Good morning, everyone! This morning, we're talking to Lee Libro, author of Swimming with Wings, from the Authors Promoting Authors program.
Good morning, Lee! :)
I like to offer my guests virtual coffee, tea, cookies, pastries, etc.
Anything in particular you'd like? :)
How about a mint julep, paying homage to my southern roots?
Sure! Just hope this is good (I'm a Yankee through-and-through!)
Let's get right into things. Your website says that you are a visual artist. Did you create your website? It is absolutely gorgeous!
Yes, I am a visual artist. I paint in watercolors and acrylics. One can see much of my art at www.leelibro.imagekind.com. Though I do create some digital art, and I have created websites, I rely pretty heavily on templates as a springboard. I'm just not that HTML savvy. The website www.swimmingwithwings.com was created at WIX.com, where the choices for templates are very much geared to visual artists. The one drawback is that these sites are made with Flash files and I'm not sure but I don't think flash files are as easily crawled for SEO purposes. So while it looks pretty and it is a nice support tool for the book, the jury is still out on whether it will procure new fans.
I'm also very interested in the title of your book, Swimming with
Wings. Where did that come from?
The title, Swimming with Wings, was inspired by three sources. First the Dead Pearl Diver, which is a sculpture permanently exhibited at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland Maine. I first saw it when I was only about 9 years old and to this day, it has the same intense effect on me. When you stand next to him, just as I've described in the story, he does seem to breathe. As I've grown older, I've always revisited my translation of the meaning of the statue and what the sculptor, Benjamin Paul Akers, might have intended when he created him. I can't help but think that just as he was carved in stone, the Pearl Diver represents a very deep interpretation of the human condition, that we are indeed really ephemeral beings, spirits, immersed in the "water" of life.
The second inspiration of the title then springs from this first one in that earth's interpretation of spirit, religion, is often too structured for the true immensity of spirituality that humans are meant to embrace. I believe that, in a sense we are all like angels mired down by that element. Knock down the structures of religion and what you have is universal spirituality, the sky, so to speak, where all tolerance exists, where we are all connected. The difference between religion and spirituality is basically the root of the tension that exists between the two main characters, Lark and Peter.
And finally the third inspiration for the title comes from M.C. Escher's woodcut Water and Sky, depicting fish metamorphosing into birds. I've always loved that particular woodcut, because not only is it an example of his wonderfully geometric ideations, but it speaks to me of evolution and transformation, and implies to me the same idea that I've described in my second inspiration in the above paragraph.
I love your openness on your website about your beliefs. One thing
that struck me was the choice in names for your characters. Lark is
such an interesting and unique name and Peter has such strong roots in
Christianity. Was that intentional or did it just kind of happen?
Well, it occurred spontaneously. Stream of consciousness is my greatest creative method, if you can call it a method. I came up with the names without really thinking them through analytically. They were the names that formed at the "tip of my tongue" so to speak and then after the fact, in analyzing them, I saw how perfectly fitting they were for the characters. Another example of this sort of thing occurring in my writing is with Peter's last name, Roma. It just came to me naturally, and then one day while I was researching the gypsy culture, I found out that a Roma is actually a type of gypsy. The serendipity of this just knocked me over, but more importantly, it taught me to trust the process of creative writing more fully and relax through it. Somehow, though I may start a story knowing the ending I want to achieve, but not fully knowing how I will get there, the connections will come forth. The way I'm describing this process I know sounds pretty out there, a fairly mystical process, but I think it's the root of all creativity. This is not to say, I didn't have any structure at all, no plots lined up or outlines made. I did, but with a lot of flexibility in mind to allow for the organic process from which my best writing results.
You talk a lot about opposites, the Yin and Yang, balance and such.
You even discuss the Civil War roots for the gypsies. Were those
ideas of opposites and even the idea of the Civil War a main focus for
you as you wrote the story? To me, they seem to support your theme so
greatly, so it's interesting to hear your thoughts on it.
Yes, the Civil War does, to a large degree, support the idea of opposites, but really only as a setting into which Lark was born. Having grown up in the 1960's in the deep south myself, like Lark, I got to know a not-so-pretty side of the south, a side that was very provincial, filled with what I viewed as childish pride and indignation, racial divides, but even more so a prejudice against the whole remainder of our country and I never understood it. It felt antiquated, mismatched to the wonderful free and open thinking that was emerging at that time, what I still think of as the dawning of the "new age" generation.
You say that your book is "about searching for direction, the hidden
influences of ancestral roots and the forces that shape beliefs."
