My guest this week is Lynda Edwards, an indie author who left her childhood home of Jamaica long ago, but whose writing is still flavored with the culture and magic of the Caribbean.
Not too long ago, Lynda woke up from a vivid nightmare about the land of her birth, and she had no choice but to write it down. The result was her debut novel, Redemption Songs. This is the story of Lynda's journey.
A few highlights from our interview:
On Translating Her Nightmare Into Her Book
My nightmares are very, very vivid. They are actually like a movie playing in my head and my writing was the same way. I literally just sat down and transcribed the movie that was playing in my head.
On Her Ties to Jamaica
As you can tell from my accent, I've been here for 24 years, I've never lost it. In travel, I work with a lot of Jamaicans. I work with a lot of people from all over the Caribbean islands. So, my ties to Jamaica, to the Caribbean are very, very strong. They always will be, it's a part of me.
Listen to My Interview with Lynda Edwards
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About the Host
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last six years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Read the Transcript of My Interview with Lynda Edwards
Howard Lovy: I'm Howard Lovy, and you're listening to Inspirational Indie Authors. Every week, I feature a member of the Alliance of independent authors to find out what inspires them and how they are an inspiration to other authors. My guest this week is Lynda Edwards, an indie author who left her childhood home of Jamaica long ago, but whose writing is still flavored with the culture and magic of the Caribbean.
Not too long ago, Lynda woke up from a vivid nightmare about the land of her birth and she had no choice but to write it down. The result was her debut novel, Redemption Songs. This is the story of Lynda's journey.
Lynda Edwards: Hi, my name is Lynda Edwards. I'm the author of Redemption Songs. This is my first novel, and when I sat down at the computer to write it, I didn't really intend for it to be a novel.
I've suffered from nightmares all my life and my husband, when we got married, those went away to a large extent. But every now and then I'll get them, and I had a really bad recurring one about two years ago, and he suggested that I write to down, when I woke him up in the middle of the night; what he wanted was to get more sleep.
So, I wrote it down and the result was the first chapter of Redemption Songs. I was born and raised in Jamaica. I lived there for most of my life except for six years when I went to school in Canada. And then I moved back to Jamaica. My husband likes to say I was his most expensive souvenir, that he's still paying for.
So, my life in Jamaica was very sheltered, privileged, and I had a fantastic childhood, fantastic teenage years. And I loved it. And when I met him, he moved me here and I found that I loved that too. It was a completely different type of lifestyle, but it gave me an independence and a confidence that I hadn't had before when I lived in Jamaica.
Howard Lovy: So, let's backtrack a little bit. There was a brief time when Lynda was eight years old that she moved from Jamaica to Canada. Needless to say, there was some culture and climate shock.
Lynda Edwards: It was, it was. The first time I saw snow, I think I was eight or nine and I remember running in my pajamas with no shoes and quickly regretting that decision.
At that time, Jamaica was going through a very difficult period and it was quite dangerous to live in Jamaica, so my parents made the decision to leave. I didn't really understand why, because my life in Jamaica had not changed that much, but at eight years old, you don't really have a full understanding of what's going on around you. So, I didn't realize actually the turmoil or circumstances under which my parents made that decision. As an adult, I did understand, but at that time I thought it was just another adventure.
I didn't realize, even at age eight, that it wouldn't be permanent, and in my mind, it never really was permanent because we did go back to Jamaica.
Howard Lovy: She spent six years in Canada before moving back to Jamaica. There she went to university to study communications.
Lynda Edwards: I was always a good writer. In Jamaica you do, well, it was O Levels and A Levels, and the year that I did it, it changed to CXE, which is the Caribbean Examination Council. So, we moved away from Britain and we started our own exams for the Caribbean, but they separate English language and they separate English lit.
So, we were still doing Shakespeare and all of those, but we threw in a few of the Caribbean writers that were prolific at that time. So, I had a wonderful cross section of writing, not only from England, America, but also from the Caribbean. And that was fantastic, a real opening of worlds, so to speak.
I also did two years of Caribbean history, which was another thing that I loved because again, that brought in England and Europe and America to a certain degree, but how everything impacted the Caribbean and how the Caribbean came to be. So, being a white Jewish person in Jamaica, the eighth generation born there, that was a real eye-opener for me to look at the history and how it had progressed.
Howard Lovy: Lynda came of age just when society was starting to change in Jamaica. To one that became a little less class conscious.
Lynda Edwards: It's very similar to what British colonialism has done in most countries, like India. It's not so much color oriented, but it's more class oriented. So, that was something that was very much in effect. My generation kind of walked away from that a little bit. Who you were friends, you were friends with, it didn't really matter where they came from, who they were related to, or anything.
Howard Lovy: Lynda would have been content to have stayed in Jamaica the rest of her life.
But then the love of her life came calling.
Lynda Edwards: He was working for a company in Jamaica and I was 25, I think, when we met, and I had no intentions of falling in love. I just wanted to live life as a 20-year-old in Jamaica, which was a lot fun. And he came along and turned my world upside down.
