Recently, I got the chance to meet author, Arleen Williams. She’s just released her novel Running Secrets (The Alki Trilogy), published by Booktrope, and I wanted to share the novel’s backstory with you. In Arleen’s own words, here is the story of Running Secrets.
Running Secrets is the story of friendship between a suicidal young American struggling to understand her own identity and the Ethiopian home healthcare provider hired by Chris’s parents to care for her. It explores questions of race, identity and family secrets with a bit of romance thrown in for them both. The genre is Contemporary Women’s Fiction.
What inspired you to write this book?
Inspiration? Really questions. I tend to write in order to answer questions I’m pondering. After finishing my first book, a memoir called The Thirty-Ninth Victim, themes and questions remained that still had no answers.
When Chris, the protagonist in Running Secrets, came to me, I needed to understand why a young woman “with everything” would want to end her life. I knew suicide rates in America are astronomical, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, but I wanted to learn more and started researching.
“In 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), 38,364 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 13.7 minutes.”
And what about suicide attempts?
“In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, 464,995 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm behavior, suggesting that approximately 12 people harm themselves (not necessarily intending to take their lives) for every reported death by suicide.”
(http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures, January 9, 2014)
As I searched for understanding, I found other questions… What could cause a parent to withdraw or simply not love her/his own child? Why do we keep family secrets? What good or harm do they do? And, who are we when we discover we’re not who we think we are?
Chris’s story stemmed from the roots of attempted suicide. Gemila Kemmal, her caregiver, is a wonderful amalgamation of the many, many immigrant students I’ve had the pleasure to work with here in Seattle for almost three decades and from the tremendous caregivers who supported my mother, my family and myself during Mom’s final years with dementia.
We live in a country where “foreign-born workers represent 21% of direct caregivers in the U.S., according to the Rand report. No employment-sponsored visas exist for direct-care workers, and most of the legal immigrants who do such work enter the country through family-sponsored visas. An estimated one in five direct care workers is undocumented.”
I find this another interesting question to ponder: our growing need for elder care and home healthcare providers juxtaposed against the anti-immigration rhetoric that continues to fill the news. From those questions, a story evolved and Running Secrets came to life.
This book is the first in a series. Please share your writing journey, from book to series. Running Secrets is Book One of The Alki Trilogy. I fell in love my characters and just couldn’t stop writing their stories. In all three books, this cast of characters explores the meaning of race and immigration, family and friendship in our ever changing country of first peoples and immigrants.
Readers of this blogpost are going to want to buy your book. Where can they get it? Running Secrets is available at all the normal on-line sources (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) in both e-book and paperback format. Readers can also request it at any bookstore or library. (Editor’s note: Indie authors rely on you to request their books from your local independent bookstore or library. Thank you for introducing indie books to readers.)
Can you tell us about you? I live, teach and write in West Seattle. I’m not a runner, but I walk and bike Alki Beach and Lincoln Park on a regular basis.
I took my first writing class at age 48 and plan to participate in my first 200-mile bike ride to celebrate my 60th birthday. I believe “old dogs can learn new tricks” and I’m convince that we are never too old to try something new!
What has been the best moment in your writing career? Finding a publisher in today’s changing world is like the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack. So Blue Feather Books signing The Thirty-Ninth Victim, and later Booktrope offering a contract for Running Secrets were both magical moments. But holding those two books in my hands for the first time was also incredibly special.
How do you come up with the titles of your book? I’m terrible at titles. I’ve been told that The Thirty-Ninth Victim doesn’t represent the story. I wasn’t working with my writing partner, Pam Carter, back then. Maybe we’ll have to come up with something better for the re-release next year.
When I need a title, Pam and I brainstorm together. We list ideas and eventually land on something that works. Because we write and read our work together, and because Pam is my first reader, she knows my work well – maybe better than I do! I’m always grateful for her perspective and creativity.
How long does it take you to finish a novel? Yikes. I don’t really know. I started writing Running Secrets when The Thirty-Ninth Victim was under contract back in 2005. The publication was delayed until 2008 due to a change in ownership of the publisher. I kept writing. I’d never written fiction, never taken a fiction writing class, so I went through a slew of lousy drafts. I set the manuscript aside and wrote a second memoir I called Moving Mom (scheduled for 2015 publication). Then I returned to Running Secrets and rewrote it a few more times. And I mean rewrote! When I finally knew the manuscript was finished, I also knew I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Chris and Gemi and the other characters, so I started writing Biking Uphill (to be released spring 2014) and The Alki Trilogy took on a life of its own.
As I wrote, I searched for a publisher. When I signed with Booktrope last summer, I had a backlog of work, but I never kept track of how long each book took and I was often working on more than one at the same time. Because I teach, I have much more writing time in the summer and hope to finish Book Three of the Alki Trilogy by late 2014.
So that’s a long-winded way that saying that since 2005, I’ve written three and a half books. I guess that’s about two and a half years per book, right?
How can readers connect with you? Readers can find me at www.AlkiTrilogy.com. If they subscribe, they’ll receive automatic updates about readings and releases. They can also read and comments on my monthly personal essays at www.arleenwilliams.com. I love comments and reviews!!
Readers who are in the Seattle area and would like me to visit their book club are welcome to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.