Author Interview with S.P. Hozy

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Author Interview with S.P. Hozy

Posted on June 6 by S.P. Hozy
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Caitlyn: Tell us about your book.

S.P. HozyThe Scarlet Macaw is a novel that takes place in Singapore during two time periods — the present and the 1920s. In the present, artist Maris Cousins witnesses the sudden death of her friend and mentor, gallery owner Peter Stone. The experience is so disturbing she loses her desire to paint and her ability to experience life through colour. The 1920s narrative focuses on a young writer who persuades his fiancée to leave England and move to Singapore with him so he can afford the time to write. His mentor is an established writer, Edward Sutcliffe Moresby, whose short stories are woven into the narrative and are being read by Maris almost a century later. Things get complicated for Maris when Interpol enters the picture, casting suspicion on the gallery during an investigation of a smuggling operation involving endangered animal parts.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the idea for this work?

S.P. Hozy: The idea for Peter’s death at the beginning of the book came to me as I read one of many emails about the signs of stroke. I thought it would be interesting for someone to witness a murder, thinking the victim was having a stroke. I wrote the first page of the book and filed it away while I worked out the rest of the story. I never changed that first page — it just seemed to work. The why, how, and who gradually emerged from that starting point of Peter’s death.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the title?

S.P. Hozy: That’s a story in itself that involved my friend Mandy and two bottles of red wine. When the book was completed, I couldn’t come up with a title. I wanted something that resonated, that touched on the themes in the book — art, betrayal, loss, grief — and I had pages of quotes I had printed from the Internet. Nothing came to me. Finally I asked Mandy to read the manuscript and help me. We spent an entire Sunday afternoon going through my pages of quotes and themes, and drinking the wine, of course. Finally, in despair, Mandy said, “How about The Scarlet Macaw?” A scarlet macaw features in the last third of the book, so the idea wasn’t impossibly ridiculous. I was sure somebody would ask me to change it, but it stuck. It’s not anything like my other titles, but it’s intriguing (I hope). Thankfully, I didn’t call it “The Scarlet Macaw Scandal,” because Nancy Drew already has that title!

Caitlyn: Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.

S.P. Hozy: I like to send my characters on a journey of the self. I take them out of their comfort zone, usually by having them suffer a loss through a murder or unexplained death. Then I send them on a physical journey as well, where they basically discover what they’re made of. My books all take place in Asia because I’m a committed traveller who has experienced first-hand what it’s like to leave your comfort zone for extended periods of time. You have to rely on your instincts and discover your fearless self. I fell in love with Asia back in the 1970s and spend as much time there as I possibly can.

Caitlyn: What is your new project?

S.P. Hozy: My new project takes place mainly in Hong Kong in the 1950s. Living in Penang, Malaysia, for part of the year, I discovered that I was surrounded by some pretty interesting expats who had lived and worked in Hong Kong during that time. An excellent historical treasure trove was mine for the asking! The book begins just after the First World War with a man who is traumatized and, after a few years, abandons his young family in Toronto, setting out for parts unknown. We pick up the story twenty-five years later with his daughter who is living in Hong Kong with her husband and teaching at the university. That’s all I’m going to say. Except to mention that T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) plays a minor role.

S.P. Hozy

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

S.P. Hozy

S.P. Hozy is the author of four novels set in Asia. A world traveller for most of her life, she is retired from the film industry, where she won numerous awards as a sound editor and currently works as a book editor, dividing her time between Malaysia and Toronto.