It's very interesting that you chose to tackle those topics. Is there
any particular reason why you chose to write about them?
Well, I know that it may seem like a huge topic to tackle, but I think that it's a topic that is very timely too. Differing structures in belief systems seem to be at the basis of most socio-political conflicts and the wars we undertake. I was compelled to reduce the theme down into the relationships between characters in "Swimming With Wings", because when I was growing up I struggled with questions about belief systems. Having grown up with the first half of my childhood in the south and the latter half in the north, and raised by my grandparents, who were born in 1898, the contrasts to which I was exposed afforded me a view into the mechanism of how ancestral roots influence thinking. And so the story is very much a story of my own "coming of age" experience, but in the case of Lark and Peter, their experience only shares a shadow of similarity with my own.
From what I've read, it sounds as though you and I think very
similarly. Have you met many people who concur with your opinions or
have some people been rather skeptical?
The more people I have spoken with, the more I see that this is not an uncommon "coming of age" experience. No matter where you live or who raised you, often the same sort of topics are at issue as you become an adult. As far as the actual conclusion to which one may come, of course we all differ. I've never had anyone say that Lark's universal spirituality was "better" than Peter's religiosity or vice versa. On the west coast of the United States, I would say that I've met more people who are hungry for this story. So often those who do not wish to use the term "God" in civil arenas are misunderstood. The story "Swimming with Wings" is an illustration of the "non-religious" person's desire to be free of religious tags. It's not an atheistic impulse, but rather a call to a more open freedom of spirituality.
Tell us a little about Swimming With Wings.
Here's a brief synopsis of the novel:
What do a light healer who can raise the dead, an eccentric, would-be dubutant teen and a fanatic cult follower have in common? A story of human brotherhood released only through the colliding dogmas surrounding their shared tragedy from long ago.
Lark Jennison is a free thinker and imagines she has wings! Set in the 1970's in a small southern town laced with folk mysticism, faith healings and the evangelistic zeal of the era, Swimming with Wings is her coming of age story. Orphaned, seventeen-year-old Lark and her brother are the last generation of the illustrious Jennison lumber family, and her uncanny ability to read a person, along with her eccentric ways as a budding artist, shine a spotlight of scrutiny upon her. When she falls for Peter Roma, a river gypsy from Summerville, she finds in him an equal, but is soon disturbingly set on a collision course with his fanaticism.
The drowning accident that had killed their father remains a mystery, a harbinger of ill feelings between the Romas and the Jennisons. Is Peter Roma, a scammer, a real gypsy or Lark's personal savior? To protect her, Lark’s older brother sends her to art school in Maine, the home state of their mother’s family. Uninvited, Peter follows but eventually considers their relationship a danger to the beatification of both their souls. His grandfather had been a mystical light healer and heralded the rising tide of a new age; however, Peter's “being saved” interpretation of this leads him into cult and a world of corruption. Through it all Lark and Peter remain in love, but in the end who will save who?
An arresting blend of literary fiction, mystery and romance, this is a story about searching for direction, the hidden influences of ancestral roots and the forces that shape belief.
If there was one thing you'd like readers to know about you, what would it be?
I would just want people to know that I think I'm just a human soul like everybody else, no better, no different.
Could you please give us some links and info about you and your work?
The book is available Amazon.com also available at Powell's Books and Barnes & Noble and can be also ordered at any brick and mortar bookstore across the U.S. One can discover more about the writing process on my blog www.literary-magic.com
And you can follow me on my virtual tour dates around the internet:
April 26 - Author Interview at Conscious Discussions http://consciousdiscussions.blogspot.com
April 29 - Author Interview by Fiona Ingram http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com
May 5 - Author Interviewed with Kiki Howell http://authorsbyauthors.blogspot.com
May 13 - Guest Blog at AZ Publishing Services http://azpublishingservices.blogspot.com
May 19 - Guest Blog with Louise Wise http://louisewise.blogspot.com
May 21 - Spotlight Feature http://bkwalkerbooks.weebly.com
May 25 - Interview on Blog Talk Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bkwalker
June 9 - Guest Blog at BK Walker Books Etc http://bkwalkerbooksetc.blogspot.com
June 11 - Author Interview at Paula Zone http://www.paulazone.blogdrive.com
I would like to thank Lauren Harvey for allowing me this guest appearance on her blog. It's been a pleasure and a wonderful opportunity to be able to share with her readers my answers to her well thought-out questions.
Well, thank you so very much, Lee! It was great having you here! Your book sounds amazing and you're fascinating to talk to! :) Thank you so much for joining us today! :)