Today we have WCSC (Writer’s Community of Simcoe County) VP, novelist, memoir-ist, poet, massage therapist and writing compatriot, Deepam Wadds. (And, as of late edition edit, WCDR grant recipient. Congratulations, Deepam!)
First off, congratulations on winning the Whispered Words Prose Competition! Had I known YOU were entering, I could have saved myself a bit of money and not entered. Seriously though, I can’t wait to read your entry, and all the others, of course. The anthology will be available to the public the end of May.
Deepam, how do you do it? Balance writing fiction, memoir, chairing a writing community? I have trouble with just one of those things.
This is new. I’m still working at it. I try to book at least one day a week just for writing – where I don’t go online, I don’t do the laundry… I just sit myself down in my jammies with a cup of coffee and write. And because I often have gaps in the day between massage clients, I can write, keep abreast of anything I need to with WCSC, and do the email and blog thing. My son doesn’t need me the way he once did, so that affords me more time as well.
It’s all about balance and discipline. Speaking of balance, do you find it hard writing fiction after writing memoir or vice versa?
No, it’s good to have more than one project on the go at a time for me, that way I have no excuses not to write. The only thing that I’m stuck on right now, is that I feel compelled to write everything in first person present tense, whether it’s fiction or not. It helps me get right inside the time, place and character.
In The Cost of Weather, you write from a man’s point of view. #1) Do you think there is stigma to women writing men and #2) Do you think men writing from a woman’s point of view is weighed differently?
Pat Barker did an unflinching job of it in The Ghost Road and won the Booker Prize for it. Barbara Kingsolver does it flawlessly in Prodigal Summer, and she’s no slouch. I couldn’t say if there is a stigma, but I think that readers may be more critical, more wary. When I read The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga, I had to keep checking the cover to make sure that it said, Robert and not Roberta. Khaled Hosseini pulled it off brilliantly in A Thousand Splendid Suns, about two women in Afghanistan. And most recently, I read Yann Martell’s, Self, wherein the protagonist changes sex twice. In that book he writes about a woman’s brutal rape from within her own head. So, I think the answer lies along the lines of what we were told in A Novel Approach, “You can do anything you want, as long as it works.”
In other words, keep it real. Did the process of writing from a male POV give you any new insights or were you always pretty in tune with a man’s way of thing, per-se?
I learned a lot! It was you who, so astutely, pointed out that two heterosexual men are highly unlikely to sit on a bed together and watch a hockey game! Who knew? I began the story written from the third person and found that I had essentially projected a woman into a man’s body. When I rewrote it in third person, I began to see from his eyes and that helped tremendously. During the process of writing the story I spoke to about a dozen men in-depth about their children; about the loss of contact, their responses, and how they coped. Although it is advised not to have your characters cry, the men I spoke to all confessed to crying A LOT over the loss of their children. I had to find ways to demonstrate his despair other than weeping. Drinking too much is an overused trope for angst, so I only used excess drinking at the nadir of his dark night. It was great fun to write sex scenes from his point of view. I had to change words like “breasts” and “making love” to more guy-like expressions without making him sound like a pig. Challenging, but enlightening.
Do you use a different technique, or come from a different place, when writing either fiction or memoir?
In some ways, it’s the same process – the way I write scenes, descriptions, etc., – but memoir takes a lot more courage and risk-taking than fiction. You have to be honest or else it won’t be interesting to the reader, I don’t think. You have to be willing to look like a fool, to show your flaws, shortcomings, bad decisions, etc., whereas you have some distance with fiction. Note, that I say, “some”. On the other hand, there is limitless material in memoir, so the trick for me right now, at a hundred pages of manuscript, is to begin to shape it. It’s almost a reverse process – with fiction you imagine a story and then create the characters, conflicts, arc and so on, where with memoir, the conflicts are already there, the characters already exist, and you have to make an engaging tale out of the material.
It’s a matter of getting past the emotional blocks, right? Let’s face it, in fiction; it’s easier because it isn’t you. What’s up next? More short stories? I heard The Cost of Weather is under consideration at Penguin, do you have plans for a sequel or a separate story entirely?
It’s funny you should ask about a sequel, because I had to slay almost fifty pages of very hot writing because it didn’t further the story I was telling. I had thought of doing a parallel storyline with the protagonist and his love interest, but I let that go. So I have this story which isn’t exactly a sequel, but has the same timeline and some of the same characters. But right now, I’m focussing on the memoir of my years in India. Periodically, I’ll write something at Sanctuary that turns into a short story, a piece of flash fiction or a poem that I think is good enough to submit to a journal or a contest, and that always feels great, because it’s DONE. It might take a couple of weeks to perfect, but then I send it off and it’s GONE, FINISHED, COMPLETE, and that is so gratifying. I also started another novel for which I have about seventy pages written, called Roadkill, about an independent woman who works for the public works department and struggles with her longing for freedom and her need for love.
