An Interview with Kristi Saare Duarte, author of Transmigrant
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen years old. The year was 1983, and I hammered it out on a manual typewriter. When my parents realized I was serious about it, they brought home an oh! so luxurious electrical typewriter. The novel was called “Low,” and each chapter was based on one track of David Bowie’s album of the same name. The main character was a young boy who ran away from his foster home in Sweden and traveled to the Isle of Wight in England. The only one who ever read the manuscript was my dad. I never edited it, never tried to publish it. But I still those typed up pages and, who knows, perhaps one day I will look at it again and force in some kind of a plot structure? Then again, it might be absolutely useless. I also have another novel somewhere in my drawers, but that one has been laid to rest forever.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
The Transmigrant took six years from start to finish. I assume my next novel will take less time. But I’m a perfectionist with a full time job, so I doubt that one book a year will ever be my style. But kudos to those who can do it!
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I like to write on trains. There’s just something about the humming motion that inspires me. But, honestly, I could write anywhere, as long as I have a laptop. Or a napkin. Or the back of a receipt. When the inspiration attacks, I have to write it down.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
With The Transmigrant, a handful of friends and one stranger volunteered as beta-readers. They were all either writers, or had specific knowledge about the religions I cover in my novel. I’m not religious myself, which is kind of strange, because I spent so many years writing about Jesus, so their feedback was critical to get the details right. I found my first editor by searching online, and the subsequent editors through the Editorial Freelancers Association. I always ask for a sample and a quote, and have been lucky to find excellent editors.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
Yes, I definitely love bookshops. There’s a Barnes & Noble a few blocks from my office, and when I am stressed out, I go there to look at books and recharge. Most of the books I read are hard copy, but ebooks are very convenient for travel or late night reading. I often read 2-3 books at the same time. One by my bedside, one on the way to work, and sometimes also a non-fiction book when I need to study something, like book marketing or religions.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from?
1. childhood? My favorite author was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read all the Little House on the Prairie books and even made paper dolls of the sisters and acted out my own scenes.
2. adolescence? Anything romance. Kissing and touching was very exciting. I also read lots of books by Indian, Chinese, and African authors, for some reason.
3. young adult? I went through a phase where I only read memoirs and biographies and didn’t like anything made up. I loved Audrey Hepburn’s and Lord Byron’s biographies.
4. adult? I read any genre except fantasy and romance. Some of my favorite authors include Haruki Murakami, Andre Dubus III, Khaled Hosseini, Rohinton Mistry, John Steinbeck. I’m still attracted to foreign authors.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do? Have you chosen someone to manage your profile?
No, I do everything myself, which I probably don’t do as well as I should. I’m trying to learn to be more efficient and post more regularly. I spend perhaps an hour a day on social media, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. I like Pinterest, too. Instagram is still difficult for me as I keep forgetting about it. I don’t really enjoy scrolling down other people’s posts, so it never crosses my mind that I should take a photo and post it. Do I like social media? I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it, either.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
You get better, more honest and natural, with every interview. I think it would do me a great disservice to recycle the responses. But I might recycle ideas.