Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Interview of Author Timothy Spearman
Latest Book: Must I Remember
Buy Link: http://www.xoxopublishing.com/shop-online
in the following formats: ebook, CD, and in paperback.
BIO: Canadian author single dad with one gorgeous child.
Q: What’s the first thing you did when you received word you’d sold a book?
A: I was overjoyed because it was literally my first taste of success in the artistic world. I have been a professor for many years and now a teacher, but I have made little headway in the artistic world. It is extremely difficult and takes a lot of dedication.
Q: What part of the book is the easiest for you to write? Why?
A: The introduction, which I paradoxically save till last, because it is only at the end that I realize what I set out to do in the beginning. It's kind of like a snake swallowing its tail. Writing is not a linear process for me of beginning, middle and end because I work and live according to a postmodern concept of time.
Q: What part of the book is the hardest for you? Why?
A: The hardest eventually becomes the easiest because you work so hard to master it. For me it has always been dialogue. It has to come across as real and natural and has always created the greatest challenge, but now it comes easily and naturally. Perhaps because I know the world and the people in it.
Q: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
A: My favourite character is Mrs. Rostami. She is an amazingly brave, kind and good woman and is based on someone I know personally. I have met her and find her to be gentleness and wisdom personified.
Q: If one of your books became a movie, which celebrity would you like to star as one of your heroines? Tell us about your heroine.
A: Mrs. Rostami is a caring midwife and nurse, who helps the sick or injured in Afghanistan indiscriminately, even the enemy. Meryl Streep would be my choice since she is good at mastering accents and playing foreign women and is a gifted actress in other ways.
Q: If one of your books became a movie, which celebrity would you like to star as one of your heroes? Tell us about your hero.
A: The hero in my novel is a 10-year-old boy who survived a Taliban camp and the brutal Moscow streets and fierce Russian winter. I would choose an unknown from a poor and bitterly difficult background who could easily relate to and capture and depict the life of this street urchin.
Q: Do all your heroes and all heroines look the same in your mind as you “head write”?
A: Interestingly, I think my heroes and heroines spring from my imagination because they are based on real life people I admire and there are not many of those. The older I get the less heroes I have or the harder they are to find. The ones I find now are really and truly exceptional.
Q: Do you eat comfort food when writing? If so, what food inspires your imagination?
A: The only food I eat when writing are the morsels that feed my mind, the inspiration and ideas that are fed to me by my muse. There is no room for other distractions. Writing is a monastic activity for me done in the temple of the spirit forces.
Q: What hobby do you enjoy when not writing?
A: Researching and discussing topics on radio. It is a wonderful medium for me and I have enjoyed having my show "Shaking a Spear" at Thatchannel.com
Q: What’s your strongest point as a writer?
A: My strongest point is that I have an ability to invent and weave stories that are original and the conjuring of my own unique imagination. I do not like to copy or follow in the shoes of others, but only learn from the masters how to find my own voice.
Q: What is your favorite romance book that you’ve read?
A: Jackie M. Smith's "A Soldier's Vow". I found it really touching and I loved the way that she depicts love and makes sex an expression of it rather than the reverse. Like me, she recognizes the excitement derived from a simple touch or holding hands. That alone can send a bolt of electricity from one lover to another.
Q: You’re on a remote island with a beautiful woman, a computer, and a “mysterious” source of electricity to power your computer. What do you do?
A: Well, as for the mysterious source of electricity, I would say that that would be the charge exchanged between the lovers, which I call chemistry. Whether it would be strong enough to power a computer is debatable, but we might just make our own entertainment so who needs it?
Q: What genre would you like to try writing in but haven’t yet done so? Why?
A: I would like to write a horror novel and probably will do so based on my screenplay "Butterfly Dreams".
Q: Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Chats, or Twitter. Which do you like best and why?
A: I enjoy blogs the most because there you can say your spiel without having to come up with an answer on the spot. Chats are too superficial and dull for me like conversing on the telephone.
Tell us where to find you: website(s), publisher’s page(s), blog(s), Facebook page(s), etc. List them all!
http://www.shakesaspear.com is me and all of me. That's where I put all or most of myself.
"Straw boats to borrow arrows" is a proverb based on a legend about a Chinese military strategist, an adviser to a general. The narrative style of this novel is influenced by the legend. According to the fable, the general asked his adviser to produce one hundred thousand arrows for his army in advance of a military offensive across the Yangtze River. Rather than decline what the general considered a mission impossible, the adviser agreed to the challenge.
