Ayshe Talay-Ongan Ph.D. is a psychologist and has enjoyed a long and rich academic, research and clinical career. She still loves teaching and rarely turns down an event that she's been asked to contribute to. She's lived in Istanbul, New York City, San Francisco, Paris and Florence, but Sydney is where she's made her home with her husband and daughters, and cat Simba. She is the author of three textbooks in developmental psychology. Turquoise: A Love Story is her first lovel, but she says, not her last.
TURQUOISE –A Love Story is a Case in Point
by Ayshe Talay-Ongan
It seems to me that most authors of fiction begin inventing a good story for their novel by drawing from something that is familiar to them, something they can relate to. Tall stories we’ve heard from parents or elders that form the core of our family lore perhaps, or experiences we have lived though, are familiar with, or have dreamed about often. These, like magical balls of unending yarn, take us on the journey of writing a work of fiction, allowing us to embellish and improvise along the way. This is how my writing journey began, anyway. But wait, you say. What about works of fantasy, horror, science fiction? My answer is that while I admire these authors for having such a vivid imagination and endless creativity, unfortunately I am not one of them.
My bag of goodies is my life experiences.
A good neighbour of mine, who had been curious to read my novel Turquoise, recently asked me over for a cuppa (Australian for a cup of coffee or tea) after she finished reading the book. She is our family friend too, and thus knew of the context in which the book was written. She said she could have never written something like this — it was too candid, too uncensored. She added that her background (she was from a strict order of Christianity known as the Exclusive Brethren, although she’d left them some time ago) would make it impossible for her to be so forthright. But why hadn’t I called the book a memoir, then?
Obviously, I said, I couldn’t call it a memoir because, while Turquoise was inspired by my life experiences, it was a work of fiction — I’d taken liberties with it! Besides, it had to be fiction because of respect for privacy issues and of care that must be exercised in not hurting people one had shared experiences with alluded to in the novel, lest they misconstrued my intent. And who would be interested in reading the memoirs of a person who didn’t have a name in the public eye? She nodded in silence.
Just browsing over the novels I have read in the last few months, I feel a strong connection of their themes with their authors — Jeff Eugenides writing about his Greek roots, Susan Johnson on being a woman with a big heart, and Ann Funder and Eliot Perlman about the ruthless persecution of their people by oppressive totalitarian regimes and the resistance movement that ensued.
Having participated in the experience from near or far, or having access to conscious or buried memories, seems to give the author a voice of authenticity — authority to some degree, even. We as readers may not have had that experience but reading about it from able hands makes us believe the protagonists. An ex-cop or a crime reporter can write a credible crime fiction much better than most of us — I’m thinking Michael Connelly. A courtroom drama can best be depicted by some legal eagle — few can rival Grisham. Could Mario Puzo write The Godfather or Omerta had he not been breathing the mafia-infused air of Hell’s Kitchen from his early years in New York City?
But it is just as hard to make sweeping generalizations. Obviously, this argument can be valid for contemporary fiction at best because some of the novels we know and love like James Michener’s sweeping sagas, or Ken Follett’s historical fiction, or Tom Keneally’s novels of early settlement yarns in Australia depend on enormous amounts of research as well as a brilliant imagination.
I can only tell you reliably, credibly, about Turquoise-A Love Story because it is a story that draws from my own life and times. I have been an author of books that transmitted knowledge (text books) or findings of research (scholarly articles) until then. All I knew was that I had this rich, once in a lifetime tale to tell — the tale that made my life, my family, my genuine happiness possible. Retirement, with my reduced workload, was the perfect opportunity to undertake what I never had the time for.
If I transcribed the 22 thick notebook volumes of my love letters to my beloved, then not even my children would be interested in reading it!
So I made it into a novel.
Please share with me your views about where real life becomes truer and bigger than fiction on my Website.
About the Book
Set against transcendent love, unrelenting hatred and loyalties to friends and family, Turquoise is the story of an enduring and passionate love affair between Yasmin and Renan, which spans two decades, two marriages and three continents.
Yasmin and her Armenian classmate Ani were oblivious to ethnic differences during their school years in Istanbul. Years later they run into each other, and Ani introduces Renan, her husband, to Yasmin. At that moment under the blazing autumn skies, as Yasmin locks eyes with Renan, she knows that she has come upon her destiny. But political tensions in their land soon force Renan, her secret love, and his family to immigrate to Sydney.
A few years on, Yasmin’s diplomat father is appointed as the Turkish Consul General to Los Angeles where the family faces a devastating tragedy that will impact their lives in ways unfathomable. She is now forced to make a choice between passion that defines her and reason that guides her.
When so much is stacked against Yasmin and Renan, how can love possibly triumph?
Be sure to add it to your TBR list on Goodreads!
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