Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ayshe Talay-Ongan talks about the voices she hears

Today I have the author of Turquoise: A Love Story here to respond to the question I always like to ask authors. You can read my thoughts about Ayshe's book here and be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a paperback copy of Turquoise.

And it's international! Whoo hoo!! 

So, Ayshe - I have heard other authors say that they 'hear voices in their head' and that is how they write their books: the characters are telling their stories. Not being a writer myself, that concept has always intrigued me.

When some people hear voices, we get them medical attention, others end up becoming writers. Does this happen to you? How do you come up with your stories?


It takes a terrific imagination to be fiction writer. All my favorite authors — Franzen, Eugenides, French, Attwood, among many more — seem to have a knack of imagining stories that feel real, yet are products of the authors’ imagination. As to whether I qualify for this statement, I’m not sure. My novel Turquoise – A Love Story is a work of fiction, but it was my life experiences that inspired me to write it; so in that sense, it was not dependent on the power of my imagination. Yet, it is not a memoir or an autobiography. And yes, I did hear voices while writing it! Let me explain what I mean.

Memory is a fickle friend at best of times. We may have experienced certain events, even some life-altering experiences, but at the moment of retelling that story, it has already been transformed and altered. Unless we were able to transcribe a video or an audio record of that event, it has already changed when we tell it because it has now been subject to erosion of time and dictates of memory. Like a piece of chalky plaster dipped in a color solution, so our memory absorbs the states of our mind, our need to redeem ourselves, or to appear smart and quick. We find ourselves changing the retelling of that story depending on whose ear we pour it into, even!

So in that sense, we re-create the events we’d like to share with our readers. And in doing so, we ask for the power of words to represent that experience — in a conversation or a description. But which words can flawlessly, truthfully, exactly describe the moment of falling in love? Or losing a child or a beloved partner or parent? Or the seething anger we feel when bullied?

What I do when I write fiction is to visualize a particular character in a certain situation. Then I act it out. Honestly, I do; I start talking to myself! I talk as the character would talk, until it feels like the words come close enough to represent the emotions I’d like to convey. I become a one-person theatre troupe taking on several characters, and start talking in their tongues while I try emulating their facial expressions. So yes, if folks saw me in my study, writing, they may well think that I was hallucinating.

And one more weird thing I do when I write: I sometimes read passages I write out loud and tweak them until they sound authentic, or, at least credible.

Coming back to Turquoise – A Love Story. Yes, I can attest to many events in it. Have Yasmin and Renan uttered the very same sentences that I heard in my head while writing the novel? Close enough, but probably not.

Except for two sentences Renan says on page 438 that are replicated word for word, which have withstood time — no matter the how memory can distort.

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