Interview with Jacqueline Sheehan, Author of The Center of the World
in Author Interviews, Literary Fiction, News
21 Jan 2016
The Center of the World tracks the impact of a posthumous letter on a loving family. In THE CENTER OF THE WORLD, the letter informs fifteen-year-old Sofia that everything she believed about her origins has been a lie. For her mom, Kate, the revelation uncovers a terrible truth – one that involves civil unrest and bloodshed, death-defying heroism and child-smuggling, harrowing sacrifice and desperate decisions. As mother and daughter confront the damage done by years of dangerous yet necessary deceptions, they discover how much love, hope, and happiness may still remain—if they have the courage to face their past
If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?
Really, a whole extra hour every day? I would have a massage. Which I couldn’t possibly afford every day, so I would probably walk along a small river in my town, which is as close to a massage as I can imagine. But I wouldn’t spend the extra hour sitting. As a writer, I already do too much of that.
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Save your Bob Dylan albums. All of them. After that bit of wisdom, I would try to tell my teenage self to recognize her truth and to speak her truth, rather than looking for it in others. And please lighten up.
Who was your childhood hero?
As a child, my mother was my hero. She was so smart, interesting, surprising, artistic and adventuresome.
As a young adult my two heroes were Jane Goodall for her ground-breaking research about the lives of chimps and Louis Leakey, an archeologist in Africa who was a champion of saving animals from extinction.
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
He is extraordinarily well-read. He is a constitutional scholar. There are no lack of books in the Obama household. I would totally flip if he read my newest book, THE CENTER OF THE WORLD, because it’s based on historical events, yet the outcomes emerge in very personal ways through the most intimate relationships.
You wouldn’t be caught dead, where?
A gun show
What’s your favorite quote or scene from The Center of the World?
One of my favorite scenes takes place after the massacre, when Kate talks with Fernando about adopting Sofia, the Mayan war orphan:
Kate had known Fernando for only a week and yet she felt comforted by his steady warmth, his lack of embellishment. He said, “If you are successful, if you can get adoption papers for the little girl, then it will still be a hard life for both of you. You will save her from our war weary country, but there will come a day when she will long for the land of her birth, for the sight of people who look like her, and for a hint of those who came before her. Ancestors. But you are right; she will be alive.”
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I wish that there was a word that combined gratitude and persistence, although they don’t normally go together. But we have our lives for just a speck of time, so we should enjoy it, really find the joy in it.
Jacqueline Sheenan is the author of the new book The Center of the World.
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