Roselyn Kachuck is one of those people who lives for herself. She writes for herself and she thinks for herself. As a child of the 1960s with flower power ingrained on her soul, she writes with freedom about subjects other writers wouldn’t touch. The Memory Lingers On is a rather interesting book in so many ways. It tells the story of a lady who is suffering with Alzheimer’s and reliving her life through broken memories and dream-like happenings. The book has been highly acclaimed and rated by many as an excellent read. It has been called tear-jerking, poignant and strongly written. I read a few extracts and found myself going to Roselyn for an interview…
A) So much to tell – so little space to it. Keeping it short, I was born in Bethel, NY – a very small town if you would call it that. The only thing there was a post office & general store. If you drove through it, you wouldn’t know. Then a local farmer rented his field and I was there for Woodstock. The farm is still in the family on 17B & Happy Ave.
Q) You were actually at Woodstock?
A) Yes. but by accident, one might say. I was living in Berkley at the time. It was the 60s.
Q) How was that experience? Can you elaborate? What was it like to be at the event many call the greatest gathering in living memory?
A) I didn’t know it would become memorable. I suppose no one ever does when they find themselves on a crowded road. It was [an amazing gathering]. The people were uncomfortably, exhilaratingly happy. All shared what they had. Being in the crowd to hear the music, it often was difficult to hear over those in the audience. My uncle opened the front field as a parking lot. I believe half of the people paid, but it didn’t matter. When the rains came–and believe me, they did–all the cars were stuck in the mud. It got wet. Very wet.
Q) Was the music worth braving the rain? Or was it all about the experience for you?
A) I am one who loves experiencing. Maybe because I didn’t know it was going to be there when I arrived, I saw it differently. I was living in Berkley, CA at the time. Though I am still married to my husband, that week I was leaving him and retreated to the family farm. I got there just in time. What I remember are the people. The music was good, but it was how people shared, cared, laughed and played that made Woodstock what it was, I believe. Don’t get me wrong, I love the music –it was part of my generation and I still have lots of the old vinyl–but what made Woodstock special was the moment.
Q) Did Woodstock change your life? How would you sum up the rest of your life?
A) The rest of my life proved interesting if not frustrating. Trying to survive, I’ve had such varied careers (or jobs) as fortune teller, decorator, real estate agent (though I didn’t do it long enough to make anything), restaurateur, decorator, owner of a vending company… and I’m sure I’ve missed something. I’ve volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, girl scout leader, Sunday School teacher, volunteer as friend to women in nursing homes, and more. Sometimes I’ve had; sometimes not.
Q) Let’s talk about writing! Your writing, in particular! Have you always been a writer? Have you always striven to be creative?
A) Writing has always been my drug of choice. It is an escape from any of my present problems – worlds I can escape to. Once, during a really depressing period in my life, I went to a doctor for Zoloft. I forgot to take it and went into withdrawal. I would not touch it again and it took about a year, maybe more, before I felt in control again.
Q) Wait.. Back up! You were a fortune teller? Tell me about that? How did that come about?
A) When I owned the restaurant– which was a major financial failure but very interesting– I hired fortune tellers. It was The Gypsy Cafe. When they didn’t show, I did the telling. I believe, if we are open, we all have the ability to see. It takes faith and empathy. Some are more empathic than others – I believe I am. If I hold your hand there may be warmth or coolness. You may be one who can look into another’s eyes or not. And then there is a sense. It can be like a seeing that seems to be present in a stance or a smile that has to come from more than just this lifetime. Why are there those who seem more confident even when they have nothing, and those who seem to have everything and are so unhappy? We read people all the time. Some call it De Ja Vu!
Q) I have always wondered about fortune tellers. I guess a huge part of your book is about ‘what happens’ next after we die? Do you believe there is more to life than we know? Do you think some people are gifted?
A) I believe there is a force beyond our understanding. I believe what there is is unknown and, to a great extent, unknowable. It is the job of the soul to reach beyond our reach, to learn why we have come here. Here, I might add, that is Anna’s story in The Memory Lingers On. Alzheimer’s is part of her journey, giving her time to reflect and question the meaning of her lifetime and those of others, and where she is destined to go. It sounds serious – it is and is not.
