Ashes in a Coconut by Bo Kearns
1- What's the best part of living in wine country?
Being surrounded by vineyards that evolve throughout the seasons. Similar to New England, leaves change in autumn. The hills turn into a palette of vibrant yellows, deep amber and shades of gold. Winter exposes barren gnarly vines. Spring brings bud break and the proliferation of new growth. Tucked within the foliage are purple clusters of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and green Chardonnay grapes. Its nature at it’s best.
2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
Forget all those ‘to be’ verbs. Drop the proliferation of ‘was.’ Go active. Scream, skip, scramble, sit, stand, smile. Bring the reader into the scene!
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
Growing up I attended parochial schools and military academies. I had little exposure to literature. My daughter benefited from a broader education. In her English class she read The Catcher in the Rye. I hadn’t read that classic coming of age story. Holden Caulfield’s quirky honest character drew me in. Never had a book captured me so completely. When I finished I wanted to write like JD Salinger. I wanted to do what he did. I enrolled in a community college creative writing course. The wonderful teacher inspired me. So I kept at it.
4- What is something most people don't know about orangutans?
Humans and orangutans share 97% of their DNA. In 2017, a third species of orangutan, dubbed the Tanapuli was discovered in the rainforest of Sumatra. There are believed to be only 800 in existence. The Tanapuli is the rarest ape on earth.
5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?
@Bo_Kearns, and give a shout-out to @csummie and @reynagentin
6- Would you share a picture with us of your book out in nature?
7- What's the best thing about keeping bees?🐝
I got into beekeeping for the honey. Now that’s secondary. Bees are in decline worldwide and no one knows why. The insects are responsible for a third of our food. Without bees there would be no melons or juicy mangoes, no crisp apples, no potatoes, no pumpkin pie. And forget that morning coffee and Valentine’s Day box of chocolates. Pantries would be sparse. So in beekeeping, I’m doing my small bit to help bees, and the planet.
8- What most motivates you to read a new book?
Reading is an important part of writing. I’m always on the prowl for a new book, as in new to me. Often I’ll return to the classics. I have a long ‘to be read’ list. I peruse the NYT Book Review and make a note of reviews that resonate. And when I hear other authors I respect talk about a book, I pay attention.
9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!
Author name:Delia Owens @DeliaOwen
Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Love because: Years ago I visited Africa and read Mark & Delia Owens non-fiction The Cry of the Kalahari as preparation for the trip. The story portrayed the challenges of their life in the desert, their love of animals and nature. I recently saw Delia’s debut novel at the bookstore. It’s set in the backwaters of South Carolina. I’m drawn to books with unusual settings. Delia’s detailed descriptions bring the region to life. In Crawdads the protagonist lives alone. There’s not a lot of opportunity for dialogue. The protagonist seeks comfort in nature. Owens does a superb job of portraying that special relationship.
10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
Few other than my editors have read the final version of my novel. When Ashes in a Coconut is released May 15th, I hope the story and the characters will have many fans.
11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
I’m hoping Ashes will evoke an understanding and appreciation of differences. I hope the reader will feel compassion. The story’s not all serious. There are light moments and opportunities to smile. There is a scene I think will resonate with readers. Laura is an expat in a country where she’s not allowed to work. She struggles searching for something meaningful to do. At the local market she spots a baby orangutan for sale, its mother killed by loggers. Her heart goes out to the poor creature and she finds her new passion—saving the endangered primates and their rainforest habitat.
12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?
Ashes in a Coconut is a story about the challenge of relationships, and how a culture can affect decisions regarding right and wrong. It’s about betrayal and ultimately redemption. I’m hoping readers relate to the characters and how they deal with these tough issues. Perhaps this might provide the courage and fortitude to cope with difficult situations in their own lives. And there’s an underlying theme about the environment. I’m hoping readers pick up on that, too.
14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?
Gunadi is the bank’s controller. He wears thick glasses and has a twitch in his right eye. Whenever he gets nervous, the twitch becomes more apparent.
