The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to be participating in the blog tour for How the Water Falls by author K.P. Kollenborn. Ms. Kollenborn stops by today and discusses her love of John Steinbeck and his influence on her writing, as well as her love of history (especially important given the themes in her latest book).
Why I Love John Steinbeck
by K. P. Kollenborn
John Steinbeck wrote as part of his Nobel Peace Prize speech in 1962: “The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.” And within the same context, he also wrote, “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”
How can one not be in awe of his perception? As a writer, even in fiction, Steinbeck broke boundaries of how to reconcile what is humane. He mixed literary prose and realism with such grit and fortitude that I’m charmed by his depressing and enriching style. The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men are still inside my head, and in fact I have made soft suggestions to both books in my WWII novel, Eyes Behind Belligerence. I named two of my characters Tom and Rose, (although they are married and not brother and sister,) as a quiet dedication to The Grapes of Wrath; and even slid in Of Mice and Men as a favorite book of one of the protagonists in an effort to understand who has the right to take away someone’s life. It also plays into effect of bonding between two unlikely friends who only share the commonality of their environment.
I discovered Steinbeck in high school, as many secondary students have before me in English classes. I’m grateful he was included as part of the curriculum. Up to that point in my life I had not read that many “goddamns” and “bastards” in YA fiction. In fact, that was the first time I learned how to spell other swear words not often read in bathroom stalls that rhyme with Nantucket. And spelled correctly, I might add. I began counting how many times these “goddamned bastards” appeared in Of Mice and Men. And yet we weren’t allowed to say them in the classroom if we weren’t reading the texts out loud. The reason I bring this particular topic up is to explain how I began to comprehend a coarse, migrant lifestyle from people who came out of the Dust Bowl. The book opened up another world and I loved it. Not only did I want to be a part of that world by continuing to read John Steinbeck, but I wanted more. I too wanted to write about the depravity and faith mankind.
Initially I wanted to be an artist- mainly focusing on drawing and painting, and I do have a graphics art degree in addition to a history degree. Because I’m dyslexic, reading and writing came to me slowly as a child, and I somehow compensated by memorizing the structure of words. Up until I was a teenager, I didn’t believe I had any other talent. It has taken me some time to find courage to peruse a writer’s career. I have a highly creative brain that engages in any creative outlet possible- including writing, which later has dominated my desire to be creative both visually, (describing scenes like describing paintings,) and intellectually. And as a teenager, while investigating American history, I came across the Japanese-American internment camps. When I learned more about the camps I felt compelled to then write about these camps. Why? I don’t have any Japanese ancestry in my family tree. I live in the Midwest and grew-up in a medium size town where cultural diversity is a bit underdeveloped. My reason is simple: I don’t want to continue to live in a conical world. Consciousness does not develop and mature by existing in a frozen pond. I wanted to write about issues of camp life that has never been written about before in fiction. Much like what Steinbeck did when writing about migrant workers during his time.
I like to believe that after decades worth of introspection we have learned more wisely than something that happened yesterday. And that’s why I love history: To learn. To question. To redeem our humanity. My philosophy is this: “Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.” I think John would agree on some transcending level.
Meet the author:
Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.
Connect with the author:
How the Water Falls by K.P. Kollenborn
ISBN: 9781500289201 (paperback – CreateSpace)
ISBN: 9781310512131 (ebook – Smashwords)
ASIN: B00L8F1UZA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 22, 2014
On the fringes of a civil war arise a kaleidoscope of stories of abuse, power, betrayal, sex, love, and absolution, all united by the failings of a dying government. Set in the backdrop during the last years of South Africa’s apartheid, How the Water Falls is a psychological thriller that unfolds the truth and deception of the system’s victims, perpetrators, and unlikely heroes.
The two main characters, one white, Joanne– a reporter, the other black, Lena– a banned activist, have their lives continuously overlap through the people they know during a thirteen-year period and eventually become friends as a result of their interviews together. Joanne personifies the need to question and investigate apartheid’s corruption from a white person’s perspective. Although her intentions begin with idealism, no matter how naïve, as the years pass while the system is failing, she crosses the threshold of what it means to be caught up inside the belly of the beast, especially after crossing paths with the Borghost brothers. Lena, who is inspired by her predecessors, such as Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, is among the minority of black women to peacefully battle for equality, even if her struggle is indicative of sacrificing her health and safety. Hans Borghost is Johannesburg’s commissioner of police who, like all those before, had a military background before pursuing a law enforcement career. Violent, manipulative, and controlling, he incarnates the image of South Africa’s perpetrators. Jared Borghost is the younger brother of Hans and, like his brother, has a military background, but unlike Hans, he internally combats between his sense of duty and morality. His inconsistency indicates a conscience that leaves one to ponder whether Jared is either a perpetrator, victim, or both. As his surname suggests, Bor-GHOST represents the “ghosts” that haunt the family’s past. Many other characters play the roles of spies, freedom fighters, lovers, adversaries, and supporters.
This novel is as complex as apartheid was itself, unlacing fabrics of each character’s life to merge into a catalyst downfall. The question of who will survive this downfall will suffice in the courts of truth and reconciliation and whether love is strong enough to preserve peace.
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