When we first got married, we were in Chicago and I absolutely loved Chicago. A lot of people don't realize this, but Kingston, where I lived, it's a very vibrant city. There's a lot going on, it's a lot of fun. Restaurants, nightclubs, shopping, everything is there and it's quite a cultural Mecca. So, going to Chicago, that was just as exciting for me.
Even though we lived in the suburbs, I worked in the city, so I still enjoyed that same feeling of recreation and restaurants. I mean the eating in Chicago is some of the best in the world. So, that was very, very enjoyable, and that was not much of a change for me.
Then, about 10 years ago, we had a very, very bad snowstorm in Chicago, and my husband couldn't get back to me. He was stranded on the West coast, I think, for like three days. So, when he came home, he said, that's it, we’re moving to somewhere warm. I was like, I'm not going to argue with you. So, we ended up in Orlando.
Howard Lovy: So, now we come back to the story of the nightmare that changed Lynda's life.
Lynda Edwards: I woke up from a nightmare and I woke my husband up, mainly for him just to comfort me, and he said to me, babe, I think you just need to write this down, get it off of your subconscious. Just write down what your fear is. I think he wanted more sleep, but that's another story.
The nightmare actually resulted in the first chapter of Redemption Songs. And what happened was, the nightmare, it was reoccurring for maybe two months. I had it maybe five times in the period of two months. So, obviously my subconscious was telling me something about this.
My aunt in Jamaica had just died, who was a stalwart in my life. One of the people that I could always count on, and I think that had a triggering effect. My father had died the year before or two years before, and my uncle had died before that, so it was like a string of losses. And my fear was that he would die and my family would swoop in, take me away from the life that we've built together, where I was the happiest I've been, and take me back to Jamaica to a life that I had no idea how I was going to live it.
So, that was the genesis of the nightmare. This fear of losing him and losing this life that we had built together that I really, really loved. Every time you suffer a loss that’s significant like that, you have to find a way to live in this world without those people.
And it requires some period of reflection, some period of transition and some period of just figuring out that you can't pick up the phone and talk to these people anymore, you can't look for their advice. You have to go back into your memories to find out how they would advise you on a certain situation.
That was, I think, the trigger for the nightmares. It was this feeling of, okay, I've lost these people, what happens if I lose the most important person in my life? How do I go on from there? And I think it was just my subconscious reconciling all of this and you know, telling me to move forward.
Howard Lovy: She moved forward by sitting down and writing, basically taking dictation from her dream. She watched a movie in her head and wrote down what she saw.
Lynda Edwards: I wrote the first chapter of Redemption Songs based on that nightmare. So, I sat down at the computer and I wrote it. And I thought, wow, this is actually pretty good. So, the next week I sat down, and I wrote the second chapter and it kind of progressed like that. I've never written a novel before, so my writing style was basically, okay, this can go this way, let me sit down and write what I'm seeing in this movie that plays in my head. My nightmares are very, very vivid. They are actually like a movie playing in my head and my writing was the same way. I literally just sat down and transcribed the movie that was playing in my head.
And I remember sitting back after writing a few of these chapters and saying, wow, I had no idea that was going to go that way. I called it Redemption Songs because the family in this story does have to walk the path of redemption. It's a very fractured family that has to come together to solve serious problems that they have helped to create in Jamaica, and it's totally fictionalized.
But in my mind, they all had to walk the path of redemption as a family, in order to move forward.
Howard Lovy: Lynda said the words would just flow. She'd put on her music and did not get up until each chapter was done. What music did she listen to while writing redemption songs? No, not Bob Marley.
Lynda Edwards: For Redemption Songs, it was a lot of classical music, (inaudible) and Andrea Bocelli. Redemption Songs is, in essence, a love story. It's a love story between Josephine and her first husband. Josephine, and her second love, and it's also her love affair with Jamaica. Her family, everything played into her love of Jamaica, and that's something that really did come from me.
The songs that I really had on replay were, I Found by Amber Run and Fall on Me by Andrea and Matteo Bocelli. Those songs really seem to put me into the mindset that I needed to be in.
You know, the thing with Bob Marley, Steel Pulse, Third World, those are songs that you have to listen to. It's not background music. And I get a lot of inspiration from those musicians and I find that I really do like to sit down and meditate to songs like that.
Howard Lovy: Lynda is working on a new book, this one about Cuba. She says she loves to write books about groups of people solving collective problems. Obviously, given the news today, there are no shortages of ideas. The problem she says is finding solutions. Meanwhile, she writes about her old Caribbean home, but she is perfectly happy where she is now.
Lynda Edwards: No, I don't really get homesick for Jamaica because I still kind of live in both worlds. As you can tell from my accent, I've been here for 24 years, I've never lost it. In travel, I work with a lot of Jamaicans. I work with a lot of people from all over the Caribbean islands. So, my ties to Jamaica, to the Caribbean are very, very strong. They always will be, it's a part of me.
But my life is here, and I do love my life in America. I love the life my husband has provided for me. I love the life I've provided for myself. I love the independence that I have here that I would never have been able to have in Jamaica.