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Interview: Lorna Jane Harvey talks about Somewhere

Lorna Jane Harvey is a British, Canadian, and Swiss writer currently located in New Zealand. She has written or edited several books including the novel Jet Black Stones and the book Beverley in 50 Buildings. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and a Masters in Communication and Applied Linguistics. Lorna talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Somewhere: Women’s Stories of Migration.

Somewhere is a collection of stories about migration written by 20 women. This book is a small window into the world of women's migrations, a topic that is rarely addressed. There are treasures of wisdom to be gleaned from their experiences, and their is heartfelt honesty within their stories.


The women who contributed to this anthology come from varied backgrounds, and their immigrations have stemmed from many things, such as adventure, economic gains or fleeing for their safety. Their homes include New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Canada, the USA, Switzerland, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Japan, Syria, Hungary, and even Burkina Faso now. Some are single mothers, some are at the heart of wealthy families, and some were children when they were forced to uproot. There are some recurrent patterns through all the stories - retaining inherited identities while adapting to new cultures, new people, new lands. There are also some important divergences, as some migrants feel an intense need to belong and assimilate, while others don't seem to perceive any alienation at all. The migrant sometimes feels like a stranger to herself as she recreates herself and her home, and clings to other aspects of her former life. All have one thing in common: they are strong women who have made a new life because of their migration. The relocation has brought joy, stress and a sense of gain and loss to most of them.

What inspired you to compile this anthology?

I was inspired to compile this anthology because I believe the implications of migration, especially for women, are often unknown, unheard, unspoken. Many women are mere shadows when they migrate, and their personal experiences remain silent. I thought writing from my own experience alone would be incomplete. Watching the stories come together as I compiled this anthology confirmed this.


How did you find the individuals that feature in the book?

Some of the contributors are friends, others I approached for this anthology because I admired their work and their strength, and some were recommended through connections. For example, I contacted EVAM (a refugee centre in Switzerland), and one of the social workers gave my name to several refugees. Some of them contacted me but weren't able to contribute because of fears for their safety, but some stories did come from that contact. Lifelong friendships were born through these connections. I have grown to respect and admire every one of the contributors. They are all amazing, and I believe you will be touched by their stories.


What was your process with editing the material from the contributors?

It was a long but fun process most of the time. With so many cultures and different first languages, some of the contributors wanted their stories not to be modified too much and that sometimes meant being flexible with grammar. We went back and forth with drafts many times, and I translated a couple of the stories from French to English. Once I gave Beatnik Publishing a solid first draft of the manuscript, Beatnik had some further proofreading done. The contributors were more accepting of the changes from someone they didn't know, so it worked-out well in the end. Pulling together the stories, the contracts, the photos and everything the book entailed took literally thousands of emails though!


What did you enjoy the most about creating Somewhere?

Seeing the isolated stories come together and getting to know these beautiful people. One of the contributors, Dr Rita Sebestyen, wrote to me saying that as she read the other stories one by one, she had the feeling that they "all came from one strong voice: very deep and very kind." Another contributor, Oma Eguara, said she feels like the contributors are now sisters. This makes me feel so pleased.


What was it like having the Rt Hon Helen Clark write a foreword for Somewhere?

It was a real privilege having Rt Hon Helen Clark write the foreword. She's a brilliant person, and she's doing fantastic work in so many fields. Our exchanges made me respect her even more: she was juggling other projects, about to leave the country, and yet made the time for the book and came out with a wonderful foreword.


What do you hope people will take away after reading this book?

Perhaps the book will give people hope, inspire them, or simply give them insight into a globally relevant and important subject on a personal level rather than through distant, abstract news stories. I hope these stories will encourage people to be inclusive and tolerant.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Shared a bottle of New Zealand bubbles with my family.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

This year, I moved from Switzerland to New Zealand and published two books. I haven't had time to read much! A lovely elderly lady I volunteer with through Age Concern did recommend George Friedman's book "Flash Points," and I've been interested to read about his take on migration in Europe.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I'm half way through writing my next book, which will be a novel for young adults called "Whispering Cedars."


Somewhere is published by Beatnik Publishing.

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