I was pleased to host Caribbean author Gardenia Destang during her fifteen-day Virtual Book Tour. Here is the transcript of my conversation with Gardenia on her author journey and how her book Becoming Me relates to women in the 21st century . She also shares her selection for the main actors should her book become a movie, as some of her readers have requested.
Hi Gardenia. How you doing? Good to have you with me today. Welcome.
Hi Eunice. Thank you for having me.
I’ve been enjoying looking at the feedback you’ve been receiving on your book, Gardenia, and it’s good to know that you, as a Caribbean person, have been able to write a book which appeals to persons globally. Tell us a little about you, Gardenia. From our interactions I realize that you’re truly a Caribbean person. Which islands have influenced you the most?
I was born on the island of Saint Lucia, then I moved to Barbados at the age of thirteen, and I’ve been living in St Kitts for the last fifteen years. I have also spent some time in Trinidad, but the reality is, I think every island has a little bit to offer, but it probably would be the island that I spent most of my formative years, that being Barbados. But, as I said before each island has a little bit of something that I take with me and something that influences who I am, or what I do, or what I’m becoming.
Going beyond the Caribbean and talking about countries and places, which country or place would you most like to visit in the world?
My absolute favourite country, or place I would love to visit is Greece – the Greek islands. I’ve always been fascinated with those islands. I love the architecture, the culture, the structure, everything about it. It has always been my life-long dream, which I hope at some point I can accomplish to visit and spend some quality time on those islands.
And your writing exposure also takes you places. In your bio, you mention that you were writing plays and scripts, actually you say ‘With plays and scripts, you would have to worry about getting a cast, locations, sets and all that comes with such productions. Being a perfectionist for the most part, Gardenia decided that she did not want to go through that again.’ Tell me about Gardenia the perfectionist.
I guess like many of us we want to ensure that when we’ve done something, especially something that is going to be the public eye, we want to make sure it is done to its best, and so we become perfectionists. I personally, as it relates to theatre, I want to make sure that the script that I have written is reflected in the acting and the quality of the actors; and so I wanted to have the same kind of quality when I wrote the book. It’s that kind of thing I was referring to when I say that I am a perfectionist. It pains me greatly, to be honest, after you’ve labored and you’ve spent a lot of time putting together a script and then you just can’t get the right sort of emotions, or you just can’t get the right acting, the right reactions from the actors, that instead of having a fully developed and lively script, you end up having something that’s just flat and dead. So for me I’m a perfectionist. I want to see it in action as I have it in my head, as I have envisioned it; and sometimes that’s not always possible.
And I suppose that’s why the bio mentioned that you moved towards writing a book. You could decide which way it was going.
Correct, and it was certainly easier. Yes. It was easier, but it also had its challenges, I must admit. But most definitely, I was responsible. I had control over the outcome of the characters and the whole scenes and the scenarios. I was the one primarily responsible for this, it did not rely on, nor was it dependent on anybody else.
You’ve been on your journey as an author and through life, and you’ve reached to this point where you’ve actually produced a book. Who has been your greatest inspiration, Gardenia?
There’ve been several persons who’ve been there for me and certainly have been influential in my taking this new journey in my life, but honestly I’d really want to mention one person and that would be Terrence Crossman. And the reason behind him is, I think just his positive attitude, his spirit, and his motivation. Where he basically gives you that, it doesn’t matter what happens, at least you know you did your best, give it your best shot, keep going at it. And I’ve totally enjoyed being around him and having that sort of positive enthusiasm, pushing me to complete this and to give it my best shot.
And all of that with a view of becoming, I suppose. You’ve been working in the area of health for a number of years. If like Terri you had to choose another career, what would it be?
I have given that some thought and honestly if I were ever able to have my way, my ideal job would be to be a Special FBI Agent.
A Special FBI Agent?
A special agent of the FBI?
So we would call you Special Agent Gardenia?
That’s right. People see me and I guess they don’t see that side of me. They don’t see me having a fascination with guns and being on the side of law enforcement and intelligence, etcetera. They probably just see me, as what they see now. That has been something that, if I could have pursued, I would definitely have gone after. I am not a US citizen and I am over the age of thirty-seven, so that disqualifies me in many ways.
So that’s a dream that’s put on hold, or put at bay?
It’s a dream that I would live out in my head and perhaps on script.
So we look forward to that script, then. Going back to Becoming Me, it is a story about a woman finding herself, Terri, what would you say is the main challenge facing women in the 21st century?
