Today, we're visiting with Carole Schutter. When I read her book September Dawn, I was intrigued with this slice of history in our country. One thing stood out to me--the fact that it happened on September 11, even if it was in the late 1800s.
It depends on the character and the situation. I think a little bit of my feelings peek through most of my major characters. My experiences are seen through their experiences. When I first started writing, more of me showed up. My characters become so real to me that in my mind they are people I know intimately. I wonder what they would do or feel in certain situations and what brought them to that point. My friends and their experiences, the stories I’ve been told are found all through my screenplays and novels.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
That is a hard question, having grown up a conservative Asian girl. It took a while to become me. In college I went mud sliding after a downpour. My friends and I were covered in mud and we drove in trucks to the beach and dived in the water. The water was brown all around us and the people on the beach all ran away from us. I’ve done some other quirky things but that is the first thing that came to mind.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I “wrote” my first story at age 5 on the side of my house. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s although we didn’t know it at the time. The neighbors had brought me home from school and left me at the back door and my grandmother forgot about me. I was bored and decided to write a fairy tale which I decorated with stick figures. I was so proud of myself. I knew right then and there that I wanted to write stories when I grew up. No one scolded me because my mother was shocked that my grandmother forgot about me. They never depended on her again to watch me.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I try to read the Bible everyday. I read all kinds of inspirational and Christian books. I love historical fiction. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to read beyond the Bible and inspirational books for a while. Ken Follett’s World Without End and The Kite Runner are on my bookshelf. Actually, my taste is very eclectic, from Grisham to Michener.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
The Ohana is a book I’m working on. I wrote it thirty years ago and shelved it. Ohana means family in Hawaiian, and it is a historical family saga about three immigrant families to Hawaii, Korean, Japanese, and Irish. The Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the flower child generation frame the story of how these three families lives intertwine until they find the meaning of family. It is honest look at Hawaii. I hope it exposes the heart and soul of Hawaii without hiding the flaws. One of the side stories is how the “syndicate” which was the Hawaiian mafia, came into being.
I wrote another book, Miracles Happen: A Prayer Guide for Desperate People, mostly for myself because I was desperate. I really felt in touch with the Holy Spirit while writing it. I’m rewriting it for publication now.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Prayer, prayer, and more prayer. Mix it with trusting in the Lord, add lots of faith, and it equals peace in every circumstance…eventually.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I pull names out of the air. Usually I pick names of people I know. Sometimes I make sure that the characters fit the definition of their names. Take Jonathan Samuelson, the hero of September Dawn, for instance. John and Jonathan mean “gift of God.” There were too many real Johns involved in the Mountain Meadow Massacre so I chose Jonathan because the definition of his name was important to the story. As for Samuelson; I happened to know someone with that last name and I was searching for an unusual last name. If I’m writing about someone of a particular race, I go to the Internet and look through names. Recently I went to the Internet to find Ethiopian men’s names. I pick ones that sound good or have a meaning that fits the nature or position of the character.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Seeing my words and characters come alive on the big screen was thrilling and satisfying.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A dog. Not only do I spoil and love my dog to death, all the people around me, like my sisters, are equally as nuts about their dogs. Not a bad animal to be.
What is your favorite food?
That is really hard. However, all my friends would say what I love best is dessert.
I'm with you on that. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t write for fifteen years or so because I was consumed with life. I didn’t overcome it, life overcame me and I turned to writing for solace.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Never give up the dream. Persist. Don’t get discouraged by the amount of rejections you get. Keep alive the dream. Keep writing, keep refining your craft. Read, read, read. Pray, pray, pray.
First of all, September Dawn is a love story. Secondly, it is about learning to forgive the way God wants us to forgive, absolutely, unconditionally, and with love. The rest of September Dawn is interesting history that devoured two years of my life doing intense research. It is not written to condemn, but to entertain and learn from.
I was in South America recently and was told a shocking story of genocide that had been covered up. I talked about it to another South American, and he said something really interesting. He said that in his country, they believed that horrible stories were not to be discussed or taught in school because some people would begin to do the same awful things. He claimed that there were skinheads in his country who existed only because these people had learned about the Nazis. I explained to him that many people in the United States believed that it was important to remember the horrors of the past in order to make sure that it never happened again. Not to accuse, but to learn from past mistakes. I hope that September Dawn helps to do that.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you for spending this time with us, Carole.
Readers, you might be interested to know that the book is based on the movie September Dawn that recently came out on DVD.
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