It's October and CaribLit is reading Monique Roffey's, Archipelago. Roffey was born in Trinidad and now lives in the United Kingdom. She has published three novels and a memoir and has edited an anthology of short stories, The Global Village, for Tell Tales. Roffey also teaches creative writing in the UK, Greece and Trinidad, including the recent four day Arvon-style CaribLit workshop for Caribbean writers.
In 2010, Roffey’s second novel, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle was shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2010 and for the Encore Award in 2011. Archipelago has received positive reviews in the UK, USA and in Trinidad and, in April 2013, it was awarded the OCM BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Literature. Roffey's other titles include Sundog and With the Kisses of His Mouth.
Here's what she has to say about her latest book.
Gavin Weald is the 46 year-old hero of Archipelago. Weald and his six-year-old daughter, Ocean, survive a flood but the tragic loss of the life they once knew continues to haunt them. Father and daughter embark on a journey across Caribbean waters to find peace, heal old wounds and rebuild the life they once lived.
CaribLit: Where do you get your inspiration?
MR: Usually inspiration comes from my dreams.
CaribLit: Who or what inspired the book Archipelago?
When my brother’s home was badly flooded in December 2008, a week before Christmas, I knew I had to write about it, that it, climate change, from a Caribbean man’s point of view.
CaribLit: How did you come up with the title?
MR: Gavin Weald, the hero, sails from his archipelago in the Caribbean region to the Galapagos, a kind of boyhood fantasy archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He passes through two others on the way, Los Roques and the San Blas islands. In many ways this is a book about coming from small islands, there seemed to be no other name.
CaribLit: What do you know now that you wish you could have told yourself when you were writing the book?
MR: I had a bad accident aboard a boat during high seas. I wish I’d been much more careful and listened to the warning signals. I now have a bad scar on my right leg. Also, leaving Trinidad with a complete stranger on his boat and sailing with him for five days and nights was scary and maybe even stupid. I wouldn’t do it again.
CaribLit: Describe your experience working with your publisher.
MR: I’m very lucky in many ways. The pros are many: tip-top editing, copy-editing, and a high level of production in general. It was good to have a PR team and a zealous sales/marketing team,[as well as] a team which promotes the book online to bloggers and online reviewers. So many bases were covered to try and promote and sell my books. I have been lucky enough to have been entered for prizes too. The only draw back can be the covers. I cringe whenever an editor reveals what he or she thinks is a wonderful “package”.
CaribLit: What were the most difficult and easiest things about the writing process for Archilpelago?
MR: The sailing I did for research was difficult; I’m not a natural. The rest was a joy. I got to travel through the Western Caribbean and to Panama and Columbia, through the Panama Canal and then to Ecuador and the Galapagos. It was a memorable trip. I mostly loved writing this book.
CaribLit: Being an Orange Prize finalist did you feel pressured taking on Archipelago, following the success of White Woman on a Green Bicycle? What was the feedback like from other writers?
MR: Yes I did feel pressured. The feedback from other writers was mostly good. One famous writer didn’t like it; he shall be nameless.
CaribLit: Tell us about your most memorable review? Good or bad. How did you react?
My memoir was famously hatcheted by a journalist on the Sunday Times in June 2011. It was the worst review I’ve ever read about anyone. It made me weep.
CaribLit: What's your next project ?
MR: Another novel is on the way. It’s called House of Ashes and is set to be published in June 2014. It is about a botched coupd’etat on a fictional Caribbean island.
CaribLit: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
MR: Be true to yourself and write a LOT. I write every day and see it as a way of life rather than a job.