INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, OF "ESSENCE & FOLLY",
JORGE DAVID AWE
Hello David, thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us. After reading your biography it sounds as if you had a very rich and adventurous childhood. Do you feel this has been a big inspiration in your ability to write?
A colourful childhood, as I lived, is undeniably a great source of material for any writer; as such, significant bits and pieces are splattered all over this book. Writing about your formative years (especially when they occurred during simpler times) lends a measure of pureness and honesty to your storytelling for the simple fact that during this period in life you have no filters.
Tell us what some of the things you dreamt about being as a child before you decided to write.
Growing up with Shakespeare and reading such classics as Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and the Pearl, it’s easy to imagine why writing offered great romantic appeal to me. Reading transported me early on in a way my very mundane life couldn’t. At the same time, as someone who was raised Catholic, I also felt this profound sense of duty to contribute to humanity - so I also dreamt of becoming a priest!
What is one thing you miss most about your childhood?
The thing I miss most about my childhood is simplicity of life and being fearless.
Tell us more about your book and what it's based on.
My book is a childhood memoir. It is set during the late 70’s, a time of great cultural and political flux in Belize’s history: we were in a final push for independence from Great Britain at the same time as many Belizeans were emigrating to the US. These events coincided with my formative years, a period in my life when I was trying to situate myself, find my own independence. I turned to my neighbours, since my parents had left for California, and discovered for the first time a raw, flawed, colourful, and vibrant bunch of people. I lived in a blue-collar neighbourhood where most people were engaged in manual labour of some type. To get them through tough times, they relied greatly on their sense of humour; my stories explore this dynamic interplay.
Tell us more about your home country and the culture there. Have you been back to visit recently?
Belize is a multicultural society that is predominantly African and Hispanic. The population is around 360, 000, and the size is just under 9000 square miles. Aside from the coastal areas, the flora consists primarily of lush, tropical jungle and pine ridges; many rivers and lagoons wind their way through this backdrop. We have the second largest barrier reef in the world, a feature that attracts scuba enthusiasts the world over. Also, almost the entire country’s covered in Mayan ruins – a characteristic that seems to be drawing many American tourists given the 2012/Mayan calendar doomsday association!
I visited towards the end of January when I launched my modest book in my hometown of San Ignacio. I’ll be returning next month to participate in Reading Week, an annual event that promotes reading nationally.
Who are some of your inspirations in literature today?
This might surprise many but on this point I’m a bit of a throwback. I love reading Rumi’s poetry, Gibran, Jorge Luis Borges, Ruben Dario, Flaubert, Ernest Hemingway - I could go on and on. In terms of short stories, I absolutely love Stephen Leacock (Canadian), V.S. Naipaul (Trinidadian) and Nikolai Gogol (Russian). I connect with their experiences, writing about small town life. I believe they try to capture the essence in the mundane and inane, something I hope I’ve managed to do in my own stories.
What other genres have you thought about writing in and when can we expect your next book?
Some days I feel larger than life; others, as insignificant as an atom. As a result of this Yin-Yang dynamic, I’ve started keeping a diary of my existential conversations with the larger-than-life force that threads this planet together. I’d love an opportunity to publish those someday. I’ve also written a collection of essays, reflections on people and events that have been instrumental in my life. Of course, as I write this I’m currently working on a second collection of short stories. While there will still be some strong Belizean content, compared to Essence & Folly, this collection should have broader appeal as the settings and storylines aren’t exclusively Belizean.
If you had to choose one thing that really inspired you to write what would it be?
My diving accident (which I write about in some detail in my introduction), without a question. This more than any other previous experience in my life drove home the issue of my mortality. It was the kick in the pants I needed to finally put myself out there and take the risk.
Do you allow your wife and daughters to read and critique your work?
Yes. In my introduction I shed a little light on this very unique and oftentimes testy relationship. In my family of four, I consider myself the fourth-best writer! I often joke with my wife and daughters that the only reason I’m published, compared to them, is because I had the kind of childhood that I did.
Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other aspiring authors? Please give us your links as well, so we can learn more about you and your works.
Trust your voice: if silky and smooth rolls of your pen go with it; if edgy and choppy is more your thing style, fire away. Your own perspective is what makes a piece unique.
Suffer every word with the thought in the back of your mind that even after you publish you’ll find a few flaws.
Also, consider writing a privilege: when you write you get to lend the reader your eyes for the duration of your book. And their personal time, when they choose to curl up with your book instead of a loved one, offers the kind of intimacy reserved for precious few!
Thank you again David for this wonderful opportunity, I do hope we can do this again in the future!