Pandora Poikilos is one of my online author friends. I have never met her in person but she has charmed me often with her lovely XOXOs and blessed me by posting about To Dance Once More on her blog and tweeted about the book on Twitter probably close to a thousand times (not really). Please take time to enjoy this charming interview with her.
Sherri: Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Pandora: This depends on the character. In my first book – Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out – there were large of chunks of Anya’s story that was my story. She is diagnosed with a rare, incurable disease and is seen coming to terms with this. More or less what I go through on a daily basis as I was diagnosed with Intracranial Hypertension in 2003.
Sherri: I love that you write about what you know! What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Pandora: Oh wow, this is a whole other book by itself. But if I had to pick one it would be telling the nurse I wanted to “stop” my VP Shunt surgery. Little did I know, it was finished and I was feeling the wonders of morphine kick in.
Sherri: I have done the exact thing before — wake up from surgery thinking you’re about to go in. I love it! When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Pandora: I was 13 and I had submitted an article to the local newspaper. When I saw it published, I was over the moon and continued to submit the second one and the one after … and well, here I am.
Sherri: That’s the same thing that happened to me! Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Pandora: I’m not a picky reader, anything goes for me but I do find it hard to sit through science fiction books and from a child till now, I’ve never finished ‘Lorna Doone’.
Sherri: SciFi is not one of my favorites to read either. Are you sure we weren’t separated at birth? So tell me, how do you choose your characters’ names?
Pandora: Honestly, I leave to this my other half. I’ll have a few ideas, ask him and have him pick one out of the hat.
Sherri: I always get help from my family when it comes to picking names and also for the cover art, too. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Pandora: Ummm, I survived brain surgery and got a book published after that.
Sherri: I know from watching my father go through brain surgery, it’s a tough one to recover from. God really blessed you to let you go on to write these books afterwards. So now for something fun: What is your favorite travel spot? Why?
Pandora: Any island that can churn my creative juices and give me a character or two.
Sherri: I long to step foot on an island one day — any island, as I have never left the U.S. Where would you like to travel to that you have never been to before?
Pandora: Venice, Italy.
Sherri: Italy is on the top of my list! What is your greatest writing roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Pandora: Honestly, I’m still trying to overcome this one roadblock. I have numerous “eye” issues which limit my time on the computer. Some days, it gets extremely frustrating when I cannot finish what I set out to do. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to fully overcome this but for now, I limit myself to two computer / Internet hours a day and I use a Bamboo pad.
Sherri: You are definitely a tough cookie! So now for the good stuff: Tell us about the featured book.
Pandora: Frequent Traveller was initially set to be my first book but having had my surgery, this became my second. The story has been changed a lot since it was started two years ago and this is one of my writing pieces that has been challenged in more ways than one.
Halfway through writing it, my eyes got so bad I, my partner Peas had to help with typing out the chapters for me. One day before it was due to launch, there were numerous formatting issues which resulted in a delay. The book will now be launched on 13 November, 2011.
So yes, there was more drama outside the book that inside the book. Storywise, the novel revolves around Catherine Dixon who is tangled in a secret that the readers only come to learn about at the end. “Mystery man or dodgy past. What is Cathy’s secret?”
Sherri: I am anxious to hear more about the book. Please give us the first page.
31 October 1997
The last of autumn had come and gone leaving bare tree trunks, roads cluttered with leaves and a blowing chill in the air. Yet as the moonlight shone bright, the scene was eerily captivating. Beyond the trees, a narrow trunk road led to a big concrete building lined with grilled doors and windows, the only hint of life for miles. Inside, the moonlit view of winter’s welcome was wasted on its occupants. Cramped in a tiny concrete cell with six other people, a red haired teenager watched as a rat darted across the floor. She thought about how it had made its way into the cell and if only she was that small so she could find a way out with it.
What were its concerns? She wondered. Did it have family to go back to? A colony? Would they be angry if it showed up with no food?
To the best of her memory it had been two years, maybe a little more since she had seen the outside world. Day and night were recognisable to her by the small grilled, square space above her head. She could tell it was winter with the chill but days and dates were not important to her anymore. Everyday was the same. A cold bath in a common bathroom with at least five other people watching, the same thick cotton pants and blouse which were changed every two weeks or so, small talk with the others in the cell, food shoved in through the bars, drinking water served in plastic packets – that was life now. Sleep rarely came on a hard wooden board or when howling pain sounded from someone whose mind or body had given up in this hell.
