In this exclusive interview, the Wild East’s Trista di Genova asks author L. Farrah Furtado about her latest news, views on writing and her WIP ‘Pop-Rock-Cop’. Both local expat writers will be participating in the 2014 Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE).
Trista: Who are you? 🙂
Furtado: I’m the life-long student and the teacher. I’m an idealist and the disillusioned artist. I’m an award-winning indie author and nominee for the Camoes prize in literature which is viewed in some countries as the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in literature. Canadian Alice Munro just won the Nobel Prize in literature and she’s from my hometown in Victoria, BC. I remember being forced to read her books in school which I found really weird but now I’m very grateful for the experience.
I had other loves when I was a kid. For example, C. S. Lewis was my
escape and Anne Frank was my homegirl in grade school.
Trista: How would you describe yourself?
Furtado: I’m ambitious, restless and confident when I shouldn’t be. I’m the sensitive, romantic dreamer preferring to live between the lines of surrealism and reality. My family likes to call me Pollyanna. This character comes from a book written in 1913 and Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game”, an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. I’m the contemporary Pollyanna.
Trista: Where does ‘writer’ come into this description, and what motivated you to do this?
Furtado: The constructs of this world often pisses me off so I’m the tripped-out writer who prefers to live within the pages of my writing which is usually between fantasy and seemingly pointless reality. Writing is my form of escapism from what life is as I’ve described in my books as, “a muffled bog of tears”. I don’t know why but my university professors encouraged me to take writing more seriously and to become published. Writing helps me to make sense of everything and helps me to connect the dots, so to speak. I’m hyper-sensitive and cannot accept our world’s set-up and the archaic institutions, social constructs and so on. Therefore, my writing is my safe place where I always fit in and where I feel most at home. At the same time, through writing I play a character within the bigger picture. For example, when I receive a message from a fan telling me that my story helped them get through a tight spot, it’s the best feeling in the world because my writing has transcended. I’ve become larger than life and I’m not pointless anymore because I’ve helped someone see the beauty in their pain.
I wish for nothing more than for all of my work to show my readers that no matter how grim things can get, it can only go up from there. We are all the artists of our own lives. Everyone has that option and I don’t believe in a higher power doing things for us. We get to a place because we worked hard, deserve it and chose to be there. There is a heavy theme of the phoenix rising from the ashes in all of my work and the fallen princess. Having to pick yourself up and having to start over is one of my favorite themes. Once I had a fan email to ask me if I would call his girlfriend on her birthday because she was depressed and he felt I could cheer her up. In one of her video messages to me she told me that my book changed her life. My writing became bigger than me and I love that. If I can help another human being I’ve done my job. I strongly feel that’s what I came here to do, to help others and to shine a little light on this messed up planet.
Trista: I think your writing was really strong, really at its best for your latest foray into film treatments. How did you decide to write about this true story.
Furtado: Thank you Trista, that means a lot to me especially coming from such a professional and talented writer. Regarding the movie treatment I wrote, Pop-Rock-Cop it was super-difficult for anyone close to me to believe that something like this could ever happen in squeaky clean Canada. They also thought that I shouldn’t write it because it was too risky to release this and that I would receive death threats and such. I could not let go of this story and wrote my heart out to get it done. I started writing Pop-Rock-Cop in 2009 and worked on it regularly since then for no payment. I took the risk and wrote it because I believe in justice and equality, so in order to get that one needs to expose the injustices for change to happen. This story required thousands of hours of my time in research and writing and re-writing. I pulled out the best gems from heaps of first-hand accounts, court case reviews, video and audio files and one-on-one interviews with the Amaro family in their home in Hamilton, Ontario.
A story like this can shake people up, to their core so I was even more attracted to it. I was guided to write it. I’m drawn to push boundaries and to be somewhat of a rebel. I want to always write about true inspirational stories which drive people to evolve, like an onion peeling away, layer by layer. No matter what people said to me I still believed in this story and my hard work has paid off. I gave the movie treatment to Stephen Rebello whose masterpiece is the book which was made into the movie, “Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho,” and he loved the story and agreed to write the movie screenplay. Also, the story I wrote, Pop-Rock-Cop is what received a nomination for the Camoes prize in literature at the Beijing International Book Fair. So that was a nice little bonus for me for doing the right thing when I was presented with something which I felt was very difficult to do.
Trista: Do you know this singer personally?
Furtado: Basically the story came to be when Jessica Amaro read my first book “Her Apparitions & Other Human Longings”. She enjoyed my book and asked me to write her story. At 22, Jessica’s dreams came true – becoming a police officer and a Latina pop sensation. But instead she finds her worst nightmare – caught in the snare of a crooked police force in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
I’m so inspired by her story and what her and her family overcame. She is very brave to choose to expose this. It’s time and it fits perfectly well with what’s going on in the world today, as everything is drastically changing and being challenged. Systems which have been in place for eons no longer make sense.
What I want to set out to do with it is to expose the people at the top who abuse power such as the greedy, corrupt cops and politicians. All of the thug life gangsters in high-powered positions need to fuck off and we need to get some descent people in there like me and my allies, let us run the show so everyone can have a good life. All kidding aside, things desperately need to change.
I didn’t know Jessica Amaro at all before I wrote her story. Now we are like sisters we have a close relationship as it’s developed like that. When people share all of their defeats, struggles and wins through storytelling you can’t help it but become best friends.
Trista: Could you tell us more about Pop Rock Cop, where it’s going. Will it be made into a movie?
