An Interview with Kristine Simelda

Conducted by Ari Meghlen in 2017

AM _ When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?

KS_ I wore many caps—daughter, wife, mother, artist, florist, horse trainer, gallery manager,and restaurateur before I started to write. But when I moved

from the States to the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica in 1994, I was so fascinated by the change in environment and the diverse characters I met that I felt compelled to describe my cross-cultural experiences in writing.

AM_ Did you find people supportive when they learnt you were a writer?

KS_ Dominica is not exactly a literary Mecca, but this is where I live. We have a writer’s group, Waitukubuli Writers, and I go out to workshops and seminars whenever I can. It’s funny. Overseas I’m viewed as exotic while at home I’m generally ignored. I have a website and a River Ridge Press Dominica Facebook page, but I’m not a follower of social media.

AM_ What is your dream goal for your writing?

KS_ To find a traditional publisher and win the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

AM_ What is the title (or working title) of your current manuscript and can you tell us a little bit about it?

KS_ My fourth adult novel, Rise Up, Sister is dedicated to Nelly Stharre, a Dominican reggae artist who died in a house fire in 2015. It’s narrated through two distinct female voices, one British, the other Jamaican, and chronicles over fifty years of popular music—the phenomena of rock and roll, the message of reggae, through the stigma of dancehall—as well as examines their cause and effect on society. As a baby boomer who was bombarded by the British Invasion of popular music in the States in the 60s and discovered the message of reggae music in the Caribbean in my middle age, the manuscript is very close to my heart. In these difficult times of global unrest and tribal war, it’s important than ever to keep the vibration of One Love alive.

AM_ How long have you been working on this manuscript?

KS_ About nine months—sufficient time to give birth, don’t you think? I’ve done tons of research, workshopped it at the Key West Literary Festival, and the first draft is just about ready to go to my editor. The hard work begins after she’s made her ruthless comments and posed her unnerving questions. (Just kidding, Liz.)

AM_ Do you plan your stories or just leap into the writing?

KS_ Writing is generally a leap of faith. I always have a backlog of ideas, but whether the inspiration turns into flash fiction, a short story, a novella, or a novel remains to be seen. About halfway thru a novel, I draw a kind of pyramid that shows me rising and falling action. I’ve just started making outlines as I finish a chapter, mainly for my own sanity. And once I’ve finished a first draft, I have a neat little trick called “Save the Cat” that helps me sort out scenes.

AM_ Would you ever want to see a story of yours turned into a movie?

KS_ Yes. Yes. Especially A Face in the River and River of Fire because they’re so autobiographical. I can hear the soaring music and visualize the love scenes now!

AM_ What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?

KS_ Giving up words I love because they speak to me, not the reader.

AM_ What are your thoughts on Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing?

KS_ I’m of the old school that believes there’s a sort of stigma associated with self-publishing. Nobody’s perfect, but let’s face it: There’s a lot of unedited, typo-filled, badly punctuated work out there. If I could have found an agent who was willing to pitch my books to a traditional publisher, I definitely would have gone for it. But I didn’t, so I created my own publishing imprint, River Ridge Press Dominica, which I hope will be able to help other aspiring writers craft and publish their work.

AM_ What is the single best piece of advice you could give to new writers?

KS_ Read, read, read more than you write, write, write.

AM_ Are there any authors you would love to meet in person?

KS_ Bob Dylan. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature, right?

AM_ Tells us why you love writing

KS_ Because it sets me free.

*Addendum: In 2020, after many rewrites, Kristine Simelda signed a publishing contract with TouchPoint Press for her fourth adult novel, Rise Up, Sister. Onward!