My recent book is The Battle for Tomorrow: A Fable.
It’s about a sixteen year old girl so deeply concerned about the bleak future young people face that she leaves home to participate in a November 2010 blockade and occupation of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. As the story begins, Angela Jones is the primary caretaker of her invalid mother. A relationship with a 23 year old political activist opens her eyes to urgent political and environmental issues – a bankrupt economy; catastrophic global warming; and looming water, energy and food shortages – that have potentially devastating consequences for her life as an adult.
Ange is arrested for her participation in the non-violent blockade and occupation of the Capitol and winds up in a juvenile detention facility in Alexandria, Virginia. While there, she also finds herself fighting for the right to live independently, owing to arbitrary emancipation laws that require her to be released to a parent or guardian.
She wins this battle, thanks to the ACLU and her own blog, which she uses to gain national attention for the problems American teenagers face with age discrimination.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m a 63 year old, recently retired child and adolescent psychiatrist, single mother and activist, who emigrated to New Zealand 8 ½ years ago after being targeted by the FBI for my political activities. I write about this in my 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee. I was born and grew up in Milwaukee and raised my own family in Seattle. I have been writing for nearly 25 years and presently serve on the National Executive of the New Zealand Green Party.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have always had in mind to write two novels: the first would explore how real political change comes about and the second how young women become conscious of subtle oppression in their relationships with men. In 2009, it suddenly occurred to me that by making my main character a teenager I could combine the two in one book. Since 2005, my clinical work has focused almost exclusively on teenagers, which gives me unique insight into the difficulties they face in contemporary society. Age discrimination is a biggie, especially in the US. In most parts of the world, teenagers are allowed to leave home, work and live independently at age 16. In some countries, they even vote at 16.
How did you choose the title?
It came to me as I was writing that teenagers should have as much right to a future (a “tomorrow”) as their parents and grandparents. However unfortunately this right is no longer automatic. With the total unwillingness of US political leaders to address catastrophic global warming (or catastrophic food and water shortages) or the major lifestyle changes necessary to prevent these occurrences. This means that teenagers will probably have to fight really hard to even have a future.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
Owing to its controversial political content, I chose to enter a joint venture with an independent, print on demand publisher.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I started writing when I was 21, during a time when my life felt really meaningless. I became a great admirer of William Faulkner during this period, owing to his unique portrayal of ordinary working people in a way that lent their lives great nobility and meaning. Although it took me a long time to find my own “voice” creatively, writing has been the only activity to provide this type of meaning in my life.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I write for three to four hours every morning when I wake up.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I have come to associate certain names with certain personality styles from my distant past.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I never thought I had the ability to write a novel. I thought a fiction writer had to have this incredible ability to invent – to continually think up story lines and characters. I was really surprised to discover that most of my novel consisted of describing very ordinary activities of daily living and that only about 1/3 of it was invention.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
If I were writing the novel in 2011, I would focus much more heavily on the “revolutions” in Africa and the Middle East. It’s astounding how much the global progressive movement has changed in a year.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Faulkner, of course. I also like John Le Carre, especially his recent novels, which focus a lot on corporate crime and corruption in the CIA and British intelligence. I also like journalistic exposes of government and corporate crimes that the mainsteam media censors.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
It’s a collection of essays I’ve published in various on-line periodicals and blogs about the unique perspective I enjoy, as an American expatriate, on the political landscape in my native country. Many of them relate to problems related to the corporate takeover of the US health care system and the negative impact this has on patients. I also write a lot about the role of corporate media censorship and disinformation in suppressing dissent in the US.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Rewriting and editing (by someone else) are the essence of good writing. You should count on doing a minimum of 12 rewrites on anything you intend to publish. In addition, all novice fiction writers should seek input from both a structural editor and a copyeditor to help them find their “voice” stylistically.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Young adults age 15-24.
Progressive, liberal, socialist and anarchist activists of all ages
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?