Monday, December 01, 2014

Author Interview: Cher Duncombe: Gandy Dancing on the Second Floor

Having been a high school English teacher, a social worker and an Investigator, she is now an author and an artist. She learned much in her previous careers and often those experiences seep into her writing and into her paintings. She has often said that what she cannot speak, she writes. What she cannot write, she paints.

That is marvelous! Welcome Cheryl :)

Your real name and pen name?

My real name is Cheryl Duncombe, but as I explain in my book, Gandy Dancing on the Second Floor, over the years, friends and family have shortened my first name to Cher.

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

I have very few good memories of my childhood, except for midnight mass on Christmas Eve and a high school English teacher who encouraged me to write and to act in theater productions. She was an enormously positive influence. My childhood was filled with abuse, but I have become a survivor.

About your education?

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education (teaching grades 7 through 12) in English and Speech.

What career did you plan during your education days?

During my college days, my dream was to work with children on a Hopi Indian Reservation. Actually, I was enchanted by what I knew of their culture. As often happens in our youth, I wanted to be ‘part of’ but truly had nothing to contribute to their long-established culture. It was a dream, but that is what our youth is for, isn’t it? Instead I became a teacher, and for a while it was grand.

What languages you can speak and write?

During my high school years, I had two years of Latin and two years of Spanish. I was very fluent in Latin but no one spoke it. Spanish served me well in later years when I did some volunteer work in the Dominican Republic.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

My inspiration comes from an abiding faith in God, though I do not practice a particular religion. I am one of those lapsed Catholics, and I think once a Catholic, always a Catholic, at least in my heart. I have seen miracles in my life, pure miracles. It is enough for me.
painting I did and I used it for the cover of my book. It is called “Blurred Lines”

What hurts you most in this world?

Harsh words from callous people hurt society in general. Words are lethal weapons, but they can also be the catalyst for great deeds. I hurt at the suffering of innocent victims in any circumstance. To be raising a child in these days of bullying must be hugely challenging for parents.
To see the hunger of many, not just worldwide but in our own country, makes the heart hurt. Many of my friends call me a bleeding heart Liberal and tell me that I wear my heart on my sleeve. In some ways that is true, but I have also been an entrepreneur. No one completely fits one description or another. We are all uniquely diverse.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?

The suicide of my brother, who was my only sibling and my best friend, was a challenge from which I may never fully recover. After his funeral and after taking care of his personal affairs, I needed to go back to work. I was investigating for a government agency at the time and often drove three hundred miles per day, alone. There were many days when I thought my life should end, and felt very certain that my mind was in a nether world and might not come back. I would drive country roads in Pennsylvania, where I lived, in tears. Not a safe thing to do. So I prayed.
I had learned a prayer as a child that we were supposed to say when someone passed away. It was, “Dear Lord please rest their soul in peace and may the eternal light shine upon them.” Since I drove many winding roads in bucolic settings, I would see roadkill. Deer, cats, dogs, rabbits and other creatures would have been hit by cars and were lying on the sides of highways. So I prayed, not that their soul would rest in peace because animals don’t have souls (?) but that they would romp in heaven with my brother so he would frolic with them and not feel alone. This began my road to recovery. I sent him so many animals that the scene, were it to be true, would be both a tribute and a comfort to him. I drove on, smiling. In truth, I will confess that I did not always use this for good. Sometimes I would ask that a cat be sent to my mother. She hated cats.

What is your favorite genre and why?

In reading these days, I prefer biographies or strong mysteries that I cannot unlock after the first two chapters. Biographies delve into the many layers of their subject. Different facets of people are interesting. Often we see only the public persona, but what lurks behind that? How and why are they like this and do or did certain things? People are intriguing to me.
Perhaps because I was an investigator for many years, I enjoy a suspenseful mystery with plots that spider here and there, challenging the reader to unfold the truth. If the plot is done deftly, I will go without food and sleep to read to the last page in the final chapter.

