does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dancing in the Shadows of Love

An Interview with Author Judy Croome

Following the release of her novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love, Judy Croome was gracious enough to answer my questions about her intriguing novel. Judy lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her short stories have been published in ITCH magazine and “Notes from Underground Anthology”. She was recently shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition. Her novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love explores, through the eyes of three very different women, how an ordinary person, one who doesn’t have what it takes to be a hero, can also find a way to repair the fractures of a broken world.

In Dancing in the Shadows of Love, there are recurring themes of buried secrets from the past, a sense of otherness, betrayal, the need for inclusion in a greater social circle and family, and people who are from neither Here nor There. What do you believe ties these varied themes together?

The interconnectedness of all life ties these themes together. Like a pebble rippling the surface of a pond, every act we do, every thought we have, sends waves of energy that affect everything else. The quote that introduces the Glossary of Terms encapsulates the connection between the varied themes in the book: no matter what the cultural differences, no matter what the different obstacles we each face, we are all the same. And we each carry within us the equal potential to rise above our own pain and suffering and change the world around us, even if only in a small way. When we can do that—make lasting changes for good in our own hearts, in our families and in our neighbourhoods—then perhaps we can finally return to that pre-lapserian Eden where man and nature, man and his god, and man and woman can live in peace.

In Dancing in the Shadows of Love, your character Zahra speaks of a hopeless dream of love. She says, “We are lost, and I was aware that the glimpses we have of love, a transcendental love that is sacrosanct, are reserved for the privileged few.” How do you define transcendental love?

It’s an a priori human potential that exists within all of us, irrespective of our culture or religion or life circumstances. When we find within us that capacity to overcome our subjective hurts and emotions; when we can reach out a helping hand to others, across all the external barriers and differences that separate us, and all the pain and suffering of our own secret wounds, we transcend our humanity and reach our Divine potential. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility." When we’re hurting or angry or betrayed, and we can still find the inner strength to tap into that a priori compassion within our soul to disarm our hostility towards others, then we have made the dream of transcendental love a reality. Zahra, lost in her despair, does not realise that this love is available to all of us…if we choose compassion instead of hatred; peace over anger and forgiveness over revenge.

In another section of Dancing in the Shadows of Love, you write: “The secrets of life eat away at the foundations of our being and even their weight cannot keep them drowned forever.” Can secrets be transmuted into a positive experience?

Absolutely. And sometimes that transmutation is purely an inner alchemy; nothing external changes, only the way the individual responds changes as she comes to terms with those painful secrets.

Why was it important to write Dancing in the Shadows of Love using three points of view?

Symbolically, three carries the weight of accumulated authority: something happening once or twice can be a coincidence; but if the same thing happens three times it carries a power and sense of certainty (e.g Thrice Greatest Hermes, three witches in MacBeth; three wishes.) In this story, Grace (as her name suggests) is the ideal human; she has achieved the capacity to see beyond differences and experiences real compassion for others. To give that ideal a sense of certainty, I had three very different women struggle to transform their own human suffering into the capacity for Divine Love (transcendental love) that Grace has.

Dancing in the Shadows of Love carries a lot of hidden symbolism. Can you explain some of it?

A reader can read this book just for the enjoyment of seeing how Lulu, Jamila and Zahra overcome their challenges, because I wanted this story to be an entertaining read. However, I also wove in deeper aspects to the story for those who want to look for a hidden meaning—from the flowers to the colours to the names of the characters, everything was chosen for a specific symbolic purpose.

A common example of the symbolism in the story is the importance of Jamila’s wedding. Symbolically, a wedding/marriage represents the reconciliation and union of opposites; the merging of heaven and earth. While on one level, the story’s plot is a simple one about a woman’s desperate need to marry and leave her underprivileged past behind her; on a deeper level, it’s about the struggle of all three women to achieve a spiritual union between their flawed humanity and their Divine essence.

What are your impressions so far of the self-publishing experience?

Interesting. Hard work. A lot of freedom, but a lot responsibility too. As big a struggle as the traditional publishing route, but in a different way. I prefer it because by nature I’m a loner and I prefer to walk to the sound of my own drum. But, before anyone thinks of self-publishing, I’d suggest they consider very carefully whether they have the personality to be a successful self-published author.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Yes. I would’ve planned better, but as there were things I didn’t know and which hadn’t been mentioned in any of the self-publishing sites I researched, my first foray into self-publishing was too disorganised for my liking. I wasted a lot of energy that could have been better used. I would also not try to “launch” my book with a big bang: to self-publish you need time and patience and to get your name branded. The hard sell doesn’t work. Even my launch competitions, which I thought had big prizes (US$100 Amazon voucher or a full manuscript critique) have not been successful. I’m learning what works best is a slow steady natural presence on the web. By natural, I mean, just participate in forums and blogs and other social media. Let the readers come to you; don’t try and drag them in for a visit.

