Graciela Limón is a Latina Writer, Educator and Activist. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish Literature from Marymount College Los Angeles, a Master of Arts Degree in the same field from the University of the Americas Mexico City, followed by a PhD in Latin American Literature from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Prior to retirement, Limón was a professor of U.S. Hispanic Literature as well as Chair of the Department of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California. She is now Professor Emeritus of that University.
Limón has written critical work on Mexican, Latin American and Caribbean Literature. However, she now concentrates her writing efforts on creative fiction that is germane to her areas of interest: feminism, social justice and cultural identity. Her body of work includes In Search of Bernabé that won The Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award (1994). Limón also published The Memories of Ana Calderón (1994), Song of the Hummingbird (1996) and The Day of the Moon (1999). Erased Faces, which was awarded the 2002 Gustavus Myers Book Award, was published in 2001, Left Alive was released in 2005, The River Flows North, 2009, followed by The Madness of Mamá Carlota, 2012. Her latest book is The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy, published by Cafe con Leche Books. Find out more about Graciela at www.gracielalimon.com.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy. What was your inspiration for it?
A: There were several inspirations, but above all is the woman of strength, resilience and ambition. Certain historical events of the first part of the 20th Century worked as well as inspirational in the novel. These were the Mexican Revolution, the Spanish Influenza, the Repatriation and Prohibition.
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.
A: I believe that the most interesting aspect of my protagonist is her fierce independence and courage when faced with adversity. However, just as interesting is her flawed nature that in the end succumbs to her passions.
Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?
A: The creative process for me when writing this novel was different from my other experiences in that my protagonist turned out to be so unpredictable. Ximena Godoy kept me guessing. Hence, I experienced times when I needed to stop writing just to reflect on her nature, and try to decipher her motives. Ximena Godoy is hardly what is expected of the Latina: she breaks the canon, so to speak. All of this created bumps and interruptions along the way, but once my Muse pulled me over those bumps, I was able to get going. How long did it take me to complete Ximena’s story? I would say that it was completed in about two years.
A: Good stories, I find, contain enough ‘excitement’ to make the narrative flow. In The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy, there is a strong historical element, such as the Mexican Revolution. This event was followed by the Spanish Influenza, which, by the way, killed more people than did the Revolution. There are other critical periods that form a background to my protagonist’s story and animate the novel’s narrative, keeping it going and – I hope – keep it exciting.
Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?
A: No, I wouldn’t say that I experience anxiety. What I do feel is a sense of urgency, of wanting to write what I’m feeling before it dilutes or disappears. It’s really a mysterious feeling, difficult to explain.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I’m an early bird, meaning that I write early in the day. By this I mean to say that my schedule puts me at work before daylight when all is still in the house as well as out in the street. With a cup of coffee to energize me, I usually write between three and five hours. This isn’t a strict schedule because, as you can imagine, I get tired. When the time comes to rest I do it by cooking – which I love to do, and by interacting with those around me.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Success for me means completing the novel I’ve been writing. It means everything to me to be part of the mystery of creative writing, and giving it fullness. Remember, completing a novel takes about two years out of my life. That’s significant. Also, success for me is knowing that a story has come to me from out of nowhere, and that I’m a part of the creation of characters that take flesh, who now live among us. Success for me is being able to give life to that story.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: This is problematic, and I find it difficult to give such an aspiring writer advice except to say to not allow the dream to fade much less disappear. I’d say to hang in there, to persevere until an understanding can hopefully be reached.
Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?
A: No. I regret to disagree, and I do so with all respect since George Orwell is one of our world’s shining literary lights. How painful it must have been for him to give us such gifts despite so much pain. In my case, writing a book, although lonely, scary and sometimes bleak, nonetheless is a life-giving experience. Writing for me is to breathe, to travel to another world, to dwell with people before unknown but now more real than even those that surround me. Yes, for me writing is life giving.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: I would tell your readers to have faith in his/her work, to be confident, to reject nasty, mean-spirited criticism, to forge ahead and give us all a part of that God-given talent.