Today Reader Views is talking with Annie Rogers, author of “A Circle of Dreams, " the second novel in the Demontagne saga that began with “A Dream Across Time. " Annie is speaking with Juanita Watson, Assistant Editor of Reader Views.
Juanita: Welcome Annie…. . or more correctly, welcome Roger and Mala Burt. It is a great opportunity to speak with this unique writing duo. Looking a little deeper than just the story of “A Circle of Dreams, " one will discover that this novel is penned by a husband/wife team. Please tell your readers how The Demontagne saga evolved, and the decision to write your novels under a pen name.
Roger: It’s a pleasure to be here, Juanita. The reason for writing under a pen name is the simple question to answer. There are not a lot of novels under two names so we decided to simply use one name. The Rogers part is obvious and the Annie is Mala’s mischievous alter ego.
How the saga came about is more complicated. We all have the illusion we are in control of our lives. Our experience is illustrative. We innocently went on vacation with friends and ended up buying land on St. Lucia. After we had built a house which basically got out of control, we found we were employing a village. Needing to support the house, we started renting it short term which turned into a business. The business and the maintenance of the house meant we had to spend more and more time in the Caribbean. With our immersion in the region we got behind the tourist façade. We had stories we had to tell. As we developed the initial story, a saga opened up before us. Characters seemed to walk in the door, even whole books. We wondered whose life this was. It almost seemed it was the Demontagne family.
Mala: We started with an idea for one novel, but it became apparent that there were so many interesting primary and secondary characters that WE wanted to know what happened to them. So we had to keep writing their stories. From early on we thought there might be additional books about these characters so we set the chronology so that the third book would be current day.
We thought it would be fun to combine our names to create a pen name. My middle name is Ann and Annie is my mischevious alter ego. Rogers is Roger’s birth certificate name, a family name.
Juanita: What can readers expect in the storyline of “A Circle of Dreams?"
Roger: The storyline in the second book of the saga moves beyond one woman’s story to the family which comes into being. After all, when you think about it, our family life is a saga. It’s just that we are often too close to see the scope of it. We spent many years dealing with families and so many themes get included in the books. For example, Jamie, like all of us, looked forward to having children. But we are often unprepared concerning who comes to live at our house. Jamie certainly wasn’t prepared for the unusual talents of her children.
Mala: Circle follows the marriage of Jamie and Andre and tells the story of their three children. All the children have special gifts, but the youngest, a boy, Philippe, is deeply troubled and no-one can explain why.
Juanita: How did the beauty and magic of St. Lucia and the Caribbean provide the perfect backdrop for this series?
Roger: Oddly, very few romances are set in the Caribbean which is an incredibly romantic place. The setting is definitely not mundane. We had the great good fortune to become deeply acquainted with it. It forms a rich background on which to display stories about love and family. It also is truly a crossroads of the world and the stories are fascinating.
Mala: We’ve spent so much time on St. Lucia is has become part of us. It truly has a magical beauty, a primeval quality. The story didn’t start out to have paranormal elements but those quickly appeared and fit very well with the Caribbean setting.
Juanita: What do the characters in “A Circle of Dreams" have to teach your readers?
Roger: There are many lessons for the reader but the central one which is clearly played out in the first book in the saga, A Dream Across Time, is that if you will follow your dreams there is so much in this life which can open up for you. We may be reading about Jamie’s life in the comfort of our own home but Jamie was abandoned by her alcoholic husband in a third world country. That is pretty scary. But rather than run back to the States, she saw possibilities and she chose to follow those possibilities.
Mala: Perseverance, trust, partnership
Juanita: Is there any of you in the characters, and which one do you relate to the most?
Roger: I’m glad this isn’t a live interview because I’m feeling stumped and I’m not entirely sure why. I think what I’m coming up with is the notion of partnership and completeness if that makes any sense. I really like women and am a strong supporter of their rights and ability to pursue their lives independently. I admire Jamie partly because she reminds me of my wife. I relate most strongly to the strong women in the series. They represent my wishes for my wife, my daughters and my granddaughters.
Mala: Oh, I suppose there is a little bit of us in all the characters. I’d like the think that I have some of Jamie’s imagination and ability to take risks.
Juanita: How did your previous careers in the fields of psychology and clinical social work add to the Demontagne saga?
Roger: We have stories we garnered in the Caribbean and we have stories from our years in practice with families. Many of them are hard to forget and our favorites are the ones where people overcome obstacles and turn disasters to their advantage. Our professional backgrounds also help us with the issues of goal, motivation and conflict. We are schooled in all those issues and our backgrounds help us bring our characters to life.
Mala: Our understanding of how people think and react helps enormously in making our characters real rather than caricatured.
Juanita: Has Annie Rogers taken on a life of her own with a unique personality and writing style different from either of you? If so, please elaborate.
