Usually featured every Wednesday, the SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website open to interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better – and occasionally may offer features from Shannon herself that support readers to discover words.
For about the next week – this past Tuesday through the weekend – SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS takes over author SHANNON MUIR’s website for a little March madness by bringing you highlights for new reads each day as we build up the excitement for the 6th anniversary of SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS in April. Today, we feature an author interview for WELCOME RELUCTANT STRANGER.
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WELCOME RELUCTANT STRANGER by Evy Journey, Multicultural Women’s Fiction, 314 pp., $12.50 (Paperback) $2.99
Author: Evy Journey
Publisher: Sojourner Books
Genre: Multicultural Women’s Fiction
gets rescued by a relationship phobic psychologist with a past that
haunts her? For Leilani and Justin, it’s an attraction they can’t deny
but which each is reluctant to pursue. More so for Leilani whose family
had to flee their troubled country when she was only nine.Leilani is focused on leaving the past behind, moving forward. But
when she learns the truth behind her family’s flight—the shocking,
shameful secret about her father’s role in a deadly political web—she is
devastated.Is her father a hero or a villain? Can she deal with the truth?
But the past is impossible to run away from. Together with Justin,
she must get her father out of her former home. Can she forgive her
father, accept him for what he is? And can she reconnect with her roots
and be at peace with who she is?
INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
What initially got you interested in writing?
I got drawn into solitary pursuits growing up with a loving, indulgent grandmother and two grown-up aunts in a house full of my dead grandfather’s books. First, I drew, then I read. When I returned to my parents, I began to write my thoughts and feelings in a little notebook—I suppose to cope with feeling out of place. Later, I wrote a few short stories for the school paper. Some teachers complimented me on my writing. I’m sure that helped shape my interests as well.
I became editor-in-chief of the high school paper and I loved it. I wanted to be a journalist.
How did you decide to make the move into being a published author?
My parents discouraged me from a writing career. “No money in it. How about chemistry?” I was also good in math so I played along, but I found chemistry utterly boring. My parents agreed to compromise: “How about social sciences?” So, I switched to psychology which I liked.
Grad school and my jobs after that involved much writing, research report writing to be exact. So, they did fill my need to continually engage with words. And they more than paid for my bills—which helped immensely.
But through all that, I wrote fictional scenarios on loose sheets of paper. I guess back of my mind was a desire to take up that dream again. A dream buried for a while under the weight of daily life. When life eased up a little, and prodded by my geeky son, I started a blog which focused on art and the many trips my husband and I took. Then, I began seriously writing a novel. With the internet, going the indie route made publishing easy.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
When it comes to expressive forms of communication like fiction or visual art, individual tastes dictate what you’ll enjoy or find memorable. So, if you like stories liberally sprinkled with angst, you’ll find something to chew on in my novels. My novels dance around love stories but they don’t often follow the usual tropes of the romance genre. Love, for most of us, plays a big part in our lives, but loving occurs in the context of how we live, which often has quite a bit of messiness (both little and big). So in my books, as for many of us, I try to show that love supplies some of the best opportunities for growth.
What do you find most rewarding about writing? What do you find most challenging about writing?
I’ll answer these two questions together because the answers to both are hard to separate.
Fiction is different from the kind of writing I used to do which was grounded on facts, analysis, drawing of conclusions or recommendations and which often followed a more rigid structure and its own special lingo. Fiction requires much more imagination, gives you much more leeway. In some ways, it’s scarier because there are no must-follow rules. But it’s freeing. That’s the best thing about it for me. When you create a character and a fictional story, you have a lot more control, as opposed to facts and method having control of you.
Having said that, I’ll add the caveat that fiction writing also demands that you open yourself to circumstance, to have the courage or imagination to veer away from your original story because of how characters or scenes develop. That’s what makes fiction writing occasionally surprising and exciting. And, of course, challenging. I love that aspect of it, too.
What advice would you give to people who want to enter the field?
