Four Questions on Farsickness is an interview series with creative writers for whom place is essential to their work. Each writer answers the same four questions—and featured this week is award-winning novelist and short story writer Rayme Waters.
1. Share a little about where you’re from. When you were growing up, what place—real or imagined—most fascinated you, and why?
I was born in San Francisco but grew up mostly in west Sonoma County when it was still apple orchards. My parents had about three acres, and one side of the property bordered a forested seasonal creek. This creek was my childhood everything—completely wooded off from the world, silent except for bird song. I never saw another human there unless they were invited by me. A day at the creek was sometimes strange—I would lose track of time and my play focused on witchcraft, survival and death, but I couldn’t wait to go back. Time there was one of those magical things I lost once I hit the teenage years. My parents have since sold the property so the creek now seems like it might have never really existed.
2. What travel has been a particular inspiration to your work?
Most travel I do, if I’m not too exhausted by the mundane, is a spark to the kindling of my imagination. I remember being in a run-down hotel in Chiang Mai, the thundering rain of the monsoon competing with the noise of the disco next door and I was on creative fire. I wrote an entire short story by flashlight as my travel companion slept. I find the combination of being somewhere new—even if that new is Pittsburg—removed from the normalcy of routine and custom has the ability to knock loose the characters and stories from my head. Dramatic weather helps.
3. Where do you “escape to” to recharge creativity?
Travel is good for getting ideas to flow, but the best thing to do when I really need to get the words down on paper is to check into the most boring business hotel that has room service and charges exorbitantly for Wi-Fi and shut myself off from the world. If I have a view of the air conditioning unit and there is nothing of interest in walking distance, I can do a re-write of an entire novel in a weekend.
4. Where would you most like to travel to next?
My short list includes Ireland as I’m Irish-American, but have never been, Australia to get closer to continent bingo and a return to Africa to see the wild animals on safari. A trip I took to Botswana and South Africa was probably my most favorite travel adventure—I’d like to see East Africa this time.
Born in San Francisco, Rayme Waters grew up in Northern California and the city of Linköping, Sweden. Her short stories, from the collection The Island of Misfit Girls, have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Dzanc Award and awarded a storySouth Notable Story distinction. Rayme’s debut novel, The Angels’ Share, is the story of a young woman rebuilding her life while working at a small Sonoma County winery. She lives with her family in Palo Alto, California. Find her online at www.raymewaters.com.