And finally, if you were at the point where you had several books published and were an in demand writer, would you do anything different?
I have some very loyal massage clients who have told me that I’m not allowed to stop giving massages when I’m rich and famous. So I think I would limit my number of sessions to them! Otherwise, to wake up each morning and be able to sit down with my coffee and my laptop for four hours a day would be ideal. What I am finding is that I can do the beginning stages of a project in pieces – an hour here and an hour or two there, but as it begins to take shape and have substantial weight I need time and space to hold it all at once – to keep the perspective of the whole requires unbroken time. That’s why my aim is to do a long residency at Banff next spring. My memoir should be ready by then for a solid span of time to craft it into a polished manuscript. In this ideal world you describe, of me as a successful author, this dedicated time would be the norm. Isabelle Allende says goodbye to her family and moves to a cottage on her property in preparation for writing. They bring her meals, but she is in virtual isolation. I don’t think I’d ever go that far, but being incommunicado for stretches of time fuels not only the muse, but also the mathematician, the philosopher, the psychologist and the dreamer – just some of the things a writer needs to be.
Every writer struggles with their inner critic telling them they aren’t good enough. We spoke about writing insecurities, contests and judging, and how that can sometimes get a writer down. You told me something that really stuck with me. You submitted a piece to a contest and had it not even place in the top ten but you didn’t give up on it. You saw something in it and took a second chance with it. You sent it in to a literary journal and it ended up being submitted by the journal to the Journey Prize award. “Choose the Hammock” is proof that you can’t please all the readers all the time.
One final thing, I’ve been dying to ask you about your name since I first meet you. What is the origin of your name? Do people ask you about it all the time? Am I pronouncing it correctly? Do you still answer to Susan?
When I became a disciple of Osho (then Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) in 1983, I was given this name, which means, Light. Because clarity is one of my life’s major goals, if you will, that name has always resonated and spoken for me; it is my constant reminder to stay alert and pay attention. I deliberated about using it for my writing life, because I understand the confusion people have when they see that I am about as WASP as they come. But I decided to use it, in part because it is relatively unique, and hopefully memorable.
Without further ado, here is an excerpt from The Cost of Weather. Of the two pieces Deepam sent me, I liked this one the best. It really shows the frustration and imbalance that prompted the story.
The next morning, after trying the door and knocking, I stood with my back to Beth’s door and waited, the sun warm on my face. I bounced on my toes, fingering the phone in my pocket. Sensing movement behind me, I turned, catching sight of a curtain floating into place. I rapped harder than before. Sophia’s musical voice lifted into a question. A sharp response from Beth and the door didn’t open. I pulled out the phone and called the police.
An hour later, they arrived – one sturdy dark-haired woman and an older bored-looking man. Beth applied an earnest face and told the female officer, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about. We were just getting ready.” She called to Sophia, “Come on, Sophie, your papa is here.”
Then she leaned toward the officer and told her, “Half the time, he doesn’t even show up.”
“Hey!” I said to both of them. “That’s a lie. I’m here every single week.”
The officer glanced at Beth, shut her notebook and shook her head. “We can’t manage every dispute. Mister Rendler.”
Sophia skipped to the door. “Papa!” she laughed, “ I telled Mommy it was you.” She pointed to the two officers. “Why is the police here?”
“Why are the police here,” corrected Beth.
“Ya! Can we go for a ride?” Sophia peered up at the woman’s badge.
“They’re here because of Simon,” Beth said. “He called them because we didn’t come out fast enough.”
Pulling at the brim of her cap, the officer scowled and thumped down the stairs.
“I’ve been here for an hour,” I said loud enough for everyone to hear, including the half-dozen people gathered in the street, their faces flashing blue and red in the police car lights.
I’ll leave you with one final quote. When asked about writing from different points of view, male or female, or subject matter, something I struggle with, Deepam said this “Write it well and it doesn’t matter,” words I live by.
For more of Deepam, you can find her here.
As always, please let Deepam know what you think and feel free to comment and tell your friends.
To see who has graced The Author’s Voice in the past, click here. There are some great quotes that stuck with me listed there, for each author, and now Deepam has been added. I will keep it updated as to their publication status.
So, from my virtual interview chair, this is the Author’s Voice signing off until next month. As always, keep your pen on the paper.