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

I began writing in my late teens and early twenties, but I am not certain we have enough life experience or maturity until later. Life happens. When it does, we are remade and molded by each event and by the various people with whom we have engaged. That gives us maturity and perspective. I write primarily because I love putting words together and painting a story with them. At other times, I write because a phrase has landed in my mind that was meant for a poem. And sometimes certain pieces are a catharsis for me.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

I recently published my first book, Gandy Dancing on the First Floor.  It is an autobiographical compilation of short stories and poems. Some deal with “characters in my life collage,” and I hope they become as interesting to readers as they are to me. Other stories and poems are from the depths of my wounded psyche but often there is a redemptive message. Some characters of interest are the Radical Priest, Chops and his Harley in the country, and Sam, a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from PTSD and spills it onto his paintings.

What are your forthcoming writings?

I am still mulling over ideas for my next book. I have several ideas and plots but need to determine which are viable.

      What genres you write in and why?

       I like writing fiction, developing characters and letting them rise like yeast in building   the story. Just like investigations, sometimes the threads spider and take the writer on a ride.        

What keeps you motivating towards writing?

Motivation comes from the need to express a thought, a story, a new phrase that fits well with other phrases, and just some raw emotion. A writer feels compelled to sit at the keyboard as though it is a life-partner. And there is something about writing in the middle of the night that is completely enticing.

If Writing a Book is taken as a project, what are the key essentials you take care of in Project Management?

The organization of basic ideas is important but subject to change as the story evolves. We can draw the intrinsic values of a character, but just as with real people, they often change and morph.

What are your future plans?

I will write. I will read. And I will write more. I also keep notecards with me if I am in a park, restaurant, airport, etc. I study people. Always have. I will take notes about the way they stand, hold their head, dress, laugh or walk. If they have any peculiar ways about them, those are certain to be in my notes too.
The painting is used inside the book and was also done by me. It is called “Lilac Wall”

What is generally your preference in reading – a paper book or eBook? And why?

I like both, actually, but for me nothing replaces the feel of a book. I like the texture. I like the way a book smells, and I like walking past a bookcase in our house and glimpsing a friend that took me on a strange beguiling road of mystery.

How much real life goes into a fiction writing?

The old canard is to ‘write what you know.’ It stands true but the imagination can take us places we have not been, nor ever will be unless through the writing. A high level of imagination is essential, unless you live a surreal life and are willing to share without being confined to an institution.

Your dream destination on Earth?

I hope to visit Rome one day, but if that does not happen I will be very content to stay in my Florida home in the tropics. Certainly I hope that my destination will be to stay on this Earth a bit longer. There is so much to write.

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

I was born in the USA, a nod here to Bruce Springsteen, and have only visited Canada, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. People in the DR were some of the warmest and most gracious folks I have ever met. We stayed in Santa Domingo, not a resort, but music was everywhere and aromas of food surrounded every new block we turned. Electric wires hung like spaghetti and there seemed no organization as to how a few homes got electricity. It didn’t matter. People were completely happy and enthusiastic about sharing it.

Your favorite time of the day?

Early morning in Florida is my favorite time of day. We have coffee on the lanai, watch the sunrise and read the daily newspaper. It is all mundane and oh so lovely.

What comes to your mind when you think of India?

I have met some wonderful and brilliant people who are from India. I have had some of the best doctors, both for my mother and for myself who were/are from India. These people have left long-lasting impressions. I remember reading a biography of Mahatma Gandhi when I was in high school and was so taken with his gentle spirit and the peace within him that was magnetic. I also admired Indira Gandhi as a strong female world leader. So you see, while I have never been to India, I hold some very favorable feelings for the country.

What three words come to your mind for each – Technology, Life, God, Humanity, Terrorism, Racism, Childhood Abuse, Love, Parenting, Old age?

Technology: Best and Worst
Life: Challenge. Survival. Learning.
God: Strength. Necessity. Friend.
Humanity: One. Force. Together.
Terrorism: Frightening. Spreading. Inevitable.
Racism: Heinous. Intolerable. Exists.
Childhood Abuse: Merciless. Unfathomable. Brutal.
Love: Divine. Inspiring. Healing.
Parenting: Difficult. Rewarding. Blessing.
Old age: Sweet. Acceptance. Happy.

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote

Sometimes She Goes to Keening

The last line of your autobiography would be…

She tried.

The title of your autobiography would be…

     Gandy Dancing on the Second Floor

Links & other relevant details:
ISBN-10:1503224724
ISBN-13:978-1503224728
ASIN: B00PP16X8K
Publisher: CreateSpace
Twitter handle: Cher Duncombe @richardandcher

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