When you visit Lorraine’s photography page on her website, it opens with this thought:
I am a storyteller, inspired to find the narrative in everything around me, whether words, music, or the amazing sights we see.
A multi-talented lady, Lorraine is an author, actor, photographer, singer and songwriter. The Scribbler is most fortunate to have her as our guest this week. She shares her thoughts in a 4Q Interview.
Lorraine Devon Wilke’s writing resume includes years of screenwriting and songwriting, and over a decade as a political/cultural contributor to HuffPost and other media/news sites. Her work has been globally disseminated, reprinted in books, articles, and academic tomes, and she continues to write essays and commentary at her blog, www.rockpapermusic.com and select media sites. Her two previous novels, After the Sucker Punch and Hysterical Love, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and select bookstores; her highly anticipated third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, was published April, 2019 by She Writes Press.
In addition to her writing, Lorraine works frequently as a singer/songwriter and actress, while her "semi-professional" hobby of photography has seen her work exhibited on many a gallery wall. Links to all her work, writing awards, and other details of her creative background can be found at www.lorrainedevonwilke.com.
4Q: From browsing through your website, you have many interests. How does writing fit into your busy lifestyle? How important is it?
LDW: Actually, writing has been the throughline that’s connected all my various creative paths. Though I started as a singer/actress in my teens, I edited and wrote for the high school literary magazine, then my college years as a theater major led to collaboration on various stage writing projects. Working theatrically ultimately inspired the development of my screenwriting skills, which hold me in good stead today!
By the time I got to Los Angeles (from Illinois) in my early twenties, keeping my hand in the various mediums I loved—acting, writing, singing—I added songwriting to the mix. This played a major role throughout the 80s, the decade in which, with my original band, DEVON, I was immersed in the iconic LA rock scene at the dawn of MTV—big hair, belts and earrings, new wave music, and amazing fun. A particularly heady time, I wrote and recorded countless songs in collaboration with some of the best musicians and songwriters in the world, many of which appeared on TV and movie soundtracks, international albums, and certainly advanced my own career. I still write songs today, whenever I get together with musicians I love (though never with the frequency I’d prefer!).
Then, a few years into the 2000s, after involvement with indie films, a few musicals, and more bands, but with my music career slowing down as I got older and the business changed, I toyed with the idea of writing a novel, something I’d always wanted to do. By 2010, I’d begun my first, After The Sucker Punch, which was self-published in 2014, with Hysterical Love to follow in 2015. My most recent, The Alchemy of Noise, came out last year, April, 2019, via She Writes Press. Throughout it all, I continued writing essays and opinion pieces, a screenplay, A Minor Rebellion, which won several awards and which I’m now adapting into novel form, and even a short story, “Penelope For His Thoughts,” which was recently awarded by Tulip Publishing for their annual anthology, Stories That Need To Be Told.
For me, writing is and will always be my most basic, fundamental form of communication, the way in which I express my thoughts, transmit my opinions, tell my stories, make people laugh or cry, and certainly inform the people in my life what they mean to me… what could be more important than that?
4Q: Let’s talk about your latest novel, The Alchemy of Noise.
LDW: I’ve always been a writer who wanted my words to matter, in whichever medium I was working. I wanted my songs, articles, books, even my photography, to illuminate life around me—feelings and emotions; essential themes, the “humanness” we share, what reflects reality, hard truths, humor, honest love and compassion back to the people who’d be reading.
With The Alchemy of Noise, I decided to take on a story that reached beyond the more basic human relations covered in my first two books to focus, instead, on the egregious and ongoing social injustice of racial discrimination. I’d written many op-ed pieces for HuffPost and others on the topic, and by 2016 felt ready to put some of what I’d learned through research, interviews, interactions, and observations into a fully-realized novel, one that tackled the subject through the context of a love story.
