Loren Edizel has published three books: two novels, Adrift (2011) and The Ghosts of Smyrna (2013), with TSAR Books (now Mawenzi House), and the short story collection Confessions, A Book of Tales (2014) with Inanna Publications. Adrift was longlisted for the ReLit Award, and The Ghosts of Smyrna was translated to Turkish.
Loren joined us this week for an interview before her Nov. 11 reading at Brockton Writers Series.
BWS: What can you tell us about the genesis of the tales in this new book? Were they collected over a long period of time, or were they written as part of a more focused project?
Loren: It began with the first tale in the collection, “The Conch”. An editor in Turkey asked me to write a short story set in Izmir, for an anthology of women’s stories. I accepted immediately because I loved the idea of writing something short, fast and with a particular geography.
BWS: Before Confessions, you had published two novels. What differences in your process did you notice in the shorter form compared to your previous novels?
Loren: I had a semi-sleepless night, and in the morning I had the story. I saw the whole thing in my head from beginning to end before writing it. With novels, I find I have the essential characters, the general direction and mood, the structure, when I start, but it all has a meandering kind of feel and characters start doing things, creating opportunities which I didn’t anticipate, and I never quite know how it will all come together. In these tales, I knew exactly. It was so refreshing to write something within a few days and be done with it. I wrote a couple more and realized they had a common thread to them: the confessional style, first person narration, revealing/sharing secrets, unspoken feelings and thoughts. So, it became a deliberate exercise, and I decided I would create a collection. I wrote them one after another, pretty quickly. But it was with “The Conch” that I started using those new muscles, for creating a short story and I took more time with that one than the others. I had a couple of people read the first draft, listened to their advice, worked out the pacing, the voice, and changed things around. It got easier after that. A friend of mine asked me to write a story for another anthology, after I thought had finished with this entire project. For that one, I had to set the story in Istanbul. Another half-sleepless night, and “Hopital de la Paix” happened. It didn’t fit with that anthology, ultimately, because mine was a period piece and they had a more contemporary theme going, but I was really glad I was given the idea. Just give me a city and I’ll write you a tale! Seriously, I find it exhilarating when I’m given writing missions. As a kid, teachers would say, write about a dream, write about your grandmother, write something futuristic, whatever, and I’d run home and write like a maniac at the expense of all other homework. This collection brought that particular excitement back.
BWS: Is it fair to refer to these tales as “short stories”? Or must they be called “tales”? How do you see the difference between the terms (if you see one at all)?
Loren: If someone wanted to call them short stories, I wouldn’t argue, but I would still call them “tales”. Maybe the difference is subtle and maybe there isn’t one. I see them as tales because I imagine they are all being told in an intimate setting, orally. I also think tales have a moral to them. Maybe moral is not the right word. They create this imaginary situation, sometimes supernatural, and one walks away with a sense of wonder or sadness or horror about the vastness of experience while being paradoxically aware of the smallness of one’s life. They tell you an untruth that helps you reconcile with the truth. Maybe all stories do that, but tales purposefully do that, it seems to me.
BWS: Are there particular archetypes or other authors you drew from when crafting your own tales?
Loren: Someone asked me if I was influenced by the Arabian Nights with regard to “The Whisper” because it is narrated by a jinn. Jinns figure in everyday speech in Turkey. If you want to say a place was deserted, you use the expression “Jinns were playing ball, there”; if someone is very smart, “she’s like a jinn”, and so on. I grew up with the Arabian Nights, of course, and also with Perreault’s tales and Andersen’s and Greek mythology. They’re all part of my mental dough.
In elementary school–I think I was about seven–I used to entertain my friends during recess by telling them I had discovered a cave in the mountains where a treasure was hidden. I would give a lot of precise details using the cave we used to hike to in the summer, so it would sound real. I discounted the thieves by about 80 per cent and did away with the sesame. They would listen with their mouths hanging open, going, “Really?” And I’d go, “Yes, really. But you mustn’t tell anyone. You must forget I ever told you.” I didn’t want them talking to their parents about my treasure because they would say, “That girl is sticking Ali Baba to you pretending it’s her story. Wait till we tell her mom!”
BWS: You’ve had both your previous books translated into Turkish. What was the translation process like?
Loren: The Ghosts of Smyrna was translated before it was published here. I had the good fortune to get in touch with one of the most talented and experienced translators (in my opinion) In Turkey, Roza Hakmen. She read the manuscript and said she loved the book and would translate it. She sent it to publishers, got it accepted and did the translation. I owe the Turkish edition of this novel to her efforts and talent, entirely. Very gracious and lovely person. I also had the privilege to work closely with her, in the sense that she would translate a few chapters, and send them to me. There were questions going back and forth. We discussed things by email. We were in touch the whole time. Sometimes I would make suggestions, or she would. I was very grateful for that collaborative approach and it was lovely to work with her. She also translated “The Conch.”
Another story, “Small Gifts”, was also translated for a literary journal in 2014. It was a collaboration as well and there was a lot of back and forth to make sure the tone, the language used by the street sweeper in that time period (the Sixties) in Izmir was accurate. Literary translation is a very difficult thing, I realized, because I speak both languages. So I know how the text should read, sound, what words and tone should be there. Turkish is a language that has been evolving very rapidly. There are new unfamiliar words every time I go for a visit. Translators have to be aware of all those changes and the history of the language. To be good at this is quite a big feat.
BWS: And how about the composition process? Do you do any internal translating when you write?
Loren: As for the composition process, I believe I compose the pieces that take place in Turkey in Turkish and English at the same time in my mind, instinctively, even though I write solely in English. When my characters speak, I know how they sound in Turkish. I see their body language, etc., and I hope that the translator sees it too.
BWS: We look forward to seeing it ourselves on November 11, Loren–thanks for stopping by the blog!
Loren Edizel visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 11, 2015 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (6:30pm, PWYC) – along with Terry Fallis, Allison LaSorda, Jess Taylor and a special guest talk by Andrea Thompson, “From Page to Stage: Spoken Word and the Art of Literary Performance”.
Watch this space for more with each of our readers in the month leading up to the event!