Saturday, July 21, 2018

A New Writer On The Block

by Barbara Kowal (writer), Los Angeles, October 28, 2006


By Barbara Kowal

It was a wet Los Angeles afternoon when I finally went to visit Wallace Dorian about his new novella, Desert Rain, which seemed apropos given the title of his book. I wanted to get a sense of the story through the author himself especially after reviewing his book. He spoke about years of struggle and his humble beginnings growing up in rural Massachusetts.

BK (Barbara Kowal): Is Desert Rain your first novel?

WD (Wallace Dorian): Yes. Actually, it’s a novella. Short and sweet. The story of how I came to write it is a journey in itself. Most of my writing has been screenplays and stage plays. I was living in Colorado at the time and feeling frustrated so I wrote this story “Desert Rain” which has a Native American theme running through it as you know. For the Hopi and Native American peoples, and for all of us for that matter, rain is an essential part of our lives, which boils down to water. Water symbolizes many things. It can sustain life, grow crops for food and also be the very thing that kills us as we saw in the Katrina hurricane disaster.

BK: Indeed. The story has a very haunting quality to it. It seems to have all the mythic elements that a good story should have--that is, the hero’s journey into a kind of heart-of-darkness yet, new-age sensibility. You also incorporate the Native American theme into the story, which makes it even more compelling. Why did you choose to write about the Hopi?

WD: When I was a child, my father showed me a painting of the Hopi snake dance and how certain elders or dancers during the ceremony would put a rattlesnake in their mouths, and that image always stayed with me. In writing the story, the main character, Cynthia, a documentary filmmaker is making a comeback after the tragic suicide of her teenage son, Steven many years earlier. This in fact, is the ghost that haunts her throughout the story even though we never see the events that precipitated it. I thought of the metaphor of the desert and this woman entering the arena of the Southwest, mainly Arizona and New Mexico. I then thought of the Southwest Native Americans and did a lot of research about the Anasazi, Pueblo and Navajo. But what really struck me as more intriguing were the Hopi Indians and the idea of the Kachina cult. Thus, I used the ancient Hopi stories that weave themselves very subtly into the fabric of the novella. This is done through the character of John Lone Eagle, a fictional elder.

BK: You also tell the coming-of-age story of an interesting character in Desert Rain--an eighteen-year-old girl who is half-Hopi.

WD: I’m glad you mentioned her because it is this character, Mary, or Kuwanyauma, who symbolizes the emerging generation of Hopi...especially in a high-tech, frenzied world that tries to cut them off from their native roots. In that sense, Mary is a symbol of hope for her people and one that will endure. The story also tells of Mary’s self-identity struggle in a world that wants her to conform to the status quo, and of her tense relationship with her single mother, Amber, who is trying to forget her Hopi roots. Mary also yearns to get close to her cowboy, drifter father who, after nine years away, suddenly returns. The story is a also a call for social acceptance in a world that is primarily racist. I try to convey this idea through storytelling that is indigenous to all cultures of the world.

BK: The book begins 500 years ago, when Coronado was trying to conquer the City of Cibola, or seven cities of gold. You have a scene where a mother is telling her young son a story about their past, just before they are murdered by Conquistadors later on.

WD: Yes. Ironically, I wrote the prologue after I’d already written the first draft of the book and developed Mary’s story more fully. The prologue conveys this idea of storytelling to carry on one’s respect and love of their culture. This storytelling concept comes full circle in the end.

BK: Another aspect of the book is how you weave the idea of reincarnation in a way I have never seen done before.

WD: That's a real subtle twist, isn't it? Yeah, in the end I present the concept of rebirth in a very concrete way that will give the reader pause. I don't want to say too much about that. Even I get chills down my spine when I think about it.

BK: What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

WD: Someone once said to me that I was in the “emotion” business. I’m just a storyteller. I do believe that the story has universal appeal and is not just about Hopi or Native American culture. I think it speaks to all of us about the nature of love, redemption, loss, sacrifice, family and tradition that everyone can relate to. I just tried to convey it in a literary and emotional way. I also hope the book will strike a nerve with young adults and teens as well. It would also make a great film.

BK: Where can people buy the book?

WD: They can go to my blog or through

BK: All the best with Desert Rain and thank you very much.

WD: Thank you.

About the Writer

Barbara Kowal is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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