DRIFTING by Katia D. Ulysse provides a unique lens into the Haitian experience, ranging from 1970-2010, including the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. It’s an interwoven narrative of stories connected with a common theme: humanity.
Ulysse introduces us to a childless Haitian American couple risking it all for a baby to call their own; a Florida-based predatory schoolteacher threatening students with deportation if they expose him; and the unforgettable Monsieur Boursicault, whose chain of funeral parlors makes him the wealthiest man in Haiti. This daring work of fiction is a departure from the standard narrative of political unrest on the island. Ulysse’s characters are everyday people whose hopes for distant success are constantly challenged–but never totally swayed–by the hard realities accompanying the immigrant’s journey.
DRIFTING is such a wonderful title. How did it come to you, and in what ways does it connect the interwoven narrative together?
KDU: The characters in “Drifting” weave in and out of place and time. Sometimes their travels are deliberate and lead them to one another; other times their travels are forced, and divide them. The characters travel to distant places, hoping to change their circumstances. They are like leaves from different trees that are being tossed around together in a storm. They don’t know their destination. They are constantly moving, running into or away from one another. They drift apart, only to find out that their lives are interwoven. One cannot escape the other, however vast the distance separating them.
A wonderful theme. DRIFTING has such unique and poignant characters. Did they come to you fully fleshed or did they develop as you wrote them?
KDU: The characters in Drifting came to me fully fleshed. They were like old friends visiting after many years. Each time I sat to write, all I had to do was be like a fly on the wall and listen. The characters said: This is who I am. This is what I did. These are my family members. We don’t care for one another. This is the country where I live. This is the village. Come into my house. This is where I keep the deed to my father’s land… The characters knew who they were; my job was to bring them to the page. I spent such a long time writing Drifting that I got to know these characters better than I know myself.
I envy your ability to tap into your characters! You’ve been published in journals such as Caribbean Writer and anthologies like Haiti Noir, among others. What do you recommend to writers who are interested in submitting their work to publications?
KDU: I am fortunate to have had my work published in numerous publications. However, for each Yes I received, there was at least one No. The recommendation I would make to writers who are interested in submitting their work to publications is: Read the journal to which you wish to submit your work. Familiarize yourself with every aspect of the journal. It’s like being in school: if you’re in psychology class, you don’t want to submit work from your math class. The math work might be brilliant, but it has no place in psychology class. Also, follow the journal’s guidelines for submission. Do what is asked. Adhere to the deadline. If they specify “No Simultaneous” submissions, do what they say. In the beginning, and especially now, I respect the publisher’s guidelines. There are millions of writers out there trying to have one chance to be published. We will not get a publisher’s attention by ignoring the publisher’s guidelines for submission. Most publishers accept only “agented” work/writer. Focus on getting representation. That helps a ton.
Excellent advice. What are some of your current projects?
KDU: I am one of those people who cannot sit still. I always have many projects going on at once. I write constantly. (Just the other day, there was a mistake at the office store. They deleted the entire content of a flash drive. My most urgent projects and most current revisions were on that flash drive. They are irretrievable. That was a lesson learned the hard way.
Another current project involves making ceremonial flags in the Haitian tradition of sequins and beads. Between writing and flag-making, I don’t get to sleep much. But I love it. Another major project is to get my gardens in order. I am an avid gardener, but I would totally fire myself for the horrible job I’ve been doing this summer.
A third on-going project I’m working on is voicesfromhaiti.com. It’s an E-place that features the voices of those who would not have a platform to express their thoughts. Voicesfromhaiti is a work in progress. Currently, my goal for Voices is to open it up more. Although I love my birth country, I have to realize that Haiti is but a small part of the world. There are voices from around the globe which we need to hear. I look forward to expanding the blog and welcome voices from everywhere.
To obtain your own copy of DRIFTING, click the link below: