Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Women's Tales: Cara Chow

For a giveaway entry, fellow bloggers asked a question in regards to Cara's book or topic.

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by Cara Chow
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Here are Cara's responses to some of the questions...

Kulsuma said...
This sounds like a really great book!
My question is how much research did you have to do when writing Bitter Melon?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to do a tremendous amount of research, but I did have to learn more about the structure of speech tournaments because many important scenes occur during Frances ’s competitions. Though I used to compete in speech when I was in high school, I couldn’t remember the details of those competitions because it was so long ago. I had to consult my own high school speech teacher for this information.

I also wanted to make sure that everything in the book that was Chinese was reasonably accurate, for example, the name of a certain tea or certain Cantonese words. I consulted my mom for this. My mom was the one who came up with Frances ’s Chinese name.

Llehn said...
My question : What is your writing mantra in 15 words or less?

I don’t really have a writing mantra. I just sit down and write.

Darlyn said...
I read from Cara's website and very curious to know about how similar she feels about the main Frances and herself?

Primarily, Bitter Melon is a work of fiction, meaning that the characters, what they do, and what happens to them are totally made up. That said, even when we make things up, our ideas always come from somewhere, and usually that is from our own lives. Like Frances , my relationship with my mom was quite difficult during my teen years, though it is very positive today. I also competed in speech competitions and had a very inspiring speech coach, whom I’m still friends with today. Those experiences informed the story that I wrote.

Joana Dias said...
Do you think that the story of people with "divided" identity/origins is more powerful and gives you more options than people without those characteristics?

Having a divided identity (e.g. Frances is Chinese but also American) can definitely make a character and her story more interesting. That said, the division doesn’t have to be something obvious, such as a person’s ethnicity. The character can feel divided in subtler ways. Anytime you have a character who feels conflicted or has a compelling moral dilemma, you’ve got an interesting story on your hands.

fredamans said...
Cara, was this book based on your own experiences and if so, what have you learned from your own writing?

I always knew that my life experiences would inform my writing. What I learned from writing Bitter Melon is that my writing in turn will also inform my life experiences. Writing, or any form of creative expression, helps us to process what is going on in our lives, which helps us gain clarity and understanding.

Carlos Antunes said...
Is this only a past experience or do you feel it still happens to a lot of young girls nowadays?

What I’m finding, based on feedback I get from readers or anyone who has heard of Bitter Melon, is that mother-daughter issues are universal and timeless. Many mothers and daughters have challenges in their relationships today, and I believe that this will always be the case.

Aik said...
Hi Cara, may I ask if there are any similarities between the main character Frances and yourself? Did you create this character based on your own story?

Please see my answer to Darlyn's question.

Catarina said...
Why this particular title/fruit?

There is a scene in one of the chapters that features bitter melon, which becomes a metaphor for Frances ’s dilemma. Bitter melon, as the name suggests, is extremely bitter tasting. There is a Chinese expression, “eating bitterness,” which means that a person must be willing to endure hardship and suffering in order to succeed. Frances must decide if she is willing to sacrifice and suffer to succeed on her mother’s terms. Chinese people from Asia usually like bitter melon, but Americanized Chinese people usually don’t. I like to joke in my family that bitter melon is a litmus test for how Chinese you are. Hence, in this story, bitter melon also represents the cultural boundary between Frances and her mother.

Susana Ricardo said...
As you write, what are your feelings about the text?

Do you love it while writing and have doubts when re-reading?

When I’m feeling inspired, the writing usually feels good while I’m writing. If it doesn’t, then I know that something’s wrong, and then I have to stop and figure out what it is. Usually, the problem is my plot. When I am writing new material (e.g. a new scene), I focus initially on the plot and don’t worry about my prose. The next day, I’ll read what I wrote the day before and improve the prose. When I am done with an entire draft, I will re-read it much later (e.g. a month to 6 months). I find that how I feel about the prose reflects my state of mind as well as the quality of the writing. When my state of mind is good, I generally enjoy what I’ve written and can detect what needs improvement. I’m more prone to doubt if I’m uncertain about the project as a whole.


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by Cara Chow
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Thanks to Cara for joining in the Women's Tales event!

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