1. Where in TT are you from originally and what books were you reading growing up? I am originally from Tacarigua, Trinidad.
I enjoyed reading fiction by Enid Blyton, Michael Anthony, Paul Keens-Douglas, and (later on) JK Rowling.
2. Who or what started your love of writing? My love of writing may have begun when I received a diary for my ninth birthday. That pretty little book with the lock and key was a wonderful tool to help me record the weeks’ trivial and exciting goings- on and was a safe space for me to think through and express my feelings. I also loved creative writing—for school assignments as well as for my own enjoyment — and remember how proud I felt when my father began collecting and compiling my short stories.
3. Tell me about balancing writing with your “day job”, family and other responsibilities.
It’s not easy, and honestly, I am still working on finding that elusive balance. I know the importance of writing every day but often fall short. As a substitute teacher and freelance interpreter and translator there is quite a bit of unpredictability to my days, so I have found that setting aside time to write either early in the morning or late at night (when the little ones are not awake) is helpful.
My husband’s support is also tremendous and will no doubt make attaining some sort of balance that much more feasible.
4. Who is your favourite author and why? This is a tough one. I don’t think that I have a favourite author, per se.
I am in awe of JRR Tolkien’s rich, fantastic imagination; have a weakness for Jane Austen’s romantic fiction; and love Paul Keens-Douglas’s witty humour.
5. What book(s) is/are currently on your night stand? Besides Thomas the Train and Princess Bedtime Stories? Lean In by Cheryl Sandberg and Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson.
6. Tell me briefly about your short-listed book and what inspired the story.
The Protector’s Pledge is an adventure story set in the fictional Caribbean village of Alcavere, where 12-year-old JV lives with his grandmother. Over the course of a week during the long school vacation, JV embarks on a series of excursions into the adjacent forest of Oscuros, and these daring trips lead to encounters with frightening characters of both the folkloric and non-mythological kind. It is a tale of bravery, friendship, love, family, and self-discovery that incorporates various aspects of Trinbagonian culture.
My children are the inspiration behind The Protector’s Pledge. I wanted to create an exciting story that would reel them in and get them fired up about the folkloric characters of Trinidad and Tobago; make them smile with recognition when they read about tamarind balls and buljol, for example; and familiarise them with sayings that I often heard growing up but to which they are not frequently exposed.
Writing this book was one of the best ways for me to share with them the love that I have for my culture.
7. What was your first thought when you heard you were short-listed for the Burt Award and what would winning the Burt Award mean to you? My first thought was, “Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! Is this real?” To be short-listed for the Burt Award is staggering, so I don’t think that I could fully describe what actually winning would mean to me.
When I first sat down to write The Protector’s Pledge my goal wasn’t even publication but to embark on a personal project for the benefit of my future children. To think that, ten years later, it could be a winning title for CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is beyond incredible. It would mean that my desire to do my personal bit to pass on my culture would extend far beyond what I could have ever envisioned.
8. We have three Trini female writers short-listed. What are your thoughts? I am incredibly proud of the rich talent of the people of the Caribbean, and even more so of Trinidadians and Tobagonians. It is wonderful that local talent is encouraged and recognised, and I think that we three Trini women are following in the tradition of a long line of accomplished and skilled Trinbagonian female writers at home and abroad.
9. What three characteristics do you believe are necessary to be a successful writer? Discipline to see your project through from the first word to the final round of editing; empathy (in the case of a novelist) to become your characters and feel what they do; and the ability to communicate everything that you have inside in a way that your readers can understand and, hopefully, connect with.
10. What advice would you give to aspiring Caribbean writers? Do not give up on your dreams, continue to hone your craft, and put your work out there.