What is your working title of your book (or story)?
My novel is *IN THE TIME OF JUBILEE*
Where did the idea for the book come from?
The idea came from Reborns. From Wikipedia: “A reborn doll is a manufactured vinyl doll that has been transformed to resemble a human baby with as much realism as possible. The process of creating a reborn doll is referred to as reborning and the doll artists are referred to as reborners. Reborn dolls are also known as living dolls or unliving dolls.”
While I was researching issues of infertility and childlessness during my Master’s program at Cal State Fullerton, I watched a documentary from the UK on women who collect these dolls. Oftentimes, they are older women whose children and grandchildren have left home or passed away. These dolls are custom-made, and the artists who create them often advertise that they can recreate a replica of a child from a photograph. The women carry these dolls around as if they are real babies, strolling them around the park in prams, strapping them in car seats, etc. And the husbands often participate, for their wives’ sakes. The whole concept was incredibly interesting to me, and I wondered, what would happen psychologically if a woman really couldn’t tell the difference between this Reborn and her “real” child. In other words, what if this Reborn was real…
“I never had a son… And it was all the fault of one bad dream. I had two: one of them I call the ‘good dream,’ and the other the ‘bad dream.’
The first one made me dream I had a son to begin with. And as long as I lived, I always believed it was true. I could feel him in my arms, my sweet baby, with his little mouth and eyes and hands. For a long, long time I could feel his eyelids, the beatings of his heart, on my fingertips. Why wouldn’t I think this was true? I carried him with me everywhere, wrapped in my rebozo, and then one day I lost him.
In heaven they told me they’d made a mistake. That they’d given me a mother’s heart but the womb of a whore.
That was the other dream I had.”
What genre does your book fall under?
Here’s the problem—most of the mainstream youngish Latina actresses I know of come from the Disney Channel (i.e., Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez)!
The first person I thought of to play my protagonist Bianca was America Ferrera (loved her in Ugly Betty!!). She is a great actress, and her work with women’s issues inspires me. (See her part in the documentary Half the Sky). And hey, America had her start on a Disney Channel movie, too!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
*IN THE TIME OF JUBILEE* explores the idea of family through the experiences of 20-year-old Mexican-American Bianca Vogelsang, who arrives home one day with a doll in her arms—a doll she believes is Jubilee, the baby she was unable to carry to term.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I was super proud of the first draft of my novel because I wrote the entire thing in less than ONE MONTH for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The story has been in my mind for years. The original idea came for it when I was writing my first poetry manuscript in my Master’s program at CSUF. At the time, I knew I wanted to write a novel eventually but was intimidated. I had about twenty false starts, where I’d write an opening, usually a paragraph or two, but never move on from there. Then, in 2011, I started thinking more and more about the idea. On a road trip back to Cali from New Mexico where I now live, I was talking the idea through with my husband and began to get excited about it. Then, I heard about this thing called NaNoWriMo in November. It’s a challenge to write an entire novel (at least 60k words) in ONE MONTH! I thought, oh man, can I do that??? Oct 31st, I still wasn’t sure if I could, but I’d made a commitment to myself that I would. November 1st came, and I took off. At the end of the month, I had written 75k words—a complete first draft of the novel. Much of it came from the ideas laid out in the poetry manuscript. I always knew I wanted to write a novel, but I never knew for sure that I could do it. And then I did it. There was such a sense of accomplishment in that.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
*SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK* (Matthew Quick)
*BELOVED* (Toni Morison)
*SO FAR FROM GOD* (Ana Castillo)
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My family, surrealist writers and artists (especially the Mexican women surrealist painters Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, and Remedios Varo), and poetry.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Here are comments about my novel from editors for major publishing houses:
“Bianca’s troubling story is so authentically rendered on the page, and I love the lyrical power of Givhan’s prose. She is a real talent and a bright star on the contemporary literary horizon.”
“I think the concept behind this book is so cool (and creepy!).”
“Givhan’s complex treatment of reality, delusion, and imagination presents an entirely fresh perspective that allows readers to view the world through her characters’ eyes in rich, captivating detail.”
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Thank you for reading!