I never presume to give advice. I’ll give my opinion, though. The gaps between selfies (if I may borrow that term) and traditionalists are closing—resources to aid writers, the advantages, earnings, even the need to assume a significant role in marketing. As a selfie, I would concentrate on writing the best book I can possibly write. And read, read, read the truly great writers.
What ways can readers connect with you?
I’d love to have you come to my author website: https://www.evyjourney.com where I write about experiences that have inspired my stories. Also some personal thoughts on writing.
Better still, you can join the fray in my new Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thoughtful.romreaders.love.food/
If you’re into images, I’m on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ejourney2
Finally, how about Twitter https://twitter.com/eholychair
from the concrete paving in the schoolyard, colliding with rays plummeting from
the sun. The light was blinding, the heat oppressive.
on the Pacific. A concrete wall, eight-feet high and topped with countless
pieces of broken glass embedded into the concrete, surrounded both the school
and the perimeter of the 30,000 square foot yard. A young woman fully
covered—except for her face and hands—in the white habit of a Catholic novice,
circled the yard, watching pupils play.
blue skirts and white shirts with peter pan collars loosely tied with wide,
dark blue bows, formed groups around three or four games. Despite the buzz of
activity, no one shouted, shrieked, or raised a ruckus.
minutes they had for recess. All, except one girl. She sat in the shade,
smiling, content with observing everyone else, and enjoying the light breeze
that blew now and then.
courses drawn with chalk on the cemented yard. Some older pupils ran games of
tag but the majority, along with a few younger ones, waited in a long line to
take their turn at jumping rope.
with cool interest until her best friend, Myrna, ran into the arc of the
spinning rope to join another girl from her class. Leilani leaned forward.
vigorously down, sideways, up, and around over and over. The rope whirled so
fast that all Leilani saw was an elliptical form pinched at its ends, like a
sausage bulging in the middle. Inside, the girls jumped, as fast and as high as
they could to evade the whirling rope. If they got their feet caught, they lost
and had to get out. The player who lasted longest won.
fawn and could outlast everyone else Leilani had seen. Before long, the other
girl gave up and yielded her place to another. Leilani clapped hard for her
friend, a wide smile wiping away the pout on her lips.
her. Sister Young was the newest novice who alternated with another novice,
Sister Mariano, in watching the children in the schoolyard. Leilani liked
Sister Mariano better. She had a nicer smile and she spoke in a soft, sweet
voice. Sister Young, tall, thin, light-skinned, and sharp-featured, looked like
she disapproved of everyone. And she was too nosy.
attention back to the girls skipping rope.
she’s having fun.”
your age, I preferred running around with my brothers than playing with my
dolls or reading. But what about you? What do you like to do best?”
believed the opposite.
a few minutes.
to a girl who had just joined her in it. Standing outside the arc of the rope,
she swiped her arm across her face and wiped it on her shirt. She ambled to the
side and dropped her butt down next to one of the girls swinging the rope.
back on the bench and sticking her lower lip out farther.
part of the team that takes care of the president. You must be very proud of
him much? I know doctors can’t keep regular working hours like others do.”
every day and fills lots of vases with flowers.” She knew no one who worked,
among the mothers of her classmates. She added, “We have maids who do the
maids when you lived at home?”
something nice to her, but what? Cooking and cleaning at her age—nine years
old—seemed like punishment. How did a child tell someone older and able to
order them around that she was sorry? She reached her hand out to touch Sister
Young, but remembered that school rules did not allow touching between teachers
and pupils. So, she regarded her in sympathy and the novice acknowledged it
with gratitude in her eyes.
jumped up from the bench. Although she felt close to Sister Young for a few
moments, she was relieved to be free of her. She joined Myrna in the line for
girls from her class.
uniform has stains on it.”
my white shirt.”
a scolding. You’re lucky your parents didn’t get you a Nana.”
for one. “No. Mamá thinks she and no else should take care of us. I’ll bet
she’s stricter than your Nana.”
line of girls back into the school.
