Yvonne Cassidy

Yvonne Cassidy

Irish novelist Yvonne Cassidy loves to read and she loves to write. And for that we’re grateful! The author of The Other Boy, What Might Have Been Me and How Many Letters Are In Goodbye?, she’s working on book number four. Even though she moved to New York City in 2011, Yvonne still writes feature and opinion pieces for Ireland’s leading publications. She also leads the creative writing program at Manhattan’s Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, fostering the talent of homeless and marginalized writers. Enjoy this frank and fascinating conversation.

Transcript

Sandi:                       Welcome to another edition of Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein. Irish novelist Yvonne Cassidy can’t pin point exactly when she started writing, but says she remembers always making up stories, putting them on pieces of paper and leaving them all over her house for her parents to find. That house was in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey. While studying business at the National University of Ireland, Yvonne used to talk about the novel she was going to write someday. But it was when she turned thirty that she actually made the move. Taking a three month leave of absence from her job in marketing and writing what she thought was then a first draft. In reality, it was the germ of an idea that over time, morphed into The Other Boy. Published in 2010, it was the first of three critically acclaimed novels. It was followed by What Might Have Been Me, in 2012, and How Many Letters are in Goodbye published in 2014.

                                 Yvonne, who moved to New York City in 2011, also writes feature and opinion pieces for Ireland’s leading publications and non-fiction pieces for her blog. She has taught creative writing in Ireland and the U.S. and since 2011, has lead the creative writing program at Manhattan’s Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen. Which fosters the talent of homeless and other marginalized writers. Yvonne is also a marketing and communications consultant. That includes lecturing, mentoring and one on one training.

Welcome and thanks so much for joining me today.

Yvonne:                    Thanks Sandi. Thanks for asking me to be here.

Sandi:                       Was your childhood filled with books?

Yvonne:                    Absolutely. Yeah. I remember when you asked me that question what comes to mind first is every Saturday, we would go to the library. Myself, and my parents. The children’s library was this prefab building next to the really nice adult’s library. They would go in there, and I would go into the prefab building. Just spend a good hour or so looking for books and then we would all head home with our finds.

Sandi:                       Books under your arm.

Yvonne:                    Books under our arm. Yeah. That would be the reading for the week. There was loads of books always around the house. My mom used to do some writing as well. Her typewriter set up at the dining room table, so it was something that was around me from when I was very small.

Sandi:                       You always wanted to write. How did you know you could write? Was this just this feeling that you had something to say? To get out?

Yvonne:                    I think when I was very small, I remember writing a play. I remember having this, I wrote it I think it was on the back of some office paper my dad took home from work, writing the names and punctuation and the language. There was something about creating the story that just sort of fascinated me. I love stories and reading stories. I think I was young enough I didn’t question can I do this, I just sort of started doing it. I knew that I liked it. Then as I got a little bit older, when I was a teenager. I’m not sure what the curriculum is like over here, but in Ireland, when we have essays to do for exams and things, there’s always the factual ones. Which would be like how Ireland joined the European Union or something like that.

Sandi:                       Oh, fascinating.

Yvonne:                    Fascinating topics.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Yvonne:                    Then, there was more creative ones. I had a very influential English teacher around that time who always encouraged me to do the creative writing essays. I really loved that. I remember just getting so lost in creating those stories. I would get really positive feedback from her. It was just something that really helped me, I don’t know, I probably say now, connect with myself.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    At the time, I wouldn’t have had those kind of words. I just knew I liked to do it.

Sandi:                       So at that point, as you got older, it was kind of a hobby for you, because you didn’t major in writing in college.

Yvonne:                    No. I did a joint major. I had economics and I had English. I felt like people used to thing that was a funny combination.

Sandi:                       I think it’s funny.

Yvonne:                    [Laughing] It is a funny combination.

Sandi:                       The only connection is they both begin with the letter E.

Yvonne:                    [Laughing] Right. I think it was, it’s something that sort of shows up even in my life now. At the time, I loved English, so I wanted to do English and I felt like Economics would help me get a job. I felt like there would be no way to get a job doing English.

Sandi:                       Support yourself. Right.

