What is your most recent book?
The Hour of Daydreams (Forest Avenue Press, 2017)
When was it released?
What has been the response (to date)?
My local community has shown strong support. The Alameda Books Inc. sold out of their stock on launch day and has since reordered several times. My local paper, The Alameda Journal, published a cover story, and my high school and undergraduate school alma maters have also published articles and interviews. I’ve gained a new community in Portland, where my publishing house is based and where there’s been a lot of enthusiasm for the book.
I’m happy to see this enthusiasm for the novel spreading from my Bay Area roots and Pacific Northwest headquarters across the country and even internationally. With an indie press, you don’t typically get coverage on big newspapers like, say, the New York Times. Marketing is a grassroots effort and word of mouth is important. So, it’s been amazing to get interview requests from book bloggers and readers from as far away as Spain, Jamaica, the Philippines. The hope is that the book will find its readers, who, thus far, have embraced the story, language, and characters.
What surprised you about the response?
The Hour of Daydreams has been described as everything from literary fiction to magical realism to fantasy to science fiction. I’m not surprised by the desire to categorize, and I think the fact that the novel crosses genre borders so fluidly shows how much it defies categorization. What surprises me is the flexibility and openness of readers of every genre to find something here. The Hour of Daydreams is unconventional in form; it zigzags in time, takes chances with POV, and explores detours from the plot that fit into a bigger, more complex puzzle. I didn’t think a mainstream publisher would take it on, but mainstream readers (readers of popular, commercial fiction) have.
I’m also surprised at how it’s opened people up to sharing their stories with me. I’ve heard of the opposite happening—of family members clamming up around their writer niece or cousin because they don’t want their secrets ending up in a book. With me it’s been the opposite. Publication of this book has invigorated my family to talk even more about their childhood, their own desires to write, or the folktales and superstitions they remember. I’ve spent many post-publication hours sitting around tables in this wonderful spirit of remembering and sharing.
Tell me something not obvious or known about the book.
Forest Avenue Press is a national publisher; I’m the first minority writer to publish a full-length book with the press. My publisher and editor did not request any major developmental changes; these were minimal in order to preserve the careful structure I spent years perfecting. It was important to know I was chosen for my art, and that I was able to bring that art to the reading public on my own terms. The press is young but influential, and I think, hope, it exemplifies the potential for diverse voices to find their place in the literary landscape.
People may also be surprised that I didn’t grow up with Filipino folktales. I think, because a Filipino folktale was the launching pad for the stories in my novel, many people presume I did. It was this lack that inspired so much curiosity about the folktales I eventually did encounter, as I was drawn to their indigenous roots and what they revealed about my culture. I wanted to explore this more and extract my own meanings.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on short stories and a second novel.
Renee Macalino Rutledge's debut novel, The Hour of Daydreams, has been dubbed "essential reading" by Literary Mama and "one of 24 books to get excited for in 2017" by The Oregonian. Renee's work has also been published in ColorLines, Mutha Magazine, Ford City Anthology, Oakland Magazine, Literary Hub, Red Earth Review, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Margins, 2017 Women of Color Anthology, The Tishman Review, and others. Find her at www.reneerutledge.com.