Jade, you began with fan fiction and now write science fiction. Most people would assume those genres are about as far from real life as you can get. Can you give us some ideas or examples of how you build on real-life experiences and memories in your work?
Jade to Pam: I think all of us incorporate our real life experiences in our writings. For example, Perfection Unleashed leverages very heavily on my background as a biology and philosophy major, but more intimately, Perfection Unleashed explores issues relating to fairness in society. I was born and raised in a country that practiced reverse discrimination. Students from my ethnic group who had straight As were rejected from medical school, and students with straight Cs were accepted because they were academically on par with the "top" students of another race who were admitted to medical school. That lesson had a tremendous impact on me and was one of many reasons that inspired me to leave that country and seek a home and future elsewhere. I incorporated my lingering questions into Perfection Unleashed. How does a person who is naturally talented, naturally gifted compete in a society that is dominated (politically and socially) by those who view your talents with skepticism and even
Pam to Jade: I long for an egalitarian society, too. Yet natural gifts are distributed unequally, and that seems to be a cause of friction in any society that values cooperation above innovation. I believe your theme is one many gifted individuals will identify with.
Jade, among your many background experiences, how do you mark specific memories to reference in your writing? How do you filter the rest of your memories from the keepers, and how do you know which ones belong in your work?
Jade to Pam: The ones that (in spite of two decades of distance and "wisdom") get my hackles up in record time are clearly the ones to include. :-) The memories that draw a smile and a chuckle, those too I include. There's a tendency to think of life as a sequence of events. It is that, of course, but that makes for a dull recollection of life, in my opinion. Instead, I prefer to think of life as snapshots of memories that were worth remembering. I've read lots of "I did this, then I did that" memoirs, but have uniformly preferred the ones that focused on sharing the memories around certain themes, noting how they evolved over
Pam to Jade: Surely your characters also have memories that affect the way they react to present circumstances. How do you draw on them in your novel?
Jade to Pam: There are many tools available to tease out characters' memories. Flashbacks are commonly utilized, and many novelists write whole scenes around them. I prefer to use the memory to explain how it changed the character, such as in this scene, in a conversation between Galahad, the perfect human being, and Zara, the mercenary who freed him from Pioneer Labs.
“Would breaking into Pioneer Labs fall under the completely illegal or partly illegal category?”
“Neither.” She laughed again. “That was just light-hearted mischief, until, of course, I absconded with you.”
“How did you get into this line of work?”
“That’s not important,” she said, casually dismissive. Her tumultuous childhood, the many wars that had eventually ripped the heart and soul out of the Mediterranean paradise of Lebanon, the years spent in the squalid conditions of a refugee camp, the harrowing journey to America—to the one land that still held out the promise of freedom to any who came to its shores—none of that mattered anymore.
The actual events of the past, she had reasoned with brutal clarity of hindsight, were not important. Only the outcomes mattered. She had survived, become strong, and then worked tirelessly night and day to ensure that what she had could never be taken from her again.
If in the process, she had lost a bit of herself, she considered it well worth the price. The bright-eyed, sunny-faced child who had once danced with artless innocence in the courtyard of a Lebanese home and counted everyone a friend would never have made it in a world brimming with brutal realities, anyway.
Life didn’t work like that.
Another tool I use is dialogue. In this scene, Danyael Sabre, the protagonist, and Jason Rakehell learn that they are brothers. I wanted to showcase Jason's memories of his long-lost brother, and fortunately, I have characters that make sharing those memories easy. Miriya is a telepath, she reads thoughts, and in this scene, she is communicating telepathically with Danyael.
Danyael did not resist when Jason roughly grabbed his left hand,
the bones subtly misshapen from an unremembered injury that had not healed
correctly. He could not read his brother’s thoughts, but he could sense Jason’s
emotions as disbelief gave way to towering anger and hatred. At this point, I
think it’s a toss-up as to whether he hates me or Galahad
Miriya smiled thinly, not amused. This isn’t funny, Danyael.
It’s laugh or cry, Miriya. What does he remember?
He remembers when your mother struck you, and her ring tore the gash in your
cheek. He remembers when your mother used a pestle to smash your hand after you’d reached for one of his toys. She obviously failed parenting class. I
wouldn’t have trusted her with a goldfish, let alone a child.
Pam to Jade: The next question that occurs to me is, what functions does the fiction author lend to the character's memory? (such as: back story, tension, foreshadowing, etc.) Can you give an example of how that works?
In fiction, all memory is by definition, back story. The real trick is deciding when to share it and how much of it to share. There are a few guidelines I use. I don't know if they're applicable in memoirs, but here goes:
1. Does the memory add tension and conflict to the story? Tension doesn't need to involve buildings blowing up. Tension and conflict can happen internally as well. Tension keeps readers turning pages, so you share only as much as is needed to keep them reading. Too much, and the pace could slow, or you could lose the reader in details.
2. Does the memory result in internal and/or external change? In addition to tension, readers want progress. Something needs to happen in the scene that shows the plot progressing or the character developing. Does the character's memory facilitate that internal and external change? If it doesn't, why is it in the scene?
3. And even if the memory adds tension and conflict resulting in internal and external change, you never, ever dump the entire back story on the reader all at once. It's fiction, not a biography, and I only share as much as is needed for the reader to know. Sometimes, the reader will need to know more...eventually, and in that case, I dribble it out over time. Readers enjoy the process of discovery, so allow them to discover the truth. Slowly.
Pam to Jade: I'll bet those pointers would work very well for constructing a memoir. What else did you want to tell us, Jade?
Jade to Pam:
Thank you so much for hosting me on your new blog. I know it's a stretch to get from fiction to memoirs, but I hope these few insights have been helpful. I invite you and your readers to visit my website at http://www.jadekerrion.com. I do talk about my novels, but I also have two features that I hope may be useful to your readers some day. I host a section on my blog called 'An Author's Journey' which I use to describe what I did to publish and market my novel. This work-in-progress could be helpful once you head down the path of getting those memoirs into the hands of readers. Secondly, I host author interviews, guest posts, etc. on my blog. For those who write memoirs, I invite you to contact me once you’ve published for some free publicity and an opportunity to share your work on my website.