May 12, 2010

Dog-Heart @ Books and Books

Diana McCaulay could have stopped writing many years ago when the first roadblock appeared, but she never gave up. Diana persisted even after she told her father that she wanted to be a writer and he replied, “That will be impossible. The only true subject of literature is war and women can’t go to war.” A minor setback. In the meantime, Diana took on other roles as a secretary, newspaper columnist, and environmental activist. However, when Diana was given a chance to study creative writing in Jamaica at Good Hope, Trelawny, with Pam Houston from UC Davis, she jumped at the opportunity. It was during one of these sessions when Houston gave the class an exercise to write a story about a character whose background was the complete opposite to hers that “Car Park Boy” was born. The story which was later published in The Caribbean Writer became the genesis for Dog-Heart, Diana’s first novel, which was launched in North America at Books and Books on May 19, 2010.

Reading to an intimate audience of friends and well-wishers, Diana treated us to four sections from Dog-Heart: “Car Park Runnins,” “The Orange Notebook,” “Going for Water,” and “The Summer of Storms.” In these chapters, we were introduced to the twin narrators, Dexter and Sahara, whose unlikely relationship, a ghetto pickney from Jacob’s Pen and an uptown browning from Mona Heights, form the plot of Dog Heart.

At once professional and engaging, Diana was at ease during the Q& A and did not show any of the jitters that first time novelists usually display. She calmly explained the reason behind the title: “In Jamaica, dog-heart refers to brutal men who do not have a conscience. But I’m also playing on the name with the hope that we will have the generous hearts of our dogs.”

And in a moment that drew gasps from the audience, Diana described the process from first draft to final publication: “It took me eight and half years and at least twelve rejections before Dog-Heart was finally published.” She then gave some sound advice to an aspiring writer, “Don’t wait for rejections. As soon as you finish one book, begin another immediately.” To prove that she practices what she preaches, Diana announced she has already finished writing her second novel.

If Diana’s next novel is as engaging as Dog-Heart, then I can’t wait to read it.


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