There’s nothing poetic in the title. It’s actually quite straightforward. And yet. Yet, it evokes all things that are beauty (ballet, Africa, travels) without falling into the over-poetic. A very less-is-more tactic that, with me, worked so very well.
The book is A Dancer’s Guide to Africa by Terez Mertes Rose, a Women’s fiction with a crossover into romance, out a couple of days ago.
From the author of OFF BALANCE and OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT comes a novel bestselling author Sarah Bird calls “hilarious and poignant.”
Fiona Garvey, ballet dancer and new college graduate, is desperate to escape her sister’s betrayal and a failed relationship. Vowing to restart as far from home as possible, she accepts a two-year teaching position with the Peace Corps in Africa. It’s a role she’s sure she can perform. But in no time, Fiona realizes she’s traded her problems in Omaha for bigger ones in Gabon, a country as beautiful as it is filled with contradictions.
Emotionally derailed by Christophe, a charismatic and privileged Gabonese man who can teach her to let go of her inhibitions but can’t commit to anything more, threatened by an overly familiar student with a menacing fixation on her, and drawn into the compelling but potentially dangerous local dance ceremonies, Fiona finds herself at increasing risk. And when matters come to a shocking head, she must reach inside herself, find her dancer’s power, and fight back.
Blending humor and pathos, A DANCER’S GUIDE TO AFRICA takes the reader along on a suspense-laden, sensual journey through Africa’s complex beauty, mystery and mysticism.
On Amazon at 99 cents: http://a.co/cwkZOIN
I had the pleasure to have a chat with Terez. She is a former Peace Corps Volunteer and ballet dancer. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Crab Orchard Review, Women Who Eat (Seal Press), A Woman’s Europe (Travelers’ Tales), Literary Mama and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She reviews dance performances for Bachtrack.com and blogs about ballet and classical music at The Classical Girl. She makes her home in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband and son.
Thank you for being here, Terez.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I wanted to merge two things from my past—that I’d been a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa and that I’d performed as a ballet dancer. But they were just two competing subjects as I tried to create a story until an idea fell on my lap, that the main character, a former ballet dancer running off to join the Peace Corps, falls in love with a privileged African man. Like that, the story took off.
Can you tell us a fun fact about writing your book?
The story all but wrote itself, back in 2002, in only ten weeks’ time. I’d never written long fiction before; I’ve always been more of an essayist. But the story exploded from within me and poured out likelava from a volcano, this sloppy, unstoppable flow. Sleep, eat, write, to the tune of 100,000 words. My family thought I’d gone mad. It was surreal. Granted, a first draft is by no means a finished product. The very next day I started right in with revising. I stayed in that writers’ zone for a solid year. Maybe two years. (That I eventually shelved the novel for over a decade while I went on to write four more novels, garner an agent and shop three of the novels to editors is a story for another time.)
Did you always have the reins of the story or did the people in try to take over?
The people always try to take over andI wouldn’t have it any other way. When a story unrolls preciselyas I’d planned it in my head, that’s a sign it’s a dud. I love it when something my characters do or say surprises me. I love it when they whisper in my ear, my psyche. They have unerring judgment about what will work.
What are you working on now?
Book 3 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles. It’s a prequel to the series (which includes Off Balance and Outside the Limelight) and it actually connects A Dancer’s Guide to Africa to the Ballet Theatre Chronicles series. It takes place in 1990, just as Fiona returns from Africa and heads to San Francisco and reconnects with her childhood friend, April, who’s a new principal dancer with the West Coast Ballet Theatre. It’s great fun to work on, because the characters from the series are so familiar to me, and I’ve always known, more or less, how their stories unfolded prior toOff Balance’s start in 1997. Now readers will get to experience those backstories for themselves.
How do you keep from resenting your duties when you have to stop writing to take care of them?
I’ll let you know the answer once I’ve figured it out for myself.
What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
Communicating with readers who’ve contacted me to tell me they liked one or both of my novels, that they could relate to the characters, the situation. Or when I read a review that someone has left on Amazon or Goodreads, and they really “got” the book, its intention, the subtle undercurrent of the story that, in many ways, matters more to me than the plot points. I care so much about my characters’ inner journeys. When a reader cares too, I feel so heartened.
Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?
That it’s easy.That it gets even easier after the writer has completed and published a few novels. That writing thereafter flows effortlessly. That the muse never abandons the writer. That it’s not “real work.” That success as a writer equals financial success.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read. Hike. Yoga. Read more. Eat yummy food. Pump iron. Attend performing arts events. Sip a glass of wine. Listen to classical music. Read more. Strive to be a better mom/wife/housekeeper.
Do you have any scars? What are they from?
I have a scar on my chin from my years in Gabon, an experience I fictionalized (only not really) and chronicled in my novel. Getting stitched up in a local hospital in provincial Gabon was a terrifying ordeal. Infection set in almost immediately and within two days I had to be med-evac’d to the capital city so the Peace Corps medical officer could clean up the damage. The scarring remains: three dents on my chin where the deep cut had been inexpertly stitched and (even more inexpertly cleaned).
First thought when the alarm goes off in the in the morning
“Yay! I get to write today!”
Up early or sleep in?
Early. Very early. Alarm goes off at 4:00AM.When it’s dark and the house is silent, magic happens with my writing. I wish I could write at night, but the muse disappears most days by 3pm (when the exercise muse takes over and starts cracking the whip) and by 8:30pm I’m yawning and ready to call it a day.
Strangest place you’ve brushed your teeth?
Gabon and the equatorial rainforest. Behind a hut in a village that had no running water. First week in country. I was jet-lagged, exhausted, disoriented, and felt like I’d entered the Twilight Zone. I’ll never forget the feeling.
You can stay in touch with Terez here:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/ClassicalGrrl (@classicalgrrl)