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Interview with Author Mona de Vestel by Michelle Starrett

Posted by on Aug 23, 2017 in Author Interviews, Blog, Fresh Ink | Comments Off on Interview with Author Mona de Vestel by Michelle Starrett


Mona de Vestel is the award-winning author of the novel “One-String Guitar”—semifinalist for the VCU First Novelist award and memoir “King Leopold’s Daughter”finalist for Restless Books Immigrant Prize. Mona has taught writing at the State University of New York for many years and is ghostwriting books for several prominent clients. For more information, please visit her website:

She has a workshop on point of view on August 27.

What do you consider the greatest strength that point of view can bring to a piece?

Point of view is the lens through which the reader will view a story. Its greatest strength and by definition its very essence is that it allows the reader to experience the world in the same way as does a character on the page. That is what makes books such riveting forms of escape. Who does not love to crawl inside the head of a character for hours upon hours and escape through their lens of that character’s world and how they experience it?

When you are deep in a character’s point of view, what tends to surprise you the most?

I often tell my students to pay as much attention to what a character is not able to see or notice about the world than what they are actually noticing. For example, when you listen to a great piece of music, silence has as much power in the creation of the music as do the notes that are being played. Point of view can also allow for the creation of negative space on the page, in creating the world of a character but also in creating everything that is missing in that world for that character. If a character is blind for example, they will not describe visual cues around them but they may instead have a more refined auditory sense. The author of that character will then need to be able to create a world in which sound and physical sensations are very rich but visual cues are not at all described. Point of view can be a narrow box or a wide-open space of perception, depending on whose eyes are behind the lens.

What would you say to someone who is struggling to choose a POV for an upcoming project?

The first question I ask students when they are grappling with which point of view they want to choose for their piece is this: how much power and control do you want to have over the character? Many novice writers often think that writing in the first person is the most intimate power-wielding point of view there is. In reality, the first-person point of view gives you a very limited view of the world you are created. When your lens is the first person, you are forced to limit your descriptions and knowledge of the world to the limitations and abilities of the character whose point of view you’re using. If you’re writing from the point of an unreliable narrator with a narrow range in emotional depth for example, you will not be able to give your readers access to the emotional depth in a communication exchange between that character and another. In other words, your character’s abilities are all that you have access to when using the first person. This can be a challenging dilemma.

What can students anticipate to take away from this class?

A strong sense of the various points of views available to them when crafting a story, as well as the mastery of choosing one point of view over another and the ability to create each one.


Michelle Starrett is an intern at SDWI and a Rhetoric and Writing Studies major at San Diego State University.