But tonight was different. She heard a loud metal clanging sound as the front grill slid open and her name was shouted out. She took her eyes off the rat and gathered her thoughts. Her heart started racing at what was to come.
Her cell door slid open and she heard loud whispers coming from the other cells. So few people ever left, let alone at this hour. A hand pulled her forward and gripped her shoulders as another placed handcuffs at her wrists and metal leg braces on her ankles. Twice before this had happened and each time, she felt like a cow herded off for slaughter.
“You are always so much trouble,” the voice barked at her. Once the handcuffs and leg braces were locked, she was shoved and made to walk small mincing steps, limited by the chains, down a long dark corridor. She was taken into a dimly lit smelly room, no smaller than her cell and told to stand in the corner with her head bowed. Long minutes passed before she heard heavy footsteps at the door. As it swung open, a giantlike man approached her.
He stared straight into her eyes and spoke, “Today is your lucky day. If you do what I say, you are free. And if you don’t, you’ll live here until you die. You’ll become ugly, old and nobody will want to look at you. And when you die, still nobody will want you.”
His breath smelled foul, just like rotten apples. She felt like throwing up right in his face. Instead, she whimpered and tried to turn away, doing her best not to offend him. He moved in closer and let out a horrible gruff laugh as he jabbed his elbow into her belly. He pushed her shoulders down and motioned for her to sit on the floor. She could see the floor was stained. Dark pools marred the cement and small pieces of paper were strewn in some corners. This place had probably never seen a wash let alone a good sweep but she knew disobeying her captor at this point was detrimental so she obeyed. This was the kind of hell where you lost your dignity as a human being and received worse treatment than an animal. Slowly she slid down, her back pressed against the wall and sat on the floor, her legs stretched so the metal leg braces cut less into her skin.
“You will have a new name. Your past will be erased. Do not run or poooofff … I will find you!” He laughed a menacing laugh. He knew she was terrified of him and what the future held. This gave him cruel pleasure. Power was always the best topping when you could look at a girl like this one and know you held the rest of her life in your hands.
“Are you ready?!” he barked.
With a lock of red hair loose on her face, giving her just enough of a shadow to shed an unseen tear or two, she nodded. She felt broken. No longer sure if this was truly a way out of this hell or a ticket to one worse than this, she waited.
He pulled up a chair and sat in front of her, his shoes rested on her legs.
“Your name will be Catherine Dixon …”
Sherri: Oh, my! I am going to have to purchase this one! What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?
Pandora: I would love for them to be entertained but if there is one message that I would want them to take away from this book, then it would be this – Appreciate the people who love you.
Sherri: What character would you most identify with?
Pandora: I would identify with Cathy Dixon. There are many days when I would like to remove all ‘my masks’ and roam free. But with a such a rare disease, it’s limitations and looking like something the cat has dragged in, this is a big challenge.
Sherri: What advice have you received that’s had the biggest impact on your writing and who
gave that advice?
Pandora: I had been going through a particularly rough patch two years ago and a close friend had told me, “Pick up a pen and write”. I have no regrets.
Sherri: I have found the same to be true. I never regret it when I get my thoughts down on paper. Are you working on a book now and if so tell us a little bit about it?
Pandora: At the moment, I am working on a series of short stories. Some of these were written years ago and some are newer pieces I would love to share with my readers.
Sherri: If you could meet any author, past or present, who would it be and why?
Pandora: Salman Rushdie. I L-O-V-E his books. He’s the kind of writer that makes you think. Sometimes, the story doesn’t sit well with you and sometimes, you want to rush to the end but oh I love his books.
Sherri: I will have to add his name to my list. Okay, so tell me how your faith factors into your writing.
Pandora: I’m a Christian. I’ve had my share of years when I questioned this and I’ve had my share of recent times when I’ve found myself seeking God and appreciating his blessings. Where my writing is concerned, I’m more than appreciative of the talent He has given me and I look forward to using this skill in the best way that I can to reach out and inspire others.
Sherri: I love it! You are a living testimony to God’s faithfulness! How can readers find you on the Internet?
Pandora: Ohhhh, I’m all over the place but I’ve listed my usual haunts below. I do take a bit of time to respond though, so please be patient.
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/pandorap
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pandorapoikilos
Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/PandoraPoikilos
Book Blogs – http://bookblogs.ning.com/group/pandoras-reading-room
She Writes – http://www.shewrites.com/group/pandoras-reading-room
Thank you, Dora, for giving me a bit of your time!