Welcome to Ink Drop Interviews, another Wednesday – another author. This week I will interview Jane Rowan, author of ‘The River of Forgetting’ a memoir of healing from sexual abuse. Before I share her interview, I would like to take a minute to thank Jane from the bottom of my heart for having the courage to do this interview. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to talk openly and to virtual strangers about something that has had such a profound impact on your life. Jane opens herself up and shares some of the most intimate emotions of her life in her memoir and if you haven’t yet read it, I recommend finding a place on your bookshelf for ‘The River of Forgetting’.
IDI – Jane, can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
JR – As you know, Kathy, I have a variety of backgrounds. I spent my professional life as a scientist and teacher, but I was also a poet, and now I paint abstract canvases. I was an avid journal-writer for at least two decades before I began to write this memoir, and I’ve always been alive to the possibilities of language, ever since I was a girl reading the classics during summer vacation. What surprises me about my life is how I’ve changed as a result of the passage described in my memoir, how I turned into a committed writer and artist.
IDI – What are you the most passionate about within your writing. What is it that keeps your momentum going?
JR – I love to tell inner truths, whether it’s in memoir or fiction. In writing my memoir, ‘The River of Forgetting’, my constant struggle, but a happy struggle, was to convey the feelings that came as I uncovered memory after memory from childhood. I didn’t want to make myself look good or even to make my parent’s look bad, but I wanted to show the actual journey. In fiction, I have to feel the solidity and the motivation of my characters or else the story can’t proceed.
IDI – Please tell us briefly what your book is about.
JR – ‘The River of Forgetting’ covers a particular five-year period in my life, beginning with the first creepy memory that surfaced and going on to the moment when I had achieved significant healing and decided to write the book. It was a very turbulent time as I tried to understand whether my loving, eccentric family was also an abusive family. While I encountered each new wave of doubt, mistrust, grief, and revulsion, I also had to live my regular life, teach, and care for my elderly mother. Creative writing and artwork came to be essential outlets – the expressions just poured out of me. Later, I went back to craft a story about this passage and create ‘The River of Forgetting’.
This is also a therapy story. So many people do heroic work every week in therapists’ offices all over the globe – uncovering painful pasts and integrating and learning to open their hearts and move on. My story is one of many, and I honor us all as I show the messiness of the process as well as the hope and joy: how difficult it is to really trust a therapist and allow her to walk through my soul, how wonderful it feels when this works so that I feel seen and whole.
IDI – Why did you choose your particular genre?
JR – That’s a great question! When I was working on this book, some of my friends advised me to fictionalize my story. They saw how I was sweating blood over getting the truth onto paper, and they thought it might be easier if I distanced myself and put the story “out there” away from me, as a fiction.
But I knew it had to be memoir. When I read a good memoir, I find there’s a certain thrill in knowing the story is real, as well as a certain solidity and trust in the author that I develop as I go along. There’s the sense of getting to know a real human being, with their vulnerabilities and their defenses. I needed to put forth that truthfulness, no matter how difficult it was.
IDI – Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your book?
JR – “The memory emerged from a dim corner of my mind, jolting me awake. It was a humid morning in August. The air flowed softly through the bedroom window, bringing in a catbird’s song from the cherry tree outside. I sat up in bed and propped a pillow behind me, grabbed my spiral-bound journal from its place on the bedside table, and began scribbling…” That is the opening.
IDI – What do you hope readers will take away from reading ‘The River of Forgetting’?
JR – I hope readers will see that change is possible, even when the hurts are old, deep, and murky. Humans have an amazing capacity to heal, when we are willing to confront and explore the painful past. I hope readers will be inspired to undertake their own journeys and see the beauty in those journeys.
Marilyn Ven Derbur, author of the bestselling ‘Miss America by Day’, called this book, “A powerful and sensitive portrayal, full of insight into Jane’s own confusion as well as her family’s bewildering dynamics. The writing is by turns lyrical and gut-wrenching, angry and tender. This inspiring, important book shows that healing and joy are possible after childhood abuse.”
IDI – Who is your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
JR – I see my audience as made up of three strands. The first, obvious group consists of people who had difficult childhoods and who want to read about how one survivor grew and healed, through creative work, therapy, and facing the demons. The readers how have written to me to tell their reactions have mainly been abuse survivors, for whom the book is validating and helpful. The second audience might be therapists who want to understand what their clients are going through. Finally, I hope to reach many people who are interested in “a detective story of the soul” that give a lyrical and haunting description of the process of therapy. Tons of people are interested in therapy – it’s a fascinating aspect of modern human experience that is experienced by many but shared by few. I am delighted to give voice to this intimate interchange that’s usually confined behind the therapist’s office door.
IDI – We’ve all heard of some of the quirks and superstitions that some writers have been known to have. Do you have any that are as integral to your writing as plot and character?
JR – I need to do my regular rituals in the morning when I’m writing alone. I sit and check in with my inner child for a half hour, journal, and then do yoga stretches. Then I’m ready to write.
IDI – Who is your favorite author, and why?
JR – Toni Morrison is my all-time favorite. I am in awe of her ability to convey complex truths in a sensory poetic way.
IDI – Everyone has a dream, (most) including but not limited to best seller, riches, fame, an Oprah endorsement and Pulitzer prize. What’s your?
JR – My dream is to help other survivors of difficult childhoods to realize their own roads to healing. I hear from readers that my memoir has had a powerful influence on their lives, validating them and giving them hope. Exposure on Oprah would not hurt!
IDI – I continually hear arguments for each side, but when writing, do you outline or sketch the entire book before you feel comfortable enough to begin your draft or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants?
JR – The memoir had a clear start and end from the moment I conceived it. It begins on the morning that an old memory began to haunt me. It ends when I’d done some significant healing and was ready to write the story. On the other hand, when I write fiction, it is all seat of the pants. The terror and the thrill is to hear from my characters just what happened next.
IDI – Pen and paper or computer and Word? The bustle of a cafe or the quiet of your study? Tell us, what is your most productive/inspiring setting?
JR – My laptop is my best friend. Her name is Esmeralda and she has colorful stickers on her cover. Alone in my rocking chair by the picture window is my usual spot, though I also write every Tuesday in a writers’ group. The group stretches me to try different styles and themes, while the solitary writing allows me to maintain a more consistent tone and to complete longer projects.
IDI – Your answer sounds similar to what mine would be to that question, minus the stickers! Jane, I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate your participation in Ink Drop Interviews and I hope your story reaches out to as many souls as possible. It must give you a sense of pride knowing that if your story impacts one life, it is more than most of us will do in our lifetime. It was wonderful having you and now, if you would let readers know where they can find you on the Web…
JR – ‘The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse’ is available on Amazon including Kindle. My personal website is http://janerowan.com and the memoir’s site is http://riverofforgetting.com . I write a blog about living, healing, the Inner Child, and writing, Jane’s Inner Child Memoir Blog: http://janechild.blogspot.com . Find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jane.rowan.river and Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/riverforgetting
Jane, I admire your courage and your willingness to share your story with others. All the best to you!!
Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of three novels, most recently, ‘Lily White Lies’ and ‘Missouri in a Suitcase’, both available on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble in paperback and all eBook formats.
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Next week – meet Doug Dorow. Until then, happy reading!