Not only did he promise to deliver the arrows, but insisted it could be done in only three days. He vowed to deliver one hundred thousand arrows within seventy-two hours or face certain death if he failed. He launched his boats just outside the enemy's naval yards. The enemy, unable to see clearly through the fog, resorted to firing volleys of arrows to prevent an attack. With the eventual break of dawn approaching, the adviser called in the boats bristling with one hundred thousand plus arrows, all donations of a badly outwitted enemy.
In this novel about an Afghani refugee family, there are several straw men dispatched in several narrative boats. The story is told by a central protagonist, who breaks off her narrative to allow her mother and brother to tell their sides of the story. And each one of them tells stories about Mr. Rostami as well, who died at the hands of the Taliban. What makes this story of terror unique is the telling of it. With so many straw men telling their sides of the story, it is impossible to establish a definitive narrator of the novel. Fire might be drawn, but by whom? It seems like there would be a lot of wasted arrows.
Must I Remember is based on the Rostami family's epic journey to find a new home. In one of the most touching and poignant scenes from the novel, Mrs. Rostami successfully treats an Afghani girl whose face has been cruelly and barbarously marred in an acid attack by the Mujahideen.
EXCERPT in which Mrs. Rostami recounts:
'One day, when our unit was visiting Haradt, a woman came to me. They
know the day and the hour of our visits and wait on us with greater veneration
than devotees of a holy man. She had been waiting all day in anticipation of our
arrival. She approached and for some reason chose me above the other nurses in
"Please madam," the woman pleaded. "I have a daughter at home that needs you."
"What is her affliction? Why do you not bring her here?"
"It is because of her affliction that I do not bring her," she explained.
"It must be serious if she is bedridden and unable to make the journey."
"It is serious, very serious but not in the way you imagine. There are afflictions of the mind that are greater than those of the body, psychological afflictions that leave people damaged for life with no hope of a cure."
"Is she schizophrenic then?"
"No, something far more serious; she has lost her face."
"Was it an acid attack?"
"Yes, they have attacked many women in our village in such ways."
"Can you not bring her here? I have many war casualties to attend to."
"Please ma'am, she cannot leave the house. She is too ashamed to be seen in public."
"I understand, but I can't attend to her now. She will have to wait until I am done treating the soldiers."
"I understand," said the woman. "When can you come?"
"It will be late tonight, around midnight. I will treat her as best I can, but I cannot stay all night. I must be back to treat the new round of casualties brought in from the front."
"Thank you so much," the lady gushed. "I am so grateful to you. You cannot imagine what it means to us, to her. To free her even for a moment from the weight of misery she lives under is worth any effort."
"I will be there," I promised. "Write your address down for me and I will come as soon as I am able."
'I took the miniboose to the location written on the paper. It was a tiny house down a narrow lane, a wisp of smoke rising out of the chimney silhouetted against the moonlit sky. It was a full moon that night. The Buddhists say that God is both empty and full. That night he was full. The moon revealed his full countenance, blessing the young woman with no face. Truly Allah is Merciful. He dispenses his mercies to those in need. The nurse who had come to give a young girl back her face was guided by the light of a full moon.
The face of the moon was full, while hers was hidden behind a dark cloud. The healing light of the moonbeams would strengthen the effect of the antiseptic crème. With any luck, the young woman would have her face back before the new moon.
'I knocked on a flimsy wooden door half-rotten with age. There was a racket within as if last minute preparations were being made to welcome an esteemed guest. I could hear the sound of a sliding bolt and the door opened a crack. The face of the woman I had met that day appeared in the crack of the door. I could see only half a face. Perhaps all of us have lost face in one way or another. Living under a tyrannical regime, who is not made to feel like they have something to hide? Do we not in that instance have to live a double life, in which we reveal only half of our true face while the other remains hidden? When she saw that she had nothing to hide, she showed her face.
'I have seen prostitutes in my travels and girls who work in nightclubs and bars after hours. They tell their families they have respectable jobs their family would approve of like a manicurist or a beautician. In reality, they are their own manicurist and beautician. They often apply the eye makeup and lip gloss in transit because they cannot prepare their makeup at home. Were their families to see them making themselves up or leaving the house so painted, they would grow suspicious. Some overly protective parents might even feel compelled to follow them or send some neighbor as a spy to report back on their comings and goings. Of course it is natural for parents to care for their children and to protect them from harm. It is even forgivable in some senses to be overprotective and guard one's children overzealously, but it is not the way.