Yvonne:                    Support myself and all of that. By majoring in both of those things, when it came to the English piece of it. I think I thought there would be more creative writing as part of that, and there wasn’t really. It was a lot of reading and a lot of critiquing and all of that. It wasn’t writing as much then as I’d certainly had being at school

Sandi:                       Which is fascinating because the history of Irish writers is so rich and varied. It seems almost a shame.

Yvonne:                    Right. Yeah.

Sandi:                       And wrong.

Yvonne:                    Yeah. I think now, would it not be more part of the curriculum or at least have extracurricular things. Maybe there were, maybe I was just very immersed in my college life and hanging out with my friends.

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    Maybe I didn’t notice there was other opportunities around. Certainly on the core curriculum it was very much sort of learning based and exam focused. All the essays were about other people’s writing. There wasn’t really a creative writing focus.

Sandi:                       So, at that point that was ok with you, I suppose, because you were heading in another direction.

Yvonne:                    Yes, and no. I sort of. I felt for me, when I graduated college and finished up that the only direction really that was available or supported was to go down the business road and into the business world.

Sandi:                       Even though you’re female?

Yvonne:                    Yeah, even though I’m female. Unless I wanted to be a teacher, or something like that. I sort of had toyed with that idea, which if any teachers of mine were listening to this, they would probably find ironic.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Yvonne:                    I used to sometimes get in trouble in school. I did think about the teaching thing for about two minutes. No, the business world was where there was money to be made and that was the thing. I moved to London right after college. That’s what I did, but there was always this part of me, that was like I’m going to write a novel someday. I’ll get back to that. I never fully left that behind.

Sandi:                       As you got closer to thirty, that fire started to burn brighter?

Yvonne:                    Yeah, I think so. During my twenties, I would sort of, what I would consider dabble.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    I would do writing courses at night. I loved that. I remember being, when I was in London, I signed up to this writing course. It was on a Thursday night in Hammersmith. I remember just the joy of reconnecting with writing in that way. It was my favorite thing in the week. I would look forward to it no matter what was happening at work or how stressful it was. I would make that class. For the hour and half or however long it was, I would be totally focused on writing. It was just, it was wonderful. I was sort of a serial class taker.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh

Yvonne:                    Through my twenties. As I was doing that, my career took off. I moved back to Dublin and I was working for a cellphone company there. It was the Keltic Tiger, everybody was working very hard and very long hours and all of that. It was a funny time. More of my physical energy and mental energy was going towards my career but more and more I just felt like something was missing.

Sandi:                       In your heart?

Yvonne:                    Something in my heart was missing.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    I’m seeing myself just reach my heart. As I approached thirty, I think, it was like some sort of dramatic. Maybe it felt dramatic at the time, but I thought, I’ve been talking about this now for

Sandi:                       Shut up already.

Yvonne:                    Yes. Just shut up and write it. On my grave stone, do I want to be either she tried and failed, okay, well that’s one thing, but I don’t want to be she never tried at all.

Sandi:                       Yeah, she talked about it.

Yvonne:                    Yeah. Yeah. She talked about it a lot. [Laughing]

Sandi:                       But you had the seed of something in your head? Or, you had no idea what it was you were going to write, you just knew that there was a novel in you, but it wasn’t very defined?

Yvonne:                    It was definitely that. That it wasn’t very defined. That I think really held me back because I had this idea that, sitting down to write a novel, that it must be fully formed. You would know what the story was, it would be such a drive to tell this story.

Sandi:                       I would think.

Yvonne:                    That’s what I thought, and I didn’t have that. It was in one of the writing classes that I went to, I guess it was sort of late in my twenties. I was probably twenty eight, twenty nine. The focus was really on the character. We focused so much on getting into character and the idea that once you find the right character, you can follow them into the story. To a certain extent, they will sort of show you the story.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    We did this writing exercise in that class. She was a great teacher. She used to take, in the side of the Irish Times, at the time, I don’t know if it’s still there. But there used to be these really short little synopsis stories. Like, a headline and probably sixty words.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    She would give us these, and we would take them as writing prompts. I took one of them.

Sandi:                       Flush them out?

