Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ronlyn Domingue

From a 2006 interview at Paraphernalia with Ronlyn Domingue about her debut novel, The Mercy of Thin Air:

PNR: Your first novel, THE MERCY OF THIN AIR, has received critical acclaim and has been released around the world; could you tell us about the publication of your book? Where did you get the idea for this novel?

Ronlyn D.: That comment I made to a co-worker years ago turned into an idea for a novel about a poltergeist who moves from house to house, not fixed in one place. All I had was a series of incidents in mind, but the character had no name, no gender. In 1999, I imposed the short story form on this novel idea--which forced me to come up with a story in the first place.

Then there was Razi...

PNR: Yes, Razi. As a reader, I found myself drawn in by Razi's plight and experienced an emotional bond with her; the novel’s themes are emotionally complex and she is such a wonderfully strong woman. Could you tell us about the development of her character?

Ronlyn D.: Let's start with the moment I knew I wasn't dealing with just any character. When I started to work on the short story, there were a few things I knew about her, what I call her 'bullet points'. She was the daughter of a suffragette. She was a birth control advocate. She had green eyes and blond hair. And she was dead. But she had no name. One day, I was driving home from work and stopped at a light. Suddenly there was a voice in my head (don’t take that too literally) that said, 'My name is Raziela'. I paused and thought, Well, okay, that's your name. From then on, she was a force to contend with.

Razi was very impatient with me to figure her out. I didn’t realize this at the time. Right now, I’m working on my second novel, and the narrator is quiet and patient. It's okay that I don't understand him yet. He's giving me some space.

But Razi. . . She had a presence like no other character I've written. She surprised me with her emotional depth, quite frankly. For someone who valued science, rationality, above all else, Razi was capable of intense passions in her political life, friendships, her bond with Andrew. The other day, I was talking to a writer friend about the challenge of capturing a character’s voice, and I shared with her how shocked I was when Razi became lyrical in her speech. It didn’t fit what I thought about her. Razi was more rounded that I gave her credit for being.

As for her strength, I see that as both nature and nurture. Razi was born feisty, smart, and strong-willed. She was also raised by parents who encouraged her intellectually. She was deeply loved. Her father could not have been more proud of her. Even though Razi lived at the turn of the 20th century, with such a foundation early in her life, it's plausible she would have had the conviction to pursue a medical career and do the things she did. That’s not to say she didn’t struggle with traditional expectations. That was a fault line in her relationship with Andrew all along.
Read more of the Q & A.

The Mercy of Thin Air, the movie.

The Page 69 Test: The Mercy of Thin Air.

--Marshal Zeringue