Furtado: Now we are planning to crowd source and to put a video together to get the project off the ground and pitch it to movie producers. Basically we have a movie treatment, a script writer, some singles for the soundtrack and that’s it. You need more than this sometimes to get a big movie producer to give you the green light. You need to invest a lot of money initially. Every serious artist knows that. True artists are willing to go broke for their art, their dreams. Actually every serious artist I know, famous or not, has had periods in their life where they had nothing financially because all of it went to pay for their art. Essentially, Jessica and I have no choice but to crowd source because we’re at that point where we don’t have a choice, we’re broke.
We have no choice but to get this story out there, and it’s funny how the next step requires a lot of money. So it’s not creative or inspiring! But this story is for everyone, not just us, so it is important that we take this next crucial step. This movie will expose North American law enforcement and political corruption in an entertaining and meaningful way. It will take about $20,000(US) to get the project off the ground. We require investors and we require videographers for the crowd sourcing video for kickstarter.com.
Trista: And are you considering your sister as someone to play that role?
Furtado: No, not my sister, Nelly Furtado. This role is best suited for a 16-to-20-year-old and for a strong lead actress who can play the anti-hero really well. I already see Jennifer Lawrence playing this part — she just doesn’t know about it yet!
Trista: Why did you change your name, and what does the new name ‘Farrah’ mean to you? To me, it reminds me of Farrah Fawcett – not a bad association at all!
Furtado: My pen name Farrah is not pronounced in the usual way. It is FA-Rah and apparently is an elevated vibration of Lisa according to ancient numerology. In Arabic it means joy and happiness. In actual fact, Farrah is my given name at birth because it’s the name my parents gave me in my mama’s belly. It was only when my parents realized that my Portuguese family couldn’t pronounce it that they randomly gave me Lisa because it’s easy to pronounce for Portuguese speakers. Like my sister, who was also named after a celebrity my parents named me after Farrah Fawcett. My parents loved TV, pop music and pop culture. I think subliminally my parents told me and my sister that they wished for all of their kids to become famous. Sadly, my parents were like the critical show pageant parents but never showed up to the competitions because they were too busy working. Mama was the toilet cleaner and daddy was building walls as he was a stone mason. As a child you never understand these things but it’s still the most harrowing thing in the world when your own parents don’t show up to the concerts, plays or otherwise monumental events. Early on I learned how to become the “teacher’s pet”. So my teachers were my cheerleaders and they gave me so much support as a kid.
This is all great because it makes me who I am today. I treat my role as “teacher” very seriously. Often I have fans asking me for personal advice on career to love life to what to do about abusive parents, bullying or living in community housing or fears of being on the verge of living on the streets. Why bother having my own kids? I feel I have so many kids already who rely on me for support and to root them on when nobody is around. I really do feel like my fans are like my family. I know what it feels like to be neglected, abused and depressed. I want to inspire my fans and to help them to be the best possible humans ever and to not give in to the dark side which is tempting for even me sometimes. By dark side I mean the lower vibrations of being human such as addiction, negative thinking, anxiety and depression.
Trista: Since reading your book “Her Apparitions”, I’ve been wondering something. Since it’s based on a true story, where the main character Fatima winds up in a mental hospital in Asia, what really happened there? I think you said it was schizophrenia, and that is not something from which people can usually recover. Was it schizophrenia, or something else more temporary perhaps a response to drugs, and from what drugs in particular. If it’s schizophrenia, could you talk about this battle you must have been having, and how did you manage to get it under control?
Furtado: No, I have never had nor have schizophrenia. Am I perfect? Of course not! In my younger days, I’ve been medicated for depression probably brought on by heavy alcohol and drug abuse for sure. But I’ve picked myself up on my own terms by choice since then.
Trista: Fatima is a Muslim name. Is this character an identification with the oppressed Muslim peoples, an identification with the sacred Virgin Mary figure in Portugal, or both?
Furtado: Trista, that is a really fascinating observation which I have overlooked.
Fatima was born from someone I know, who knows, a couple of people I know. I think hundreds of people remind me of Fatima. I used the word “manic” and not schizophrenia because I didn’t want to label it. “Manic” is a better word because it’s up for interpretation. Although Fatima’s symptoms were definitely schizophrenia which was provoked from heavy drug and alcohol abuse, but of course one must have a disposition for it as well for one to have an episode for example.
Aside from that, I know what every line means in my work. Every nuance and symbol is intentional and I know exactly where it came from and what influenced it. Nothing is random in my work. I want my readers to figure it out independently and to make it a part of themselves by interpreting it in the way that makes the most sense for them. I used to despise it when my university English professors would tell us we were wrong in interpreting poetry and such. How the hell could you ever know for sure what the writer meant? It’s art, it’s for the world and to be interpreted by the receiver. The professors’ interpretation could never be completely accurate; the artist is more than likely dead so there’s no way to confirm it. Plus if you did get to have that rare opportunity to ask the artist what it meant they would probably lie or give you half-truths anyway. I mean, personally I’ll tell you only a small piece of what my art means but I don’t give everything away. I’m the artist. It’s my purpose to make the art not to explain it. If you are my reader, you go talk about it, love it, or hate it but I will not explain it. You go explain it for you, while I’ll go into my little bat cave and create it for me because that’s what I do. I write – it’s my thing and what keeps me from combusting.
“Her Apparitions & Other Human Longings”
(Based on a true story) available NOW on Amazon.com.
The 3rd Edition of HER APPARITIONS & OTHER HUMAN LONGINGS also available in Simplified and Traditional Chinese.
Order your autographed copy directly from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you may order the Ebook from Bangkok Books, only $4.99!
Read a past Wild East exclusive of L. Farrah Furtado