Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Conversation with Kim Edwards

Kim Edwards grew up in the Finger Lakes district of upstate New York, where her new novel, a captivating story of a woman discovering her lost past, is set. Megan Kurashige had the pleasure of asking her some questions about The Lake of Dreams and the history and ideas that inspired it.

**Kim Edwards will be visiting Kepler's on Friday, January 21st, at 7:00 PM. For further information, please follow this link.**

MK: In The Lake of Dreams, you offer the story of a woman returning home after an absence of some years to discover that her past is filled with unexplained mystery and secrets. What made you want to explore this story and these themes?

The Lake of Dreams KE: The underlying structure of this story is the hero's quest, and as such, Lucy is called home in the early chapters. I understood from the beginning that she would need to resolve and heal aspects of her past in order to move forward in her life, though I didn't initially know how deep that past would go.

MK: You manage to intertwine historical elements with a contemporary story line. What drew you to the American suffragette movement? How did it affect the telling of your story?

KE: It was geography that brought me to the suffragettes. I wanted to set this novel in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York because I had grown up there, knew the landscape well, and loved it's beauty. As I began visiting, I was intrigued by the rich history, which I'd known in a glancing way as a child, but understood differently as an adult. At first I imagined this history would play a more minor role, but as Rose's voice emerged and began to take hold, the importance of the past grew.

MK: This is your second novel. How was the experience of writing it different from your first novel?

KE: I've been writing for many years, and in all essential ways, the writing of The Lake of Dreams--the exploration and discovery of the story, as well as the crafting and shaping--was much the same, though the structures of the novels are very different, as are the narrative voices. It did take me a few months to make the transition from the very public act of touring back to the very private act of writing; I had to work harder to regain the contemplative space from which I write.

MK: Both of your novels tackle family secrets, obsessions, and the revisions we make on our own histories. What do you find compelling about the darker edges of human interaction?

KE: If there is no trouble, there is no story. I'm interested in the resilience of the human spirit, and in what my characters learn about themselves in the face of adversity.

MK: Why do stories matter?

KE: Stories don't just matter; they are essential. This is something that became vividly clear to me when I was living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in the early 1990s. The country had just become open to the West after years of war and civil war, and people carried with them stories of what they had suffered. Wherever I went people told these stories. They were grim stories, difficult to hear, but I always listened, because it was clear to me that in telling what had happened to them, what they had suffered and lost, people were giving some sort of shape and order to the unimaginable horrors they'd survived. They were literally remembering, putting the past back together. In a larger sense, this is what art always does; it seeks to explore and illuminate something of what it means to be human.

Kim Edwards was born in Killeen, Texas. She is the author of a collection of short stories called The Secrets of a Fire King, which was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which spent 122 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. She is Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky. Visit Kim on the web at her site.

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