Q) The Memory Lingers On is a very touching story and full of provoking thoughts and ideas. Where did you get the inspiration to write such a story?
A) When I visited women in nursing homes I saw the parallel between the death moment and their lives. Some believe that at the moment of death our lives pass before us and spirits of those we have loved come to guide to the other side. Wow! I had epiphany! They were doing that. They were reliving their lives. Literally moving through time and speaking with the dead. Then I needed my drug of choice – writing. My life was ready to move the next plane and Anna came to me. She was a very nice lady.
Q) So, from your experience, when people die they literally relive their whole lives?
A) I can’t say anything definitively – I am not there now. I believe for them they are. There is much I don’t understand. I believe what a person believes is truth for them. When a woman of ninety tells me her husband is in graduate school then she is experiencing that and it is not for me to judge her reality.
Q) I think you have hit upon a very interesting concept there, Roselyn. I have often wondered if elderly people are actually sitting there doing nothing? Are they actually there? Are they somewhere else?
A) Are we at night? In dreams are we only sleeping?
Q) Good point! Would you agree that there is so much we don’t understand about our world?
A) It is! And if it is exciting it does but make life strange. We cannot really know how we are connect to the flesh. I hear he voice inside my head and I wonder where the sound I hear comes from. It couldn’t be all mush and guts.
Q) Okay, changing the subject, Roselyn, how do you feel about the publishing industry?
A) I don’t know how to navigate through it. Sandra Carrington-Smith, an author I’ve come to respect & admire, is helping me learn how. I can’t blame publishers for throwing stuff out without even reading it. There is too much out there and it’s almost impossible to distinguish between what is good and what is junk mail. “Delete” is required even if they throw out the baby with the bath water. After all, there are millions of babies. It is we, the artists, who struggle to get them to open the envelope and the key to that is something I have yet to discover.
Q) But your work has been raved about already! How do you feel people have taken to The Memory Lingers On?
A) Here I’ll quote – I was reviewed in the St. Louis Jewish Light by Robert Cohen – “Anna’s heroic journey evokes some of the best of the various Latin American and Italian schools of ‘magic realism’ by such writers as Gabriel Manuel Marquez & Italo Calvino. Anna’s world is both very ‘here and now,’ even when she is experiencing her ‘visions’ which are both realistic and as fantastic as the paintings of Marc Chagall.”
(Click HERE to read excerpts from the novel.)
Q) That is a fantastic review. How did you feel when you first saw it?
A) I felt incredible, but I’ve since learned that it takes knowledge of marketing to make an author and so much more than their ability to write. As I’ve said, there are just too many of us out there.
Q) From an artistic stance I have to ask: How do you like to write? What gets you into the creative groove? What magic formula do you need to create your best work?
A) I write whenever I can or feel motivated. There are many of us who have not had the luxury of lots and lots of control over their time. We find it and treasure it. That’s when I write.
Q) Did you set out to write for money or for artistic pleasure? Did you begin to write just for your own amusement and pleasure? What drives you as a writer?
A) I like to write because it makes me happy. I’m working on a new direction. My other novels are magic realism. I am now working on a novel that might be of interest to people who have read The Hitchikers Guide. My premise is that the Neanderthals did not just disappear 30,000 years ago; they were part of a research project that was called off after messing around with the local DNA. They are coming back to save us – theoretically.
I’ve never made money from writing. I did come in First Place in 2008 at the San Francisco Writer’s Convention for Adult Literature but since I couldn’t afford the ticket out there, I wasn’t there to receive the prize.
Q) Well, thank you for your time, Roselyn!
A) Thanks, Nick.
From Woodstock to fortune telling to writing to acclaimed work, Roselyn has done it all. I don’t think she entirely knows how far she has travelled in her life. Maybe reading this interview she will discover that it could be time for her to write a biography? In any case, The Memory Lingers On is a fantastic read and with things moving as quickly as they are, it won’t be long until it has a place in many homes around the world.