Ronlyn Domingue Interview
Posted by Michelle on February 14, 2008
Ronlyn’s debut book has been published in no less than twelve countries, and she’s now busy working on the next one.
Q. When did you start writing, is it something you’ve always done, or something that you started in later life?
A. The spark came in third grade when I was eight years old. My teacher, Mrs. Allen, noticed that I wanted more than our usual lessons, and she set aside time in class so that I could read and write on my own. She put my little feet on this path. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I wrote constantly–poems (bad ones, trust me), plays, short stories, and the beginnings of a couple of novels.
I gave up fiction writing almost entirely in my twenties because it didn’t seem practical. I had to earn a real living, after all. I dabbled, at best, with a novel. But during that time, I had what I call my “dead baby dreams.” I’d be pregnant and lose the babies to abortion, stillbirth, or adoption. I felt very guilty that I didn’t want them. Then one morning, literally, I woke up and realized those babies were my unwritten books. I’ve never had another dream like that since. That realization forced me back into fiction.
Q. Where did you get the inspiration for your novel, where did the ideas come from?
A. About 13 years ago, I worked for a management consulting firm on a team with 20 men. It was a great job, but it was very demanding. One day, one of the guys tested my patience to the limit, and I told him, “You know, if you don’t stop bugging me, I’m going to die and come back and poltergeist you.” He probably thought I was nuts, but that idea stayed with me. When I started writing again in my late 20s, I took a short story writing class, and I used this as the basis for a story, although I always thought of it as a novel.
The Mercy of Thin Air was born out of that short story.
As for other aspects of the novel, I’ve always been interested in the 1920s and women’s history. As a child, I was fascinated by the paranormal-ghosts and all things unexplained. I didn’t plan to write a novel that incorporated these topics. I certainly didn’t expect to study quantum physics either, which is something I had to do to figure out what Razi, the narrator, thought she was. I often say that Razi was the driving force of this novel. I trusted her as a character to lead me. As it happens, her background matched my interests.
Q. How about the characters, are they based on people that you know, or are they purely from your imagination?
A. Hmm, that’s a trick question in part. My characters may have personality traits in common with people I know, but none of that is deliberate. I can’t force any of my characters to be anyone but who they are. They tell me what they like to wear, do, eat, and so on. I can’t impose my will on them because it rings false. It’s as if they exist in my head fully formed, and I have to be patient enough for them to reveal themselves.
Q. How long did it take you to write?
A. Four years, which includes all the research and thinking I had to do.
Q. How does it feel to have your book published in so many countries? And who chooses all the different covers?
A. Surreal. Germany, the U.K., and Italy acquired the rights only weeks after my U.S. deal was made. When eight other countries picked it up, too, well, I still can’t quite make sense of it. To think something I wrote actually strikes a chord with people from different countries and cultures, that’s a miracle. More than I ever dreamed of.
Each publisher decides on what the cover will look like. They keep in mind the readers they want to reach, the overall culture of the people in that country, and their own aesthetic as a publisher. My Italian publisher used the U.S. cover because it fit what many Italian book jackets look like–simple, elegant. I’m not sure why a number of other countries used the original U.K. cover, but I think it’s beautiful. (For the record, only famous bestselling writers get any control over their covers. I was lucky that my U.S. publisher asked my opinion along the way.)
Q. Do you personally believe in any sort of after-life?
A. Yes, but I have no clue what that looks like. I was raised Catholic, and I could never quite wrap my head around the heaven/hell/purgatory concepts. There’s no consensus among religions about what happens after we die anyway. Quantum physics offers some interesting ideas, which seem to fuse science and spirituality, at least to me. There’s no doubt that I’ll get the answer to this burning question one of these days…
Q. You say that you changed your mind as to what your second novel will be about. How is this one going, do you think you’ll be sticking to it? Are you willing to share any hints yet?
A. Yes, I switched books. For about three years, I was so sure what Novel 2 was going to be and blabbed to anyone who’d ask. Then out of nowhere, I got hooked by the novel I started before The Mercy of Thin Air, the only fiction I dabbled with during those aforementioned dead baby dream years. Little of it is salvageable, but there are sub-plots and characters who have my attention. We’re committed to each other, so I think it’s safe to say that’s the next book. No hints yet, though. It’s too unformed, and there are days I think I jinxed the other novel–which is shelved, not scrapped–by talking about it. I hope the new one is worth the wait for those who like my first novel.
Q. What do you like reading yourself, who are your favourite authors?
A. I read non-fiction when I’m researching a new project and fiction almost exclusively the rest of the time. Lately, I’ve been on a short story kick, but my true love is the novel. The authors I’ve enjoyed for many years include Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Mark Helprin, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Other writers I’ve read recently whose work I like include Glen Duncan (oh that I, Lucifer), Audrey Niffenegger, Noria Jablonski (who I found on Myspace), and Will Clarke.
Q. Is there a book that you wish you’d written?
A. I can’t choose only one! I’ll control myself and say The Ogre by Michel Tournier, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.
Q. Do you enjoy your web-based promotion, such as MySpace? Have you been able to connect with many people that way?
A. It has been enjoyable–and surprising in a good way. I’ve been amazed how many people discovered The Mercy of Thin Air’s Myspace page and friended me as a result. A number of readers have contacted me through Myspace, which has been a good way to interact. I’m not a chatter, but I do respond to comments and messages I receive and will as long as I have time. As a writer (and reader myself), I’ve taken notice of authors who may never have crossed my path otherwise. That’s been fun and exciting, too.
Thanks so much for the Myspace connection and the chance to share my novel with your forum’s visitors. Happy reading, everyone.
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