Friday, July 29, 2011

The Talking Palm by Esther Jno-Charles: Author Interview

Good day Everybody!My name is Kim your host for today and I would like to Welcome everyone to my very First Author Interview. I’m extremely honored and so thrilled to have our beloved guest she wrote this very lovely novel 

The Talking Palm : How the childhood storms of a young woman's life remained hidden until a palm fruit started talking  

Without further ado let us all welcome  Esther Jno-Charles *standing ovation & applause*

*Background music : Taio Cruz-Dynamite*

Esther Jno Charles enters with a smile and  a spotlight following her waves her hands in the air. Kim and Esther exchanged hugs & peck on the cheek. Kim gestured her to take a sit on a  stylish black leather sofa situated at the center part of the studio where they both took a sit comfortably as the music died down.

Kim: Wow! I’ve never seen our audience get that wild before *more laugh and applause from the crowd*  How are you?

Esther: I am doing great right now. I am in a wonderful place in my life because I finally have accomplished one of my passionate dreams: publish a book to share with everyone. I know that I have now stepped into my destiny, into the creative and career space God created me to be in. 

Kim: Awesome! Please do tell us more about yourself and your book.

Esther: I was born in the island of Dominica, dubbed the Nature Isle of the Caribbean for its lush green beauty and its ruggedness and plush gifts of nature. It is a land, which the Kanaligo indigenous Caribs first called Waitikubuli, which means Tall is her Body. 
My book is set in that picturesque environment populated with coconut palms and a seductive Caribbean Sea. The sea is a few minutes' walk away from the one-roomed school, which Sheryl the protagonist attends. My book reflects a collision of natural, cultural, social and family influences in the life and development of a young girl and into her early adulthood. It is a book that shows some of the unusual storms Sheryl grappled with while growing up, some of which may be similar to what girls all over the world face at one time or another in their development and some of the critical decisions Sheryl made. The importance of this book is that it will help young women to open up and see that they are not alone, and recognize that though their backgrounds may be different, their experiences may be similar. It is a book that mothers, youth workers and immigrant women should read and share with female tweens, teens, and young adults. 

Kim:  I agree it’s definitely one of those must have, read  and share story I would absolutely love to visit Dominica and places that surrounds the Caribbean Sea ^_^  so How did you come up with this idea for your book? Is this your first novel?

Esther: I owed LaGuardia College something grander since I won the writing contest in and about 1994. It was a non-verbalized expectation and so in 2007, while I was teaching at LaGuardia College, Dr. Cecilia Macheski, one of my colleagues who knew about me but was not seeing any work that reflected that unspoken expectation, challenged me by telling me: "Esther write that book. LaGuardia has waited long enough." I said "Yes mam" without having any idea of how to write a book or what that book would be about. So in search of an idea for my book, the only one that rushed to me was a story I had written at Smith College about a coconut called "The Talking Palm." That coconut story originally came to me as I described in my prologue. One Friday night, I was struggling for an idea for a childhood story for my class due the following week, when my brother who was living in New York but visiting his family on weekends came home late and interrupted my nonproductive writing episode. It was a distraction that provided me with a muse for writing the story because in the grocery bags my brother brought was a coconut. The coconut caught my attention because I had not used the coconut for a long time, and that ethnic food was very scarce in Northampton. Because the fruit looked so new to me, even though it was old food, it tickled my memory in very vivid ways, reminding me of wonderful times of eating I had with it in childhood. 

That is the story I suddenly turned to when I went scavenging again for inspiration for the book LaGuardia was waiting for. The idea came to me to dig up more experiences I had with the coconut and free write every and anything that came to my mind. And they came. When I could not remember details, I called up family members and a few friends. Because all the details of every experience could not necessarily be one hundred percent accurate, and to protect the identity of some people, and to make the story cohesive and powerful, I decided to fictionalize some of the details and call the book fictionalized autobiography. 

Kim : Since it’s a fictionalized autobiography how many percentage would you account for fiction? And for autobio? 

Esther:  90% of the book is autobiographical in that the key events are true. The next 10% include creating details, changing some character characteristics, creating and recreating conversations and so on. 

Kim:  Oh WOW! As you also shared to me in our previous conversations before this interview you said that the coconut/palm fruit is one and definitely top of the chart of your favorite food/fruit so besides Coconut goodies what’s next in line in your favorite food list? 

