Mahalo to the necessary and sharp-as-a-broken-bottle-in-a-bar-fight Jaimie Gusman for the invitation to do this “Next Big Thing.” I first met Jaimie in an undergraduate poetry course, taught by the wonderful Susan Schultz, and have consistently been jolted and fed by her writing. Here’s my food for thought:
Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing
What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I grew up with some of the most playful and exacting storytellers. As a young girl, it was natural to believe in creatures and gods and shape-shifters, in the land and ocean coming to life. I was taught to believe in women, most of all. So I’ve always gravitated to mermaid stories, always itching to write one of my own. One that was playful and exacting.
The Aubrey is a collection of poems about a young mermaid who leaves the ocean for a pool gig at a luxurious hotel in Maui. The collection takes a kinky, critical look at sex, myth, and tourism in Hawai‘i.
What genre does your book fall under?
poetry – autobiography – travel – experimental bedtime stories
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Beyond the page, I’d prefer to see The Aubrey as an installation project: amplified poetry meets the Cells of Louise Bourgeois, maybe. Although for the hook-maker’s voice, Kathleen Turner would blow my mind.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A mermaid gets a gig at the best hotel in Maui, and people are flooding the pool deck to watch her flip her hair, flick her tail, and kiss pretty Pua with the pearly shells…until a hook-maker arrives and the mermaid vanishes – hold the chlorine, cabana boys, The Aubrey is dirty and awake.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I like the idea of smuggling Xeroxed copies of it into local high schools when they teach sex-ed. Or into Women’s Studies courses that spare one token week to indigenous women’s writing. Smuggling seems apropos. Yet to be published by a small, committed press would be amazing.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Work in progress / Still swimming.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Leche, R. Zamora Linmark
Dictee, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson
“The Dancers,” Sia Figiel
“Sexual Frustration,” Sage Takehiro
The Book of Jon, Eleni Sikelianos
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Living in a family of mythic women.
Being a fisherman’s daughter.
Experiencing “the best” hotels in Maui from behind the scenes.
Remembering how I aspired to Disney’s Mermaid when I was little, and needing now to redefine that reach entirely.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
There’s a thumb-sucker, a hook-maker, and an enigmatic mother who can hold her breath forever. If you appreciate documentary poetry, I play with spa menus, pool signs, mayonnaise jars, and scripts for tour guides. Read The Aubrey poolside. But N O P I S S I N G allowed.