I think many women are faced with the challenge of being so many different things and persons having to serve so many different roles that sometimes they become consumed with it, and they become lost. They forget themselves and who they wanted to be and find themselves settling. I think that’s the challenge that a lot of women face. So you find that a lot of us are not able to reach our full potential or what it is that we really wanted to be, because we are consumed with all the different roles that society, or just life, has thrust upon us. And so you find yourself just being overwhelmed and just saying, well you know this is where I am and I accept it and I settle; as opposed to continually aiming, trying to achieve that part of you that really wants to be you, and not what everybody else is expecting of you.
That’s true. Many times we find ourselves trying to be everything for everybody else, rather than becoming. So true, and there are so many more demands in the 21st century. I agree with you fully. Talking about your writing, and being an author; you’ve moved from playwright to author. How did you become interested in writing plays and scripts in the first place?
I think I’ve always loved theatre. I’ve always loved a good drama, a good play, a good show. And as a little girl growing up I had this idea or this dream of also being an actress. Not as a full time actress. I never saw myself becoming a full time actress. It was just something I would probably want to do as a hobby and I actually did a bit of that, while I lived in Barbados. Then when I moved to St Kitts, the atmosphere was a little different, theatre was not the same and so I kind of settled for writing as opposed to following and continuing on the road of acting. And so that’s pretty how much I got into the whole idea of script writing.
And then that moved towards the book? What moved you to write the book, though?
I was actually bored. I was working on a project and I had a week off and I was bored. I couldn’t find anything on television that I wanted to watch and so I felt, you know what, let me engage myself in something. And I thought what can I do and I decided, well, you’ve always thought about writing a book, perhaps this is a good time to do so and I started, and I couldn’t finish. Once I started I got excited about the story and that’s how Becoming Me came out.
Intriguing. What was the most challenging part of writing the book, then?
I would have to say that it was keeping the characters real: making them believable, making them what the readers could identify with. Sometimes I read novels, I’m an avid reader and I read books and sometimes what I read is, unfortunately, just not so real and I find myself just turning the pages, instead of actually wanting to be engrossed in the book. I flip through the pages and I skip a lot of things. Unfortunately, I find there is a lot of that. But to me, I wanted to make sure that that did not happen when I was putting together Becoming Me. I wanted the characters to be so real that people could see them in the folks around them, or they could see them as people they would want to know and become friends with or acquainted with. So the hardest challenge was really giving the reader that sort of character development that I think they are so deserving of.
That was the challenge. So what was most exciting part for you on the writing journey? What excited you, what brought you the fire while you wrote?
I think just being able to take the story wherever I wanted to go. Not having a plot or a plan and just being moved by whatever was happening around me. Whatever emotions I was experiencing at the time, whatever influences, whether by the television or something that I was exposed to; but just being able to bring those characters to life and placing them in the different scenarios and keeping it together that it actually excited me as I wrote. That was pretty much the most exciting part for me.
And which part of the story excited you the most? Is there a part in the book that you like the most, Gardenia?
I have several chapters that I really like. I think my favourites are Chapters 21 and 35. The reason behind it is that, I remember when writing them, I spent a lot of time thinking through the emotions that I wanted to get out, and I thought about what the character Terri would do in a situation like this and I got all involved and all emotional about having to do what it is that I thought she should do at the time.
And in one of your favourite chapters what stands out for you?
As I mentioned, it was really the depth of emotions that Terri went through at the time.
I think your readers should be able to capture that emotion as they read it. Who would enjoy this kind of novel, who would enjoy your book, why should they buy it?
Anybody who wants a real good drama, anybody who wants a book that has romance and intrigue and it has humor, and good family stories. Anybody who wants a really good story that can resonate with them, should be interested in getting a copy of Becoming Me.
Briefly then, tell us the story of Becoming Me. Tell us about Terri, about the book. Just so that you can whet our appetite.
The story is really about a young lady of age thirty-one, who is at a plateau in her life. She has accomplished much and she has a lot of familial support and if you look at her you would think that she has a perfect life, she’s made it. The truth is, there is something missing. Deep inside, when she looks around, when she looks at what she’s accomplished and everything else, she is not satisfied. She feels that there is something missing and that she is not who she needs and wants to be. So she takes an introspective look at her life and the issues and the people around her, and makes some bold steps to becoming herself.
Do you know any Terri’s?
