Intimate Conversation with Dr. Niama Williams
Book Spotlight: SOJOURN IN CALIDIA
Dr. Niama L. Williams is a poet, novelist, essayist, memoirist
and former adjunct professor of English with a Leeway Foundation grant,
inclusion in an NAACP Image award nominated anthology (Check the
Rhyme), and participation in a Sable Magazine/Arvon Foundation writing
workshop in the United Kingdom under her belt. She is available for
comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Tell us what motivated you to write this book.
Sojourn in Calidia has the distinction of being the only novel I've written so far that is complete and total fiction. Based on real people, a few characters, but made up whole cloth. Arising out of my studies in Latin American literature and history during my years at Occidental College as an undergraduate. I remember my thesis committee calling me in to see if I knew something about a few of my professors that they didn't think I SHOULD know, given how accurately I wrote about them. Just me being deeply intuitive, though I didn't know it at the time.
* Who did you write this book for?
Professor Enrique Riveros Schafer, to whom the book is dedicated. I had a mean crush on him, but mostly I realize now, I was attracted to his pain. Even then, in my barely twentys, I sought out men who were emotionally distressed, wanting to help them.
Not much has changed. :-)
* Bring your 3 main characters to life. Tell us who they are and what you love about them.
Cassie Daniels, named for my 7th and 9th grade English teacher who patiently read all of my junior high school notebooks of poetry, is a woman not willing to accept or believe in her mental illness. She is newly diagnosed and not liking it one bit. Doesn't help that in the middle of her journey toward acceptance, she is called to assist a guerrilla leader in winning the presidency of his country.
Jonathan Grayson is a typical novelistic hero who is a bit testy about not quite being able or being needed to save the woman he loves. He discovers surprising strengths within himself when confronted with one of Cassie's deadly archenemies, and it ends up being Jonathan's sacrifice of several days in the desert that allows Cassie to complete her mission.
The man with the forgettable face is my third favorite character in this novel because he is so misunderstood and so diabolical--and it is the guerrilla leader most who wants to save him.
* Where are you from? What is your favorite book, music, movie, play?
Oh God. You had to ask. Okay: favorite novels: The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara. Damballah by John Edgar Wideman. The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus. Favorite books of poetry? Postcards from August by Kate Braverman. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot.
Music? I would not have survived high school, I would not survive life, without Barry Manilow. Manilow gets me through when I am down, down, down, and up is looking impossible. There's also Billy Joel (I've got this thing about piano players ....), Elton John, Sting, James Taylor, Barbra Streisand, STEVIE WONDER, Michael Jackson, Kenny Loggins, Maroon 5, RASCAL FLATTS, Garth Brooks, Kris Kristofferson's one lone country album, Aretha Franklin (early work), Oleta Adams, Neil Diamond, I could go on .....
Favorite movies: The Prince of Tides (first DVD I ever bought), Nuts, Yentl, Field of Dreams, The Wide Wide World, What Dreams May Come, Good Will Hunting, Proof with Gwyneth Paltrow.
Play? I took my mother, for Mother's Day or her birthday, I can't remember, to see Christopher
Reeve in Summer and Smoke and we had front row seats ...... I've never forgotten that day ..........
* How do you spend your free time? Do you write poetry or sing?
I have this dream of doing a private thank you concert for the musicians who saved my life with their music: Sting, Billy Joel, Manilow .... I have a lilting voice, I am told, but I have no professional training. One day I'll get the professional training.
I have recently discovered the ability to sketch, a talent I didn't think I had, and I find it very relaxing and freeing. Primarily because I don't have to be good at it, I can fail, be mediocre and still enjoy myself. I push myself so hard everywhere else, but with the sketching no one has to
teach me, it's just me expressing and I like that. No standards to live up to. Every artist should have one thing they do just for themselves. Perhaps like Vincent's (D'Onofrio) blues guitar.
* What is your process for creating a novel? Do you plot out the story or do the characters speak to you?
I am rambling rosie, letting the words come and fall as they may. It makes me difficult to understand sometimes, but most people enjoy the entire experience.
* Could you image your life without writing today?
No. No way. I'd be insane. Debilitated.
* Do you feel writing is for those trained to write or for anyone who has a story to tell?
Writing is for those that need it.
SOJOURN IN CALIDIA
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