Judith, thanks so much for hosting me here. I really enjoyed my visit and, to say thanks, I’d like to ask you to draw the name of a random commentator, who will win an Amazon US$15 gift voucher (or the UK/South African equivalent!)

If anyone would like me to do a guest post on their blog, please email me at to discuss a suitable topic and a mutually agreeable date.

Judy Croome's independently published novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love is available from Amazon and Smashwords.


Judy Croome said...

Judith, thanks so much for hosting me. You asked such interesting and pertinent questions, I've thoroughly enjoyed my visit!

Judy, South Africa

Linda said...

I enjoyed this interview. Thank you, Judith.

Your views on the power of three interested me, Judy. Three, of course, is represented all around us, but it was a while before I realized how often I subconsciously incorporated it in my writing.

And I agree with your observations on the experience of self-publishing.

Best of luck with your book.

Judith Mercado said...

Judy, you're welcome.

Linda, I am so glad you enjoyed the interview.

A Cuban In London said...

Thank you very much for this interview. This is a facet of your blog of which I wasn't aware. And you pulled it off magnificently. I loved Judy's explanation about transcendental love (coincidence with my latest post, or what? :-D).

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Judy Croome said...

LINDA: You can’t have enjoyed the interview as much as I’m enjoying your novel “The Brevity of Roses.” It’s so lovely and well written and easy to read. What I love about archetypal symbols is how naturally they rise from our collective memory and filter through to our work in the most surprising ways!

JUDITH: Thanks for hosting me- you asked some deep questions that really had me thinking hard!

CUBAN: Oh dear! I saw your post on my blogroll and wanted to click over but got side-tracked (that happens too easily these days!) Husband home, must feed him, will click over tomorrow - am curious about your post, which I'm sure will by no coincidence but synchronicity at work! :)And Judith's interview was magnificent - she asked such challenging, thoughtful questions, I loved answering them!

Judy, South Africa

Nevine said...

Judy & Judy, thank you both for this brilliant interview. This is exactly the type of material that is great food for writers. The book definitely sounds intriguing, and what courage to self-publish. I have been thinking of doing the same for quite some time now, but I am still very much on the fence about it all. Having read this interview... I will wait a while longer. So long as I am writing anything at all, I am happy.

Thanks to both of you, again, for this very interesting look at a writer's process.


Nevine said...

Judy, just wanted to let you know I just left a comment on your previous post.


Judy Croome said...

Nevine: So glad you enjoyed the interview - Judy asked such probing questions I really had to think! :) Unless you're 120% sure that self-publishing is for you, rather do as you're doing - just carry on writing and sooner or later your publishing path will become clear to you.
Judy, South Africa

Judith Mercado said...

Nevine, I thought I had responded to your comment already but it turns out I had only responded to your Coins Dropping comment.

I too will wait a while longer. While the experience of Amanda Hockings and Joe Konrath creates a sense of what is possible, I do not believe self publishing is the route for me. At least for now. If I suddenly wake up tomorrow with the fire in my belly to do it, then things might change. But not now.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Judith and Judy .. such an interesting interview .. the aspects of symbolisms and hidden depths within the book, along with the interesting aspects of self-publishing ..

Good to meet you Judith .. and I'm sure we'll see a lot more of both you budding authors ... interesting journeys - thanks - Hilary

Judith Mercado said...

Hilary, thanks for stopping by. It led me to find your blog and its recent post of "new speak" which I found fascinating.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Judith .. glad you enjoyed the visit to my blog .. and my eclectic informative type of posting ..

Thanks - Hilary

Linda said...

As usual, Judy, I failed to follow the crumbs back to this post and only now saw your lovely response to my comment. You are Class A!

And Judith, thank you for entering my name into your drawing and for notifying Judy that I won. What could be a better prize for book lovers like us?

Helen Ginger said...

Judith, thanks for hosting Judy and for asking such great questions. I found the book fascinating and this interview was very interesting. It's great to hear from the writer. I think Judy's book has great depth. You can enjoy it for the story and you can learn from its meaning and the choices the women make. Plus, it's entertaining!

Judith Mercado said...

Helen, thank you for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed the interview.