I have always enjoyed fiction more than non-fiction. Non-fiction has satisfying rules and boundaries that one can learn, critique, and challenge, but it is not ever what I want to read to relax. I minored in English during my undergrad simply so that I could have one course each semester that gave me an excuse to read novels.
During my first graduate degree I became depressed. The subject I had chosen to do my research on was intense and emotionally painful to study. I felt increasingly isolated as I delved into my subject and discipline, while my friends got married and had babies. I increasingly felt like I was unable to find anyone to talk with in a completely unguarded way, at least not about the things I found interesting. The strictures of academia were also getting me down. I had one professor tell me that my answers to her mid-term were poetry not political science (and this was not a compliment).
Finally, at the beginning of my second term, during a blizzard in an endless winter of blizzards, I found myself on the couch at my aunt’s house across town. My aunt has trouble sleeping and so we sat up all night watching The Fall, with Lee Pace. The imagery and the world that was created by telling a small girl a story, was so enchanting and inspiring for me that the very next day I began writing a story of my own.
The Red City began as just that, me writing in an untrammelled way, using all of the poetry and imagery, all of the vocabulary and sentence structure that I wanted. An exercise in maintaining sanity and cheering myself up during a gruelling graduate degree. Then it became something more. At a certain point I began to read the book that I was writing and I loved it. It was the exact book I had always wished I could find, back when I was 14. Something that wasn’t just fluff, but played with words and conveyed real meaning. A book that had substance while still being all fantasy.
Eventually I began to write the book in earnest, and give it to friends and family to read. Through many, many revisions, The Red City, has become a novel that explores and processes the various principles and issues that I struggle with in my daily life. It is the story of two small children in a world of magic and adventure, written by a second generation Shambhala Buddhist, with two graduate degrees in intense subjects, trying to reconcile the realities and aspirations of her world.