An interview with Sonja Lewis, author of The Barrenness, The Blindsided Prophet and a new collection of short stories called The Seasons (due out in October 2014).
This collection of eight short stories is based on the premise that life is seasonal, and in each specific season we encounter elements of the others, offering us a reprieve from what seems insurmountable, or grounding us when life seems all too capricious.
What can you tell us about your first book The Barrenness?
The Barrenness is my first novel, published in 2011. The book explores whether there is an inextricable link between motherhood and womanhood.
Traditionally, the assumption has been that there is an inextricable link. In Biblical times, and quite frankly, in some cultures today a woman’s value is determined by her ability to have children or not. It is an out-dated way of thinking.
My heroine’s struggle is about breaking a chain of sorts and in doing so, changing a way of thinking. Lil Lee’s struggle is also about accepting that children do not guarantee happiness.
Please tell us about the character of Lil Lee.
A high-powered woman, Lil grows up in the southern USA where having children is a priority. After the death of her mother, she grows up very close to her paternal aunt, who does not have children.
At the end of her life, Aunt Mamie stresses the importance of having children. Age 39, Lil sets out on a campaign to avoid disappointment in life and later finds out that she is more caught up in convention than she is her own desire. She begins to realize that happiness is found in one’s own space, not in what others want for you. With this information, she focuses more on the fight to save her family’s home, her legacy.
Also, she has a romantic relationship with Congressman Danny Hatcher, and has to learn all over again how to love and trust, having emerged from a bad marriage.
How much has your background in journalism helped you to write books?
My background in journalism has helped a great deal. Though the writing itself is different, the discipline of writing is the same from one form to another.
Also, journalism prepares you for meeting deadlines, doing and appreciating research, and always searching for the barebones truth in whatever you write.
You are a member of the Society of Authors and English Pen so what does this involve?
Both organisations offer an opportunity to be a part of a professional community of writers. Currently, I am not active with English Pen but have every intention to become so, particularly in their campaigns to promote the freedom of writing the world over.
As for the SoA, I tend to rely on them as a professional body to support my writing and enjoy attending their events and networking with other writers and authors.
What brought you from Georgia to the UK?
For nearly 17 years, I have lived in the UK with my husband Paul. So, I guess it is safe to say that destiny had a hand in my relocation. We met some years ago through an international not-for-profit, Habitat for Humanity International, in which we both had interests. He was then chair of the board of Habitat Great Britain and I worked for the organization.
Please tell us about your blog for the Huffington Post?
I have been writing the blog for about two years – it came as a part of the promotion of The Barrenness. It has been a great vehicle to focus on issues, mainly that interest and effect women. I love the idea of writing about topics that grab my attention. Also, I enjoy trying to make sense of the issues, not only for myself, but also for readers.
When I decide to write about a matter, I do a bit of looking around to see what has been said and if what I am considering has already been done I shy away from it or look at a different angle. I like to keep my blog relevant and fresh.
What is next for you?
My new collection of short stories, The Seasons, is out the end of October. I am so excited about what this means in actuality – an opportunity to interact with readers in both the UK and US on a diverse range of topics. To coincide with it, I am re-launching my website to focus more on lifestyles and issues that affect us all.
At some point, I’d really like to do an agony aunt style column or blog for a major newspaper or magazine, focusing on issues what effect women, particularly young women. I am so fortunate to have learned a lot along the way and am still learning. All the same it excites me to share in my discoveries.
And thoughts of the next novel are never too far away from my mind.