Yvonne:                    Flush them out. Exactly. I took one of them, and wrote a couple scenes and it was about these two brothers. The scene was, the story was about there had been a break in for something to some house. What I was writing about was these two brothers and one of them was kind of a reluctant participant and one of them was really the leader.

                                 I just got interested in this relationship between them. Those two brothers actually became the characters in what

Sandi:                       The basis?

Yvonne:                    Became my first novel.

Sandi:                       Which is, The Other Boy.

Yvonne:                    That’s right.

Sandi:                       What a great segway.

Yvonne:                    [Laughing]

Sandi:                       Talk about that book and the process of writing it. I’m not going to be naive enough to ask was it easy, did it just pour out of you?

Yvonne:                    [Laughing] I would love to say, “Oh, it just poured out of me.” That was it. As you mentioned in the beginning, I took three months off from job, so when I got that time, I went to London. I felt like I needed some sort of physical, geographical shift.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh

Yvonne:                    Just out of the day to day. Plus, the book was set in London, so it felt like a nice excuse to go and stay with a friend.

Sandi:                       Why not?

Yvonne:                    I stayed with her for about a month of the three months. I wrote every day. I went to the library. I went to the British Library and I’m a big advocate of libraries. I am not a good person for writing at home.

Sandi:                       Home. Mm

Yvonne:                    Yeah.

Sandi:                       Too many distractions?

Yvonne:                    I think for me to feel like it’s a job, I need to get up and get out and get somewhere.

Sandi:                       Yeah.

Yvonne:                    So I would go to the library and I would show up and I would be there every day. Then, when I got back to Dublin, I did the same thing. I went to the library ECD where I was at college and did that. By the end of the three months, I had a lot, I had 140,000 words or something. I was like wow, this my novel. I would just write scene by scene and these scenes were sort of coming. I didn’t really plot a lot. I had a sense of a plot, but I wasn’t a big plotter. I felt really good about it.

Sandi:                       And then.

Yvonne:                    And then. [Laughing] After, what happened then, I got back to work and after a couple months a friend of mine put me in touch with an agent in London. Her name was Grainne Fox, who now works actually over here. I sent her a couple of chapters of the book and she sent me back this email. I remember I got it on my birthday.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Yvonne:                    The email

Sandi:                       I get the feeling it wasn’t a great present.

Yvonne:                    Well, actually, the email initially was because the first line in the email was I love these chapters. I loved what I read, and I want to talk to you on the phone. That was, you know, I’m thinking ok, this is now my thirty-first birthday, this is going to be the best present ever.

Sandi:                       Ever, right?

Yvonne:                    When we spoke on the phone, which was a few days later. Her opening line was like I love your writing style and I love the characters and I love the story,

Sandi:                       But

Yvonne:                    Right. The next forty minutes was spend with her telling me what was wrong with it and why it didn’t work and what I would need to do, and all the things with it that were problematic. That was hard. That was very hard to hear. Coming from my expectation of well this is sort of done now,

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    To this. It took a little while. It took a little while

Sandi:                       For the sting to dissipate.

Yvonne:                    Right. Yeah. I definitely, I think, felt stung by it. Even at the time, I think, intellectually some part of me knew for this person to spend this much time with me going through this. There’s something here.

Sandi:                       Exactly, she wouldn’t have wasted it on you.

Yvonne:                    Right. I remember somebody saying that to me. But, I couldn’t take that in.

Sandi:                       Sure.

Yvonne:                    For a little while. I could know it but not really feel it.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    It took a few months before I was able to get back on the horse and really take it out and look at it. I could see. I could see.

Sandi:                       That she was right?

Yvonne:                    That she was right in what she had said. I started to, I signed up for yet another writing class.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Yvonne:                    Which actually became more like a writing group. I stayed there for a good few years. I started to just really work on the story and on the draft. What was it that this story was about? I had to ditch a lot of it. I had to write new things and every week, I would bring a chapter into this class, this group. They worked it through with me and it was so helpful. I was at a place where I knew what I wanted it to be

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    So, it wasn’t that, I brought stuff to classes where it’s been too early. I’ve gotten people’s input when I don’t want it.

