Friday, June 12, 2009

Interview with Eleanor Bluestein, author of Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales

Somedays back, I had posted my review of Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales by Eleanor Bluestein. You can read the review by clicking on the title. Eleanor was kind enough to write a guest post for me. Here is an interview with her Thanks Eleanor, a pleasure to read your responses!

Interview with Eleanor Bluestein, author of Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales

# When and why did you begin writing?

I was a science teacher straight out of college. When my children were born, I stayed home with them, and for the first time I had time to read a lot of good contemporary fiction. Reading inspired me to write. I took a writing class at a local extension program and then got started.

# When did you first consider yourself a writer?

This question is interesting. My definition of a writer is “someone who writes.” I consider myself a writer when I am working consistently. If three or four days go by without writing, I am no longer a writer in my own mind…I’m a fraud or a dilettante.

# What inspired you to write your first book?

The first book I wrote was a novel about raising children and safeguarding the earth. I suppose that was of great concern to me because I was raising my own two small children. It was a flawed book and never saw the light of day.

#What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Plotting stories is the hardest part of writing for me, whether I’m working on a novel or short stories. In Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales, ten stories meant ten plots. I don’t usually know where I am going when I start so the plots evolve. I rewrite a lot until things feel right.

# Why did you chose a fictitious country, that to an Asian one, to write?

Ayama Na is an amalgam of places in South East Asia that I’ve visited—Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam—and it has invented elements as well. It isn’t faithful to any particular country. The fictional country liberated me to use combinations of settings and add purely imaginary aspects as I needed them. It also freed me to enter my characters’ heads without feeling presumptuous.

# What made you write short stories?

I had an ill family member and couldn’t focus on the novel I was writing at the time. A novel requires keeping many threads in play at once. So I thought I’d try writing shorter pieces and that worked out well under the circumstances.

# What do you see as the influences on your writing, outside, inside, whatever?

Oh, I think absolutely everything has been grist for the mill. Certainly I make use of what I’ve learned by being a daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, and friend. Other influences include a science background, my teaching experiences, feminist studies, psychoanalytic thoughts, travel, meditation, and Judaism. And of course I am influenced and inspired by books I read—both fiction and non-fiction.

# Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

There are many many contemporary authors I admire, most especially in the area of literary fiction, but if I have to name a favorite author, it’s Jane Austen. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Emma many times. What I so love in Austen’s work is how her characters suddenly break through their defenses and arrive at a moment of profound self knowledge. The transformation is rapid and yet Austen’s lead up to the transformative moment is meticulous. And honestly, the love stories are so chaste and seductive and satisfying.

# Can you share a little of your current work with us and how do you envisage it in future?

I’m writing a novel set in San Diego, which is where I live. The focus is on a na├»ve young man’s attempt to be a good person. I’m interested in how a person figures out what a moral and ethical life is, especially in the absence of a religious commitment.

# What book(s) are you reading now?

I’m reading Dennis Lehane’s new novel The Given Day. It’s thrilling to read such marvelous writing. I’m trying to read Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace). I’ve been at it for months. It’s exhausting. # Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? I just read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year. It’s a wonderful book. She’s written other books but she was new to me.

# Do you have anything that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you! And thank you, Gautami, for these very thoughtful questions.


Anonymous said...

What good questions! Isn't it funny how many people name Jane Austin?!!! (well, women, anyway)

Thanks for posting this interview!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Great interview, G. I've posted about this at Win a Book.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful interview! She seems very down to earth.