VL Towler is the 13th author to participate in my interview series with independent authors of literary fiction. If you publish independently and wish to participate, please click through the image on the right column of the screen that reads “Call for Survey Respondents: Indie Authors of Literary Fiction”. If you wish to receive email notices when future interviews are published, click the link toward the bottom of this post, just above the bio.
1. What novel (or piece of writing) did you author that inspired you to fill out my survey? Include a link so readers can check it out.
2. Was the seed of your story an idea or an image? Are you a visual or a conceptual writer, in other words?
My seed was a conceptual one. I had things I wanted to say and found a means to say it through storytelling.
3. Keeping with one survey question, you identified a great theme for your literary work. Did that theme exist at the beginning of the writing, or did it emerge only through the telling of your story?
It existed from the beginning.
4. Did your perspective on this theme change as you wrote the story? Did you find yourself less in control of your narrative than you expected? Or did you find that you knew all along, based on your convictions, how the story would emerge? Were you, in other words, the “alpha” in the emerging narrative?
I had a thematic destination, but my characters told me how to get there. It took me 15 years to finally listen to my characters, whom I ignored initially.
5. There are as many definitions of “literary fiction” as there are self-identified literary writers. What is your definition of literary fiction?
Literary fiction is a storytelling vehicle that incorporates intellectual themes in the story that challenge the reader to think.
6. Within the scope of that definition, how did you hope to impress the reader? Did you hope to evoke emotion with a story about some element of life the reader would connect with? Or was your mission to challenge and thereby expand a reader’s perspective on a subject most others would feel is already “known”?
My goal was to give readers an insight into what it means to be an educated female Black American without being pedantic.
7. Do you consider yourself a writer of literary fiction? Or a writer of other genre fiction that carries literary elements? Please provide an explanation for your answer.
I believe I am a writer of literary fiction, but in order to not be disregarded or disrespected, use mystery writing to engage the reader to learn without his or her realizing it.
8. How would you discuss your book in context of its genre? If you consider it literary, why? If your book falls more closely within another genre, what elements would you say make it literary?
My novel is a solid mystery. It’s packed with social commentary, however, that folds into the mystery.
9. Is the literary community a closed community? Or are there inroads for writers of literary fiction to reach readers other than those reading literary fiction now?
I don’t think people want to be force-fed when they read. They want to relax. Therefore, I have to find a subtle way of discussing issues in an inoffensive way. My protagonist is a Black American forensic anthropologist, clinical, unemotional in a sense, but she’s a good foil around whom other characters revolve, raising the diverse themes I want to address.
10. Is it realistic that the Kindle Store will one day feature more independent writers of literary fiction? Or will that category always reflect traditionally published writers with traditional marketing budgets? (This question relates to #9, I suppose.)
I don’t think it will happen until Americans really start being enticed outside their genre comfort zones to make inroads into being introduced to literary fiction.
Comment: Questions or observations for VL Towler can be left in the comments section below. If you’re an author who wishes to join the ranks of other writers of literary fiction who have participated in the LitFic survey, click here.
VL Towler is a multi-lingual attorney who received a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., joined the Peace Corps, working in the Philippines as a Refugee Caseworker in the Indochinese Refugee Camps there and in Thailand. Returning to the U.S. after four years, Towler entered the University of California Hastings School of Law, and, after graduation, joined the U.S. Department of Justice as an Honor Grad.
On July 16, 2016, “Severed, A Novel” placed in the nation-wide finals of the Phillis Wheatley Book Awards at the Harlem Book Fair, juried by librarians. Towler won a Screenwriting Fellowship with the Writers Guild of America East Foundation.
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt says
I agree with the idea of letting the message be deeply buried in a good story – no one likes being preached to.
Having a character live with the way society reacts to and treats someone ‘different’ – and having the character let us see this for ourselves – is a well-known, but underused, way to sneak some understanding in under the radar. VL’s bio demonstrates access to an abundance of primary material.