Sandi:                       Got it.

Yvonne:                    This was at a stage where I felt robust enough that these people’s help was just amazing. I kept doing that. About two years later, by this time I had left the job and I was doing consulting, freelance work on my own. I had what actually was a finished novel.

Sandi:                       If you’re just joining us, my guest today is Irish novelist Yvonne Cassidy and we’re talking about the first book she ever wrote which was called The Other Boy.

                                 Where did the idea come from?

Yvonne:                    The idea came from, initially, from a

Sandi:                       The little article.

Yvonne:                    The little article.

Sandi:                       Right. But then how did that morph into something much larger?

Yvonne:                    I think for me, the idea was, because the article was about these two brothers

Sandi:                       Right

Yvonne:                    Who’d been involved in crime.

Sandi:                       Right.

Yvonne:                    I’m an only child.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    For some reason, I was very drawn to, and have been very drawn to, writing about sibling relationships.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    This idea, I mean in a way, the central idea of the novel is about how the brothers experienced their childhood and how different it was. JP, who’s the main character, had this very idealized, version or memory of his childhood and particularly his relationships with their father.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    Dessie, who is the older brother, has a very, very different view of both that relationship and growing up. When the books opens, JP is living in London, he has this sort of “perfect life”. He has the girl, he has the job, they’re having a baby. Dessie, who’s been in prison, comes back into his life and really unsettles everything and forces JP to look at things that he didn’t really want to look at. That he had not thought about in a long time. I think the central idea of what we remember, how we remember.

Sandi:                       Mm

Yvonne:                    Who’s right. I can talk to friends of mine about something that happened years ago and we all remember different things.

Sandi:                       Absolutely.

Yvonne:                    That sort of trying to get at that in fiction. It was fun for me to sort of play around with that idea. JP is the center character, so we see everything through his eyes.

Sandi:                       His eyes. Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    But, he’s not the most reliable narrator as we discover going through the book. I found that fun. The idea of this double vision of my narrator but of what the reader is also seeing. How to kind of peel that back as I got further into the novel.

Sandi:                       So it was relatively well received.

Yvonne:                    Yes. Yes, it was.

Sandi:                       That was clearly a catalyst for you to keep going.

Yvonne:                    Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Sandi:                       That kind of emboldens you.

Yvonne:                    Oh yeah.

Sandi:                       And propels you to the next step, which is the next book. What Might Have Been Me.

Yvonne:                    Yeah.

Sandi:                       Explain the genesis of this novel.

Yvonne:                    Okay. What Might Have Been Me, I felt like that central question that I have had. I think maybe other people have had. If I had taken this road, or if I had done this thing. How would things have ended up if I had made a different decision? Carla, who’s the main character in What Might Have Been Me, made a decision when she was very young in her early twenties to stay in New York illegally. She did what a lot of me and my peers did. A lot of Irish people come over and work in the states for a summer when we’re in college. We all used to go out to Montalk`[00:16:40 ] and that was like what we did. There was always the sort of urban legend of the girl who met someone, who never came back.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    We all came back to college and did the thing and finished the thing and went and got jobs.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Yvonne:                    Was like, wow, what would that have been like? To be here.

Sandi:                       If we weren’t’ so boring.

Yvonne:                    Exactly. If we weren’t feeling like our parents would go crazy if we didn’t come home.

Sandi:                       Sure.

Yvonne:                    So, Carla became that girl.

Sandi:                       That fantasy for you?

Yvonne:                    In a sense, maybe a fantasy, but maybe more just an exploring of what that would have been like. One of the themes in my books, is I like to write about characters who get stuck in certain points.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    For different reasons. I think we can all get stuck. I know I can get stuck and what happens with Carla, is because she’s illegal over here. Its fine to be illegal twenty, twenty-one. You’re working in a bar, you’re waiting tables. Whatever.

Sandi:                       Sure.

Yvonne:                    But as she’s getting on towards thirty, she’s stuck.

Sandi:                       Oh gee. Did somebody start writing a novel in their thirties?

Yvonne:                    [Laughing] You seeing a little parallel here?

