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THE FOLLOWING FAQS ARE FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH JUDY HERZL
How much is Innerone drawn from your own life? It reads like a memoir, but it’s fiction. What are the details drawn from?
I used a few stories from my own childhood in the beginning, mindful of what seems a writer’s law: write from experience. However, when I delved into the fantastical elements, I used the mostly unwritten, fish-in-water law of writing: use your imagination. Specifically, I used disassociating techniques to figure out what other characters with differing beliefs, values, maturity, and agendas might do and say. I fleshed those out with actual conversations I’ve had with people, lectures I’ve attended, and, of course, imagined conversations with fictional people, dead people, and people whose words I admire but whom I have never met.
Why is the heroine (or main protagonist) unnamed?
Because she could be any woman. She could be you. She could be any person, in fact, who wants to direct her life instead of unthinkingly being directed by her past.
Who did you write Innerone for?
Myself, primarily. And writers end up writing for others too, so Innerone is also for people who like figuring themselves out and those who would like to direct their own transformations; readers who like to root for the underdog, enjoy stories of healing, and perhaps who share a darker shade of humour. There are a few parts in the book that I think are quite funny. I’m hoping there are others out there who think that too.
I get the feeling that writing has been very healing for you personally. Do you care to write more about that?
The initial dialogue gave me questions to ask and beliefs to identify and then discard or re-choose if they still rang true for me. That was an amazing time for me, in which I cleared up many misunderstandings I had with myself and discovered many more. My perspective of who I was and how I behaved in the world became clearer at that time. Was it healing? Yes, but not in the sense that something was sick and needed to get better. It was healing in the way a pair of glasses can bring what we see into focus. I was still me, just in HD.
Your protagonist in Innerone is an unnamed, emotionally-scarred woman who transforms through the course of the novel. How was developing her character, as well as the rest of the cast of characters she meets as she meditates to her mind's underworld — her spunky inner-child, her esoteric higher-self and skeptical inner-scientist similar or different to developing the characters that live in your other stories?
The protagonist in Innerone does have similarities to the protagonists of my other short stories in that, so far, all of my characters play with ignorance and growth.
In Cheery Red, Jane has purposely forgotten her years of abuse to be able to survive. Once she was old enough and able enough to want more out of life than just surviving, she was able to discover what she needed to remember so that she could escape to, hopefully, a better life. In A Mysterious Jagg, Munchnit chooses to disregard all the politics around him – this makes him happier. As a result, he remains naïve and ignorant. He trots contentedly into each trap waiting for him because he never questions other people’s motives. He never grows wiser and remains a dupe; this will hurt him in the long run. In Options, the unnamed protagonist (see, I’ve done this before) knows too much and, since there is no place for self-growth, simply takes the only step she can take to right a wrong. She does it accepting that she will die for it.
The Innerone protagonist thinks she knows everything because she has done some new age courses. She is completely unprepared for what actually happens, but because she really wants to heal herself, she keeps questioning and working at it, until she finally realizes that the thing that is most sick about her is her perception of herself. Once she learns how to choose that perception (that she is whole rather than broken) she is more able to direct her life.
Do the other characters in Innerone (the spunky inner-child, the esoteric higher-self and skeptical inner-scientist) have names and an identity that comes out of a more traditional story-telling tradition?
These characters are all deliberately clichés with a little sparkle. I wanted them to be instantly recognisable. Two are born from New Age tradition; the inner-child and higher-self. One was created from what is often considered the opposing worldview of fact and science (three points if you guess who that is). A few are psychology text-book tropes, such as the woman choosing poison, Cyco (I could not have been more obvious there); and some, like Amelia, are or were actual people. You can think of all the characters in terms of Brother’s Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, as the magical persons that help or hinder the hero on his or her quest. Remember that the hero’s own attitude often determines how that magical person helps or hinders. You can also think of each character in psychological terms: through different disassociated viewpoints. And you can think of the whole cast of characters and plot as based on a particular Neuro Linguistic Process called the Parts process. All of them play a role .
Innerone feels like a departure from your prior writing; how do you see it informing your forthcoming work? Do you see yourself moving from short stories to longer novels for instance?
I’m definitely going to explore emotional landscapes a bit more. I find them fascinating. My next book will not be a transformational book in the same way this is. It seems to be turning into more of a fiction / fantasy mix. Having said that, I do tend to play with genres; it keeps me interested. Short stories are wonderful places to have fun with different genres. .
So you have plans for additional books?
Oh yes, I’m working on a few right now. I’d also like to see what readers have to say about this book—what they want more of, what they’d like to see next. Then it will be my pleasure to give it to them, if I can.
I love your songs. When are you writing more?
Thank you! I have quite a few songs ready for the third album, which I will start working on when both kids are at school. It's October 2015 now, so I would say that I'll start in about 18 months and release each song as it is completed.
How does songwriting happen for you?
A song emerges, with lyrics and music, often while I’m thinking or feeling about something, either peripherally while I’m driving, or while I’m in deep consideration at home.
There are some musicians that have scraps of lyrics in a box, and others that improvise and create lyrics emerge through from a stream of consciousness flow. How do you write and how do you know something is going to be a song versus a poem for instance?
A song arrives with rhythm, repetition and melody. Poems generally have rhythm but no rhyme (unless it’s a simple birthday poem. I write a lot of those).
You have a video of you performing your song Well. Can you tell us about the inspiration for Well?
I was sitting at what was once the Rhodes Memorial at UCT, looking over some panoramic views, and I suddenly felt very lonely. And then, I didn't. It wasn't that anyone had joined me, I just felt connected to where I was. A few weeks before that, I had been studying the book Well of Loneliness at WITs. Space, thought, emotion and time merged together while I was sitting there. The song sprang fully formed from that, right there.
You also performed for Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 90th birthday with the Constitutional Court Choir. What it was like performing it for Nelson Mandela?
Jeez. How do you put something like that into words? I think what made it extra special was that Graça Machel was there with him, of course, and she is just the nicest, sweetest, most down-to-earth lady. It was unbelievable to meet Madiba; meeting Graça was stratospheric.
When are you publishing the second edition of I Spy?
I'm getting to it. Really.