A balancing act: An interview with New York City author Arthur Wooten

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Arthur Wooten is the author of On Picking Fruit, Fruit Cocktail and many other delightful novels. His latest book is Dizzy, a fictional memoir. Recently, Wooten agreed to talk about Dizzy, the novel, the real life story behind it, and also about a main “character” in his book – a mysterious medical condition.

Alina Oswald: Hi Arthur! Congrats on your new book Dizzy, a Fictional Memoir  I couldn’t put it down.

Readers are in for a treat and a delightful surprise—they’ll get to take a peek at Arthur Wooten the author/the artist, and also the person, the individual behind your amazing work. It’s kind of a revelation. Why now?

Arthur Wooten: I waited almost seven years Dizzy by Arthur Wootenbefore I wrote Dizzy. Like my lead character, Angie Styles, I too have her medical challenge. In 2005 I was diagnosed with bilateral vestibular disease with oscillopsia. I basically have no sense of balance and every step I take feels like I’m bouncing on a trampoline. And unfortunately it affects my vision too. My eyes no longer track evenly, so I see life as if it’s through a handheld camera that is bouncing all over the place. I couldn’t have written it sooner, it was so emotional for me. Even now it was cathartic. But it was important to come out of the “vestibular” closet and help others, while, hopefully also entertaining.

AO: In many ways, Dizzy is a candid story about the power of reinvention. Humans have that ability, although sometimes may not be aware of it. In Dizzy, the amazing Angie Styles shows them the way. In many ways she’s like a role model, don’t you think?

AW: Oh I think she’s a brilliant role model. When you look at the arc of her journey – she goes from being a self-absorbed Broadway mega star to…nothing. And it happens within weeks. It’s a painful road back but she reinvents herself and becomes a better person for it.

AO: Let’s talk about your characters for a moment, because, as readers, we have a lot to learn from them. Years ago, when we talked about your earlier novels—On Picking Fruit and Fruit Cocktail—you mentioned that your characters are all part of you, in some way, because, after all, you are the author who creates them all. It makes sense. Was this different when giving life to the characters in Dizzy? And if yes, how?

AW: You’re right, I am a part of all of my characters. Even the animals! I actually think the characters in Dizzy were easier for me to write. I’m still living everyday with the vestibular challenge and I spent almost fifteen years in the theatre working as and actor, singer, dancer. So once the storyline was in place, the book almost wrote itself.

AO: Let’s get… Dizzy. Your new novel is not only entertaining, but also a vital source of information for those living with the same mysterious health condition as your lead character. I suspect newly diagnosed patients will find it quite resourceful and informative, more like a unique textbook through which you (or I should say Angie Styles) hold(s) their hands every step of the way. You’ve played a myriad of roles in your life, but this is a different kind of role. How do you feel about it?

AW: I take on this role with great respect and honor. If I can help anyone out there with this same disease, it will make all the hard work of putting this book together worth it. Just the other day – before Dizzy launched – I received and email from a woman in the UK who has the same syndrome. She had read somewhere on the internet that I had this book coming out and she was so exciting to read it. Not only for herself because she knows she’s not alone out there, but also because her daughter is a dancer. This book truly joins two genres together…an exciting backstage Broadway tale coupled with a frightening medical drama.

AO: I noticed you included a list of links to resources at the end of the book. Any others you may want to share? Or any particular favorite one you want to point out?

AW: VEDA, the Vestibular Disorders Association is the best! Great info for people in all stages of the disease. They also tell you where there are local support groups and are working hard to enlighten the world about this silent disease.

http://vestibular.org/

AO: Your stories are so… realistic. As readers, we feel we can just reach out and touch those characters (comfort them or laugh with them, depending on what point in the story we find ourselves) and become involved in their lives. And we do, in our minds, of course. Dizzy, being a fictional memoir, takes that element of reality to new heights. How do you achieve that kind of writing and what tips do you have for those who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

AW: Write truthfully. Write what you know about. And I always keep in mind humor, heart and humanity.

AO: Talking about footsteps… I’ve read (I think) most of your books. I’m still enjoying the journey. Dizzy seems to be a pinnacle of your work so far. It is, indeed, Arthur Wooten at his best… so far. Would you want to comment?

AW: I think with any craft, hopefully, as you travel on you improve. I honestly think I’m a better writer now than I was in the beginning of my career.

AO: For reasons mentioned above, I’d think Dizzy is a hard act to follow. Yet, knowing you as much as I do, I think readers will relive the dazzling effects of Dizzy in many of your future books. Are you working on anything new?

AW: [In November I visited Venice] where I did research for my new novel titled, Aqua Alta. That refers to the flooding that occurs in that glorious and gorgeous city. And lo and behold, what happens while I’m there? They have the sixth highest aqua alta in recorded history. I think it’s a true sign that I’m supposed to write this book.

Links: www.arthurwooten.com

Arthur Wooten is the author of On Picking Fruit, Fruit Cocktail and many other delightful novels. His latest book is Dizzy, a fictional memoir. Recently, Wooten agreed to talk about Dizzy, the novel, the real life story behind it, and also about a main “character” in his book – a mysterious medical condition.

Alina Oswald: Hi Arthur! Congrats on your new book Dizzy, a Fictional Memoir  I couldn’t put it down.