Interview with Renee Rutledge, Author of The Hour of Daydreams
Renee Rutledge chats with us today about her literary novel, The Hour of Daydreams, debuting on March 14 , 2017!
What’s your book about?
The novel is an imagined history of two characters in a Filipino folktale. It follows the secrets they keep from one another, and the impact this has on their marriage and how their story is passed on to their only daughter.
Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.
“They recalled simultaneously how that part of the river was believed to be haunted–the superstition had been deeply ingrained in the region for decades–so powerful that no one ever dared wander there. Except for them. Perhaps they were just apparitions, clinging to one another, playing at life.”
What do you want people to know about your book?
There is no one way to read this book. Everyone has their own interpretation, and that’s something I wholeheartedly invite. The reader’s interpretation of the story may be vastly different from my own, and that’s okay, even wonderful.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?
I learned that the small things my dad talked about when I was little, even if we only spent one minute of one day of my entire childhood talking about them, made a big impact on me. Some of these things include the duwende, Philippine mythology, the act of saying “Excuse me, sir, just passing through,” to an anthill where a supernatural being may be living. I soaked all of this in because I was fascinated and thirsty for knowledge about my roots and culture.
What was your timeline from drafting to publication?
7 years. It took a year to finish the first draft, and each subsequent draft (4 total) took another year. In between, I took a year-long break to market the book to potential agents.
What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?
I loved the process of getting to know my characters. This did not happen right away, but gradually, until I reached a point when I knew what they were doing or thinking, and I came to love them, flaws and all.
Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?
This inspiration for this book came from a Filipino folktale about a star maiden and a man who steals her wings, whom she later ends up marrying. That story was a beginning, an opening, one that left me with many questions—did she want to marry him? Was she happy? It was up to me to come up with the answers.
When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?
There is no one time. As a working mom, I write when I can, often in the middle of the night or in the earliest hours of the morning. When I am lucky enough to come across an uninterrupted hour that I can spend writing, that is the hour I do my best thinking, oftentimes, because it has to be.
Share something people may be surprised to know about you?
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, but as a “small-town” girl. They say Alameda is a place that people leave but always come back to. I decided to settle here with my husband from the get-go. My daughters attend/attended the same elementary school I did. It is grounding and sets a strong foundation, but leaves me with a need to seek adventure often. We are always traveling, taking day trips, spending time in new and different places. I think keeping that lens of a child within—the one that is always curious and seeing things new—is important, especially as a writer.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
I’ve gotten so much good advice, but the best piece of writing advice I’ve gotten while working on this book was from my thesis advisor at the time—Yiyun Li. I had challenged myself with the task of creating two opposing storylines and making them both work. Which storyline do you believe? Yiyun asked me. Once I knew that, the entire process changed.
I’m currently working on a collection of stories about Filipino immigrants, inspired by family interviews.
“The Hour of Daydreams isn’t just a wonderful book—it’s a lyrical and poetic journey, one that’s simultaneously magical, surprising, and mesmerizing. It’s a love story, fable, fairy tale, and contemporary novel woven together with seamless thread, reminiscent of Isabel Allende. A brilliant start to a beautiful literary career.” — Erin Entrada Kelly, author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls