Novelist Ruth Ozeki lives in many worlds. She is Canadian, American, and Japanese. She splits her life between two very different islands: Cortez in British Columbia and Manhattan in New York.
But her most recent book, A Tale for the Time Being, was especially challenging for her. She wrote one half of the book with relative ease. It was the story of Nao, a Japanese teenager who wrote a diary detailing her experiences being bullied and her relationship with her 104-year-old grandmother.
But the story of the reader, the person who found the diary was more difficult. Ozeki says she “auditioned” many characters over years before finally discovering that she had to let reality and fiction collide. The “reader” became a woman named Ruth, a writer who lived on a rural island in British Columbia. Ozeki, in fact, included much of her own life in the story.
The difficulties writing this part of the book were magnified by the fact that she was grieving the death of her father, and caring for her mother who was struggling with Alzheimer’s and cancer. As her mother’s memories faded, Ozeki worried about her own memory. During this time she turned to meditation, which lead to her becoming a Zen Buddhist priest.
Eventually her mother passed away and her difficulties finding the right character for her most recent book lifted.
The result is A Tale for the Time Being.