15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Nissam is a cook in the household. He’s gay. When he goes missing, Laura frets. He returns badly beaten. The police raided a party, Nissam ran, stumbled and was subjected to the blows of fists and batons. Laura nurses his wounds. Through his eyes, she experiences the good and the not so good of her adopted country.
16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?
Dru’s Book Musings drusbookmusing.com/
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
Querying agents is a frustrating yet necessary part of the process. Rejections gave me pause, yet made me more determined. Along the way my writing got better; and so did the manuscript. Without the name recognition of a Kardashian, I realized agents weren’t going to take me on. I didn’t seriously consider self-publishing. I think that works best for memoir, tough for fiction. And I wanted validation. So I turned to a small press. I’m glad I did.
18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?
The process of writing a review presents an opportunity for readers to reflect. What did the story mean to me? It expands the community of readers and provides for an exchange of ideas. Reviews keep writers honest. Good reviews encourage; meaningful critiques help the writer get better. And reviews sell books.
19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
The interview covers a range of topics. Rather than focus on one, I look forward to hearing from readers as to which question or topic piqued their interest.
20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Blurb for Ashes in a Coconut:
In 1983, Laura Harrison, fashion designer, sets aside her career and follows her banker husband Jack to Indonesia to save her marriage. Once there she experiences feelings of unease and haunting premonitions. When her premonitions become reality, events spin out of control.
In the blistering noonday sun, Laura Harrison stood outside the Denpasar International Airport and fingered the beads on her necklace. Her damp silk blouse clung to her body. In the humidity her red hair curled so that she resembled an adult Little Orphan Annie. She fanned her face wishing she’d worn a wide-brimmed straw hat. And yet she shouldn’t have minded the discomfort; she was in Bali. Still, she fretted. The island paradise was only a stopover en route to Jakarta. There she would be beginning a new life in a place she’d never been, leaving everything behind to save her marriage.
Her husband, tall and broad-shouldered, stood beside her. He wore a tropical shirt and exuded confidence.
“Jack, can you hail a cab—preferably one with air conditioning.”
“Good luck with that,” he said.
Before he could raise his hand, a taxi with the car windows rolled down, pulled up to the curb. Laura grimaced as they climbed in. With their bags in the trunk, they made their way through narrow streets; discreet shrines graced with small floral offerings dotted the roadside. In the distance, young green rice paddies terraced the mountain. After a half hour they arrived at the Seminyak Kebun Resort where a vast manicured lawn and swaying palm trees welcomed them.
“How beautiful!” Laura said. Her spirits rose. “The perfect place for a second honeymoon.”
Jack smiled and took her hand.
The couple walked into the large open-air lobby. At the registration desk Laura noticed blossoms in a small woven palm-leaf tray. She picked one up and inhaled the fragrance.
“It’s an offering to keep away evil spirits,” the clerk said.
“Oh,” Laura exclaimed. She set the flower down and moved away.
Laura and Jack followed the bellboy to a thatched-roof bungalow that fronted onto a tranquil beach. Inside a four-poster bed covered with mosquito netting dominated the room. Paintings of colorful birds hung on the walls.
Laura walked around admiring, touching. The bathroom, open to the sky, was outside in a small garden. White and purple orchids proliferated, and a showerhead shaped like a dolphin extended from the rock wall. Then Laura noticed movement off to the side. A hammock swung though the air was perfectly still. She got goose bumps watching it. Hugging her arms across her chest, she rushed inside.
Bo Kearns, journalist and writer of fiction, is the author of Ashes in a Coconut, a novel set in Indonesia where he lived for three years. He is a feature writer with NorthBay biz magazine and the Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper. Several of his short stories have won awards and been published. He is a certified UC Naturalist, beekeeper, avid hiker and supporter of conservation causes. He lives in the wine country of Sonoma with his wife and rescue dog, Jake.
Ashes in a Coconut by Bo Kearns