This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and to reduce spoilers.
Krista Bargsten, OCOM Library: First, I would like to compliment you on your wonderful tale of adventure! I really loved this story and the characters who live within it.
Patricia Gallegos, OCOM Faculty and Alumna: Thank you it was a great adventure for me too! I really fell in love with each of the characters as I faithfully took dictation for them.
KB: Your characters are so richly drawn. I was impressed right from the start by the complexity of relationship, the shifting of relationship dynamics that occurs, and the multiple roles each character navigates. How has your own professional and personal navigation of these complexities informed the writing of these relationships within the book?
PG: Life has a way of moving and shifting around in all sorts of ways. Some predictable and others incomprehensible. Those who can flex with the changes will be the stronger for it. It is no coincidence that the main character is called Willow.
KB: Early in the book Willow, our heroine, is coming to understand her best friend Lynd’s vulnerability in a new way. How have your life experiences informed this particular dynamic between these two characters?
PG: We all take our position in life for granted. Sometimes events, even small ones, can shift our perspective just enough that we catch a glimpse of life from a different perspective, lens, or window, if you will. Even if it is only momentary, the effects of new perspectives can be life changing. One such experience occurred when I was, maybe, 8 years old. My mother was waiting in a line to exchange an item that I had a complaint about. A preadolescent boy, about 12, cut my mother off in line. She politely stepped back and allowed him to have her turn. I was incredulous! How dare he do such a thing! Couldn’t he see that she was my mother! Couldn’t he see that he was being rude? Something in that moment shifted the lens. I could see that in his eyes, she was a tired old lady. She didn’t matter to him and never would. In that moment, I saw my mother as he had. She was tired. I was certain that I had contributed to more than a few of her greying hairs and the deepening worry lines on her face. In the silence and stillness of that single frozen moment, I realized that my mother was human, with finite resources, and that she chose her battles with care in order to preserve the peace.
KB: Willow’s mentor Magda says, “Everyone you encounter in this life is your teacher. If you can accept your lessons and learn from them, you will be truly wise.” This is a sentiment I have found to be so relevant on my own path as I walk through this world! Have you become truly wise?
PG: I have made a great many mistakes in my life. These are the lessons from which I glean the greatest insight. I try to live my life from a place of gratitude. I am so fortunate to have encountered the diversity of humanity that I have. It is as though each person I meet has added a different hue or tint to my color palate. Each encounter or experience makes me so much richer for it. As for wisdom, I suspect that accepting my humanity, recognizing my mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow does make me wiser. I’ll keep working on it, probably for the rest of my life.
KB: Later in the book we learn about Rosmerta’s role as courtesan. Upon reading this, I had a much better understanding of the Pericardium’s role within the Twelve Officials constellation. Could you speak to how your own Chinese medicine education influenced the crafting of this story?
PG: I love that you found Madame Rosmerta and recognized her relationship with the Pericardium; protector of the Supreme Ruler, the Heart. Another beautiful lens with which to discover this story. It is a complex story and yet, so very straight forward. This is the brush with which Chinese Medicine has colored my world.
KB: I loved the case study within the narrative and think this is a brilliant way of teaching the medicine. Could you talk a little about your teaching process and how this story informs your teaching (and vice versa)?
PG: The narrative that Willow is sharing in the case study is very much the way that I teach Chinese Medicine, or any other subject. The word doctor is derived from the word teacher. They are one in the same. I teach to the patient in the same way that I teach to the student. Conversely, I learn from the patient in the same way that I learn from the student. Each challenges my knowledge and makes me a better practitioner.
KB: In the book Willow is starting to discover “the art of loving” in terms of the tenderness she experiences with Rosmerta. Could you say a little bit about what this phrase means for you within this book?
PG: All of her life, Willow has been a healer. She knows and understands life and death from a very clinical perspective. Her relationship with Rosmerta is an exploration of her own humanity, her heart. Rosmerta knows and understands relationship and connection. Willow is a nomad who has not taken much notice of roots or relationship beyond her immediate family. Willow is learning that Rosmerta is a shaman whose medicine is about heart connection, which is new material that Willow’s previous education hasn’t covered. She has a lot to learn.
KB: Certain scenes within the book have wonderful and elaborate costume design elements. Are you a sewer?
PG: I have a great appreciation for the colors and textures and fabrics that go into the creation of such costumes. I will often decide to watch a film because of the promise of rich cinematography, designs, colors, textures and thought that have gone into the costumes and sets. My mother sewed clothing for me as I was growing up. I have three sisters who are also very gifted at both sewing and quilting. As for me, I can sew, but it isn’t a skill that goes beyond necessity. I certainly wouldn’t attempt anything as elaborate as the costumes I have detailed in this story.
KB: I am curious about your decision to highlight the Rom people within your story. Could you say a bit about this?
PG: I feel a kinship with nomadic people. I haven’t found a direct lineage, but suspect there may be a bit of the Gitano in my Spanish bloodline. Nomadic people have long been targeted and yet we hear so little about how they have been persecuted.
KB: What was left out that you wish had made it into the book?
PG: I had created a few tender dialogues between Galynda and Willow, which highlighted their sisterhood growing up. These scenes play now in the background, rather than in the forefront.
KB: I really came to love the characters in this story, and the ending opened up so many new possibilities! Is there any intention for a sequel or follow-up for this book or its characters?
PG: The book sat for years with no ending, I didn’t have the heart to break ties with the characters I had come to love so much. I actually did start a sequel, which is the bulk of the material that landed on the editing floor. It is true, I left options open for the characters. If they decide there is more to their story, they will come back to me and make sure I put it in writing for them!
Thank you for taking the time to read the story, meet the characters, and join them on their journey.
The View From My Window is available to check out from the OCOM Library. For more information about the book, see the publisher’s website: Atmosphere Press. To read another interview with the author, go here.