27 November 2012
Paulette Mahurin’s Interview with Darmie Orem
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap in my opinion is a novel written in promoting the freedom of being whomever you want to be – having what you ordinarily deserve as a person – freedom from hatred, expectations and opinions of others of what they expect of your life to be. The novel exclusively focuses on the horrors of prejudice. Not everyone can pull such an idea off like the author of this book has done.In house with me today is the author The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, Paulette Mahurin. Auntie Paulette, permit me to call you that – welcome to I Am Darmie Orem’s blog as well as Authors’ Curtilage with Darmie Orem. I am glad and honor to have you here before my audience and follower, and your future readers.
Please let us meet you – your place of birth, things you like most about this place of birth, your family background, hobbies and interests.
Please let me first say a wholehearted thank you, to you my lovely host. It’s been really great getting to know you.
I was born in Chicago, Illinois and moved to Los Angeles with my parents when I was two. I grew up in west Los Angeles and went to UCLA all the way up through
my Master’s Degree in Nursing. I loved growing up in this area for the weather and
spread out location, never a lack to things to do; theater, restaurants, social diversity, schools close, and the wonderful ocean within driving distance. I loved to swim and spent many days down at the beach body surfing and hanging with friends. I love to read, write, but my greatest passion is rescuing dogs, helping to bring dogs to their forever homes.
When did writing begin for you? Is it a gift or something you just picked up?
I can never remember not writing. I have images of times when I was ten, with my little notebook, jotting down prose, poetry, and short stories. I don’t have to think about writing and don’t suffer from writer’s block; it just comes through me, as natural as breathing. It wasn’t until I penned The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap that I had the time to write and that was due to an unfortunate twist of fate. I had rescued a dog, Tazzie, who came to me with ticks. One latched on and gave me Lyme disease. I was down for the count and virtually useless. But, I could write and write I did. In some ways it was a great part of my healing. I’m happy when I write; it’s my place a freedom and sanctuary.
Please, tell us a little about the novel The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap.
The story takes place after the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde and the impact this has on a small Nevada ranching town, in particular a lesbian couple. It’s a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences and how love and friendship heal.
While reading through this book The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, I feared the worse for the protagonist Mildred Dunlap. At some point, I thought she would be caught and persecuted in a gory way for her love life or suffer cancer like her mother Sadie Bell did.
However, as I kept reading and came to the end of the book, the persecution of Mildred came to me bits by bits. I think I had tears in my eyes. The last time I read a book which I couldn’t get off my mind in awhile, was a year ago until this book.
This is an intriguing concept; I would say not many writers could pull off. Everything about the book was absolutely perfect. The story world was smooth and sublime! It was like some events playing out in the real life. Well done Auntie Paulette.
Thank you, I am deeply humbled by your words.
How did the idea for the Persecution of Mildred Dunlap originated?
I do a lot of pro-bono work with women with health issues. One of the people I dealt with through the years was in the closet, tormented by assault and molestation, fearful of coming out, into the sunshine to just be. When I took ill, I had a lot of time to chat with this person, to listen, to be there. As I started to get better, I took a writing class in town. The teacher came in one day with a stack of photos and told us to pick one and write a ten-minute mystery. I picked a photo of two women huddled together very closely, wearing turn of the twentieth century garb, looking fearful, it screamed lesbian couple afraid of being found out. Whether the photo itself generated the seed for the story or the seed was already planted from the earlier work I had been doing, I’ll never really know. That was the original idea. That seed blossomed when I started to do research into that time period and found Britain had just changed its laws on homosexuality to make it a criminal offense, with a prison sentence of two years hard labor. Oscar Wilde fell victim to this unfortunate change.
The news of his imprisonment would be the impetus to cause Mildred Dunlap, the protagonist to become fearful of being found out. It was perfect.
What were the efforts – research, literary, psychological, and logical you put into bringing this book to publication?
I spent six years researching same sex relationships in history. I consulted with
LGBT readers and educated people to help me gain as much a subjective perspective of what it must have been like. I read books on the topics of lesbians in history, the impact of Wilde’s imprisonment on society, etc. Once I really saw what shoved people in the closet, or got a strong cellular sense of it, the writing began to flow.
