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ande
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#10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

I know I speak for all Book Explorers when I say "welcome" to Paula Nangle, author of The Leper Compound. Like many authors -- especially a first-time novelist like Paula -- she is new to this sort of online interaction so I assured her that there are no secret handshakes or initiation rites in this club. All that is required is participation in our regular and robust exchange of thoughts about all things books.

If you have read The Leper Compound you know what a stirring and beautifully written novel it is. And Paula is happy to converse about any character, theme or the teeniest detail. If you haven't read it I highly recommend that you do so (Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus and some major newspapers agree). But there are plenty of ways to be part of the conversation if you haven't gotten around to reading Paula's book yet.

For instance, I'm certain Paula would be happy to address the following

1. How did you get the idea for this book?
2. What was it like being raised in Africa and elsewhere by missionaries?
3. You are a nurse -- was it inevitable that your first novel would have a medical theme?
4. Is there a universal bond connecting those who have experienced extreme family illness?
5. Did you nearly faint when Nobelist J.M. Coetzee wrote an endorsement for your book?
6. Do you have a personal perspective to share on wars and humanitarian crises today in Africa?

Now that's just a bit of food for thought to get you started (though I don't recall you Book Explorers being particularly shy or lacking curiosity). Are any Book Explorers medical professionals? Have any of you been to Africa? Born there? We'd like to hear from you, too.

Again, welcome, Paula. Let's get the conversation going.

Ande
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

[ Edited ]


Hello fellow readers, thank you, Ande. I'm looking forward to joining in the Book Explorer conversation this month. I'd be delighted to answer any questions.

Paula Nangle






ande wrote:
I know I speak for all Book Explorers when I say "welcome" to Paula Nangle, author of The Leper Compound. Like many authors -- especially a first-time novelist like Paula -- she is new to this sort of online interaction so I assured her that there are no secret handshakes or initiation rites in this club. All that is required is participation in our regular and robust exchange of thoughts about all things books.

If you have read The Leper Compound you know what a stirring and beautifully written novel it is. And Paula is happy to converse about any character, theme or the teeniest detail. If you haven't read it I highly recommend that you do so (Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus and some major newspapers agree). But there are plenty of ways to be part of the conversation if you haven't gotten around to reading Paula's book yet.

For instance, I'm certain Paula would be happy to address the following

1. How did you get the idea for this book?
2. What was it like being raised in Africa and elsewhere by missionaries?
3. You are a nurse -- was it inevitable that your first novel would have a medical theme?
4. Is there a universal bond connecting those who have experienced extreme family illness?
5. Did you nearly faint when Nobelist J.M. Coetzee wrote an endorsement for your book?
6. Do you have a personal perspective to share on wars and humanitarian crises today in Africa?

Now that's just a bit of food for thought to get you started (though I don't recall you Book Explorers being particularly shy or lacking curiosity). Are any Book Explorers medical professionals? Have any of you been to Africa? Born there? We'd like to hear from you, too.

Again, welcome, Paula. Let's get the conversation going.

Ande

Message Edited by ande on 02-12-2008 07:24 AM


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Melissa_W
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

[ Edited ]
Welcome Paula!



Paula_Nangle wrote:


Hello fellow readers, thank you, Ande. I'm looking forward to joining in the Book Explorer conversation this month. I'd be delighted to answer any questions. Paula Nangle



Message Edited by ande on 02-12-2008 07:40 AM
Melissa W.
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Hi, Paula! Nice to see you out here in the ether.

I have a question for you that doesn't pertain to the book per se, but to the publishing of it. What, for you, has been the most surprising or educational aspect of publishing your first novel?

(Full disclosure: I am helping to promote The Leper Compound, a book I found to be not only well written, but the kind of book that challenges perspectives. In other words, a great read.)
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Hi Melissa -- thank you.

