In the present-day plot, you also establish an independence, a separateness from the misogynist world that’s really notable.
During the long weekend of their reunion the women rarely talk about men. We learn that one had a bad marriage, but these women have other things to talk about and think about besides men. The great love story here is the love between these women. And it is also a mother-daughter love story, a story of inheritance that explores how one woman’s unfinished business might become her daughter’s legacy.
And OK, not to harp on this, but the narrative tone, mixing realism, fantasy and humor, also felt feminine, or at least un-masculine.
The tonal quality is meant to convey the whimsy of a fairy tale, which is the language of stories women created and told as nursemaids and mothers but did not write down because they were denied education. The whimsy is also meant to be a mask for the dark story contained beneath it, just as each woman has her own dark story she learns to shield from those who would use it against her. Finally, the structure of the story is a spiral, which creates a sense of blossoming, rather than a more traditional, aggressive structure. I want to be clear that I’m not saying a feminist novel can’t have an aggressive structure or be wildly different from mine; I’m just describing the elements within my novel that I consciously worked with as an expression of feminism.
If you could eat one dish from your novel’s central flower feast scene, what would it be?
This is a very difficult question for me. I have fantasized about this dinner many times. I guess I would say the dates stuffed with goat cheese and rolled in lavender. Or maybe the violet truffles? Then again, I think I would have to sneak into the kitchen and try at least one curried day-lily!
I’m afraid my imagination does not cooperate with limitations.
Do you witness the way “literary” writers and genre writers sling arrows at each other, and if so how do you react — as someone who, in my mind, crosses those borders pretty nimbly?
It’s human nature, unfortunately. We are creatures whose intellectual capacity is defined by discernment, which becomes transposed with judgment. But on another level, the writing community needs to take responsibility for the beast it has created. A workshop should strive to evaluate technique rather than assign value. The current state of the literary community at large — like an unwieldy, poorly run workshop — is the natural evolution of this culture. We need to insist on text-focused critique rather than dogma, and establish a no-tolerance policy for intra-literary bigotry.