When I read about lesbians in history, for instance, I discovered that women could have relationships, friendships, cuddle and be affectionate, if they were considered “women friendships”, they could even live together and be considered spinsters, but were two women to be labeled lesbian then they were deemed, diagnosed insane, and forced into mental institutions. Their treatment was rape, to help them enjoy sex with a man. When I read these things, tortuous and conscionable, my emotions were in tune with hearing Mildred and Edra’s voice. The other characters in the story were familiar, including Josie, and I could hear them easily, it was Mildred and Edra’s fear I needed to feel organically. I doubt I fully achieved that but certainly all the research changed me, opened me, to feel a greater compassion but what it must be like to not be, simply not be oneself, which can no more be helped than a seed from flowering, a dog from wagging its tail, a bee from buzzing, all natural, all authentic.
The successful playwright, novelist Oscar Wilde in this book, I must say most of his quotes were inspiring that I had to share them on my Facebook and twitter pages. Is he a real person or a fictional based character?
He’s very much the real deal. All the quotes and every aspect of his mention in the story were all accurate, from my research.The town of Red River Pass, is that a real place or something you fabricated on your own?
That one is fictionalized.
What are the challenges you encountered building a mean-spirited, vengeful, hateful character like Josie? There is not enough excuse for anyone to be that extremely evil as she was to Mildred, to a fellow human being regardless of color and accomplishments.
Josie walks among us every day, in our own shadows, and in the hearts where hatred lives and polarizes. When we see something in another and we say it is bad or even it is good, that judgment is divisive. What tilts us to the good or the bad is our conditioning, society value systems, our belief systems, that of our parents, taught ignorance, etc. When we can look at these things, another human being with differences from our own, as simply different and not bad or inferior, then we are tasting tolerance. I’ve worked in the medical profession for more years than I can recount, in the second busiest emergency room in Los Angeles County, with the highest census of child abuse, believe me I saw it all. I’ve faced unspeakable evil and had to deal with it. It wasn’t hard for me to write Josie at all. She’s the teacher that walks among us, to help us see that part of oneself that says someone else that is different is bad, and bad must be destroyed. When we can see different for what it is, including Josie, and not judge it, to have compassion for it, then tolerance has found its light.
Mildred Dunlap is a woman everyone should emulate in their every day lives. As the creator of this blameless character, how has her life affect you positively?
She’s the charitable good soul we all aspire to want to emulate in our finer moments. She has shown me, reminded me once again, that to love another, to accept another, you have to let go, move on, not harm or take action against them, to continue to do right despite temptation to not want to. She wouldn’t let someone starve because they were mean to her. This speaks to the heat of ethical compassion that may live in all of us to varying degrees that comes out unexpectedly, a man jumps into a river to save a child from drowning, a woman pulls someone out of a burning car, we give money when we barely have enough because something moves us.
What is your opinion on homosexuality?
To each his own. Live your
life, love who you want, do what you want, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, I have no issues with it. I’m all for human rights and tolerance, equal for all. For me really it’s a non-issue.
Some of your characters like Gus believed the Bible is another story book written hundred years ago after Jesus died, and Mildred and Edra preferred hearing their sermons from the birds than sitting in the church with congregation of hypocrites who called themselves Christians. What’s your perspective on the Holy book the Bible and Christianity?
There are some topics better left alone. Religion and politics are two examples of things I don’t openly discuss. What I will say is this that in the heart of compassion there is no right or wrong way, just different. I have no issue with anyone believing anything, religion, faith, is a very personal thing, just as preference is. Have your beliefs but don’t use them to hurt, demean, or put down another. I am an advocate of tolerance for all. Gus was one viewpoint, one character in the story. Mildred and Edra two others. Then there was Amos, the minister, who lived with Jesus in his heart with a passion. I tried to be fair in giving equal representation to the different
If you have to re-pick your characters, which character would you not pick and why?
I honestly wouldn’t change any of them. They all had their place, their part, and fit with the town, the clicks, the groups, the scenes. I can’t think of one I would cut.
What’s the moral message behind The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap that you would like your readers to make use of in their lives?
That we as humans are all different, and different is neither good nor bad. I’d hope that a new light might shine on tolerance for the differences we all possess, to see them as just parts of what it is to be human in all of us.What encouraging message do you have for aspiring writers?
A writer writes and to feel a part of the process that’s all that has to happen. Don’t judge it, leave that to the editors, just sit and do it. Doesn’t matter if it’s for ten minutes or ten hours, sit your butt in the chair and write, then you can say, I’m a writer, because in fact you are.
What are the social networks people can find you? – your blog – Facebook, etc.