It's interview week. First with Amy Guth whose debut novel, Three Fallen Women, is a knockout, and then with Gregory Maguire, long-time children's author who found his fame in the adult novel, Wicked.
Today, I'm celebrating the joy of a new job, Central Park in the rain, the sounds of the subway, and a conversation with Amy Guth, author of Three Fallen Women. These things may not seem related, but they are indeed. To fully understand how, you need to read this book.
Interview with Amy Guth, Part I.
THREE FALLEN WOMEN is a novel filled with an intricate web of emotions and actions in which a reader is so involved that occassionally the feeling to slap a character and immediately hug her pervades the immersion. I gasped, cheered, gagged, shuddered, and yes – I admit – watered up too. I was lucky enough to have met Amy Guth just before this novel's release last fall at the Decatur Book Festival and have stayed in contact with her since. After reading the first two pages, I fawned all over her and begged for this interview. She graciously accepted.
Let's get started.
SRR: First, I enjoyed Three Fallen Women so much, Amy. It was simply electrifying. I felt as though there is a part of me in all of them, so much of each of the characters resonated. Do you feel that women all have these extremely layered personalities? What about men?
AG: Thank you! I absolutely feel like there are many layers to our personalities. I'm sure we probably have access to different parts of ourselves at different points in our lives, hopefully discovering deeper layers as we age and rack up new life experiences. I'm not sure if that is sex-specific, because I think that's just part of being human. What is probably most likely is that women and men are socialized in such different ways that different dimensions of personality and psyche are taught to emerge, manifest and remain hidden, depending.
SRR: Because of these character complexities in Three Fallen Women, I have to wonder: Did you ever study philosophy, or is your socio-awareness a part of you inherently?
I love Philosophy. I did study it a bit in passing, but it wasn't my undergraduate focus so much. I say that, but I think I'm inclined that way and sort of put things through that kind of philosophical filter anyway. I'm really into physics, and I think a lot of that is present in TFW, too. I was reading a book about String Theory at the time, a topic I really enjoy reading about and considering, and that was really coming through in my writing. Around then, too, I was renting this place back in NYC and, upon moving a shelf one day, knocked a bit of plaster and found a bullet in the wall! I followed it's path back and found a patch in the wall, and the next wall. Finally I got the building super to admit that there was a robbery and shooting in the building over a decade prior. A few weeks later, I had people over for dinner and a couple I knew got into this horrible argument right in that area of the apartment. So, I started thinking about a room having scars of sorts and when I sat down to write and explore it, I think my mind went to explain it in terms of physics and philosophy. Probably a few other things I have tucked away, too.
SRR: True that! Three Fallen Women could be described as an ethereal glimpse into how our lives become interwoven – with others, dreams (both shattered and promising), ourselves. Here, I'd like to share a tad of this string theory theme from the book. (And now that I look back, perhaps it's why I became so hooked anyway, not even realizing the strings of TFW tied to my own science background and the love of magic realism variables in "real life").
"Déjà vu, you see, is little more than smelling trails you blazed in your last incarnation. It isn't stored in any shred of cognitive material (not the brain, not even the watery rawness surrounding it), for, as nobody knows, our underused brains are never to be trusted. No past-life memories are stored in our shifty heads, ready to be repressed or forgotten or dismissed in a moment. If you are a returner, past-life tracks are scattered about, left behind by the you before you. So déjà vu is never handled correctly. Instead of grabbing it, knowing you left strings behind in This Place, and following it around a while, it is marveled at and psychics and hypnotists are called in and the whole glorious thing is spoiled."
SRR: Did the concept of TFW arise from your own experiences or segments of your own life? Not in terms of having been an abused, confused druggie, but the feelings and situations that lead us astray from ourselves.
AG: That's interesting that you asked that, because it's sort of connected to something I've been thinking about a lot lately, the right to write. I never map out what I'm going to write, I just sit down and write and let it take on a life of its own. So, I sat to write one day and wrote about a character in the middle of such a sensitive issue and I stopped and wondered if I had the "right" to go there. I mean, if we were limited to write about only variations of our own experiences, doesn't that take a lot of creative wind out of our sails? Anyway, to bring it back around, I haven't ever been in situations anywhere near the situations in Three Fallen Women, but sure haven't we all had moments in life when we realized we'd gotten away from being our authentic selves? Everyone has. No doubt.
At the time I wrote TFW, I was seeing a lot of people, particularly women, who were having such difficult times enforcing their personal sense of boundary and without the roots that boundaries lend, these people were getting pushed more and more until they'd find themselves in their dire situations and people around them would wonder how things happened to suddenly or why this person had "snapped", when it felt so clear to me.
So, I tried to convey a sense of sympathy, I suppose, in the novel. I didn't just write Frieda lashing out and making these incredibly brazen choices, but I tried to leave judgement out of the text and understand how she got to that point, almost supporting her choices as reasonable ones to her, given her circumstances, even if they are painful and dangerous choices.
And that's all for today. On Saturday, I'll wrap up Part II!
Places to buy THREE FALLEN WOMEN; see reviews and such here at Amazon (with a 5 star rating, I might add).
And now for something completely different...
A book called Private Soldiers by a talented writer and soldier, Benjamin Buchholz.
I know Ben and his writing, so this is one nonfiction book I'm looking very forward to reading - a true account of one battalion, complete with professional and candid photos. Proceeds are donated to family support groups and memorial funds, so we can not only support our troops and their families, but also engage ourselves, through first-hand accounts, about what's really going on in Iraq.
Happy birthday to my son and my mom. They are both my most wonderful assets and biggest pains in my ass.
June 7 rocks!
HERE is Part II