BTS BOOK REVIEWS July/August 2014

Page 144

feature author interview

Melanie Schwapp

Dew Angels

When writing a storyline, are you guiding the characters or are they guiding you?

Melanie Schwapp was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Two short migrations at two key stages of her life opened her eyes to the cultural and social discriminations in society, and thus began her quest for understanding through writing. At the age of five she moved to England with her family, where she was awakened to the nature of colour prejudice, and then during her late teens she attended the University of South Carolina where the subtle traits of discrimination cemented her interest in the social repercussions of theses prejudices. The novel “Dew Angels” explores the hidden aspect of prejudice and other social handicaps in Jamaican society.

When writing a book, I begin with a storyline which I have all intentions of sticking to. However, as the characters develop and become stronger, they seem to overpower my plot and take the novel into a direction which surprises even me! It’s a very exciting process since the storyline at times becomes completely unpredictable and unfolds before me as much as it does for the reader. Do you have a favorite character from your book? If so, why? My favorite character in my novel Dew Angels is definitely Mad Aggie. This character had just been intended to be a bystander on the roadside, but she grew into such a strong personality that she eventually became a larger, more influential part of the story. I love how much depth the secret past of Mad Aggie contributed to the storyline, and how much she aided in the development of the protagonist’s own character. Can you tell us about your current release? “Dew Angels” is a novel about courage. It’s a study of just how crippling prejudice can be, but how finding one’s true self and being able to accept that path, even though a painful one, can lead to this revelation. The book took me a total of six years to write, and was quite an emotional journey for me. I tapped a lot into my heightened emotions, so I would write during times of extreme sadness or joy with the hope that I would be better able to transfer these feelings onto the pages.

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Give us a little background detail about yourself. I grew up in Jamaica, West Indies, but spent a few key years of my life in the U.K. and in South Carolina. As such, I faced many instances of color prejudice which opened my eyes to the harsh reality of a disjointed world. I began to see prejudice not only in relation to color, but to gender, body size, educational levels and social class, and I realized just how much of the world issues arise from these prejudices. My novel “Dew Angels” was really a book I started as a sort of handbook for my children, because I wanted them to see just how much they could rise above the cruelty of the world and grow into responsible world citizens. Growing up in the countryside of Jamaica, I fell in love with nature, and even though I studied Hotel Management and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina, I now have made a small career in Landscaping. My love of nature can be seen on the pages of my novel as I refer a lot to the soothing, searing beauty of the Jamaican countryside. I now live in Kingston, Jamaica with my husband and three children. To date I have written a children’s book Lally-May’s Farm Suss and the novel Dew Angels. From birth, Nola Chambers is rejected by those she should most trust. Born with dark skin into a family that prides themselves on light complexions, Nola perceives herself as worthless. Trying to overcome the brutalities in her life, Nola embarks upon a journey to unearth herself beneath the thick cloak of prejudice.

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