Sunday, October 26, 2008

Interview with Jan Cornall - Take Me To Paradise

Jan Cornall is multi talented woman with limitless energy and enthusiasms for life, art, teaching, performing and Bali. Jan is a Sidney based performance artist, a film scriptwriter, (Talk), poet, playwright, (Escape From A Better Place) and jazz singer. She has conducted at least 6 writing workshops in the Ubud area over the last four years. At the recent Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, she launched her first novella (Take Me To Paradise) along with a collaborative music/poetry CD- Jan Cornall Sings Sarengenge. Jan is also, a mother of two grown children and an inspirational teacher whose student’s return time after time for nurturing infusions of Jan’s advice and support.

TK: No one can accuse you of laziness or allowing boredom to creep into your life. What is the source of your many creative interests and how do they integrate?

JC: Everything is a source. I am creatively on all the time everything I see taste touch is a fodder. I try to teach this to my students and I try to be a role model to show how fantastic it is to wake up in the morning and be one creative, I try and integrate it all. Life and art interweave rather then become compartmentalized. I wake up meditate take a walk and bring my notebook ideas come and I write them down. It’s a sort on ongoing meditation centered on the writing. Also, I have a background in theater and I write for a theater audience. I like the performance element to be part of my writing.

Take Me to Paradise is set in Ubud and tells the story of a western woman in mid life who awakes one Monday morning and takes a spontaneous holiday in Bali instead of going to her job. What made you want to write this book?

JC: Escape is one of my themes. I did a one-woman play called Woman on the Run and another play Escape to A Better Place. When I was young mother with small children I wondered what would happen if I just walked out the door for a few days. Maybe this is a hold over theme from those days. At the time of writing the book I was in a dull sameness sort of place and I wrote about my character, Marilyn just leaving the house and getting on a plane going to Bali, a place she had wanted to visit but never got around to it. It seemed like a good idea. I never did this myself in real life, but maybe I did it through the writing process.

TK: This is a tender cross-cultural love story. How much of the book is based on actual events and how much is fictional?

JC: All my work is memoir based. But it is fictionized because that gives the story an extra edge. Even fiction writers who claim to write pure fiction are writing from some emotional essence, some core interest. It may not be real life exactly, but it is about issues they need to work through. In my case some of it is true, some isn’t and some characters are a combinations of people. Some of the events are made up for better narrative flow.

TK: I can easily recommend Take me to Paradise to many of my women friend in Bali and in The United States. There is an open friendly inclusive quality to the narrator’s voice. Marilyn is a modern divorced woman of today who lets us into her thoughts, her foibles, her dreams and her needy desires. There are several internal monologs that spoke directly to me. Did you have a female audience in mind when you were writing the book?

JC: Not necessarily, those monologs I had to write to give voice to those feelings. I had to write this book so that I can go on to write other books and articles I have in mind. I had to tell the story of my divorce in the book to go beyond it. So my character Marilyn arrives in Bali with all this emotional baggage and Bali helps her to heal. It helps her to go on, to leave the divorce behind. So writing this book is step in my own integration and a way to come back into life fully. But it is not a direct correlation of events or characters. Many women respond to my work and some men don’t get it but I write to just write.

TK: Have you given copies to Indonesian readers? Is the book perceived differently by Balinese /Indonesian readers?

JC: I have. But I have not had a response yet. We are planning to translate the book into Bahasa Indonesian. I look forward to that and getting responses.

TK: You have set the story between Bali’s 2002 and 2004 terror bombings. Was this intentional and symbolic?

JC: I first came to Bali in 2004 and loved Bali and then 4 months later the bombing in Kuta happened and it had a huge impact on me because here was a place I wanted to come back to very much to run my writers retreats in Bali and I had to wait a year as no one was ready to return to Bali at that time. I knew I had to put both bombings in the book to writ about in a way that showed I was not going to be scared away from a place I loved.

TK: Do you see your book as part of an emerging travel-writing genre in which Western women seek renewal in the spiritual values of less technological societies? I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir - Eat, Pray, Love. The last section is set in Ubud where the writer becomes involved with real Balinese locals who are clearly identifiable. She goes into detailed descriptions of her love affair with a local expat. Is the kiss and tell book the newest wave of travel story/fiction? What societal factors do you think are contributing to a growing readership for this type of story?

JC: There has always been this genre. Take Karen Blixen's Out of Africa for example. Lately there is a genre of book about women who go to France or Italy and have an affaire or renovate a house. I never thought about this genre when I was writing the book. Western women are on a search. I think a lot of women are on a genuine spiritual search and places like Bali are part of that search. I think there is something to look at in this phenomenon. I want to write about it.

TK: What are your personal hopes for Take Me To Paradise? Do you hope it will become a film?

JC: If somebody wanted to make it into a movie I think I would be interested. Someone is interested in doing a theater piece out of it, with music, sound effects this why I have started video taping places and scenes. I would do a reading/ performance with music. I am interested in doing theatrical versions of it.

TK: Do you plan to do another book set in Bali? What are your future projects?

JC. I am still interested in Marilyn and I am very connected to Bali so I want to see what immerges. Yes, there may be a part Two. A deeper exploration

TK: Tell us about your CD which you also launched at the Festival?

JC: The CD is collaboration with Sitock Sarengenge, who is an Indonesian Poet and we met at the first Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. We were interested in working together. I was going to write in response to his amazing poems but that wasn’t working and one night I started singing the poems and then I wrote some music and we expanded the collaboration to include--------- who is a pianist.

TK: Where can we purchase the book and the CD?

JC: Ary’s Book Shop, Rendevous Duex, Ubud Music and Genesa book Shop in Ubud and down on the coast -Gra Media in Discovery Plaza.

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