Esther: Good question. Umm. Let me see. What's next in line? I think to eventually open up a boutique featuring coconut foods of all types and allowing the coconut aroma and goodies to draw in artists like writers and other creative people. My other favorite food is believe it or not, grapefruits. Big absolutely juicy grapefruits. I love their bitter sweetness. Grapefruits also have a human story to tell because when I was in my early to mid teen, I used grapefruit to try to lose weight because although I was not fat, almost everybody told me I was big-boned or simply big, and that made me feel big and unattractive. So I stopped eating food for a while, and since my father was a huckster, that is, he bought grapefruits from around the island to sell in the neighboring French island of Guadeloupe, I had continuous access to those luscious succulent fruits. Knowing that grapefruits help people "reduce," I fed on grapefruits for my three meals for months and months. The result was that since I was already taller than most of my peers and nonpeers, my neck elongated itself above my body and that of those around me because I had lost so much weight, and so sometimes I had to use a bath towel to hide what I called my "giraffe neck." Pretty pathetic, isn't it? 

Kim: No,Not at all..Congratulations putting off all that weight! that took a lot of willpower! that’s a very interesting fact and completely changed my mind set about grapefruit I will surely rush to the nearby grocery and buy those amazing grapefruit products after this so how long have you been writing novels? And how long did it take to finish The Talking Palm? 

Esther: I first self-published and registered with the Library of Congress about three books, anthologies depicting the artistic work of children of Ada Comstock Scholars. (Ada Comstock scholars are mature students at Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts) from 1998 to 2000. They were not novels but works that reflected where my heart was; works that brought me absolute joy; works I could do over and over and over. So that was my "putting materials together into a book format" early training. Before that, I won LaGuardia Community College's first student creative writing contest, a win which revealed to me a passion and ability I had not yet fully acknowledged was sitting within me, dormant. Incidentally, one of my teacher colleagues in Dominica once told me that I wrote well, commenting on my daily preparation of work, which teachers had to submit for class. But I did not understand what that meant. I did not translate "write well" with any bigger ambition since I thought that as a Dominican woman, I could only be a teacher, nurse, secretary or office worker. It was the LaGuardia win that made me realize, to my shock, that more than just the ordinary was possible for me. I took about one year to write the manuscript and to get some feedback from my college students and about two years editing. The two years included hiring editors, dealing with serious and disruptive personal changes and relocations that caused me to put the book aside for a few months, and finally, the grand old challenge of designing the interior of the book myself, a task that took six long months. But thank God, here I am with a finished product, and I am glad to finally hold a book that looks like any other book.. 

Kim: Very well done! I must say all your hard work paid off and worth it.I think your book is really unique and one of a kind that really differ to other books out there truly EPIC! I highly recommend it! who are your major influences when it comes to your writing career? Any favorite authors & books come to mind? 

Esther : Jamaica Kincaid's The Autobiography of my Mother was one of the first most significant literary influences on my writing. First, her book was set in Dominica. That alone caught my attention when I first read it at the end of my college years at LaGuardia in 1996. Then her simplicity of language but the depth of meanings those simple sentences held was profoundly impressive to me. She took one sentence and developed that sentence into different sentences that analyzed her first topic sentence to the bare bone. I loved that joyous process I gleaned from that technique. I also love the spirit of freedom that emanated boldly from her form of writing, in that she ignored some grammatical conventions and used run-ons at free will or used her circular form of sentence development. I felt she was fighting back at the British empires' insistence that English was superior to our Caribbean language, and I loved that fire in her craft and the freedom to control her own gifts while seeming to not care what others thought about her techniques. Freedom of expression and freedom of breaking out of the mold of others is so critical to creative originality to me. That is a gift I have adopted in my writing as you may notice a lot of fragments. But it was not deliberate revolt against the convention of writing. The fragments show the preferred thinking pattern of the protagonist. 

I also love Edwidge Dantica'ts style of writing, particularly in her book Breath, Eyes, Memory because again, she exhibits a freedom in writing stories or scenes that may make people blush but draws critical attention to important and serious issues facing women in her culture. For instance, I applaud her graphic and bold description of the "virginity test" in that book, an issue that gripped the hearts and triggered animated discussions among my LaGuardia students. 

Most importantly, my mother was the first and primary influence on my writing because when I was a child, and as I acknowledge in my book, she always sang and recited poems and rhymes. She made words sound so musical. I remember as an eight-year old or so, being angry at my mother and even jealous that an old lady like her knew my rhymes much better than I did, especially while I was struggling to learn mine. Even as an adult, whenever I hear or read words well placed together, something tickles my soul deep deep down. Often, when my children say certain words, they trigger an automatic song from me. 