Roger: The voice of Annie Rogers is the voice of Mala so she has to be the one to answer that question.
Mala: There is something mystical about the writing process. Occasionally characters appear out of the blue or the plot turns in a direction not in the outline. We have come to understand they represent some important, intuitive process to which we need to pay attention.
Juanita: As a husband/wife team, what was your experience working side-by-side penning a novel together?
Roger: We have always worked together and love joint projects. A long time ago we learned to carve out spheres of influence so we did not trip over each other or waste effort in duplicating what the other was doing.
Mala: We carve out “spheres of influence". We plot together; Roger writes outlines, I write the story, Roger critiques and makes changes where he thinks appropriate. Sometimes I argue a change he wants to make. Ultimately we follow our intuition even if we don’t quite understand why the story turned in a particular way.
Juanita: What statement/s does “A Circle of Dreams" make about the importance of dreams and dreaming?
Roger: Dreams are important in moving us forward in our lives. Without dreams we stagnate. But you have to act on them, not just use them as a refuge from reality. It is a cliché to say that life is in the living. But it is true and it is the fun of getting “there" rather than being “there". We know what there is at the end of lives and that is not our goal. It is something that inevitably happens to us. Dreams are the things that lead us to successions of enrichment.
Mala: Although physical dreams play a part in this story, we are really talking about dreaming in a broader sense. I believe it is important for people to identify their dreams, to think about what they can do to follow even a part of their dream. Having dreams enriches our lives.
Juanita: What does “A Circle of Dreams" say to your independent women readers?
Roger: Don’t give up your independence. It is a gift to stay with determination and follow your gut instincts. The world still has a long way to go in truly supporting independent women but it is moving in the right direction. And being independent is not inconsistent with having a partner.
Mala: The context of Circle speaks to how important trust and partnership are in a marriage when partners are both independent, successful people. Jamie, the wife in Circle, struggles with how to pursue her career and manage her marriage and her children.
Juanita: Tell us about your choice to weave mysticism into the Demontagne saga.
Roger: The mystical element is in the books for two reasons. First, when you get behind the scenes in the Caribbean, there is a mystical foundation to much of the experience. The other reason is that its enhancement to the story helps bring the reader closer to how it really feels.
Mala: The mysticism was one of the right brain things. I don’t think we started out planning to put it in the story, but it put itself in the story as I was writing. I think it is a reflection of my own mysticism.
Juanita: What other themes are included in “A Circle of Dreams" and the Demontagne saga?
Roger: Believe it or not, Juanita, that is a difficult question. The Saga is all about family. So, included within it are so many themes about family. In A Circle of Dreams we see that Yvie feels herself to be an outsider. Yet, in the end she is very much a part of the family and its heritage. Lissa is deeply burdened by her abilities and her perceptions but in the end she finds that there are allies close at hand within the circle of her family who can share her burdens. Most of the themes are all about growing up and the growing up is not confined to children. Adults have to grow up and learn to tend to their relationships in different ways like Jamie and Andre have to do.
Mala:There is an underlying theme about giving up control and trusting others. Hard for all of us, but sometimes it is the only thing to do. Not making a decision makes a decision. Jamie’s desperation about finding help for Philippe makes her put her trust in Bertille even when she doesn’t understand what Bertille is doing.
Juanita: Tell us about your personal choice to re-define yourselves by closing your travel business after years, and devoting all of your time to your writing endeavors.
Roger: Like Jamie we chose to take on the possibilities which were opening in front of us. We closed our mental health practice because managed care had made ethical practice impossible. We closed our travel business because the reality of the marketing had changed. In each instance we saw a promising alternative and they were alternatives which we could do as partners. We love projects we can do together.
Mala:The travel business changed after 9/11. We stayed with that business while we were writing “A Dream Across Time" and the first drafts of “A Circle of Dreams", but there came a point where we knew it was time to close the travel business and devote ourselves to writing full time.
Juanita: What do you hope your readers take away after reading “A Circle of Dreams?"
Roger: I don’t have any one thing I would like to have them take away. Perhaps some recognition of something in themselves. Perhaps new resolve about pursuing their independence and their dreams. The choice from the possibilities they can view is theirs.
Mala: Don’t give up! Even situations that seem impossible can have unexpected and positive outcomes.
Juanita: How can your readers find out more about you and your endeavors?
Roger: Finally, Juanita, an easy question. Go to www.annierogers.com. Of special interest is the Author to Author section where we write about our characters, our settings and our perceptions about writing. Browse the site which has new material frequently.
Mala: The best place to go for information is our website. http://www.annierogers.com They can read chapters of our books, order on-line, enter contests, etc.
Juanita Watson is the Assistant Editor for Reader Views. http://www.readerviews.com