Naomi Dathan's debut novel, Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go, is available now in ebook form for Kindle, Nook, Google Book and Kobo.
I hope you enjoy meeting Naomi :)
What appeals to you most about writing fiction?
I’m a chronic daydreamer. I daydreamed my way through elementary school, pushing untouched worksheets into my desk while I survived deserted islands, heroically rescued puppies and went onstage as a famous singer. Now as an adult, I daydream my way through laundry, yard work, and green lights at intersections. This is very bad. But as soon as I start writing my daydreams down, I am no longer daydreaming. I’m writing. And that is very good.
Why Christian fiction?
I actually struggle with the term “Christian Fiction” because of the associated expectations. All of the Christian women I know are more down to earth than the traditional pious Christian heroine, and my fiction Christian women tend to be as well.
The main character of Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go, Jem, is like me: a messy, imperfect Christian with an ongoing relationship with God, who is a living force in the story. It makes my work harder to pigeonhole, but I don’t know how to write any other way. How can I write a universe where God, who created the universe, doesn’t exist?
Name five things you can’t live without (no need to take this too seriously!)
My women friends and family. Especially over the past couple of years, as my husband grew sicker and died, I’ve been able to lean very heavily on my girlfriends. And I have lots of them, so if one gets sick of my whining, I can just switch to another and continue my rant. I also have friends across the country and in the UK, so I can find someone to talk to almost every hour of the day. Men are great for certain things, but women know how to absorb grief and provide comfort.
The Internet. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t instantly find out where I’ve seen that actor before or how to make Spanish rice from scratch.
Dogs. And that’s dogs – plural. Which is ridiculous. Fur all over the couch and carpet, constant interruptions of my work time to let them in and out, having to make arrangements when I travel, and breaking up quarrels over who gets sleep on the freshly shredded pillow. Still . . . have to have dogs.
Chocolate. Really. Sorry to be a cliché, but I didn’t get this way by nibbling on celery while writing difficult scenes.
A heating pad for my feet. A heating blanket would be way too hot, and socks make my toes feel smothered. I can’t sleep unless I have a heating pad wrapped around my feet.
Favourite book ~ Favourite movie ~ Favourite TV show
Favourite book: Pride and Prejudice.
Favourite movie: Pride and Prejudice (“I love you. M-most ardently!”)
Favourite TV show: Parenthood. I love this show because the characters are such a mess, but they never stop loving each other. Next to Parenthood, my current favourite is Animal Cop re-runs. Every time a dog barks on the show, my puppies run to the door, barking madly. And when the show has an especially bad case, I’m moved to give the puppies treats and tell them that I love them.
Where is the most interesting place you have been?
I’m pretty poor and was a full-time care-giver for 6 years, so I haven’t travelled. But I think the most consistently interesting place has been the Emergency Room at Akron City Hospital. I’m serious. I’ve been cold, miserable, and scared there, but I’ve never been bored. I’m too nosy, for one thing, and I have pretty good hearing, so I usually can glean the stories of the people around me. I’m also not big on boundaries, so I’ve gone into rooms to talk and pray with people. One busy night, the elderly lady in the room next to my husband’s had blood all over her from a bad fall. She was being treated but the nurses were too busy so I cleaned her up and stayed with her until her daughter got there. I can’t explain why that is important to me. We were at the Emergency Room 9 times in 2010 and 4 times this year before my husband passed, and this is going to sound crazy but I’m going to kind of miss it.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer. Since I was twelve years old, all I wanted to do was write. Every other job I’ve ever done, except parenting, has been done under duress.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
That’s not an easy question, because I’m on Facebook all the time and I have, like, no boundaries!
Let’s go with this: This year, fairly soon after my husband passed, I drove seven hours to my sister’s haunted house and invented and played a character: Big Mama, a creepily friendly old lady with a sort-of Cajun accent. This may have been a sin . . . but I was fabulous.
And this: There is a part of me that wants to move to a farm, with real animals and everything, and live the rural life. Every time I drive past a farm I’m drawn to it. But then I realize I would have to take all of my neighbours. And my ceramics class at the community center. And my church – not some other church, but mine, with the people I’ve known for years. And the corner grocery store. Because, seriously. I’m not going to drive 25 minutes for a gallon of milk.
Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go
Which character did you connect to the most?
Jem. As with all my female characters, she is an extension of some part of me. At the time I wrote her story, I was a full-time caregiver, working very hard to be brave, nurturing and uncomplaining. So I actually kind of enjoyed writing the beginning of the book, where she was being bratty and refusing to be any of those things.
I’m also pretty in love with Seth, in spite of his blind-spots. It kind of hurt my feelings that some of my readers ended the book angry at him. But I might have a weakness for stubborn, somewhat abrasive men. . .
Which character was the most difficult to write?
Charley. Even that answer is kind of a spoiler, but I plan my books out completely before I write, so it was really hard to write that beautiful, adorable, rascally little boy.
What was your favourite scene to write in Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go?
Oh, my gosh! It’s so hard to pick. It’s not that I think I’m such a great writer, but that’s the luxury of writing your own story – everything happens exactly the way you think it should. I loved writing the scene where Jem piously asked Seth if they could start going to church, because she’d just found out that’s where the good gossip was. And the scene early in the book, where she and Seth are arm in arm, having a quiet argument while pretending to be civil for the servants.
The scene that resonates most with me is probably the one where she awakened next to Seth and was sure – absolutely sure – that he had died while she slept. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite, but it came right from my core. I spent more than a decade thinking I might wake up some morning and find my husband gone. If his arm was outside the blanket in the night and was cold I would automatically check his chest to see if he was breathing. Until I wrote that scene, I didn’t realize how many times it had played in my head. It makes me wonder what my scenes will look like, now that my husband really is gone.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
Simply, life is hard, but God is with you. Less simply, I don’t think God’s plan for us is to have a fairy tale happy ending. I think His love is broader, but harder to take: He wants to mold us, make us ever more into His ideal. Pain is a part of life; it’s not an indication that God has abandoned us.
What’s next in your writing pipeline?
Whither was always meant to be the beginning of a series, so this year, for sure, I’m going to write Book 2. After losing my husband, I experienced my first ever writer’s block, so I decided to break it by participating in Nanowrimo (where you write a novel in the thirty days of November) and write something completely fresh. I ended up with a 50,000 word first draft of a suspense novel. Who knows whether I’ll keep even ten percent of those words in my final edit, but it did get me writing again. I’m back to work!
Thanks for sharing about your life and writing, Naomi :)
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