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Some thoughts on my new novel

I'm nowhere near done on this novel, but have written about 30,000 words, excluding some advance scenes/notes.

The synopsis:

Janet is woken in the middle of the night with some devastating news. Her best friend, Callie, has died from suicide. Janet must come to terms with her friend's death, even as she searches for answers. Why did Callie kill herself?

Along the way she meets someone who also cared for her friend, but could never tell her. Janet's journey takes her down a road of grief, despair and finally, hope as she learns to let go.

This story deals with mental illness and suicide and the effect it has on loved ones left behind.

Ok, the synopsis I originally wrote is slightly better, but oh well.

So, some thoughts. Janet's heritage is part-Maori. I know a little about Maori tradition, enough to paint a picture of a family that, while not totally faithful to it, do follow some of those traditions. I wanted a family that had lost some of that tradition, through various political issues of past generations. Back in the 50s, a lot of Maori had become that way, either through just needing to fit in with the current political climate or to avoid prejudice.

The thing that I've been thinking about is, as someone who has a European ancestry, is it right for me to write about a woman who grew up with that kind of heritage but has left some of that behind? The Maori part is more or less background to her story. As I say, it's painting a picture of her through her background and her interactions with her family. I am trying to be respectful in my descriptions - like the grandfather fought in WW2 as part of the Maori Battalion.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with it. It would be like an American caucasian author writing a main character who has an African-American or Native American heritage. Ultimately the story is not about her culture, but about her journey to understanding and the main theme, as I mention in the synopsis, is mental illness.

Thoughts? Comments?

I've been procrastinating a little on this novel. Part of it I think is that you have to be in the right frame of mind. A lot of what I deal with in the story is quite depressing as I give Callie a voice as well, through journals.

Personally, I've been doing a lot better lately. Part of that is my diet, another part is my job. Way less stress. But I am anxious to finish the story as I have two other stories I want to get started on. Plus I have some proofing to do for a friend.

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
me_ya_ri
Feb. 12th, 2016 03:11 am (UTC)
I think you should be okay. I mean, there are actual people like Janet out there and they deserve to have stories where they're the hero(ine). And given that the focus of the story is on other things it isn't as though you're coopting their struggle or telling their story for them.

I do hope that you finish it. The bit I read was absolutely wonderful. I couldn't put it down at all.

And yay for proofing! I've been quiet, just putting things out, since my books lately have been smaller ones and I haven't had the money. I'm hoping to get more tossed your way over the year though.

I'm so glad the diet and job are going better! That's a huge relief. :D

Good luck finishing it and the other ideas, too!
phoenixnz
Feb. 12th, 2016 08:03 am (UTC)
Thanks Mary. No worries about the proofing. You've been really busy too, I see. As you say, her background isn't the focus of the story, and it's not like I'm rewriting history.
arashinoookami
Feb. 12th, 2016 03:37 am (UTC)
I don't see an issue with it, but as I'm not Maori myself I'm not really in a position to judge. Do they have any social taboos about talking about ancestors that have passed away, like some of the Aboriginal people do? If so, you may need to be careful about mentioning her grandfather.

If you're really worried about it, do you know any Maori people whose opinion you could ask?
phoenixnz
Feb. 12th, 2016 08:05 am (UTC)
I actually asked a woman at my office and told her the point of it. She was fine with it, didn't see a problem at all. Above all, it's a character driven story, it's not about where she comes from. I just wanted to reassure myself that I wasn't being arrogant in making my protagonist Maori.
roxymissrose
Feb. 12th, 2016 03:49 am (UTC)
I can't see a problem. Research and respect, that's all you need. I write about white people all the time, and I think I do a pretty good job of it. I think the best way to write other cultures is not like you're writing aliens, but folks like you who have some different expectations in life. In this case, I'd want to know how Maori peoples view suicide, because whether her family identifies deeply with their heritage or not, I think certain things overcome any loss of cultural identity.

I can see how this novel must be hard to write, with such a heavy theme.
phoenixnz
Feb. 12th, 2016 08:07 am (UTC)
Despite the subject matter, I'm writing (I hope) a positive portrayal of someone who is dealing with a painful loss. As for the suicide, I'm not sure it would matter, since the friend is Pakeha (caucasian). I do touch on it a little where someone comments about the girl 'going to Hell', which is a religious thing, not a cultural thing.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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