There comes an age when one must trust one's child to do the right thing and to be understanding and forgiving when they do the wrong thing. To fail in this duty is not love and I for one do not intend to fail my children in this regard. I will stand by them through thick in thin and will forgive them their follies and their trespasses as I hope Allah has forgiven mine. Some have called this unconditional love. I do not care what you call it. I call it duty. I will not fail my children as a loving mother and they can come to me with whatever problem they might have and I will be there. I brought them into this world and I am certainly going to make sure they have safe passage through it.
'I entered the house and saw three generations of smiles before me. There was an elderly couple, presumably the grandparents, displaying smiles of welcome. There were the parents with expectant smiles full of promise and hope.
And there were the grateful smiles of the grandchildren, who knew I had come to heal their aunt so that she could smile again too.
'Then I saw her, Sophia, the woman who had lost face. She held a veil over her face so that all that was visible beneath were her eyes. They say that the eyes reveal what is within. If that is so than there was a consciousness within that contained the entire expanse of the universe. She had dazzling eyes of emerald green with spirals of hazel. Emerging galaxies were swirling within a cosmic soup. Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, was revealed in those eyes and so the girl was aptly named as her incarnation.
'Socrates saw himself as a midwife who gave birth to wisdom in others. This young woman, who once embodied the very face of wisdom, was now hiding her face. Tonight, I was to be a new kind of midwife. I would have to give birth to a new face, a new kind of beauty. I would have to convince the young woman to free herself from attachments, to bid farewell to her old face in order to welcome the new one. Could she accept the fact that she would never get her old face back? Could she live with the fact that she would never look the same again?
"Thank you for coming, Momma," the girl whispered shyly.
"It is my pleasure to help those in need," I replied. "Now let's have a look at you. Is there somewhere private where we can take a look at you?"
"There is my room, Momma," Sophia suggested. "Can we go there?"
"Of course we can, my dear. You would feel more comfortable there, is that it?"
"I would, momma, yes. It has been my room all my life. I feel secure there. It is a comfort to withdraw there when the world gets to be too much."
"I understand. When the affairs of the world overwhelm us, we retreat to the comfort of our beds, where we can curl up in the fetal position and return to the safety of the womb. I am sure there is no greater place of solace in the world."
"Follow me, Momma. My room is on the second floor. You will have more privacy there."
"Is your room well lit?" I asked.
"Not really," she replied. "Perhaps we should bring an extra lamp."
"Yes, please do, someone," I said turning to the others, with the urgency of a command. "I will need plenty of illumination. If I am to have any hope of success, I will need plenty of light."
'There was a flurry of activity, with the sound of cupboards opening and closing, closets and cubbyholes being rifled through, accompanying the sounds of the creaking stairs and floorboards that led to Sophia's room. Someone with a consumptive cough was hacking away in a far room. The owner of the cough got up
and we could hear the sound of bedsprings creaking as we entered Sophia's room.
The owner of the cough sounded male and he came down the hallway, the creaking
floorboard announcing his every footfall. The coughing continued unabated.
"Who is coughing?" I asked.
"My grandfather," Sophia replied.
"It does not sound good," I observed. "Has he been to a doctor?"
"He has, Momma, but there is nothing to be done."
"What did the doctor say he had? Is it tuberculosis?"
"No Mamma, grandfather is a smoker."
"I thought I met your grandfather downstairs."
"This is my paternal grandfather, Momma."
"So it is a smoker's cough. You're sure?"
"I don't know, Momma. He doesn't say much. He is not very communicative. I go in
to greet him in the morning. He smiles when I kiss him on the cheek, but he doesn't say much. I have no idea what he's thinking or what's bothering him."
"I will see him before I go," I declared. "But first, we must see to you."
Just then Sophia's mother came in with a lantern for extra light. Sophia had a
vanity with a large mirror. I would be able to examine her face with the aid of the lantern and the mirror would amplify the amount of light. We had all that we would need.
"Sophia, I am going to ask you to be brave now and remove the veil. I can't help you unless you show me."
'She did not hesitate. She knew I was right. She willingly complied. She drew the veil aside and showed me what she had been hiding. My eyes filled with tears. I couldn't help it. One side of her face revealed so angelic a face it elevated her to the status of the gods. Had she owned that face when she attained womanhood, she would be sought out by every artist in the land to honour her with works destined for immortality merely on account of their subject.
'But then there was the other half. Disfigured almost beyond recognition by the cruel action of the acid, the left side of her face appeared wizened and misshapen like an old hag of one hundred years who had seen better days. The young beauty had been aged before her time, the acid doing what the hot desert sun and the blistering heat would take three-quarters of a lifetime to accomplish. It is amazing how sickness and injury can accelerate time just as good health and exercise can slow it down. I was reminded of the haunting beauty of the Afghani woman on the cover of Life Magazine, made so famous by the ghostly appearance of her eyes. We saw what the ravages of time did to that young beauty in less than twenty years, when the next photo op captured the face of an old woman.
