Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author B. D’Amato, about her writing and her recently released novel, Triskele, an absorbing story that beautifully explores trauma, substance and alcohol abuse, and the meaning of family. (Read the review here.)
B. D’Amato is a psychoanalyst in private practice in NYC. She has written numerous professional papers analyzing the psychic conflicts of literary characters and their authors, i.e., Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, R L Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Her most recent publication considers the lyrics in Bob Dylan’s “Murder Most Foul” from a hypnogogic perspective. She has written extensively about dreams, adoption, and the curative potential of human interconnection through emotional communication. Triskele is her first work of fiction.
Tell us a little about how Triskele first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma, or something else?
After I knew I wanted to write a novel, I mused about where to begin. Sitting on the N train one morning, as I headed to my office, I had an idea to start with a priest, a therapist, and a scandal. Once that was established, Triskele wrote itself. All I had to do was follow wherever my imagination took me.
Triskele is classified as “psychological fiction”, and you have a background as a psychoanalyst. How did your work play into the writing process of Triskele and, of course, the story itself?
In my work, I listen to stories of conflict all day long. At this point in my career, I intuitively understand a bit about the human psyche and motivation. Traumatic experiences have a way of repeating themselves. We all engage in these behaviors, perpetuating our misfortunes until we can resolve our issues and do something different with our lives. A very concrete example is an individual who smokes. They want to quit because smoking is bad for their bodies, but until they are ready, they cannot stop engaging in self-destructive behaviors. In Triskele, each character enacts their historical conflicts while striving to master them. I wanted to demonstrate the internal struggles that human beings contend with.
Do you see a lot of yourself in Lillian? What was the process of writing this character like?
I see some of myself in Lillian. She was fun to create, and there is a steadiness to her that I admire. Triskele can be described as a dream in which, Freud says, each character is some aspect of the dreamer, or in this case, the author. The actual writing uses another part of the brain where creative ideas emerge. In hindsight, I could definitely see some personal characteristics on the pages.
Triskele is, at times, rather dark. When it takes you a lot of emotional labor to write a scene, how do you get through that without letting yourself get too lost in the darkness? Are the darker scenes harder for you, or do you relish the opportunity to get that deep into the story and the characters?
Again, my experience working with patients who repeatedly talk through their darkest moments has prepared me to paint vivid scenes of conflict without getting overwhelmed by them. Creating complex characters with both negative and positive emotional histories was very gratifying and, I hoped, also portrayed them as real.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
The culminating scene is my absolute favorite because it pulls the entire story together. This chapter creates tension in almost every character that climaxes in resolution. There was a sense of satisfaction in writing this scene and a feeling of completion.
In your academic work, you have written about such literature as Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. How have works like these influenced not just your academic writing but also your fiction?
I have always been interested in the organic connection between authors and their literary characters. Frankenstein is a story of deep longing as the monster seeks to find and unite with his creator. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde demonstrates two opposing sides of the psyche: good and evil. These themes are central to Triskele. Humans are a mixture of benevolent and malevolent traits. We each need to make peace with our dual natures and find ways to coexist with the darker parts of ourselves. Few people are purely one or the other. Each character in Triskele displays loving and hateful qualities. Despite myriad gruesome behaviors, I tried to portray the depth of my characters, so they were neither heroic nor demonic.
Triskele is your first foray into fiction. With your background in academic writing, what drove you to turn instead to fiction?
I was preparing a lengthy case study for a conference and realized how much fun capturing a patient’s life over many years was. Having been accustomed to the rigors of professional paper writing, this felt freer. At that point, I thought I should write a novel.
Have you learned anything from writing this novel that you might take with you into academic writing?
What a good question! The first thing that comes to mind is that people are only sometimes what they appear to be on the surface. Individuals can behave in nefarious ways. If we can take the time to listen, most people reveal their complete selves. There are usually reasons why a person misbehaves. It is the humanity of an individual that helps us to connect to their story. To answer the question, the more I can portray a patient in an academic setting with compassion, the more connected readers will be.
What’s next for you?
I am working on my second novel, Keys to the Castle, which is a very different story. And I am working on an academic paper called Words Matter.
Categories: BookView Review Interview
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