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Yvonne:                    Exactly. It’s that kind of story and then meanwhile back in Ireland, her sister, again I like writing about siblings. Her sister is caring for her mother who’s just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.

Sandi:                       Swell.

Yvonne:                    Yeah. Life is really joyous over there. She has this decision to make about whether she’s going to go back, whether she’s going to stay. She’s in a relationship over here which is not really working out so well. There’s all these things that are happening. I guess the title really relates to how she becomes the Carla she wants to be.

Sandi:                       Did book number two come easily to you, and what was the gap between the two?

Yvonne:                    I don’t know if I would say it came easily. I think the thing that I learned and I have learned between the processes of writing those books and even what I’m working on now is the ability to follow my intuition.

Sandi:                       Huh.

Yvonne:                    If there is a part of me that saying, write this.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    If something comes into my mind, even if I don’t get it, even if I don’t know where it fits. Even if it doesn’t seem like it does fit. Don’t question that. That’s a little gift right there. Just go with it. I think that certainly, with What Might Have Been Me, that I did that more.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    Part of What Might Have Ben Me is set in New York, and at that time, I was working as a consultant. Which meant I could create my own schedule a bit more. I would come over to New York. I would get an apartment in Brooklyn and I would take time to write. I remember the first time I did that. There was a big part of me that was like, right. We’re here, we have a month.

Sandi:                       Get going.

Yvonne:                    We’ve got to really do this. Get going. Like get into the library. There was this other part that like, actually, no. not yet. Lets’ wander.

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    Let’s wander around Williamsburg. I allowed myself to follow that part of me more. Just trust that that was taking towards something and not that I wasn’t writing but this sitting down and 1500 words a day.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Yvonne:                    That was going to come at another point.

Sandi:                       You really were not very hard on yourself? I mean that in a positive way.

Yvonne:                    Right. I mean, I have fun with it. I enjoy it and I have to.

Sandi:                       You like to write.

Yvonne:                    I love to write. It’s kind of like playing. It’s like that part of me that is the creative part that finds the stories, is having fun and is playing with it. If I become overly critical or hard or whatever, that part’s not going to play with me anymore. I’ve got to let that happen.

Sandi:                       Did you ever worry that the first book was an abortion?

Yvonne:                    No.

Sandi:                       Never.

Yvonne:                    No.

Sandi:                       And you knew you had other stories and another book in you.

Yvonne:                    Yeah, I did. Yeah.

Sandi:                       You don’t seem tortured.

Yvonne:                    The most tortured part was after, when I finished The Other Boy, and I got an agent really quickly. Which was fantastic.

Sandi:                       Unheard of.

Yvonne:                    Fantastic and unheard of and all those things.

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    She was very excited and she started to put out the submissions to all the publishers. Then the rejections started to come. That part was very, very difficult. Because, there was this, what felt like, it felt like it went on forever. In reality it was probably six or seven or eight months.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    Where it felt like nearly every Friday, I was have her send me through a rejection. It seemed like the editors were clearing their desks and these was often long rejections. She would say, there’re really positive rejections.

Sandi:                       What the hell. There’s an oxymoron if I heard one.

Yvonne:                    Right. [Laughing] Right. There was some editor who said, she went to bed thinking they were going to make me an offer and she couldn’t sleep and all night she twisted and turned, and the next morning she thought, no. It’s not right. I was almost, I don’t want to know that it was that close. I would rather that it was just no.

Sandi:                       Yeah, it was awful.

Yvonne:                    You know.

Sandi:                       Yeah.

Yvonne:                    Around that time, that was the hardest time. I hadn’t been writing. I had finished The Other Boy. I wasn’t writing, and I knew I needed to start writing something else.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh

Yvonne:                    The idea for What Might Have Been Me was sort of there. It was in bits and pieces of notes and stuff. I started to write it. It immediately made me feel better. I had this post it not that I kept on my fridge for years. I don’t even know where it is not, I’m sure I threw it away. But it was to remind me, it said, you can’t control the publishing process, editors, agents, what anyone thinks.

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    The only thing you can control is the quality you put into your work. I just tried to stick with that.

