With a well-researched, fast-paced plot and powerful descriptions, Sheila Dalton deftly weaves Guatemalan customs and shamanism with glimpses into the inner workings of the human mind with her newest book, THE GIRL IN THE BOX. I am delighted Sheila is here today as part of her online book tour, as this is one of the most powerful and memorable books I've had the pleasure of reading.
By the way, at the end of today's post is a chance to win one of two copies of THE GIRL IN THE BOX.
And now here's Sheila!
But often, when I thought of beginning a new novel, I was convinced that I should include scenes from a county other than my own and preferably from the perspective of a North American.
The reason for this was that I felt strongly that whatever I wrote needed to reflect how we are all becoming citizens of the world, no longer isolated from each other. Different peoples and cultures affect us, and to ignore this was like turning a blind eye to how the world had changed in the last few decades.
I had begun to notice that in North American fiction, written by white authors, visible minorities were often completely left out. Even secondary characters, or professional helpers, were excluded. No East Indian doctors, no Chinese shopkeepers, etc. It was odd, especially in fiction set in urban centers like Toronto or Vancouver with high immigrant populations. I doubted if it was deliberate, but it made me think about how we often seem to turn a blind eye to those who are different from ourselves. It likely happens a lot in literature from other countries, with high European immigration. At least, I suspect it's a human tendency, not particular to any race.
The reason I didn't want to write about Guatemala at first was because it felt almost exploitative. After witnessing some of the violence the government soldiers perpetrated on the Mayans and hearing stories of torture and killing on both sides of the Civil War, I thought it was perhaps intrusive to use this to create fiction. I wanted whatever I wrote to entertain as well as inform. As an author, I'm committed to writing gripping stories with entertainment appeal.
How to combine the wish to entertain with the need to realistically reflect our relations with peoples other then ourselves came to me slowly. It was largely the character of Inez that allowed it to happen. She came to me independently of my experiences in Guatemala, at first. The image of a damaged young woman of indeterminate extraction kept appearing in my head. I suppose it was because of stories I had read in the papers about mentally ill children in Third World countries whose parents lacks the means or the resources to help them, other than to shut them away. But her story—how she is rescued by a Canadian psychoanalyst and later kills him, leaving his partner, Caitlin, to figure out why—came from many influences, including my knowledge of the state of psychiatry in Canada in the '70s and '80s and my friendship with a kind and very intelligent analyst in Toronto.
Another spur to creativity was feeling that it was quite legitimate to write about a country I had experienced myself and to show how that country influenced tourists and how we tourists influenced those countries in turn.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sheila Dalton has written novels and nonfiction for children, teens and adults, including a YA mystery, TRIAL BY FIRE, and two picture books for Doubleday, DOGGEREL and CATALOGUE. Read more about her and her work at her Web site,
http://www.sheila-anne-dalton.com, or visit her on Twitter.
THE GIRL IN THE BOX, a novel of psychological suspense that has received positive reviews from professional reviewers and readers alike, is available on Amazon.
Would you like to have your own copy of this moving book? One commenter's name will be chosen at random. The contest will be open until midnight Jan. 14, and the winner will be announced the week of Jan. 15. Good luck!
NEXT STOP ON THE TOUR
http://www.JJiReads.com for an interview and book review!
EXCERPT: CHAPTER ONE
The smell was thick as sludge, and rancid. It forced an intake of breath when Jerry wanted to pinch his nostrils shut and run out of the hut.
He struggled to ignore it, but the stench dropped into his throat and lodged there. When he tried to swallow, he coughed instead.
"Agua?" He turned to the Mayan behind him. "Por favor?"
The man nodded while continuing to talk to his wife.
Jerry leaned into his arms on the rough-hewn table and stared at the crucifixes on the wall.
There were five hand-carved wooden Messiahs in front of him, each more lurid than the last. One strained so far outwards from his cross that Jerry thought he looked like he could tear himself off and change religious history. Painted blood ran from the hands, feet and sides of all five, and hung in gobs from a number of wounded knees. It cascaded over one Christ's body in vermilion stripes, ending in a single dangling blob at the bottom of the cross.
The murmur behind Jerry grew louder. He swivelled around. The couple dropped their eyes and lowered their voices simultaneously, as though performing a duet.
"Agua?" he pleaded, a hand to his throat.
"Si, Senor." This time, the man shooed his wife behind a ragged curtain then followed her out of sight.
Jerry concentrated on the pictures on the wall, colourful renditions of what he thought must be Mayan deities, interspersed with rumpled copies of paintings of Catholic saints. An abundance of spiritualities, where he himself had none.
He frowned at the uplifted eyes and sweet secretive smiles of the saints. Multicoloured woollen frames bordered each blissful face—red, orange, bright yellow, the kind of blues and greens that oceans radiate and skies sometimes faintly reflect—colors out of a child's fantasy, woven together with tufts and tassels and thick, knotted fringes that infused the pictures with the kind of robust good cheer he'd come to admire in Latin Americans themselves.
His spirits lifted. But there was that unhealthy smell, and a filthy blanket hanging heavily over the doorway, blocking air and light.