Paula


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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Hi Lauren,

A good question. It's definitely been a learning experience. Having previously published stories in literary magazines, I'd never known about the process of publishing a book. My publisher, Erika Goldman of Bellevue Literary Press, compares the process to gestation. I like thinking of it that way. Probably the thing I've become most aware of, or have learned about, is the book's audience -- that there is one. When I write, I do write for readers (in the MFA program, there was the workshop audience I was accountable to), but the idea is somewhat vague. When writing, it's the characters and the world of the story. Now that THE LEPER COMPOUND is published, it's fascinating to read reviews and to hear how readers have understood the character, Colleen. When interviewed or asked about the book, I've really had to explore why and how it came to be. I've done much retracing of my steps. There's a reflective aspect to publishing a novel, which I don't think one can completely anticipate while writing. It's interesting to me.

Paula


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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

It's like being a time traveler, isn't it? When you are deep into creating and writing about characters your readers aren't part of the process. Then by the time the book is out in the world you may be submerged in another writing project, but your readers are just catching up and want to engage with you. Also, I'm intrigued by the shift from the very private activity of conjuring up plots and characters and then going out in the world to greet your readers. Is that hard for you to do? Or is it easier than it sounds?

Ande
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Ande,

Yes, it is like time travel. Reading is also that way. To some extent, I'm used to making certain shifts -- writing for several days and then going out in the world to work as a nurse. Writing/nursing -- separate. What I do outside the house is separate. But now the writing is outside more or less, and I'm associated with it. I'm not just walking up and down a room thinking about it, muttering the characters' dialogues to myself. I think wistfully about those moments right now, but I like this aspect, too. It's easier than I thought, yet not a completely effortless transition.

Paula


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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Ande,
 
Thanks for your excellent questions. I'd love to reply to some of them today.
 
How I got the idea for THE LEPER COMPOUND: I constructed the book around several particularly strong images that remained clear in my mind and seemed best told through one voice. It started with a few short stories shaped around these images -- the people at the leper compound, the teacher in Haan's Combie. But then I became so comfortable with Colleen, and so curious about what happened to her that I began to write more chapters. All are fictionalized variations. Especially when writing dialogue, the characters take on their own personalities.
 
I chose Colleen for a narrator because she seems less immobilized by outrage, which would have been cumbersome. I also sought a certain detachment. It seemed important to avoid sentimentality with themes like death. I wanted to explore this sense of not being able to return home anywhere, also felt by me, as a missionary's daughter.
 
In response to your question about nursing and the medical theme, I do think about illness a lot. I like to read fictional depictions of illness, especially J.M.Coetzee's work. When at the hospital being an RN, I don't think about writing or how I can make creative use of situations around me. There's the issue of confidentiality. But nursing does impact my choices about what to write. I don't know anything else. One chapter, "Coma Girl," is based on a vivid experience I had in my nurses' training -- transferring a comatose child to an infectious disease hospital. I changed the epidemic and made her older, but wanted to somehow partially tell her story.
 
Colleen was not originally a nurse. She was a linguistics student, then a children's librarian. Do you think she would have been different in these roles?
 
Paula
 


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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Paula:
 
What a provocative question: What would Colleen be like if her profession wasn't nursing? My opinion is that those who choose to go into the helping professions are a very special type of person and their choice of work is often formed by personal experience. A children's librarian, one would hope be a sensitive person with a sense of fun. Linguistics student -- hmmm...I don't know any linguists, so I can't say.
 
Book Explorers: what do you think?
 
Ande
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

I can't imagine her in any profession other than nursing. Perhaps teaching, but children's librarian, never. I think nursing had to do with her mother being dead and her malaria scare. The nurse that cared for her obviously was a good role model. Can't see her as a coffee farmer! Roberta
Melissa_W
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Not sure if Paula's still on-line, but I just wanted to say that I started The Leper Compound last night and I am blown away by the description of sights and sounds, especially when Colleen is recovering from malaria.

ande wrote:
I know I speak for all Book Explorers when I say "welcome" to Paula Nangle, author of The Leper Compound. Like many authors -- especially a first-time novelist like Paula -- she is new to this sort of online interaction so I assured her that there are no secret handshakes or initiation rites in this club. All that is required is participation in our regular and robust exchange of thoughts about all things books.