Sandi:                       Really integrated it.

Yvonne:                    Really integrate it. I felt like The Other Boy was never going to be published. I felt like that was going to be the book where I cut my teeth.

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    Learned how to write a novel. So be it. My job was to work on writing my next book and just do my best with that next book. I felt that I would continue to write books, even if nobody ever published them. That I was writing for me.

Sandi:                       That brings us to How Many Letters are in Goodbye. What’s the distance between that book and What Might Have Been Me? How many years past?

Yvonne:                    What Might Have Been Me came out January 2012.

Sandi:                       Which was twenty minutes ago, really.

Yvonne:                    [Laughing] Right. How Many Letters are in Goodbye came out June 2014.

Sandi:                       Which is ten minutes ago.

Yvonne:                    [Laughing] Right. Right. They are all very close together.

Sandi:                       That’s crazy.

Yvonne:                    That’s how I feel. I hope my publisher is listening. [Laughing] I’m slow for them. Yeah.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Yvonne:                    They have this model. I understand it. I work and worked in marketing too. Where they’re establishing a brand. You’ve got a reader base.

Sandi:                       Carpe Diem?

Yvonne:                    Absolutely. They want things to get out there quickly and there’s a cycle where the trade paperback comes out and then the paperback comes out. You don’t want to let too much time lag. That is definitely a pressure. You asked about me being kind of nice to myself and having fun. That’s the other part of it. Certainly in second draft stuff, it can get very heavy and very time draining and every moment can be spent. Weekends, evenings. It can be hard to balance with every other thing.

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    So, How Many Letters are in Goodbye, I guess I started that around 2012. Yeah. I moved here October 2011 and I probably started How Many Letters probably in about March 2012. Not long after What Might Have Been Me had come out.

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    That book, that’s been a completely different process for me. The books is told through letters. My main character Ria, who is much younger than my other characters. She’s seventeen. She turns eighteen in the novel. She’s writing to her mom and her mom died when she was three. She never really knew her mom. When the book opens, Ria is homeless on the streets of New York and she sort of has no one to turn to. She does this thing that she used to do when she was a little kid. Her and her dad would write letters to her mom.

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    That’s how this story unfolds for the reader. It’s also how the story unfolded for me. I feel like I’m learning as I go through. I feel like I’m being told the story.

Sandi:                       Huh.

Yvonne:                    It’s not like I’m figuring out the story. It’s almost, in a way, like through sitting down, showing up, writing these letters, my characters are showing me the story. Which, I’m aware, might sound like I’m a crazy person. [Laughing]

Sandi:                       No. Actually, it sounds fascinating. This connection that you’re making with them, was not established before.

Yvonne:                    Right.

Sandi:                       You’re both on this journey.

Yvonne:                    Yes.

Sandi:                       The writer and the characters.

Yvonne:                    Yeah. Yeah.

Sandi:                       That also was well received.

Yvonne:                    Yes. Yeah. That was well received. That was my first LGBT character too. That was kind of a big thing.

Sandi:                       Was that personal?

Yvonne:                    In a sense it was. My own sort of personal journey between the books a lot happening in my own life. Including coming out and

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    Being comfortable with my own sexuality

Sandi:                       Um Hmm

Yvonne:                    Getting married. All this stuff. It sort of a natural thing. It felt like that it was going to come out in the book and I felt like I didn’t want it to be a book about. This is about a girl coming to terms with her sexuality. But I wanted that to be a strand of

Sandi:                       More much nuance? Right. Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    I think sometimes it could be like, oh this is lesbian fiction.

Sandi:                       Right.

Yvonne:                    This is contemporary fiction over here. It’s like well, why can’t a lesbian story just be part; why can’t that just be part of the story?

Sandi:                       Be both. Sure.

Yvonne:                    Rather than the whole story or the definition.

Sandi:                       Right.

Yvonne:                    I sort of wanted to do that.

Sandi:                       What’s number four?

Yvonne:                    Number four feels like my most challenging book yet. A friend of mine, who is also a writer, said to me “Wow, I’m sure after doing the letters thing it’s going to be fun, a relief to come back to just a straight narrative.” I was, “well, if I was coming back to a straight narrative.” [Laughing]

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Yvonne:                    It might be like that. This book four has two different characters in it.

