edward gone in the wake of his quiet penitence and regret she can but look within. The distant stance she takes with Inman provides space and time within which to examine herself, something she has not had the luxury of doing here-to-fore. Prior to Inman Anna was busy being either someone’s daughter, husband, mother or all three.
It is amazing what we as women can recognize about ourselves when confronted with acceptance and love despite our foibles.
And yet often times this does kind of heart jolting and transformative experience does not often come until we are older.
Again, as with Anna, I wonder if somehow wifedom and motherhood hold the ability to prime us for surrendering to this when presented, or if perhaps it is but a matter of age, that for all individuals kneads our defenses leaving us little, if any, energy to fight and resist accepting that which for which we have always longed.
In many ways, Inman as Anna’s friend and lover was the mother for whom she had yearned.
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
Upon graduating my MFA program I began exploring various ways and methods for planning out my stories and novels, but that also left enough undiscovered territory that I gained even more excitement to write the story. I wanted to develop or find an outline that fueled my desire to write, not take it away with planning to point of leaving no mystery.
The Franklin Outline as explained in Writing For Story did that for me.
A requirement of the class is to use Franklin’s Outline or some variation thereof to plan a story or novel and then write the story or beginning of the novel, about 10,000 words.
Creating characters has always been easy. Developing a way to keep the story moving and not bogged down in dispensing information about a protagonist’s personality has presented my greatest challenge.
Plotting stories is where my growth points lay, most specifically deciding where and when to dispense what knowledge, as deemed by the action, interaction and conflict at hand.
The Franklin Outline cleared the path for me to write by giving me a road map, while leaving the territory untouched.
Following the blueprint I created for my story, I simply wrote plot--action, what was happening, the cause-and-effect movement of the narrative. Unlike with other stories I had written I uncovered or rather realized the personalities of my characters along the way as I wrote. This is much like what readers experience when reading a good story.
The writer does not throw at readers everything about characters all at once. Rather she or he drops breadcrumbs as demanded by the action in scenes. The action in scenes is essentially plot.
Since writing The House I have modified my method for sketching stories and novels, but Jon Franklin’s Method of outlining a work of fiction sits at the heart of how I plan.
The Franklin outline helps me chart where the story is destined, and yet I have no idea the roads that the story will take in getting there--i.e. discovery.
This makes writing less stressful and fun and ultimately allows me to write more deeply of the places action and experiences my protagonist undergoes along the journey.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Growing up in North Carolina, not far from you, Susan, on a farm between Faison and Clinton, North Carolina provided me a lot of freedom to think and be with myself. My paternal grandfather purchased the farm a 300-acre farm that my paternal grandfather had purchased 2 years after my father’s birth. I grew up on land that carried a lot of personal history. Often I would accompany my father into corn and tobacco fields. I also roamed the woods with my dog, Benji.
My time in North Carolina gave me an experience of being with older individuals who bestowed much wisdom simply by being in the presence. I was extremely close with my maternal grandmother. Unfortunately my paternal grandmother died 5 months after my birth.
My maternal grandmother lived seven miles from my home on the farm in Faison, North Carolina. My mother was an elementary school teacher. My father was a farmer. Until I reached age five I spent weeks during the school year with my grandmother. My mother would bring me home for the weekends.
My grandmother graduated finishing school at the turn of the century. She had been trained to teach. But instead of going out and teaching she married and began a family. She had a great love of reading.
In the summers I would spend various weeks with my grandmother. Granny’s home was really a kind of second home. She lived until I was 21 years old and wonderfully before dying, she met my husband. Life moved very slowly in rural North Carolina. My maternal grandmother had this small bookshelf--it was big to me--lined with books. As a child I used to sit on the carpet going through those books. Those books spanned many genres. She also subscribed to Jet and Ebony Magazines. I spent many days and afternoons reading those books and magazines.
This was all great preparation for writing. My grandmother also told me stories about her family, most of whom were deceased. She gave me a great love of family, family connections and stories.
As a child I loved reading Nancy Drew Mysteries that revealed my love for wanting to figure things out. Reading mysteries helps you to learn plot. I still love reading mysteries, particularly Victorian mysteries. I spent this past year reading the first 5 novels of Anne Perry’s William Monk Mysteries. I love the way Anne Perry interweaves authorial narrations with character dialogue. Her physical descriptions of characters reveal much of the character’s personality.
Any current projects?
I’m in the middle of the 9th revision of a novel I wrote in 2001, entitled Seasons in Purdah. During NaNoWriMo 2010 (November 2010) I wrote my novel, yet untitled, for this year 2010. I write a novel each year during the fall. On completion of that first draft, I lay it aside and begin revising the novel I wrote either the previous year or as in this case the one I wrote in 2001.
Seasons in Purdah chronicles for one year the plight of a woman who has lost her sight and how her efforts to help a man dying of AIDS assist her in adjusting to her blindness and gaining new perspective and insight on her husband and herself.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
I'm doing a series of interviews with blog talk radio hosts, Twitter Chats and Book Chats this month and into February 2011.
I also host a weekly blog talk radio show, "Book Talk, Creativity & Family Matters"
Anjuelle, it has been great to get to know you better. Best of luck with all endeavors!