Monday, October 21, 2013
Liane Spicer
By OFW Editor: Michael Keyton
Published: October 19, 2013

Accomplishment: After teaching high school for twenty-two years, Liane Spicer ran away and embarked on a more adventurous lifestyle, living by the Tolkien motto "Not all who wander are lost." She has worked as assistant editor of a newspaper, human resource manager and company administrator while writing and editing three novels, one memoir, and two gift books for writers. Her book reviews have appeared in print and online newspapers in the Caribbean and North America, including the Nassau Guardian, South Florida Caribbean News, and the Trinidad Guardian. CAFÉ AU LAIT is her first novel.

Has a book every made you angry? If so, which one?

The Color Purple by Alice Walker made me very angry, if my memory is accurate, in the same way that the movie Mystic River did, and the novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. There is a kind of helpless rage that I feel when I'm confronted with heinous abuse of children in fiction—all kinds of abuse, but sexual abuse most of all. Part of it is the awareness that this issue is real, and that no matter how well-written, how realistically depicted the fiction is, it can never, ever convey the true horror, the desecration and terror and damage and filth that some adults perpetrate on the people they should most fiercely protect from these things.

Which fictional character would you like to have a close relationship with?

I cannot think of a single fictional character I'd like to have a relationship with. While I'm reading a book I feel it all, and sometimes a connection with a character stays with me for a long time, or for good, but I don’t indulge in futile longings for relationships with people who do not exist outside of the imagination. Part of my refusal to indulge in this kind of fantasy, not even as a game, is my irritation with people—and they are legion—who do not seem capable of understanding that fiction, no matter how convincingly written, or filmed, or acted, is just that: fiction. Even when it's inspired by real people and events, the final product is still fiction.

Which four literary characters would you like to invite to dinner, and why?

If I encountered real-life counterparts of these characters I'd probably invite them to dinner:

• William Henry Deverereaux in Richard Russo's Straight Man because of his vulnerable humanity, his humor, his intelligence aligned with a kind of willful blindness, the fact that he loves his wife (but not enough), that he seems to take nothing seriously, and because he has such a propensity for getting himself into screamingly ludicrous fixes. He would make me laugh, and I value that greatly.

• Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray because I’m fascinated by a certain type of imperturbable, intelligent corruption of the soul. What makes a man like that tick? What satisfaction does he get from engineering the utter destruction of weaker men? Can I look into the face of such evil and not shudder? Would he succeed in charming me the way he seems to charm everyone else?

• Caravaggio from The English Patient. I found this light-fingered character, a man who does not steal things but ‘liberates’ them, who is driven by the desire to avenge himself on the man he blames for his disfigurement, a fascinating human study. Unlike Lord Henry, he has a reasonable motive for seeking to destroy someone, but despite having such a motive, he has not completely lost his humanity. Caravaggio gives me hope, while Henry makes me despair.

• Piscine Molitor Patel, the Tamil boy who is the main character in Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I’d invite him to dinner, ply him with wine, and ask: ‘Now, Pi, did you or did you not make all of that up? Tell me—I won’t tell anyone.’ *wink wink*

Which author makes you jealous and why?

Arundhati Roy. For the beauty and lyricism of her prose. Her lack of sentimentality. Her depiction of all those bitter complexities, for writing the unspeakable in the form of a story I literally could not put down until it was done.

What was the first story that ever made you afraid?

There was a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury on our bookshelf for as long as I could remember, and one day, some time in my early teens, I picked it up and started to read it. The sense of evil and danger was so pervasive I could not finish it. I haven't to this day. This was shortly after my siblings and I took a forbidden detour from our Saturday visit to the library and cut through a savannah where a visiting circus was camped. It looked nothing like the circuses of our
collective imagination; it was smelly, the workers were surly, and my brother tried to pet a monkey which grabbed his hand and tried to bite it. He was badly scratched and the surly attendants were mad at us; they kept yelling in a foreign language and making threatening gestures. We ran out of there like devils were after us. Something Wicked coming so soon after this experience was just too much.

Are you ever afraid that one day you will stop enjoying writing?

Yes, I do feel that fear sometimes, because it happened after my first novel was published. I got caught in the Dorchester Publishing meltdown and it was awful, but apart from this, I think I was just frozen with fear because it was no longer just me with a pen or keyboard spinning fantasies. I was all over the place of necessity—on blogs, Facebook, Goodreads, Shelfari, Twitter, the works. People were writing reviews and e-mailing me, the local media (I’m from Trinidad in the Caribbean) wanted to do television features, and the paper wanted to send around a photographer… The interaction was overwhelmingly positive, but it was all a bit—traumatic is probably too strong a word, but definitely unsettling and counter-productive—for someone who is as fiercely, maybe pathologically, private as I am. I took a fiction writing course a year ago and it was a lifesaver. I had no choice but to write. I had to read and discuss literary fiction, and write it, and workshop it. I met one or two students and a lecturer who are as passionate about stories and language and craft as I am. The experience helped to pull me out of the paralysis that was killing my enjoyment of writing.

Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future – and why?

Depends on when you ask me. Sometimes I think I’m finished, that the slush-pile has taken over and all but buried publishing. If you ask me right after I've received an abysmal royalty statement, well... At other times, especially lately, I'm optimistic because I'm enjoying writing once again. I have more works in progress and story ideas than I'll ever be able to get ahead of.

The dame spoke straight. They all do on the Rack, or maybe it's my charm. Sheri gave me a pitying look as though reading my mind. She whispered something in Liane's ear and they walked out together. I heard the words, Cafe au lait

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