If you have read The Leper Compound you know what a stirring and beautifully written novel it is. And Paula is happy to converse about any character, theme or the teeniest detail. If you haven't read it I highly recommend that you do so (Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus and some major newspapers agree). But there are plenty of ways to be part of the conversation if you haven't gotten around to reading Paula's book yet.

For instance, I'm certain Paula would be happy to address the following

1. How did you get the idea for this book?
2. What was it like being raised in Africa and elsewhere by missionaries?
3. You are a nurse -- was it inevitable that your first novel would have a medical theme?
4. Is there a universal bond connecting those who have experienced extreme family illness?
5. Did you nearly faint when Nobelist J.M. Coetzee wrote an endorsement for your book?
6. Do you have a personal perspective to share on wars and humanitarian crises today in Africa?

Now that's just a bit of food for thought to get you started (though I don't recall you Book Explorers being particularly shy or lacking curiosity). Are any Book Explorers medical professionals? Have any of you been to Africa? Born there? We'd like to hear from you, too.

Again, welcome, Paula. Let's get the conversation going.

Ande


Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Melissa,
 
Thanks for your comment. The first chapter was originally edited for a 'Place' issue in Michigan Quarterly Review. Writing it felt most like being back in the Eastern Highlands. I was also striving for a kind of hallucinatory clarity because of the malaria. I find that when someone is ill for prolonged periods, the senses are so heightened. The mind seems to focus differently.
 
I hope you enjoy the book!
 
Paula
 


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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Have you finished it yet? Want to give other Book Explorers a review to whet their appetites?
 
Ande
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Not yet - I'm on chapter 5 (silly book for my own group getting in my way, among other things).
 
But it is very good.  A good book to savor, not wolf down.
Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Please keep us posted!
Melissa_W
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Paula,
I was wondering - is there a certain way to pronounce the Afrikaans and Shona words and African names in the book?  Or are they spelled phonetically?  I'm not very familiar with the language.
Melissa W.
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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Melissa,
 
Yes, the words are pronounced like they're spelled -- usually. One exception in Shona is 'sv' which is pronounced 'sh.'
 
 Paula


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Re: #10: Give a warm Book Explorers welcome to author Paula Nangle!

Thanks much! :smileyhappy:

Paula_Nangle wrote:
Melissa,
 
Yes, the words are pronounced like they're spelled -- usually. One exception in Shona is 'sv' which is pronounced 'sh.'
 
 Paula



Melissa W.
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The Leper Compound - finished!

I finished The Leper Compound today and this is definitely a novel I need to read again.  I feel a bit like Colleen - there was more to past events when she stopped to think about them than she realized at the time the event was happening.  I need to come back to the novel later to see if I can connect the meanings from different parts of the novel, to learn why the leper colony fits with everything else (this is unlike Faulkner where you keep coming back to try and unpick the Gordian knot of the narrative only to find that the knot is made of separate pieces instead of one single narrative line).
 
I agree with JM Coetzee's blurb that the novel focuses on the daily experience of an ordinary person caught in history.  There were so many themes to consider - war, independence, identity, family, loyalty, illness, trust, colonialism.  I felt like Colleen was in no-man's-land, without an identity until she becomes a mother (the scene where Sarah calls Colleen by name and Colleen remembers the first time Gavin called her "Ma" - it was very striking); she doesn't really belong anywhere, not at the coffee plantation, not in Nyadzi, not at boarding school in Hatfield, not with the white soldiers, not with the freedom fighters, not in colonial Rhodesia, and not in independent Zimbabwe.  She has to leave the country and go to South Africa to ultimately have an identity.  There is always something keeping her outside the boundaries (maybe that's why the book is titled The Leper Compound).  Sarah, on the other hand, always seems to belong, as if her mental illness automatically made her part of a community.
 
I thought the descriptions and imagery very powerful; I had to keep reminding myself that Zimbabwe only achieved indepence after fighting in the 1970s and 1980s - I kept thinking of the Raj and British India from forty years prior.  As I said in a different post, this is definitely a novel to savor.
Melissa W.
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balletbookworm.blogspot.com