Good afternoon Kirsten I am so pleased to be speaking with you today about your book “Ice Song”. It is quite an amazing read, and am thrilled to be able to get an inside view on how it came about. I am also excited to get to know you personally. You seem to have the soul of a gypsy, and one of the most eclectic job histories I have ever seen.
According to your bio you are from Colorado, and have moved extensively since then. Where would you say is the most exciting and or interesting place you have lived, good or bad?
I had so much fun in Penzance; it was really a transformative experience. It's a small seaside town right on the southwest tip of England and I have many fond memories of my friends and the people I met.
I also noticed how lovely your picture is on your site, and how exotic you look. Where is your family from, and have you ever had the chance to visit there?
I was born and raised in Denver; my father is African-American and my mother was white.
We don't know much about our bloodline. There is some Native American on my dad's side, and my maternal grandmother's relatives came over from Ireland during the potato famine. My grandmother owned and operated a tour business for many years and traveled all over the globe. When each grandchild turned 12, she would gift them a trip anywhere in the world. I chose to go to the UK, so yes, I've been back to Ireland and have even kissed the Blarney Stone.
As a mother myself, I can relate to how children change your life completely. I was very excited to see that your main character in Ice Song is a mother. Did having children make a huge impact on your writing, and how?
Absolutely! Having children really reordered my priorities and made me think about what I wanted to accomplish in this life, and what I wanted to leave behind for them. Becoming a mother made me a more deliberate person, in that I began to take myself and my ambitions seriously. Since my own mother died quite young (she was just 48) I've been hyper-aware of life's fragility and felt that I had to make the most of my time here.
My writing hours are limited but I do make the most of it, although I have to leave the house to be able to concentrate! Unfortunately, I can no longer stay up till the wee hours since I have to knuckle under to the demands of school and work schedules.
Do your children play a role as characters in your stories, or maybe their mannerisms and actions?
I have always written down the funny things they say and do. There are developmental stages or behaviors that I might borrow or certain elements of speech, for example, my son says "airpoit" instead of airport and my daughter used to say "extercise." Those little errors are quite charming. My son calls hand sanitzer "hanitizer," so one aspect of developing a believable child's voice is paying attention to how they use language and being aware of how vocabulary and comprehension develop in the early years. Little children view the world in such malleable terms. They exist within a very flexible reality and are open to believing just about anything. I think one of the primary functions of storytelling is to keep the magical part of our brains active, to create a portal between our rational adult selves and our dreamy, early selves.
I am always thrilled to read something a little edgy and non-conformist, and your book is wonderfully unique. I would love to know who or what inspired you to write with such an interesting perspective.
I've always been deeply intrigued by stories of the buried shadow self--Jekyll and Hyde, werewolves, shapeshifters, Frankenstein. I read a lot about possession, split personalities and disordered psyches when I was younger, and have always been fascinated by the compartmentalizing that people do to justify their behavior.
Additionally, being a mixed/biracial woman profoundly influences my world view. When you are the product of two distinct cultures, you learn a balancing act, you retain a fluidity or inconsistency that allows you to blend into different environments and social circles. As a people, we have a strange history and we sometimes live in these isolated little bubbles--people can't always readily identify you, and earlier generations of mixed men and women had to make difficult choices about whether to "pass" in white society or be culturally black. I readily identify with struggles of conformity and rebellion, and a certain form of disconnection from ethnic groups. We're nomads.
Ice Song has a spectacular array of characters. Did you ever find it hard to keep everyone straight, and how did you go about achieving this?
I do sometimes make notes about minor details and go back through the manuscript to fact check for consistency, but the characters are quite real and alive to me. It's just as easy as telling your friends apart in real life. I just have to look at them and listen to their voices.
The characters are also so multi-faceted it really makes it hard to have a definite opinion as to whether they are really good or really bad. Did you find it difficult to not type cast each one into their presumed role?
No, they come to me nearly fully fleshed out, revealing details about themselves as I write, so it's an exciting process to discover their motivations and desires. No one is all good or all bad. It's really about the choices we make.
There is a little gender-bending going on with Sorykah’s character. Was this problematic in the creation and acceptance of your story?
I have written passages as both characters to understand, "Is this something a man would do? How do the reactions of a woman change the story here, as opposed to how a man would handle the same situation?" Deciding who gets to do what, and why, takes some thought.
Everyone has been very open to the idea of swapping gender, which I appreciate. However, I think one reason is that both Sorykah and Soryk are fairly straight. If Soryk/ah's sexuality was a constant, if she was still attracted to men when she was a man, then it might be more unsettling for people who are uncomfortable with those aspects of sexuality.
If I may ask (and you can decline from answering if it steals too much from the storyline), why did you decide to create the characters Sorykah and Soryk with no consciousness of each other’s actions?
Each of us has a shadow side, and we embrace or recoil from it in varying degrees. Life is a journey to wholeness, understanding and integrating all the disparate aspects of self into a strong, unified being. It's this pursuit that is best characterized by "the perilous curse," Sorykah's disease of forgetting. If she retained all her memories through the changes, she would be someone else entirely. She'd be some sort of new century superhero, which is its own compelling story, just not hers, sadly!
The setting for Ice Song seems somewhat Earth like, but yet alien as well. Did you have a particular place in mind when you created this amazing backdrop?
Yes. I'd been reading about 19th & early 20th century Antarctic exploration and Tierra del Fuego. The Sigue is modeled on Antarctica, and the main continent shares geological features with Patagonia.
I am thrilled to see that this is a series of books, and cannot wait to see what is in store for Sorykah.
Thank you! "Tattoo" will be published in 2011. I'm writing books 3 and 4, "Asta Requited" and "Saudade" right now. The story follows Sorykah as she becomes involved in new relationships and intrigues. She becomes even more entangled with the dastardly Morigi family, and has further adventures. The final book focuses on her children as they transition to adulthood and begin to understand their unique place and purpose in the world.
This is one of the most intriguing characters I have ever come across, and I cannot thank you enough for sharing her and yourself with us. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today!
Thanks again! It's been fun. Please visit me online for updates on the new books and other goodies.