where Sister Lourdes, their math teacher, waited. A middle-aged nun with a thin
face, whose smiling eyes had etched upward creases on the corners, she was kind
but she inspired awe. Her pupils knew quite well what that set to her jaw
meant: She was determined to make them as proficient, if not better, in math as
boys. She followed up on her mission by rigorous training, starting each day
with written exercises on lessons and homework of the previous day.
than other subjects, although literature was her favorite. She wanted to please
pencils on paper and the swishing of the nun’s habit, as she paced between
desks, could be heard in the room. The class was absorbed doing the written
arithmetic exercise of the day. Every second pupil or so, Sister Lourdes peered
discreetly down the girl’s back to gauge her progress.
lower over her work. She had solved two-thirds of the problems halfway through
the allotted time but she did not want her teacher to see her progress until
she finished. A soft knock on the door saved her from the sister’s watchful
eyes. The nun hurried to the front of the classroom. Leilani sighed in relief.
of the room as Leilani and many other girls raised their heads from their work.
Before Sister Lourdes reached the door, it swung open and the principal entered.
Behind her, a visitor walked in, partly hidden by the principal’s layers of
black and white habit.
lessons, so she rarely came to their classrooms. She had meant to reassure them
of her unwavering interest in growing their minds. Instead, she aroused
curiosity and anxiety when she did come—reactions that grew more acute when she
brought a visitor along.
taken out of the classroom for some shameful or unhappy reason in her family.
If she had a problem having to do with school, she usually had to go to the
principal’s office. That was the rarest event of all, and it caused greater
full view from behind the principal. Her mother picked her and her sister,
Carmen, up when school was over, but she never entered the school grounds. She
waited in her car.
as if she was holding back an urge to cry or to shout. Deep creases on her brow
cast shadows on her eyes. Something disturbed her. Something terribly wrong.
and Sister Lourdes who had been talking in hushed voices. She thought, they’re
talking too long, as she put the stubby end of her pencil in her mouth, and bit
on it so hard that the eraser broke off.
at her classmates, their faces animated with malicious delight. They were relishing
the little drama unfolding before them, squirming with anticipation for what
was to follow.
trouble to fall on another. But the visitor was her mother and she looked much
Lourdes faced the class. Leilani knew what was coming. She held her breath.
Today was her turn—the unfortunate girl drawn into a familiar scenario, the
butt of the week’s jokes for her often bored classmates. She had known it would
come, and though she was sure it was impossible, she wished she could will it
aloof Leilani, finally pulled down from her pedestal by the disgrace of being
taken out of the class by her nervous mother.
and give me your work. I’ll grade whatever you finish. You must go with your
mother at once.”
and curious stares she had anticipated, her classmates hushed up. Maybe, like
her, they sensed something terrible. Their teacher spoke in a tone they had
never heard before, a tone so solemn that her usual calm demeanor seemed as
troubled as her mother’s.
and hastily stuffed them in her bag. Her arms were trembling and she could not
zip up her bag. She picked it up, hugging it close to her chest.
marched, head straight and gaze forward, toward the waiting adults.
worry. I’ll take the number of right answers you gave against the total number
you finished. That’s fair, don’t you think?”
she can come back to school tomorrow. She doesn’t like to miss any of her
Leilani’s progress. She catches up very quickly. I’ll give her extra exercises,
but I don’t think she’ll need them. I hope things turn out all right for your
door. She was impatient to be out of there.
passenger seat. They bobbed their heads in greeting.
in. She was dying to know what was going on, but she knew better than to ask.