Sandi:                       What’s it called?

Yvonne:                    I’m Right Here.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Yvonne:                    Is the working title of the book. The idea, what I’m writing at the moment, there are two characters in completely different timelines essentially. There’s a young girl who is living in Brooklyn Heights who’s in a contemporary time. It’s like 2013/2014. Then I have a character who is a young girl who is a slave on a cotton plantation.

Sandi:                       In the South?

Yvonne:                    In the South.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Yvonne:                    In Charleston. Yeah.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Yvonne:                    Yeah. In the 1850s. The story is sort of the story of these two young girls who

Sandi:                       Parallel lives.

Yvonne:                    Parallel. In a sense, their lives couldn’t be more different.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh.

Yvonne:                    But there’s a connection point between them. Yeah. So, I’m writing both of their stories. I’m writing their connection with each other. It’s the first time I’ve done anything historical.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Yvonne:                    There’s a bit of a leap in terms of how the connection point happens. I’m sort of working with that too.

Sandi:                       That’s what’s really great. Because you’re a risk taker.

Yvonne:                    Right. There’s no way I would have been able to write this book or take it on am my first or second book and I feel like what I’ve learned through the others is even at times when it’s like “why am I writing this book?” This isn’t my story. Who am I to be writing about slavery? Some Irish girl or whatever.

Sandi:                       Right.

Yvonne:                    What do I have to say? And all that.

Sandi:                       Sure.

Yvonne:                    When those voices get really loud, I sort of just try and quell it with the following of this intuition which has always sort of worked in the past. That there’s a reason that I’m writing this. I think having the two characters almost is my way in. The young girl in Brooklyn, it’s not her story either. She’s like why do I have this connection with this girl and this past? This doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s sort of part of the story.

Sandi:                       I can’t believe that we’ve just about run out of time. I just wanted to end on the fact that what you’ve done for yourself, you now share with other people because you teach writing.

Yvonne:                    Right.

Sandi:                       That must also be wonderful.

Yvonne:                    Yes.

Sandi:                       Especially for marginalized and homeless people. Giving them a voice and encouragement and an outlet must really get you to sleep at night.

Yvonne:                    I absolutely love teaching. I just get such a lot out of it. I teach, yeah, I teach at Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen. I teach at other places. Recently I’ve been doing some writing coaching. It just feels like such a privilege to be able to work with somebody on their writing. To be able to share what I’ve learned to help them. For me, finding my voice was such a part of it.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    In the beginning, I didn’t realize it, but I was imitating other writers that liked.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Yvonne:                    I was writing so people might thing that it was good or that it was clever.

Sandi:                       Wasn’t sincere enough for you?

Yvonne:                    Right. No, it wasn’t. Being able to create environments in classes where people feel safe enough and comfortable enough and having enough fun to do that. Particularly within the homeless community where it can be very isolating for people. To see the impact that that has on them. Not just me as a teacher in the class, but with their peers and the other students.

Sandi:                       Sure.

Yvonne:                    It’s really, really special.

Sandi:                       That’s fabulous.

Yvonne:                    That’s pretty special.

Sandi:                       Well, Yvonne Cassidy, I wish we could go on and on because I think we could. But I really want to thank you for joining me today.

Yvonne:                    Oh, thank you Sandi.

Sandi:                       Lots of luck.

Yvonne:                    Thank you.

Sandi:                       Just go in the corner and keep on [Laughing] plugging away at the computer.

Yvonne:                    [Laughing] Thank you very much, Sandi. It was a pleasure being here.

Sandi:                       Join us for another edition of Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein.

 

 

 

 

Chad Dougatz
Chad Dougatz
Chad Dougatz brings more than 20 years of radio and media experience to the show. Before working with Sandi Klein, Chad was a Senior Producer on numerous nationally syndicated radio programs, including The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The Governor David Paterson Show, and Mornings on Air America. Chad is also the owner of The Hangar Studios, an NYC audio production company, where he provides multi-media marketing and production solutions for authors, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
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