American River: Confluence follows three families as they find a way to come together to celebrate life, art, and diversity. What direction did you take in this book that was different from the first two books?
I’ve always thought of a trilogy as being similar to the Sonata form in music—a musical structure consisting of three sections: the exposition (in which the main ideas are introduced), the development (in which those ideas are examined and explored) and the recapitulation (or resolution in which the main themes culminate in a conclusion). In this musical form, there might also be an introduction (or prologue) and a coda (or epilogue).
Because music is one of the main components of my writing, I had in mind the Sonata form as I developed the American River story.
Book One, American River: Tributaries, introduces the story of the three immigrant families and involves the reader in their struggles to overcome prejudice and to follow their dreams and ambitions. But it ends with a tragedy that further separates the characters from each other.
Book Two, American River: Currents, further explores the issue of discrimination and the struggle to overcome both external prejudice and internal delusions. Swept away by their passions, the characters find themselves flailing and unable to navigate the deep waters that threaten to destroy their dreams.
I knew that Book Three, American River: Confluence, would be about a resolution of some of the issues that my characters face, but they would also discover that in order to realize their unique destinies they would have to find a way to work together toward a common goal.
You are able to bring to light many perspectives on social issues without inserting your own opinion on the reader. What was the balance for you in discussing these topics?
A recent review posted by Literary Titan states: “O’Connor’s work involves a host of social issues—sexuality, politics, race relations—all disguised in what [first] seems to be a book about artists pursuing their passions.” Each of my characters has a particular role to play that reveals the social issues that affect them. They don’t all have the same views which allows them to interact with each other and voice their opinions. I wanted to help the reader understand that there are always at least two sides to an argument, so my characters represent different points of view as they attempt to navigate the rocky shoals of confrontation with each other. A discerning reader will likely be able to figure out where my sympathies lie, but I wanted an opposition to play off of. The characters end up debating the issues and the readers can decide who gives the most persuasive argument.
There are many characters and plots that run through the trilogy of books. Were you able to accomplish everything you set out to?
I doubt that most writers are able to accomplish everything that they’d like to include in a story. I had to make some pretty painful cuts during the many revisions, but I wanted to be sure that the story moved along and that the flow was not needlessly interrupted. In the end, I think I was able to address many of the problems that I hoped to cover—racism, sexual identity, mental health, political conflicts, women’s liberation, cultural differences—and to give the reader a lot to think about.
Do you plan on continuing the story of these families in another series or are you moving on to a new story in your next book?
I actually have an outline for three more books in the American River series subtitled Whitewater, Reflections, and Water Music. I thought it would be exciting to follow the thread of the character’s lives through another decade and see what they encountered. Maybe someday I’ll get to that.
But meanwhile, I’ve started another series of what I’m calling “psychic cli-fi.” I’ve been in touch with Dan Bloom, a climate activist and blogger who actually coined the term “cli-fi” for a new genre of “climate-fiction.”
For the past thirty years, I’ve researched psychic phenomena and I have a number of contacts in that area of interest. I’m also very disturbed about the rapid rate of climate disruption as warming temperatures upset the balance of nature. And I’m also concerned about what global warming will mean for our cultural treasures—works of art and architecture and their preservation in the face of social and meteorological upheavals.
So, with that in mind I’m working on a series of psychic novels that will address the issues of fracking, water resources, the spread of infectious diseases, climate-induced migration and other similar problems. My main character is a psychic medium who in the first book is called upon to work with a very skeptical PI who is an ex-FBI art crimes investigator. Again, the deep line that separates the world view of the two main characters will allow me to explore each of their views on a variety of topics that I believe are important—the nature of time, the impact of climate disruption, and the significance of our cultural heritage.