Debut novelist Adina Sara is visiting me today. We’re chatting about Blind Shady Bend.
Oakland author Adina Sara’s debut novel, Blind Shady Bend, tells of a woman whose life takes a sharp, unexpected turn when she inherits a rundown piece of country property. She has also published two collections of essays and poetry. In 100 Words Per Minute, she offers a look into the heart of clerical workers. In The Imperfect Garden, she explores the elements of determination, disappointment and surprise that shaped her landscape and life. Her essays have appeared in Persimmon, East Bay Express, Pure Slush, and Peregrine Press. She was the feature garden columnist for an Oakland, California newspaper, and currently divides her time between pulling weeds, making music, and writing.
Welcome, Adina. Please tell us about your current release.
Blind Shady Bend is my first novel. It tells the story of a woman approaching her 70th birthday, who has lived a pretty uneventful life, taking care of her aging parents, allowing the years to thicken around her so she has very little energy to see beyond the drooping houseplants in her faded living room. But an event occurs that puts her life into a state of upheaval – the surprising inheritance from a runaway brother whom she had not heard from in over 30 years. The inheritance, - a piece of run down country property – forces her to reach past her comfort zone, and examine possibilities that she never thought possible. Exploring this rundown piece of land, and meeting the surrounding neighbors, she uncovers parts of her own life that she had long since abandoned.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had purchased a piece of country property 20 years ago, and sold it shortly thereafter. (It turned out to be a bad idea.) But the land with its barely standing shack, the smells of its landscape, and the twisted dusty roads and hidden away neighbors stayed with me. I started to write about it, and realized that the 5-acre parcel was becoming the first character of a novel. For reasons I’ll never fully understand, the main character, Hannah Blackwell, came to me, fully formed. The neighbors followed shortly thereafter, all fictional, bearing no resemblance to people in my life. The story kept unfolding as I wrote. I had no idea how it would end, following Hannah’s discoveries right along with her. I loved the idea of that someone’s life could begin again, just as they thought it was over.
Excerpt from Blind Shady Bend:
I took a good long look around my living room. Square windows, square tables, square pictures on the wall. All I could see were the squares. I kicked off my suddenly aching shoes and one of them tumbled sideways against the ceramic vase covered with seashells, of all things, that served as a doorstop next to the front door. The shoe tipped the vase onto the tile entryway and the thing split into three neat pieces. I was thrilled to see it come apart.
I stumbled into my kitchen, hot and thirsty and filthy. My hands were cut up in places where I must have grabbed before looking -- wild rose thorns caught under the stones, not to mention the sharp slate edges themselves. The sweat under my armpits had come and gone, leaving behind an acrid scent of dust and excess. I went to the sink, watched the mud break loose from my fingers, and bent over to let the water cool the top of my head, run down along the sides of my neck, my road map of creases. I was tired, but a different kind of tired than I was used to, the kind of tired that made me feel alive.
I wandered from room to room, closed my eyes and counted eight steps to my kitchen counter, didn’t even nick my hip on the chair on the way over, and decided that I had been living most of my life as if blind-folded. Now the blindfolds were off, and the bright light stunned me silent.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am back to writing essays – which was always my favorite genre. Mostly stories of my family, friendships, marriages, divorces, all the stuff that fills the decades and needs to be recorded. I may or may not weave the essays into a book – I’m trying to stay away from end goals and simply enjoy the being in the moment of writing whatever memories rise to the surface.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Always. I used to write when I was a young child, keeping the stories hidden in the bottom drawer of my desk. I wrote to escape, and as I got older, I wrote to chronicle my life. It wasn’t until I was much older, and realized that my writing was worth sharing with others, that I began to call myself a writer, out loud, to others. I have published 3 books and continue to write for no reason other than it makes me feel profoundly alive.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Heavens no. I don’t do anything full time. I love to work (or rather, play) in my garden. I love to sing and am actively involved in 2 performing groups. I write when the spirit moves me, and participate in writing groups to ensure that the spirit gets fed. I am committed to and nurture many interesting, loving relationships, and couldn’t possibly choose between any of those powerful connections.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Ideas generally come to me when I’m half asleep, or walking in the woods, or in a place where I’m nowhere near and pen and paper – and I have to hold on to them and keep them safe in my head until I find a way to transport them on to the page. It is both frustrating and entertaining. But I’ve managed to complete 2 books of essays and poetry and a novel using this method, a method I do not recommend.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had no idea. I never had an idea. I followed whatever interesting, or necessary path presented myself, and carved out a life where my creative world managed to stay afloat and be productive, while I earned a living doing mundane tasks. Somehow it all worked for me, maybe because I never loved to do any one thing to the exclusion of others, which left me time to pursue a number of interests, talents and responsibilities at the same time.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I started writing my novel the year after my mother died. The novel has nothing to do with her, but I think some kind of creative energy was released (she always told me I was a writer and I never believed her), which translated into writing a book about an older woman whose life was about to take a radical turn. My message to any writer is that it is never too late to begin – that you are never too old to be young, and to change the course of your life.
Thanks for being here today, Adina!