Given the subject matter of the book, as well as current concerns about cultural appropriation (i.e. the American Dirt controversy), I always feel it necessary, as a white writer telling a story that involves strong portrayals of black characters, to share a little background as to why I felt this specific story was mine to tell:
Earlier in my life I spent six years in an interracial relationship, and as educated as I thought I was on the topic of race and bias, as open-minded and racially progressive as my upbringing had been, it turns out I had only a glimpse of the bigger picture and so very much to learn. Witnessing, tangentially experiencing, and reacting to the “micro-aggressions,” recurring police harassment, and flat-out bigotry my partner dealt with on a day-to-day basis forever changed my worldview on the reality of race, white privilege, and systemic injustice.
Even with the sensitivities surrounding issues of “whose voice gets to tell stories of race,” my gut told me I had a worthy story to tell. Because of those sensitivities, I was determined to accomplish the goal as authentically as I could, allowing the unvarnished, sometimes painful, frequently illuminating viewpoints of each character to be honestly expressed throughout.
From there I created a fictional set of characters, put them in contemporary Chicago (the city of my birth), plotted out their story arc, and gave them many of the challenges and obstacles I’d witnessed and experienced in my long-ago relationship… ones that, sadly, still resonate in current times. Adding perspective gleaned from the prodigious research and interviews mentioned above, The Alchemy of Noise came to life with as much humanity, truth, and credibility as I could capture. At its heart it’s a love story, if one framed by the provocation of race dynamics in our modern times. I hope your readers find it both genuine and moving.
As for a short synopsis:
In a moving and sociopolitical love story set in contemporary Chicago, it’s serendipitous that Chris Hawkins, a black sound engineer from Chicago’s south side, and Sidonie Frame, white, suburban-raised, the head manager of one of the city’s buzziest venues, meet by work-related happenstance and fall quickly in love. The couple is convinced happiness is theirs for the taking, but life, it seems, has other plans. While they’re able to transcend unavoidable culture clashes, recurring police disruptions, and the resistance of select family and friends, a violent arrest ultimately turns their world upside down, leaving them to question everything—including each other. The Alchemy of Noise is a provocative drama that asks if love can bridge the distance between two Americas.
NOTE: The Alchemy of Noise is currently running a sales promotion—from March 12-March 23, 2020—when the eBook will be available for $0.99. Be sure to grab a copy at this one-time-only low price!
4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
LDW: I’m one of eleven children. Yeah, I know… crazy. I’m the third oldest; the third daughter, one of six girls with five brothers. When you grow up in a big family, particularly one with limited resources, as was true of us, you learn to appreciate certain things you might not have otherwise. For example:
When I was very young, the family TV blew a tube, and, likely because we couldn’t afford a new one, my father announced it would not be replaced (cue sobs and moans). Instead, he continued, he would regularly bring boxes of books home from the Chicago library, books we could keep, cull through, and read for up to three months at a time, after which they’d be replaced by new boxes. While we initially complained, convinced missing Saturday morning cartoons would have staggering impact on our development, the decision ended up being one of the most anticipated, appreciated, and meaningful things he ever did.
I so viscerally remember the palpable excitement when he’d pull into the drive after a visit to the library. We’d hover around him as he brought the boxes in, eager to go through each one, pulling out books we were most interested in, sometimes arguing about who got which book first, but ultimately settling down, each with our tidy collections. It felt like treasure to me. It was one of the most enriching experiences a child could have and I have no doubt this decision of my father’s had everything to do with my sustaining love of words and storytelling.
He did, ultimately, replace the TV when I was in my teens, but I never lost my now well-established love of reading.
4Q: If you were going to write a biography of someone either deceased or alive, who would it be and why?
LDW: My paternal grandmother, Deborah Derebey Amandes, while in her teens, got herself to a dock in war-torn Turkey, where her family had been exiled from Greece years earlier, gained passage on an ocean steamer headed to America, and, with her half-sister, Epiphania, came to the United States in 1920. From Ellis Island, they made their way to Chicago, where, ultimately, they both married, raised families, and lived out their good lives, my grandmother’s a long, robust one spent traveling back to Greece and Turkey often to maintain deep relationships with the places of her childhood.
