On Saturday January 23, 2016, I had the pleasure of attending the ‘official’ launch of A Face in the River by American-Dominican author Kristine Simelda. She has lived on the Nature Island for more than 20 years! Dozens of supporters and literary enthusiasts participated in this celebratory event, which was hosted by the fine folks at Romance Café on lovely Mero Beach. During this auspicious occasion, we had the pleasure of listening to Kris read a seasonally-appropriate and highly entertaining chapter from her book, entitled ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’.
Throughout this beautiful afternoon in Dominica, we also chatted informally with the author, bought copies of A Face in the River and then lined up to have Kris put a personalized note in each one. Under bright sunny skies with a pleasant onshore breeze, we celebrated Kris’s success while we listened to mellow background music provided by superb saxophonist Jussi Paavola. We
also munched on tasty treats and devoured delicious Caribbean-French infused home-cooked meals at this renowned seaside restaurant.
When I got home that evening, I began to read this new novel, set on a lush, beautiful
Caribbean island. Over the next two days, I was hardpressed to put it down! I became completely engrossed in the adventures and misfortunes of the protagonist, Krystal Sutherland, a divorced American businesswoman who leaves her comforts behind to follow her heart into unknown tropical territory. She quickly discovers that her preconceived notions about ‘life in paradise’ are more than a little off the mark! As an expatriate, I could readily identify with many of the main character’s challenges. I was also intrigued by the fast-paced twists and turns of the plot and the colourful dialog that really moved the story along.
I have since electronically linked up with Kris, and in advance of a face-to-face literary chat in the weeks to come, she has graciously and candidly answered some of my questions about A Face in the River, and more, right here!
Gwendominica: What/who/where was the inspiration for A Face in the River?
Kristine Simelda: I always say you have to have felt it to write about it. When I was trying to find a publisher who was willing to take a chance on an unknown author writing from a relatively unknown part of the world, I was pitching the book as a fictionalized memoir. No one was interested, so I finally published the book as “a novel” under the ‘River Ridge Press’ imprint, which is the name of my farm. Some folks might recognize certain aspects of the setting and storyline, and the name of the heroine, Krystal Sutherland, does sound a lot like Kristine Simelda, but beyond that I plead the 5th [amendment]!
Gwendominica: Where did you write it, did you have a particular process, and how long did it take you?
Kristine Simelda: I wrote A Face in the River right here in Dominica, although I had to teach myself to type before I began! I had only written a few snippets of poetry previously, and was so ignorant of the process of writing a novel that I decided to tell Krystal’s story first. I had so much to say that the original manuscript was 150,000 words long!
When my house burned down in 2000, the original copy went up in flames with it, so I had to start all over again. It took a couple of more years to resurrect the story, during which I managed to get rid of about 50,000 words. Then, while I learned about the craft of writing through workshops and constructive criticism, I edited the manuscript ruthlessly. Finally I was ready to take the next step and publish it as an eBook in 2014.
Gwendominica: How have readers responded to the book? What kind of reactions are you getting?
Kristine Simelda: Everyone has been very supportive. The general consensus is that it’s a fast read and a great story. I’ve learned a lot [about the writing process] at seminars, by reading other authors’ works (good and bad) and especially from my invaluable editor, Elizabeth Brown.
Gwendominica: Do you think there is a market for ‘tropical fiction’ outside of the tropics?
Kristine Simelda: Most definitely! The First World has become so homogeneous that readers are dying for a taste of the really real world, stories about people and places just like wild, beautiful Dominica. Maybe it’s because I write from the Caribbean, but I feel a there’s a positive shift in literature toward ethnically diverse characters living in far-flung places.
Gwendominica: What was the biggest challenge in terms of creating this novel?
Kristine Simelda: Technology. I am basically a Stone Age woman. I haven’t had a TV for 25 years, don’t have an IPhone or a Kindle. Believe it or not. I lived without electricity for ten years before I installed solar power five years ago. Before that I ran my laptop from a generator. If it hadn’t been for the cyber gals (Wendy Walsh and Petrea Seaman) at Delphis Ltd, the manuscript for A Face in the River would still be molding in a bottom drawer.
Gwendominica: What’s next, in terms of your writing plans?
Kristine Simelda: One thing is for sure: I’ll never run out of things to write about while living in Dominica!
I have lots of completed work in the queue, all of which is set in the Caribbean and deals with issues that are close to my heart. In River of Fire, a sequel to A Face in the River, an older and wiser Krystal copes with the fact that the island blows up on the first page due to a volcanic eruption caused by environmental terrorism. Then she resurfaces as a sage old woman in the novella, Back to the River.
My most recent novel, Nobody Owns the Rainbow focuses on issues of class, love, family, and genetically modified horrors as perpetrated by foreign exploiters. I have also written a young adult novel, Rainforest Rescue, and have enough published short stories for a collection.
Meanwhile, I continue to submit short fiction to publications, revise older work, and wait to win the lottery. I have already begun to formulate novel number four, a romance/ horror narrative where the little gal stands up to the big bad wolf and all his kin.
Gwendominica: What are your other interests, hobbies, occupations?
Kristine Simelda: As a child, I was never much of a reader. My school mates recall a me as a wild and crazy misfit, a bohemian artist. In my middle years, I morphed into a go-girl who rode horses, bicycled around the world, and played a hard game of racquetball.
When I moved to Dominica, I discovered snorkeling and hiking. Then I settled down to farming and breeding large dogs when I landed here in the rainforest. These days, I still have my kayak, and my dogs, but I can’t think of anything more rewarding than settling down with a good book and a glass of wine in the evenings. (Well, maybe I can…)
Gwendominica: As an expatriate, do you have any words of advice for people who are thinking of making a big move to a little tropical island?
Kristine Simelda: According to the epigraph to A Face in the River: “Consider, my friends, the high price of enchantment.”
Now that readers of Ti Domnik Tales know a little more about this engaging American-
Dominican author, you can follow the tropical adventures of her ‘heroine’ Krystal in A Face in the River by getting a paperback or Kindle copy through www.amazon.com or the visit-dominica website. The book can be purchased locally in Roseau at Jay’s Bookstore, Kai-K Boutique and Buy Dominica, as well as at Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Trafalgar. Follow her blog at www.kristinesimelda.com
Many thanks to Kris, for candidly sharing some background and personal anecdotes. I wish you every success with your creations and eagerly await the release of River of Fire, the sequel to a A Face in the River – and all of your other forthcoming literary works!