My guest today is the very talented Latina author Julia Amante. A fellow Examiner, Julia is here to talk about her latest novel, Evenings at the Argentine Club, scheduled for released by Grand Central Publishing on September 25th, 2009.
About Julia Amante:
Julia Amante is the pen name of Lara Rios. Lara had the misfortune of growing up away from the extended family that is so valued in the Latin culture, but missed out on very little of what it means to be Argentine. Asados were sacred meals shared together on weekends. Cheering for the Argentine soccer team was a must, as were the weekly pilgrimages to the Argentine Club in Los Angeles where the young Americanized kids hid under the tables and watched the adults dance tango until the wee hours of the morning. Lara giggled right along with the rest of the kids at how “geeky” the parents looked, but secretly, was intrigued by the romantic culture and passionate music.
Not a surprise to most of her family members that she would grow up to write romance novels featuring Latino characters. Lara believes in love and happy endings, and all the magnificent emotions romance novels offer their readers.
Lara lives in California with her husband, son, daughter, and one pampered dachshund. When she’s not writing she enjoys challenging herself physically. Feats to date include five marathons in one year; biking down a volcano in Hawaii; and the latest – walking across a fiery bed of burning coals all the while praying she didn’t become another of her father’s asados. But of course, spending time with her family is what she treasures most of all.
Thanks for this interview, Julia. It’s a treat having you here today. Tell us a bit about how you started writing and your first road to publication.
I’ve been writing forever, but when I sold to Grand Central, I had taken my kids to a piano camp where strict piano teachers wanted absolute silence. My cell phone went off and it sounded like a fire truck passing through a church. I scrambled to get it out of my purse, and when I answered, it was my agent with an offer from Grand Central to buy the manuscript that became Evenings at the Argentine Club. I was so excited that I ran out of that piano room, ignoring the frowning teachers and shouted as loud as I wanted.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your novel! What was your inspiration for it?
Since my parents were immigrants and their journey really impacted my life, I always wanted to write a story about what it’s like to move away from everything you know to start a new life. It amazes me that people can do that, and I’ve always felt that it was extremely courageous. The realities often turn out different from what immigrants expect, and this has been true for all groups, from long ago pioneers moving west to immigrants today.
But what really sort of pushed me to pursue this idea was a gift my grandmother gave me a few years ago when I went to Argentina to visit her. She gave me a notebook full of letters that my father and my grandfather wrote to each other when my father first moved to America. His entire first couple of years in New York were there for me to read. Reading the letters full of my young father’s dreams and hopes was unbelievably moving. As a child, you never think that your parents were once twenty, uncertain, and full of dreams that didn’t include you. Sadly, his American dream didn’t turn out like he expected, but in Evenings at the Argentine Club I had control over my character’s outcomes, which allowed me to create a nicer story.
How long did it take you to write it? What were your writing habits like?
For this book, it took me a way over a year from beginning to final draft. But this was because when I originally turned in the first copy of my manuscript, I had concentrated on the main character, Victoria’s weight issues — the immigrant story was in the background. Luckily, my editor saw the real story hidden underneath, which was the relationship between Victoria and her immigrant parents, and helped me focus on what was really important in the story. Once I rewrote the book, concentrating on the deeper aspects of the plot, this story really blossomed. But it took a while to get there. I think as writers we are sometimes reluctant to write things that are too close to us. In general though, I’m finding that most of my books are taking a year to complete these days. I have to work late at night when my family goes to bed (like many authors do), which doesn’t allow me to produce as quickly as I used to. For me, as long as what I finally write is quality work, one book a year is enough.
Do you get along with your Muse? What do you do to keep her happy?
Absolutely. I don’t believe in writer’s block. When it’s time to work, I tune everything else out and simply write. People that call me while I’m working will often ask if I was sleeping because I’m so into the world of my book, and it happens instantly, the second I hit my computer.
I read once that Agatha Christie got her best ideas in the shower, and that Steven Spielberg gets his while driving on the highway. Where do you get your best ideas?
Hmm, just from observing life and people. Because I write about relationships, I observe people all the time. I listen to radio talk shows about people’s problems – real people are much crazier than book characters! Other than that I think I’m always seeing possible stories. Most, when you sit down to write don’t amount to much, but other do.
Do you have a website and blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
You also write for the Examiner. Tell us all about your column!
Sure! This is completely unrelated to my fiction writing. The reason I decided to write for Examiner was because being a home schooling mom, and a teacher as well as a writer, I found myself giving writing advice a lot to parents. So, I thought this would be a perfect way to share what I know about writing with other mom’s trying to help their kids, and with young writers who themselves are interested in writing. I’m constantly looking things up for my own children, so why not share information with others as well. It’s very different from writing books, and it allows me to combine my two loves, writing and teaching. I’ve learned a lot about writing articles, which is great. Finding images is the hardest part!
What’s on the horizon?
My next book is titled (for now) Family Vines, and it’s about a woman who owns a winery, and is suddenly thrust into motherhood when a family member dies in an accident and leaves her as sole custodian of her children. But after a lifetime of running a business, the last thing she wants is to now become responsible for children.
Thanks for the interview, Julia!
–Mayra is an author and book reviewer, visit her at www.MayraCalvani.com.