Often when I read a story, I feel like I can guess where it started in the author’s mind (not that I’m always right!). But there are so many interesting hooks in “Sía” that I’m just going to ask: how did this story start for you? Did it give you any surprises along the way?
I was at “spiritual” gathering where the white facilitator literally started off by having us sing “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocahontas. The absurdity of it floored me: You think you own whatever land you land on//The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim//But I know every rock and tree and creature//Has a life, has a spirit, has a name. And then the faciliator asked us to pray for the military. I was cringe-laughing so hard on the inside I could barely keep a straight face and thought “You can’t make this up.” Thus, the seed for Sía was planted. I started this story in 2014; it has changed shape countless times since then. The ancestors surprised me the most, they just showed up hard for me and for Mari and I love them. They keep coming back, demanding I write more of their stories. I cracked myself up writing this, and I cried.
I especially liked the ending, where Mari realizes “the body is the rocket launcher.” Many spiritual people wind up largely gnostic, as far as the body goes, where it is wholly bad and only to be resisted with all its needs and feelings. Obviously this story is very spiritual, despite the label of fantasy. How did you go about tracing the path of Mari’s journey?
I wanted Mari to connect with the spiritual and with the physical and how they’re interconnected. There’s been so much talk of intergenerational trauma, epigenetics, and how the traumas of our ancestors live in us, in these bodies. I believe that if the traumas of our ancestors live in our bodies then the gifts they carried, collective wisdoms and graces, must live in us too. Each of us lives in a body that comes from more complicated histories than we can ever imagine. I wanted to bring some of those stories, or at least those who lived them, into this part of the timeline. The traumas and the gifts. And how those stories still inform who we are and how we are situated in the world, individually and collectively.
Can you tell us about your forthcoming YA novel, The Lost Dreamer?
The Lost Dreamer is a dual narrative young adult novel set in a fantastical world informed by the indigenous communities that lived in pre-European contact Americas. It is the story of two young women who are born with the same rare spiritual gift, the ability to enter a different dimension when they Dream at night and return with messages. Indir is born into a lineage of Dreamers in a society and sacred city built around the gift she carries. Saya has the same gift but lives far away and has no training and keeps her gift a secret. There’s a creepy new ruler in Indir’s world and she has to make a choice about who she is and who she wants to be; Saya has an abusive mother and has to also decide who she is and what her gift means. The world is one I wished I could have seen as a young reader, filled with pyramids and temples, landscapes similar to those my ancestors lived in.
What have you been keeping busy with lately, especially now that our pandemic times are coming to an end?
My life is simple, even with the pandemic allegedly coming to an end. I spend a lot of time alone but do see my family and a few beloveds. I read a lot and honestly, I spend a ton of time staring out my sliding glass door because my balcony is always filled with birds coming to my birth bath and feeders. I’m working on my next book, a follow-up to The Lost Dreamer, and a ton of my writing process is staring into space, listening to binaural beats and letting the story emerge the way it chooses to.
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