Posted by Literary Titan
Limbo Jubilee follows Neala as she experiments with what it means to be human as her panic escalates with every page. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
I experienced an existential crisis, the gut punch of grief, at a formative age in my life, which inspired me to write Limbo Jubilee. I wrote Limbo Jubilee as an ode to my family, my ancestors, and the misty mountains where I grew up. I wanted to illuminate the intricacies of culture, trauma, and healing. I wanted to share the message that humans can be the curse and the cure and to not give up on each other as tempting as it may be.
My granny taught me that it hurts to be human, and pain is inevitable, but she also taught me that what matters most is how I respond to my pain. Humans are masters at avoiding, ignoring, and numbing their pain in all sorts of destructive ways. Humans are sly creatures and can spread their pain to others along the way. Humans are also incredibly good at getting so stuck in their pain that they can’t imagine living life any other way, but my granny taught me to face my pain with courage. Writing Limbo Jubilee was my way of transforming my brokenness into something beautiful.
Neala is an interesting and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
I was born in Appalachia where the line between fairy tales and memoirs is imaginary. What many people call fairy tales and folklore, I call reality. Folk magic is as real as the rolling hills in West Virginia. My granny talks to the rivers, the sunflowers, the moon, and the stars, and she believes that they talk back to her. Granny’s mountain medicine is not a complementary or alternative medicine for me. In fact, there is nothing as powerful as the first sip of granny’s elderberry tonic on a cold, October night by the campfire.
Neala’s character reflects my own experiences growing up in Appalachia where magical realism is a way of life. It is a reality of its own. The human brain constructs memories and narratives, and to some degree, all memoirs are imaginary, existing in the planes of shared realities and unique realities. Memoirs are cultural artifacts, spinning tales of who we are and where we come from. Neala’s character reflects the values and beliefs of her culture, shifting between different voices and different planes of reality. Is she the alien or the human? The little girl or the therapist? The healer or the wounded? The sinner or the saint? Neala is all of them, and she writes in a style that is authentic to her experience.
The way that humans experience the world is based on so many different factors. Naturally then, readers will have a variety of reactions to Neala and to Limbo Jubilee. As for me, Neala is a raw and real character with both light and dark qualities, and at its core, Limbo Jubilee is a story of empowerment and healing.
What were some themes you felt were important to explore in this book?
Limbo Jubilee is a visionary celebration and explores visionary and metaphysical themes. Limbo Jubilee is a metaphor for being human and alien, earthly and otherworldly, broken and blessed, and all in the same breath. To be in the wheelhouse of visionary and speculative fiction with incredible authors like Margaret Atwood is a dream come true for me.
Limbo Jubilee provides observations and commentary on society. For example, it discusses the pressure for women to have children and how having children is viewed as normal and human. The alien living on planet Spry is a metaphor for how women without children can be viewed in our culture. Limbo Jubilee also explores and challenges the normalcy of addiction, as well as the black-and-white thinking that leads to extremes.
Limbo Jubilee is the anthem for creatures of the in between, shedding light on both earthly and sacred dimensions and exploring religion and spirituality. There are moments in life when we are fully present in our humanity, and moments when we morph into a creature feature, and moments when we shine as bright as the golden gods of eternity.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am very excited to reveal my next book, The Mermaids Melt at Dawn. I am currently waving my magic wand and putting on the finishing touches. The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is a departure from my brain-busting and heartstring-pulling debut novella, Limbo Jubilee. I don’t want to spoil the mystery, but I’ll offer a quick teaser. Close your eyes and imagine a rowdy Cajun from Louisiana, a pair of warring mermaid sisters, a greedy Poseidon, petulant gods, and a magical island called Barbiche. The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is a melting pot for Cajun fairy tales and Greek Mythology. It will be released in late July or August 2020!
Neala’s surreal story begins in the backwoods of St. Roscoe, West Virginia. Neala’s hero is her Aunt Betsy, who saves the day in a pair of red cowgirl boots. Neala’s life is forever changed as she witnesses the death of her Aunt Betsy. Neala longs for a love that will heal her wounds, so when she meets Brick, she is tempted to cross the imaginary line, but she finds herself in a dangerous limbo. Neala’s spooky voyage transports her to the fringes of reality where she flirts with some creepy-crawly surprises. While a macabre sickness hunts Neala down, she experiments with what it means to be human. Neala’s panic escalates with every page, but could her paranoia be grounded in wisdom?
Posted in Interviews
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Posted by Literary Titan
Soleil’s novel Limbo Jubilee is a psychological drama written from the perspective of the West Virginian born Neala, who has to overcome the trauma and loss inflicted upon her at an early age and later becomes a psychologist in Arizona while still trying to find herself and her place in the world. While I won’t spoil it entirely, I do have to point out that she isn’t entirely successful, and the book becomes a narrative that slowly unwinds in the same way she does. Slowly, until finally it spirals to a fitting conclusion at the end of the book.
I was quickly taken in by Neala’s story, even as it is interwoven with her growing madness as her psyche breaks down. I was able to easily empathize with her character. You want her to pull through, and heal herself, like she promises she should at the beginning. Neala means Champion—the heroine should be a champion—but midway, as she begins to unravel you know it’s going to end in tears as she loses touch with reality, becomes convinced that she isn’t real, and eventually loses herself bit by bit until there is nothing left except something she has called the “Choisi”. This is wistful and somewhat somber but utterly compelling.
The book and narrative reminds me a lot of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam because I felt like it carried much the same tone. Fans of Atwood’s work in that series will enjoy Limbo Jubilee as I did. In between the rational and recognizable are snippets of what really is happening.
The start of all of this is heavily foreshadowed in the first chapter, beginning with her trying to help her dying Aunt Betsy, and it is in this chapter that the seeds of her eventual anorexia and the lifelong battle with it are planted, as are the seeds of what will come later in the book. I had to read the beginning a few times to catch all the colorful nuances and each time I did, I found another snippet and hint of the prods and disconnects that eventually are Neala’s undoing by the end of the book. While it isn’t a book for the faint of heart, it is definitely one with plenty of potential that needs to be on the bookshelf of anyone that appreciates a complex and thought-provoking read. Not one word isn’t there that doesn’t serve a purpose — Limbo Jubilee has been masterfully written.
Pages: 193 | ASIN: B07ZTTK6BB