I’m delighted to host the lovely Alysha Kaye on her blog tour for The Waiting Room.
We have a lot going on for her stop on Joe’s Geek Fest:
This is really a delightful story where the author uses a waiting room for your next life to deal with issues of love, life and existence within the context of a couple who are separated by an early death. This isn’t intended to be a theological treatise or an argument for reincarnation, rather it provides a nice narrative framework to reflect on these issues within the story arc. For a little more formal description.
Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.
Review of The Waiting Room:
The Waiting Room is a delightful novel in which the author conducts a thought experiment played out in the lives of a couple. Think of the book as a story (and various sub-stories) around a bunch of “what ifs,” kind of like what if you were stuck on a deserted island, which three books would you take [I’m thinking “How to build a boat in three easy steps”, “Swiss Family Robinson”, and the Bible, because I want to read a lot more than three books.] For The Waiting Room, it’s “what if we had a beginning life after which you reentered the world in another time (possibly), another context (family, country, race) and yet you found the love of your live(s)? What happens with the two who became one? What’s important about what you do in each life (there is no carried-over Kharma and you don’t remember your previous lives in the midst of living a new one.)
The Waiting Room is primarily a story of love; yes, the love of a couple but also about people learning to love, recognizing love, nurturing love and the primacy of love. It, as the song goes, makes the world go around. As we follow this couple, we see the impact of their love for each other on their lives, the deaths, their new lives, those around them and even the waiting process between lives. This premise allows Ms. Kaye to strip away what isn’t essential to our identities and our lives. As we follow this reincarnation process, we see that Jude becomes a new person in this next life but it’s Jude in this new form. What makes him Jude? He has a new name, look, family, attributes (now blind and black from sighted and white)? Ms. Kaye seems to suggest that what makes the new person still Jude is how he loves, his moral character and being a guy. Everything else can change, but those remain constant.
Along with thinking about what makes you, you, she reflects on what gives us significance. What, in other words, is worth pursuing and has impact on us and the world around us? That, my friend, is love. All that we do hinges on love. I don’t just mean romantic love (though that’s definitely included) but our relationships, our work and our relationship to our environment. Through a series of vignettes of Jude and Nina’s lives, it becomes apparent that if you pursue some task or thing as a higher priority than others (spouse, family, friends or neighbors), then the significance (and peace) of your life diminishes. So, while work is important, it’s how and why we do what we do more than what we do. For example, in one life, Nina is a baker. She really pursues that passion and builds a successful business. It is successful largely because it is one context in which she expresses love. In another context there is a seriously failed Thanksgiving dinner for a broken family; they love money more than each other. I dare not go any further in fear of giving too much away, but look for love or the lack thereof and see what happens.
Please note that this is not, as I indicated above, a philosophical or theology treatise. This is a novel using a paranormal twist to conduct a thought experiment in the context of story. The story is a good one. Every time I thought I knew where Ms. Kaye was going to go in the next lives lived out, I was wrong. Even the way people wait changes throughout the story. Jude and Nina are not perfect. All questions are not answered, but going through their lives is a terrific and entertaining way to explore those questions. Ms. Kaye does a beautiful job with the characters who people her story; I really came to love Jude and Nina (even in their various incarnations). I also came to love the curmudgeonly manager of the Waiting Room (Ruth) as well as others. So just as a pure story, it’s fun – what’s going to happen to Jude and Nina in the next iteration of their lives? – what will they be like? – how will the Waiting Room change will they return from the land of the living?
So I commend Ms. Kaye’s debut novel to your reading for a great story that’s also thought provoking. I look forward to Ms. Kaye’s future work.
Q&A on life as an author
1. Who was most influential on your love of books and writing? What pushed you over the edge to take the dive into writing a book?
My mom really got me into reading when I was little- I’ve thanked her for that a million times! As for writing, I really owe a lot to a few supportive English teachers I had. I always knew I wanted to write a book one day, but I guess what really pushed me was the whole concept of this room. Once you have an idea in your mind that won’t leave you alone- that’s when you know you need to write!
2. What do you find the hardest and (comparatively speaking) easiest aspect of writing?
I think the easiest part is finding inspiration- every time I meed someone new, I immediately want to create a character around them! The hardest part is finding time. Most writers have full-time jobs outside of writing and it seems impossible sometimes to set aside time for writing.