Kim: I will surely look up for their works! I agree with you about mothers and that automatic nostalgia that just rushed to you whenever you hear song way back which are overly familiar as if they were sang yesterday haha! Who inspires you in your everyday life and to write this beautiful novel? 

Esther: When I wrote the Talking Palm, I was going through a hurricane-type implosion in my life where my soul was crying out for basic freedom, believe it or not, and a platform to speak. When I created the children's art program at Smith College, my passion was to give children a free public space to speak through whatever gifts or means they so choose because the children of students were behind the scenes supporting us, their mothers, but nobody on campus, including us their mothers, recognized the tremendous sacrifice our children were doing to help us pursue our dreams. A strong desire to give the children public recognition sparked the idea to design a program. That desire for freedom of speech, I think, stems from my childhood's inability to voice my opinions freely due to my father's brutality. 

It was cultural belief he took to the nth degree that children were seen but not heard. He silenced my voice a lot through his physical violence and his verbal abuse. I know how it feels to have that happen. To see other people see me humiliated but feeling scared to say something for myself or fight back. It is stifling. So as my book emerged and I read one story called "The Skerrit," and I saw how scared Sheryl was when she believed that a man had the power to kill her in front of an entire class or an entire village, and she believed that nobody could help her because she deserved such cruel punishment for her truancy, I literally cried. In 2010. I was stunned that I was crying. I cried because for the first time, after I read what had gushed out of my bowels, I pictured that little frightened voiceless eight to nine year old, and I remembered the terror of her mind. Strangely, I felt like Sheryl again, a little child, in all of us at one time or another, as you so aptly mentioned in your review of The talking Palm. I decided Sheryl needed a voice. So the voiceless people of society influence me, touch my soul and give me the urge to give them a voice, a public voice. 

Therefore, the book took on an important urgency for me. It became like a movement in my heart, an important purpose to spread Sheryl's stories so as to give her a powerful voice, because now she can tell her stories, now she can speak far and wide and nobody can stop her, not even her father. 

Kim: I’m greatly touched, moved and truly inspired by Sheryl, your novel..I believe that cruelty and such is one of those cycles that needs to be stopped once and for all! Now that Sheryl’s words are immortalized thru this book it’s no match to the skerrit nor her father  she’ll continue to live and carry on ^_^   Any Advice to aspiring writers/authors? 

Esther: Write. Write. Write. Write blogs. Keep journals. Write comments on blogs/and writers' forums. Tweet. Write daily. Set your own time or pace and stick with it. Four hours of writing a day. Two pages a day. Five sentences a day. Make your plan. You are in charge. 

Before I wrote the book, I wrote a lot. First, during my devotion every morning, especially since I was going through traumatic emotional changes in my life, the only way to keep sane was to explode on paper. I noticed that when I sat down to write, and as I went internal and questioned experiences I was having and seeking solution to and spiritual guidance for, I wrote everything down that came from inside. The questions and the answers. Sometimes I never reread them. They were too painful. But I wrote. 

Second. Since I did the anthologies at Smith College, there was a deep seated gnawing in my belly, a cry to write and a desire to see my words in print and in public. When I saw my children's work on public display at Smith and saw some of my captions, it felt so right, so true to my soul. So that hunger to have my words be publicly viewed was strong, but I was still so scared of putting it out en masse. However, I wrote religiously 4 hours every day. I simply sat at my computer and free wrote any and everything that came to my mind about my experiences. 

That continuous writing taught me a lot about myself and my writing ability. I started seeing connections between ideas and started recognizing how my ideas flowed and in what areas I struggled. I also learned the depth of my love for writing because when I was in the writing zone, my hands simply became a vessel through which words gushed out. I discovered I had a true passion for writing. 
The urge to write grew stronger as I discovered that the writing brought me so much cleansing and peace so that I decide to get an MFA in 2004. The MFA program forced me to write more structurally and regularly and with a purpose since I was given different tasks and asked to imitate certain author techniques and submit my work at set times. That formal training helped me develop the art of managing my words. That was really important, and I would urge aspiring writers to take a formal training class. It does not have to be a degree. But meet with other writers and experts to learn the art of plotting, setting, voice and structure etc, to get feedback and to see how different people react to the same material in different ways. You learn about tone. You discover your writing style. You discover your strengths and weaknesses. You see how your words can influence readers. 

