About Dancing in the Shadows of Love: In the haunting "Dancing in the Shadows of Love," three emotionally adrift women fight to heal their fractured worlds. Not everyone can be a hero.Or can they?
After a decade in prison for a murder she did not commit, Lulu begins a new life at the Court of St Jerome in the Old Sea City. An albino, abandoned as a young child at a Holding Camp for unwanted children, she has always been ostracised,for her difference to others makes her an easy victim of prejudice.
Once, she believed, she had a friend to love her. Then that friend betrayed her and Lulu learned that hate is safer than love. But, from Jamila to Granny Zahra, the people of St Jerome's appear to accept her into their fold. Against a backdrop of never-ending war, the women of the court fight their personal demons: hatred, ambition and greed. As Lulu shares their victories and their losses, she learns to trust again, perhaps even to love.
Nothing, however, is as it seems and Lulu discovers that love does not always wear the face of the one you yearn to call beloved.
Remarkably areligious and boldly atmospheric, buoyed by touches of magical realism, this compelling story explores the sacrifices people make in the pursuit of a love that transcends everyday existence. Lulu's quest, and that of Jamila and Zahra too, is to find the divine love that will fulfil their hopes and save their souls...if they can recognise the masks of those who seek to lead them astray.
I was so amazed and impressed by Judy's book I had to ask for an interview, my very first.
How long did it take you to write Dancing in the Shadows of Love from the first words to the final revision?
I’m embarrassed to say this novel has consumed me since I wrote the first word in 2004. I felt better about that statistic when I read that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robertson took 23 years to write her second novel. I hope to beat that record.
How many revisions did it take you?
Too many to remember. Maybe four? Or was it five?
How many rejections did you get from agents and/or publishers before deciding to self-publish?
I stopped counting when I hit 100 rejections.
Is there a story behind the story of how you came to write DSL? Where did the idea come from?
As I watched the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of the post-apartheid 1990’s, I found out how unaware I’d been of what was happening around me as I grew up in a colonial Africa. With my self-image of myself as a “good” person shaken to its foundations, I wanted to explore the nature of prejudice, but in a way that showed prejudice as a general human condition—a way of categorising the multitude of stimuli that make up our external world, rather than as a condition that exists only in certain races (or species.)
“Dancing in the Shadows of Love” is the result of that exploration. I wanted to write a story that transcended colour and race, even species (which is why, in the novel, gentle Grace speaks out against killing animals), so that it could speak to the collective soul, not just the soul of
. Somehow, out of these complex thoughts and emotions, Dancing in the Shadows of Love took shape until, through the eyes of three very different women, I found a way that an ordinary person like myself, one who doesn’t have what it takes to be hero, can also help repair the fractures of a broken and prejudiced world. South Africa
Did the stories of these three women come to you all at once or did each evolve separately? Or perhaps a bit of both?
A bit of both – something would happen to one character that would link to another character and so another scene would develop.
Did you write their stories sequentially as they are laid out in the book, or did you write each of their stories separately and then knit them together?
I wrote the stories sequentially, although originally I had the character’s childhoods as flashbacks. In the second revision I changed the order of the scenes/chapters to flow more chronologically.
As I started reading DSL I wondered why you wrote Jamila’s story in third person. But about half way through, I think I got it. Unlike Lulu and Zahra who examine themselves, Jamila seems naive and trusting, and is ultimately blind to her own motives as well as the motives of others. She is even cruel without realizing it. How did you come to know her story needed to be told in third person as opposed to first as with Lulu and Zahra?
I didn’t consciously choose to tell Jamila’s story in third person. I think it happened because she’s the character I liked the least. I couldn’t ‘connect’ with her like I did with Lulu and Zahra. It was easier to write about her in the objective third person.
Aside from the strong spiritual theme of forgiveness and redemption that runs through the book, there are two elements that weave themselves into the lives of the women: white roses and the ocean. I was wondering if you would be willing to give us a hint as to their symbolic meaning.
Bish, yes, those are two of the most important symbols in the story, although there are lots of hidden meanings in the text. Nothing appears in the story by chance. For example, the tuberoses decorating the fashion designer’s shop that Jamila visits with Chuki Wiseman denote dangerous pleasures and reflect Jamila’s dilemma. Enoch’s identity is hinted at because often when people interact with him, the smell of a cedar tree is present. Can anyone say what a cedar tree suggests?
But back to your question: A rose corresponds to the Lotus symbolism: Divine perfection (of the spirit) growing out of the mud of the earth (the body.) Roses thus denote the quest for perfect transcendence of the soul as it yearns for an untarnished fulfillment, and rises up from the dark and muddy primeval waters to blossom in the light above them. The white rose, in particular, is the “flower of light,” of innocence, purity and spiritual unfolding. Thus, in the story, every time the white rose appears the character is moving along on her spiritual journey.
The sea/ocean, as a body of water, symbolizes the unconscious but, being larger than the rivers and lakes which feed into it, the ocean represents the cosmic consciousness (or the Divine Source from which all life emerged.) When a river flows into the ocean, at the point of their union, the two become one body of water. In the same way, at the moment when the individual Self merges with the infinite Divine, enlightenment occurs: we are all one; we have a collective unconscious linking us to the “other.” Thus in DSL, the ocean reminds us that, despite their apparent differences, all of the characters are connected. The sea/ocean (representing the collective cosmic consciousness, or Divine Being, whatever shape of faith it takes) dominates the background of their ordinary lives as a silent, objective witness to the choices they each make on their spiritual journey.
What are you working on now?
I’m tying up the loose ends of the “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” launch via social media, and I’m working on a collection of short stories for release in 2012. But bubbling away underneath all of that activity are the germs of a new novel about grief and loss. The images and ideas are starting to become concrete now, so I suspect I’ll start the actual writing soon.
Where can we find out more about “Dancing in the Shadows of Love”
I’m slowly building a blog dedicated to “Dancing in the Shadows of Love,” where I’ll be exploring themes and symbolism in the future. At the moment, you can watch the book trailer, read reviews, read an interview with the cover artist Wenkidu, or read about the quotes I used.
What are you currently reading?
The amazing “Song of George: The Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man” by Jesse S Hanson;
“The 90 Day Novel” by Alan Watt and
“The Road to Immortality” by Geraldine Cummings (subtitled “Being a description of the afterlife purporting to be communicated by the late F W H Myers, Classical Lecturer of Trinity College,
, channeled through Geraldine Cummings.) Cambridge
Being raised in Zimbabwean bush must have been quite interesting. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, like how long has your family been in
I can trace some of my Dad’s ancestors back to arriving at the Cape of Good Hope from the Netherlands in 1762. My Mom is descended from English and Irish stock, but as she was brought up in an orphanage, it’s difficult to get accurate information about when they came to
. My sister and I were born in the small mining South Africa village of Zvishavane, and had an idyllic childhood spent in the bush. I’ve lived in cities for years now, but I’m only truly happiest when I’m back in the busy silence of the African bush. Zimbabwe
And a bit whimsy:
or mangoes? Oranges
No contest – mangoes! You can read why I consider mangoes the perfect last meal on my blog.
Favorite way to relax? Meditation or reading romances
Thank you, Judy for taking time to *talk* with us!
Bish, thanks for inviting me to your blog. I found your questions interesting and challenging. To thank you for your hospitality, I’d like to offer you 1 print copy and 3 eBook editions of “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” to give away to your commentators.
You heard it here. Leave a comment and I'll add your name to the hat. That's all you've got to do. Winners will be announced this coming Thursday the 22nd. Of course, if you feel like it, I'd love if you spread the word!