When Alice marries Ramesh, she is plunged into a battle of wills with her mother-in-law. Namesake of a god, Amma reigns over Alice’s household until a family secret is revealed that costs the old woman everything. Now it is up to Alice to heal the rift, as Shiva’s Arms evolves into an exploration on cultural identity, the power of reconciliation, and the meaning of home.
Interesting, isn’t it! Cheryl will be stopping by today to comment and will provide us with a link to her facebook site where we will learn more about Cheryl and her novel, but for those of you without a facebook connection, here is a little more about the book and Cheryl:
Q: This book draws from some personal experience. How do you negotiate with those in your real life when portions of them appear in your work?
A: Deny, deny, deny. Everyone knows an Amma, an Alice, a Ram. Maybe they recognize themselves out of a guilty conscience! Seriously though, if a person thinks they see a bit of themselves floating around my pages, I tell them about the nature of fiction.
My book went through so many changes, the details I drew from life were more often objects than people or actual events. But it is funny when people go from “you’d better not talk about that!” to “let me tell you exactly the way that happened,” isn’t it?
Q: I was especially drawn into the story because of the mixed cultures. I had been married to a man from Germany and my Irishness at times didn’t blend with his culture. I admire the way you’ve addressed these issues in the book and yet allowed each character to maintain their own identity. What were your resources when it came time to draw upon such wisdom?
A: I drew on my life experience for that. My husband and I were in our early thirties when we met, and had no interest in merging or changing one another to conform to family expectations. We felt too old and set in our ways! Of course, my characters needed more conflict and I had to complicate their lives. It was from my perch as an observer that I was able to witness the way other families coped with culture clash, divided loyalties, and the momentous act of immigration. The tug between family and self interest, belonging and perceived rootlessness, has been a real eye opener for me.
Q: As a child I read books which helped guide me in the Lessons in Life. I also read as an escape from reality, so I was drawn to stories from faraway places, books with adventure and exploration. Your book addresses all of this for me. What are you drawn to when you read and what are you reading now?
A: My tastes are fickle and promiscuous. Eclectic, maybe. I trust the opinion of my body when I read. Does the hair on the back of my neck stand up? Do I get goose bumps? Does the top of my head want to blow off? I like literary fiction and contemporary poetry. I want to learn how other people think about situations I will never experience.
On my nightstand right now are Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift, Roth’s Dying Animal, and a particularly luminous poetry collection entitled Making Good Use of August.
(edited in to display a big surprised grin by yours truly! )
Q:Shifting focus, as a writer, how do you balance the time you spend writing with the rest of your life? Do you at times feel slightly removed from what is going on in your day when you have a story in your head you are trying to write down?
A:Removed and cranky! I feel that way while I’m physically creating a piece, too, even if it’s going well. I’m in a race with my energy level to finish.
When I was younger, I thought I needed ideal circumstances – a long chunk of uninterrupted time, a sufficient accompaniment of coffee, the right chair, soft or bright enough light – to get any real writing done. Now I’m not so fussy. I read once that Joyce Carol Oates writes in her head while she’s doing housework. I can dig it.
Q:What do you do when you suffer from writer’s block?
A: Switch genres, and if that doesn’t work, learn something foreign.
Q: I know you are a poet (and I admire your poetry!)- what nutures you more? Writing poetry or prose? How do the two blend together when you write?
A: Poetry is my first love. I came to it very un-romantically, though. I started to write it in earnest after I suffered back-to-back neurological incidents, way back when. Brain surgery left me with aphasia and the practice of choosing the exact word helped with that. Good medicine!
The poetry flows into the fiction. It’s in the image and sound, the rhythm of the sentences, the silences between them.
Q: I’ve been following your blog tour for some weeks and noticed you’ve been waiting to be asked: What is your true subject?
A: In all my work, the past is present, and the future is, too. Outside or within the mortal there is always the immortal. That conflation is my true subject.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share at this time?
A: I’d like to thank you for your time and generosity and kindness.