Read the work of authors you admire and figure out what about the authors' work you like. I also used to go to the book stores and visualize my books on the shelves. In addition to helping me work harder since I so envied those featured authors, I would visualize my books on the shelves to help me overcome my fear of doing what I then really wanted to do. Publish. I was still afraid of people criticizing my work, my baby. I remained scared until I published The Talking Palm. Then I held it in my hand and the fear gradually ran away. 

With social media, I am discovering the importance of putting my words and name and voice out on writers' and readers' discussion forums. You learn about yourself and your writing styles and peculiarities when you simply write. 

Kim: Indeed I won’t forget those great advice so what’s next for Esther Jno-Charles?

Esther: What is next for me? I want to populate the earth with my voice, my written voice. I want to influence people, to give people access to information that can help them if they so choose to use it. I want to empower people to pursue their dreams no matter how late or how scared they are because I strongly believe, as I have discovered when I finally had the first copy of my book in my hands, that career fulfillment comes from doing something that you love. And what you love, you were created to do and need to do. It is a gift. I also want people to know they have a voice and that they can choose to share that voice. So I will be writing until I cannot write anymore. Right now, I have two other titles that I will soon be resurrecting from my journaling and a picture book version of The Talking Palm for younger audiences. I want The Talking Palm to take off so that I can give the Sheryls of this world a powerful voice and I can return to crafting those other titles and more. 

The boutique I mentioned earlier is another consideration as well. 
I also love to meet people and sign books and facilitate discussions triggered by my books and have people share their opinions and get sudden aha moments. 

Kim:  Written word world domination how exciting!  Any Message to your fans and endorsement for everyone to buy your book. Tell them where they can reach you.

Esther: Help Sheryl Speak Loud and Far Movement 
In “The Skerrit,” little Sheryl thinks she is going to die in the ocean and thinks that she deserves such cruel punishment for her truancy. She also believes that no one, not even her mother, can rescue her from the tragedy that awaits her. So she stands alone, scared, powerless and silent before a powerful adult her culture has led her to believe has the absolute right to hurt her. 
Like Sheryl, thousands of girls around the world are led to believe that they deserve to be ill treated, dream-deprived, uneducated and silenced. Let us reverse that legacy for the silenced girls of the world by helping Sheryl speak loud and far. Make her voice reach at least one million people. We can do it. Together. With your help, Sheryl will no longer face the world alone. With your support, Sheryl’s voice will be heard. 

You help broadcast Sheryl’s voice when you tell 5 people or more to get The Talking Palm. Then tell each of the five or more to tell 5 others and so on. 

On behalf of all silenced Sheryls of the world, I thank you. 
Print: Discount code 2U7BHZ97 is $1.00 off only at that site. 
Print/kindle version also at 
Coming soon to Smashwords (for epub, pdf, Apple, Kobo, Nook etc)
Follow me on twitter: @thetalkingpalm 

Join the movement. Share your own stories and how the book influenced you at and check me on 

Kim: Spread the word! Grab a copy! Thank you so much Esther you’ve been very kind and generous to share all these great things.Keep up the good work! For sure we’ll hear and read a lot more of your astonishing works in the future and Of course to everybody who patiently read/stay tuned all the way thru this interview Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy as much as we did^_^


  1. That Esther is really kind of you to spread someone's story. Really inspiring and glad I stuck for the review. It was enlightening!

  2. Hi, I'm glad you did a very long interview with the author and I'm sure all her hopes will soon be spread.

  3. Great interview!very interesting, I might have to give new genres a shot, I'm just such romance addict ;)
    You did a good job!

  4. @Cassandra - Yes, she's extremely nice..Thank you so much I'm glad you came ^_^

    @Kwesi- Thank you so much for dropping by and for your support ^_~

    @Lupdilup-Thank you so much try reading this one it's awesome!you're not alone I'm a sucker when it comes to romance lol

  5. Wonderful interview, Kim and Esther!

    Bravo for using your real life experiences in your novel, Esther. That takes courage.

    I hope the world finds Sheryl's voice.

  6. Thank you so much Heidi! I'm happy that you found some time to stop by and yes I sure hope so let's continue to spread the word,read this awesome book ^_^

  7. Fantastic post! It's interesting top to bottom. :)
    The Talking Palm sounds like a book I'd really like!