3. Being married to an 8th grade English teacher, I have some insight into how challenging your schedule is. How do you work in your writing in the midst of grading, lesson prep and other school activities?
Wow, I didn’t know that! Hats off to her! 8th graders are no easy task haha Like I said in question #2, it’s definitely difficult. I’ve worked out a system in which I do ALL my work in my classroom (during my planning period, during my lunch, before/after school) and then when I come home, I have the whole night to decide whether or not I want to squeeze in writing. Sometimes, dinner and Netflix win the fight.
4. What aspects of self-publishing do you love? Which ones do you find the most difficult?
I love the fact that I have complete creative control. I hate the fact that I have to market all by myself…it’s been time-consuming to say the least.
5. What’s been the most interesting reaction to The Waiting Room?
I was shocked to find out that many people assumed this was the first book in a trilogy or series…that was never my intention!
6. Do you identify with any of your characters?
Definitely. I think a piece of me shines through a few of them. Nina is an English teacher, like me. Jude is extremely sarcastic, like me! Alondra writes mediocre poetry at night, like me… haha I could go on and on.
7. Did working on The Waiting Room influence any of your real world thinking/choices?
It definitely made me question religion, spirituality, philosophy…more than I ever have before. I really dove into the age-old question of what happens after we die?
8. It appears that, at least in The Waiting Room, our essential qualities are how we love, our moral character and, possibly our gender. Even what we think of as personality seem to differ for some, but not for others. Pretty much everything else, race, religion, career and country can all change and it’s still the same you going through one door and returning through the other. Do you think that’s an accurate reflection of the essential qualities of a person? In others, what makes Nina and Deb the same person?
I do think our morals, our ethics, our “being” if you will, are what truly make us who we are. Obviously, in the present day world we live in, our race/career/religion/country play a huge role in how we’re perceived, how we’re treated, and how we live our lives. But when it comes down to our souls? In The Waiting Room, these things are trivial, as I think it should be if there is a Heaven or an afterlife of any kind. The most important thing is our hearts…and how we use them!
9. So I’m on the tail-end of the blog tour. How has it been for you?
I’m loving it! I have a new obsession with WordPress and fellow bloggers. We indie authors live for people like you, who are willing to help us spread the word!
10. Do you have any active projects underway? Anything you can share?
I had started a new novel about a year ago. I only have one chapter written. It’s realistic fiction, no fantasy/paranormal element like The Waiting Room. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Now that I’ve published this novel, I think I’d like to stay in the realm of realistic with a twist of fantasy/paranormal.
Bonus question: this is none of our business, but are you still with the guy who inspired the poem you wrote that, in turn, inspired the book? How did he respond to the book?
Haha, great bonus question! We actually broke up as I was finishing the novel. That definitely plunged me into a ferocious few months of writing and wrapping up the book. I’ve known him since pre-school and we’re still friends today. He just ordered his copy of the novel so we’ll see how he reacts haha it’s definitely a bit strange
Actually, I’m going to cheat a little here and refer you to David Franklin’s excellent site (how can you not love an asker of wrong questions from the Kingdom of Wessex?), The Wessex Literary Review in which he posts an except from Chapter 2 of The Waiting Room.
An excerpt from Chapter 2, that gives a little insight to what the actually waiting room is like for Jude, who waits a total of 52 years
An informal interview with the author on the book itself ****NOTE, THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE INTERVIEW -Think of this as questions if the author came to your book club. Don’t listen until you’ve read the book.****
Author Alysha Kaye
For more on Ms. Kaye:
Alysha Kaye was born in San Marcos, TX, where she also received her BA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. She worked in marketing for a brief and terrible cubicle-soul-sucking time until she was accepted into Teach for America and promptly moved to Oahu. She taught 7th grade English in Aiea for two years and also received her Masters in Education from University of Hawaii. She now teaches in Austin, TX and tries to squeeze in as much writing as possible between lesson planning. She dreamt about The Waiting Room once, and offhandedly wrote her boyfriend a love poem about waiting for him after death. Somehow, that became a novel.
Connecting with Alysha Kaye:
Alysha Kaye’s Blog
Alysha Kaye’s Facebook page
Alysha Kaye’s Twitter Page