'What could I do to reverse the ravages of the premature aging process that had so disfigured the young woman of angelic beauty? How could I restore the left side of her face? How could I retain any vestige of her former beauty armed with only an antiseptic crème? It would be easier to disfigure the right side of her face to have any hope of achieving symmetry. It would take a miracle in this case to save face.
"Sophia, I'll be honest with you," I soothed gently. "I don't know if I can help you."
'Tears welled up in her eyes at this cruel pronouncement. How I wished I had a magic wand, healing potion, elixir of youth or restorative that would reclaim the territory won by the ravages of premature aging. How I wished I had some magic formula in my bag of tricks that I could pull out and assuage the girl's broken heart with. Yes, that too needed mending now that I had deflated her hopes.
"Don't give up hope, Sophia," I urged. "I just don't want you to be unrealistic, that's all. I will do my best to help you, but you must follow my instructions to the letter, is that understood?"
"Yes, Momma," she replied. "I trust you. I know you have a kind and gentle heart and that you are moved by the afflictions of others and do everything in your power to heal them, body and soul."
"You are right, my dear. I do indeed. And I will do the same for you. I will use
everything in my power to heal the damage done by the cruel hand of fate."
"Momma, excuse me. I am going to disagree with you there. It is not fate that caused this to happen. It is not my karma. I did nothing to deserve this malicious act in this or any other life. I do not believe in bad karma, fate, destiny or any of these absurd metaphysical notions. I am a good student of religion and philosophy and if I was alive in the day to hold debates with Avicenna, Ghazzali, or Suhrawardi, I would rail against the role of fate in determining the course of our lives. There are accidents, Momma. Astrologers may tell me that everything that happens to me is encoded in the stars, but I still insist that there are accidents that befall man that are not determined by fate or written in the stars. There is no rationale under heaven to explain what happened to me. Some angry and misguided human beings, whose hearts were bent and twisted by their own unfortunate accidents, ran at me with a container of acid and disfigured me for life. I am not expecting you to repair what cannot be fixed. I am asking you to help me at least be presentable enough to show my face in public. I have already said goodbye to the old face, to the old me. I just want to welcome the new me into the house. She is already knocking on the door."
'I broke down. I couldn't help it. Sophia's words touched my heart as no words
ever had. Her bravery in her loss of face was of so noble and valiant a nature that I could see clearly why she was born with an angel's face. Her speech roused within me a determination and a resolve I had never known. If she could be brave enough to accept her loss of face, I would be brave enough to restore it. With supernatural zeal, I set about the task of restoring the young girl's face to its former beauty. I came every day to apply the crème as only I could do it. I did not trust anyone but myself to administer and massage it in to her delicate face. Years of practice had given me a deft hand and a sure touch. We did not use any bandages, but only gauze, as I would have to return daily to see what improvements had taken place, if any, and to apply additional crème. If lack of sleep weakened me so that I could not perform my duties to the best of my ability the next day, I could not help it. I was not about to abandon this flower in full bloom who had had the desert ravage her young petals so. I would see to it that the searing heat of the cruel desert was removed from her gentle face so that the angelic countenance of her former self could shine through once more with greater glory than she had ever known.
About this book, Reader Anya Tennyson Wrote:
This is incredibly touching and compelling, and I greatly enjoyed the presentation style - makes it very personal, drawn into the story immediately. Also compelling - telling 'the other side of the story'. I so rarely come across anything like this... probably because I avoid such things altogether because I have a nephew in the Marines who was there. Thankfully he's home safe and sound, but not untouched by his time there.
Is this based on a true story? Sorry if I missed that - I remember seeing it on the XOXO site and was intrigued because I love military stories in general - but life derailed me a bit from taking a closer look until you posted this here. Now that I've read this excerpt, I can see it's not a military story, probably a good thing, but a story beyond the mere telling of events - not sure what to call it - but I love the introspective journeys of life changing events. They can be very moving, opening new ideas, ways of thinking, even just understanding cultures so different from our own... which I think we need to do more of. It's easy to hate the political entity but every such entity is made up of individuals who just want to be able to live life without fear, without hunger, without oppression.
THANK YOU ANYA, FOR YOUR KIND WORDS!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I would like to thank Gina, the publisher of XoXoPublishing.com and Roche, for their kind support and amazing backing. There is nothing like this in the industry today. They really care about people and their authors and it breaks her heart when her good intentions are not appreciated and understood. One day, this woman will be recognized for the heroine she is.