They hardly ever talked in the car. Their mother insisted on silence while she
their mother meant what she said. One day, they continued their banter after
she told them to stop. Without warning, she slammed on the brakes and Carmen,
who always took the front seat, hit her head on the dashboard. Leilani fell on
the floor. Carmen sported a bump on her head for days after that.
knew what was going on. Unlike her, Carmen could coax things out of their
mother. She would not hold anything back, eager to show Leilani that their
mother trusted her and liked her better. Leilani refused to believe her sister,
but conceded that because Carmen was thirteen—nearly a young woman—their mother
told her grown-up things.
tried to calm down, but her resolve lasted only until her mother turned at a
street. She could not hold her tongue then.
could do was wait to see where her mother was taking them. She scooted close to
the window and watched all the buildings they were passing by.
above them and recognized the streets they were on. She knew it. They were off
to a place away from home. She was not about to be dragged away, without
on my nerves.”
expressions. “Getting on my nerves” was their mother’s way of telling her
children to go away. Leilani heard it often enough that she could tell from the
way she glared and parted her lips that her mother was about to say it. Leilani
learned to walk away before she could utter those words.
ten-minute zone and said, “Get all your things. Don’t leave anything in the car
and keep quiet until we’re out of here.”
out, one large and the other small. She banged the trunk close but did not
bother to lock the car, as she usually did.
escaping? But where to and why? And from what?
mother handed Carmen the small suitcase. Carmen handed Leilani her schoolbag.
airport building, she began to imagine stories about escaping and became
excited at the idea of it. Her heart raced and her whole body tingled. They
were off on an adventure. Any adventure was welcome. She had so little of it in
school, and less at home.
books, she sweated profusely. Her arms ached and her legs groaned. The air
conditioning helped, but that was over too soon. They passed through the
building before she could cool down.
a small plane waiting on the tarmac. She looked back at them and shouted, “Run,
you two. You move like turtles.”
enjoyed her fantasy that they were about to embark on a great adventure.
her mouth had been palpable not only when she stared at her inside the
classroom, but also when she drove towards the airport, gripping the steering
wheel so tight that, from the back passenger seat, Leilani could see the
muscles in her arms twitching.
their mother’s mirth. Leilani felt light and carefree. Everything was going to
be all right. But the feeling lasted only a few short minutes.
remembered seeing with her father once. He was a big man with alert, suspicious
eyes that Leilani found menacing. He waited for them at the foot of the steps
to the plane.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Torres, I couldn’t get him out. Rudy is waiting for you inside
the plane. He’s in the front row.”
crept back on her brow. The man was clearly talking about her father. Something
awful was going on and no one was telling them anything about it. She had to
find out what it was.
aisle seat. He stood to let her and Carmen pass to the seats next to him. As
was Carmen’s habit on a bus, a train, or a plane, she claimed the window seat
and Leilani had to content herself with the place wedged between her and Rudy.
At least her brother, the oldest among them, liked her better than Carmen. He
would tell her what was going on.
helped her place the small luggage Carmen carried in the compartment above her.
each of them with a tender pat on their hands. But Leilani caught the sadness
in her eyes.
the steps? I know him. He picked me up at school, said he had a letter from
Papá to me. But I wasn’t supposed to open it until after we get to where we’re
going. It’s in my jacket pocket. Then, he brought me here without telling me
say anything and why is everything so mysterious? Can’t you open the letter
to protect Papá, at all costs.”
and getting irritated.
will you shut up until we get to wherever we’re headed?”
closed her eyes. She was going to sleep if nobody wanted to talk to her. Still,
she did not give up that easily. She would find out somehow.
He whispered in her ear.
prepared. For anything.”
above the whirr of the plane.
We’re not going back home. Ever. No more Myrna. And you’ll have to make do with
the few clothes Mamá packed for you until Papá comes.”
Review) Independent Woman Author awardee, is a writer, a wannabe artist, and a
flâneuse. Her pretensions to being a flâneuse means she wishes she lives in
Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. She’s lived in
Paris few times as a transient.
seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her even though such
preoccupations have gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by
invoking the spirit of Jane Austen and spinning tales of love, loss, and
finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue and sets in
and fascinated by the psyche, she researched and shepherded the
development of mental health programs. And wrote like an academic. Not a good
thing if you want to sound like a normal person. So, she began to write fiction
(mostly happy fiction) as an antidote.
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