She was a fiercely independent woman at a time when patriarchy in the Greek community (and elsewhere) was the norm. My grandfather, who’d come to America via the same route years before her, died when I was a small child, and, as a widow, my grandmother carried on as if life was hers for the taking. I loved, admired, and was fascinated by her. She was my champion throughout my life, as she was for many of my siblings, and my time spent at her charming, eclectic home in the city (which was my first home, as well) was always exciting and memorable, filled with urban adventures, exotic foods and language, and visits to people who brought her world from back home into my own.
Even towards the end of her life, she continued traveling by herself across the sea, fearless, intrepid, ready to eat the world. She died Christmas morning, 1979, just as she was taking a sheet of Greek cookies (Koulourakias) out of the oven, made to be brought to my family’s house for the holiday. I still have one of those cookies.
Her story is brave and colorful, filled with rich detail and resonating commentary about immigration and war, and I will someday write it.
4Q: What’s next for Lorraine, the Author?
I spent most of last year touring and promoting The Alchemy of Noise, though I did take time off toward the end of 2019 to do some world traveling. With no new book to promote this year, I’m taking a bit of a breather to decide next moves. In the meantime, I am continuing to work on my fourth novel, an adaptation of a favorite screenplay of mine, A Minor Rebellion: [A former 80s rock singer is thrown back to her mysterious past when her boomeranging adult daughter secretly, and successfully, posts her old music on the Internet—yep, a story for which I have some bona fides…though it is fiction!]. Beyond that, I’ll be doing some gigs with my band, Sixth & Third, this summer, and fitting a little road-tripping in as well, spending time with family and friends.
Of course, this particular year I am fiercely dedicated to campaigning for Democratic candidates in our upcoming elections here in the States. I’m very actively pushing to change the toxic political landscape of these past few years, including fundraising events with my band. Given the stakes, it all feels pretty urgent to me.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
LDW: Yes, one last thought: As writers, we tend to be bombarded with boatloads of advice, rules, expectations, etc., that demand we conduct ourselves a certain way, create workflow a certain way; produce a certain number of books, apply a certain set of procedures, join a certain number of groups, and proceed with a certain amount of post-publication activity. I know writers who enthusiastically embrace it all, others who find the tasks overwhelming, and still some who ultimately throw in the towel because the burden of not only producing exemplary writing, but carrying the marketing and promotional assignments, becomes too arduous.
Which I understand completely.
But what I want to say to that is this: There ARE no rules. Despite the fact that far too many insist on and assert theirs, I believe rules are like religion: personal, non-transferrable, occasionally oppressive, and too often antithetical to forward motion and the joy of doing.
There is no set number of books you should write in a year, no specific way or number of words you should accomplish in a day. You are not obligated to follow anyone else’s protocol; yes, you can call yourself a “writer” even if you haven’t published anything yet (as long as you actually write), and certainly you can watch TV no matter what Stephen King says (in fact, I’ve gleaned serious inspiration from certain TV shows!). Bottom line: this is your journey. Do it your way. However you see fit. Be honest and professional about it, keep your standards high and your expectations realistic, and, most importantly, enjoy the ride. It’s all we have: what we create. The rest is a crapshoot. So be sure to really enjoy how and what you create.
There. That’s it.
Sixth & Third is Lorraine's present band.
Thank you, Lorraine for being our guest this week. Best of luck in all your future endeavors.
*Thank you, Allan! And the same back to you.
For you Readers wanting to discover more about our special guest, please follow these links:
To purchase The Alchemy of Noise on Amazon:
Facebook Writer's page: www.facebook.com/lorrainedevonwilke.fans/
Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/-/e/B00K2ZOLSA
Barnes & Noble author page: www.barnesandnoble.com/s/lorraine-devon-...
Rock+Paper+Music blog: www.rockpapermusic.com