We read to know what really happened; what was under the surface. My stories rise out of experience since the 1960s. As a first-generation immigrant, I’ve been an outsider trying to figure out the rules of the game and what others were thinking my whole life. I’ve had five careers, been around the world twice, and learned a lot of languages. My fiction will probably involve foreign travel, spirituality, and love. And willful women.
A couple of principles guide my writing. First, we all want to break out of conventional and routine life. “First learn to write as if you were already dead and then you will learn to write as if you were still alive.” (Niccolo Tucci) The proper surfaces of life are often hiding truths and secrets. Most of us wish we were more free and did things that we couldn’t because they were not permitted, or we didn’t have the money, or we didn’t have the chance. I try to create a reality that I would like to live, at least for a fictional minute.
Second, Sanskrit poetics say that works of art are designed to evoke one or two key emotions: love, humor, anger, sorrow, disgust, fear, energy, and wonder. (These are called “rasa” which means “essence.”) The pleasure of art is the pleasure of having the experience of one of these feelings. In literature, the story and characters are designed to bring the reader into the predominant emotion.
Writing has to work for the author and for the reader. We find compatible authors to take us to places that are interesting, happy, enlightening. A story is like a friend: you like something there and you want to spend some time there. Some of my favorites: Salinger, Hemingway, John Barth, Karen Blixen, Annie Proulx, Paulo Coelho, Jorge Luis Borges, George Orwell, Thomas Mann. Recently I was gripped reading Alexandra David-Neel, a Victorian woman who walked out of China into forbidden Tibet in the 1920s. I love being taken places by Paul Theroux.