Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Interview with Dale M. Kushner who's talking about her debut novel The Conditions of Love––"Moving from poetry to fiction might be a natural progression but I’m not sure. For me it was more like moving from a hammock under the stars to a house with a kitchen and bath!"

The Conditions of Love

Dale M. Kushner's novel The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to adulthood as she reckons with her parents' abandonment, her need to break from society's limitations, and her overwhelming desire for spiritual and erotic love. 

"In The Conditions of Love Dale Kushner portrays with wonderful empathy a young girl's journey towards adulthood. Kushner has an amazing sense of character and not only her heroine, the fearless Eunice, but everyone that Eunice encounters comes vividly to life as she struggles first to accommodate herself to her mother's tumultuous feelings and then to make her own way in the world. An immaculately written, enthralling and passionate debut."
Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and The House on Fortune Street
"Can this wise, funny, quirky, poignant novel really be Dale Kushner's debut? She got everything just right--characters who you will never forget and a palpable yearning for love that you will feel in your gut. Bravo!"
Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread
Eunice grows up fighting for love from the people who should love her unconditionally but is bolstered by love from unexpected sources…Eunice is a lonely, artistic girl who grows into a temperamental young woman whose strength and capacity for love belie her tough upbringing. This is poet Kushner’s first novel, and her roots show; passages describing even the bleakest Midwestern landscapes are artfully drawn. A coming-of-age story that wonderfully combines literary style with heartbreaking plot twists and still manages to be uplifting—

Dale Hi, welcome to my blog
Hello, Debbie. I’m honored to be invited onto your blog. I’m new to social media, and this is a wonderful way for me to meet new readers and writers.

Tell us a bit about The Conditions of Love.
Well, it really is a book about love—love in all its bewitching, mysterious, and life-changing forms—that is love of family, friendship, erotic love, and love of the natural world. The novel is set in the fifties in the rural backwaters of the upper Midwest and traces the life of its narrator, Eunice, from childhood to old age. One of the themes of the novel is emotional survival. Our daily news if jam-packed with tales of heroic survivals, most recently the horrendous story of the three kidnapped young women in Ohio. Some of these survival stories are just short of miraculous. But I’m interested in the quieter kind of survival that occurs in many of our lives. How DO we survive the constant onslaught of challenges to our integrity and our souls? Abandoned by her father as in infant, my heroine Eunice lives with her unreliably outrageous mother, and must, at an early age, find her way in the world. She meets helpers along the way, adults who stand in for her dysfunctional parents. Ultimately through a passionate love affair, she discovers her artistic self. You might say this is a story about finding one’s true home. How our lives unfold, I believe, is somewhat determined by character but at its core is a mystery.

One of your influences, Carl Jung, has also been an influence of mine.
In what way has he influenced your work?
I have several dead mentors and Carl Jung is one of them! My introduction to Jung was in graduate school. A friend lent me a copy of Man And His Symbols, a classic book on Jung’s theories that is light on text but pictorially evocative. I knew nothing about Jung at the time and was smitten! Over the years Jung and his followers have provided me with a framework to understand the realm of psyche, personal and collective. I think Jung was particularly prescient in delineating the shadowy side of our nature, how we unconsciously reject the unacceptable aspects of ourselves and project them onto an enemy. As an artist I’ve been influenced by Jung’s exploration of fairy tales and myths, in particular their narrative structure which under-grids our ancient story-telling roots. During times of creative stagnation, I’ve been lifted from despair by a deep faith inspired by Jung’s notion that the healing image lies within if only we are brave enough and still enough to take the plunge. I’ve learned that when we feel abandoned by our muses, we can trust riches await in our inner world. Discovering our obsessions, our fears, our quirks—knowing who we are—is crucial to our art since these are the very sparks that, transmuted, ignite our work.

The Conditions of Love is your debut novel yet you’ve written in other mediums like poetry and short stories.
Would you say that it was a natural progression for you to become a novelist, or was there a particular event or catalyst that led you down this road?
Moving from poetry to fiction might be a natural progression but I’m not sure. For me it was more like moving from a hammock under the stars to a house with a kitchen and bath! By that I mean the inception of poetry seems to require a dreamlike solitude, an emphasis on contemplation but also a wide-focus, associative mind. Poetry is less time-bound than fiction and relies on the sensuous and metaphoric qualities of language and on image. To tell a story, I needed a different kind of language. I needed to work in time and place using the devices of fiction. But I wouldn’t trade the hammock for the house or visa versa.
No single event sent me from one genre to another. I’m still a polymorphous writer!

You have received rave editorial and peer reviews.
Which ones mean more and why?
I’m down on my knees in gratitude for every single one of them!

The novel follows the main protagonist through her life from childhood to adulthood
Is there a target audience age wise, gender wise etc…for the novel?
Not at all. Though the book starts out as a coming of age novel, it evolves into layered tale of many complicated lives.

 Do you belong to a writing/critique group? If not whom do you throw ideas/thoughts and first drafts off of?
I’ve been in the same wonderful writing group for many years. We’re bonded! I also do send my work to several writer friends who have patiently and unfailingly given me their time and sage advice.

Well your first release day is behind you. How did it compare to what you imagined?
I’m not sure I let myself imagine. But yesterday, pub day, was spectacular. Lots of congratulations arrived from friends and family. I thought a lot about my father, who would have been enormously proud and who read Robert Frost to me as a child.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on a second novel tentatively called “Digging to China” and also a book of essays on the creative life.

Will there be any signings or events where fans can meet you in person?
Yes, here the current list. I’d love to meet your any of your followers.
EVENTS for The Conditions Of Love
1.Place: Boswell Book Company
   Address: 2559 N. Downer Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53211
   Date: Thursday, May 16, 2013   Time: 7pm   Phone: (414) 332-1181Link:
2. Place: A Room of One’s Own
    Address: 315 W Gorham St Madison, WI 53703
     Date: Sunday, May 19, 2013     Time: 2 pm
     Phone: 608) 257-7888

3.  Place: The Book Stall at Chestnut Court
    Address: 811 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093
    Date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013    Time: 7 pm
    Phone: (847) 446-8880

4.  Place; Inquiring Minds Bookstore
    Address: 6 Church St, New Paltz, NY 12561
    Date: Friday, June 7, 2013    Time: 7 pm
    Phone: (845) 255-8300

5.  Place: The Golden Notebook
    Address: 29 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498
    Date: Saturday, June 8, 2013
    Time: 4 pm
    Phone: (845) 679-8000

6.  Place: Arcadia Books
     Address: 102 E. Jefferson St
     PO Box 905
     Spring Green, WI 53588
     Date: TBD
     Time: TBD
     Phone: 608-588-7638

Dale, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions and good luck with the novel.
Thank you. You’ve asked such thoughtful and provocative questions.

Visit Dale's website here
Photo by Harriet Chen