That’s a hard question. I must confess that I am convinced that I am still on that journey of finding myself and becoming myself. I am satisfied with where I am but I acknowledge that me, the Gardenia that I want to be is a continual everyday growing metamorphosis. It’s not something that happens once in a life time and then that’s it. I think as I grow, I will continue to become me. So I am a Terri, and yes I do know some other Terri’s.
So what’s the message of your book then? Is that the message of your book?
Well, the book is not intended to be any sort of self help, empowerment book, but I have had readers inform me that they were empowered, and they were influenced by Terri. So the message that can be taken away is that, if you are at that stage where you are trying to find yourself, there are little steps that you can take. You don’t have to settle, you don’t have to feel that you are stuck in a rut and you just have to live life as is; you can find yourself; you can redefine yourself; you can rebrand yourself; and you can definitely become you.
Do you have any tips for persons arising out of the book? I saw mention somewhere of a Journal?
One of the things that Terri did in the book was that she kept a journal, and it’s something that I do also and I would encourage people to do that. Sometimes, we have all these ideas and thoughts going through our heads and it’s good to write them down, to document things. Maybe you can look back and see over the years what were the thoughts and feelings that you were having and then you can compare and see if you are at that stage still and how things have progressed. So I think it’s a good thing to have a journal. I have placed on my website the opportunity for persons to have an electronic journal where they can start the whole process of becoming them, where there are little motivational quotes that can help them to get where they need to be; little mantras that they can use on a daily basis to help them become themselves.
Great. So how do persons get that? Do the sign up for it?
Yes. On the website at GardeniaDestang.com.
Thanks. So what are your plans moving forward? I mean you’ve written this book – I have seen some of the reviews on Amazon, you’ve had some great reviews. I remember reading one, where the person said that it is such a beautiful storyline and there are so many lessons about life, love, friendship, and family in the book. What are your plans moving forward?
I think that since I started writing and since I was able to accomplish Becoming Me I am now challenging myself to continue to do this and to continue to write. So I’ve started some other books, some other novels and hopefully my plans are to put out a novel or two in the next couple of years. I’m excited about this. While I might not able to get on a stage and do the acting I can live vicariously through the characters that I put on paper. So I am definitely going to be continuing my writing and I’ve started and hopefully we will be having some other novels coming out from Gardenia Destang in the near future.
No more plays and scripts? Aren’t we going to make Terri come alive somehow?
Ahhh! That’s a bit challenging to be honest. I think there are too many scenes and it would call for a lot of adaptations in order to get Becoming Me into a play. Television screens, movie, or something? Most definitely, that would be interesting if we can get that done. And I must admit that I have had persons say that the book plays in their mind like a movie and they think it would make an excellent Tyler Perry, or when is the movie coming out, so who knows what will happen?
Who would be the main players on the stage?
I have given it some thought and I must admit they were partly some of the persons that I used in my mind’s eye when I was trying to write about the characters. So definitely Terri would be Joleen Smolette, and Lamar would be my darling Shamar Moore, and Derrick, Michael Ealey. The others, other persons could fill them, but most definitely those would be the actors I would want to play if it should ever become something else.
Well who knows, it may come to life one day.
Gardenia, I so appreciate the time that you spent with me today. It’s great chatting with you. It’s been great partnering with you on this journey and I am indeed honoured that you are going to be visiting my website as part of your virtual book tour. It’s been exciting for you, an exciting journey. Tell us how you feel about the virtual book tour and where persons can follow you on the tour.
I am really excited about the virtual book tour. I think it’s an excellent tool. I guess in the past if you were trying to get your word out there, you would get either get on a plane, take a bus, or travel somewhere. But with the virtual book tour you literally could stay in your home town and you can reach millions of potential buyers and readers across the world without even moving or going anywhere. So it is really exciting being able to do this. My book tour is a fifteen day book tour, started on the tenth of June and ending on the twenty-eight of June. Persons can follow the tour on my website at GardeniaDestang.com and so they can get more information and follow me on a daily basis and pass on the information to their friends.
Ok. Great. One thing we have not spoken about is how the book is performing on Amazon. What has happened to the book since you placed it on Amazon?
The book has done well. Earlier in the year, I did a one day free promotion and for a couple of days it actually ranked as number one on Amazon, so I was very pleased about that. So it’s doing very well.
And you expect it to do even better with the virtual book tour and everything else?
That’s the plan. Hopefully yes.
Gardenia, thank you again, so much. It’s lovely chatting with you and I do wish you well on your journey and your virtual book tour and on your writing journey, that you have embarked on. Congratulations on your book and my very best wishes!
Thank you very much Eunice for having me. It was indeed a pleasure.