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Archive for the ‘Latino/Hispanic’ Category

john-paul-jaramillo authorA native of Southern Colorado, John Paul Jaramillo now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He has an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University, and presently holds the position of Associate Professor of English at Lincoln Land Community College.

His writing has been featured in Acentos ReviewCopper Nickel Review, Antique Children Arts Journal, Fogged Clarity Arts JournalDigest Magazine, Verdad Magazine, Polyphony Online, Paraphilia Magazine, Sleet Magazine and forthcoming in Palabra Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art. 

He’s the author of the short story collection,The House of Order, published by Anaphora Literary Press.

About the cover…

“The artwork is from an amazing Illinois artist named Felicia Olin. Her work inspires me and this particular piece titled ‘Breathe Out’ caught my eye at an art showing at the University of Illinois Springfield. I’ve been told these stories are very raw and I hoped the artwork matched. I also liked the way composite stories could break down a family and also a man so that we might see a fuller understanding. A fuller dimension in the layers of storytelling and narration. I like the idea that narration of a story can give us the inside and outside view of something. As in Olin’s work I guess things aren’t as pretty on the inside of folks or in the inner-workings of the world. I’m all for more complication in fiction to match the complication that exists in what Amy Hempel calls ‘the problem of being alive.’ Hopefully when one reads the book they might see a fuller view of a man or character, or situation for that matter, they might otherwise ignore or become offended with.”

About his writing style…

“I’ve always been more interested in the form of books rather than the meaning. Expressing rather than communicating. I try to teach that to my students. Content only matters as much as it is organized and structured on the page and I have studied literary minimalism so closely. Obsessed with it really. I’m attracted to the idea of doing more with less. That’s the failed poet in my I guess. I’ve always been inspired with the minimalism of Amy Hempel and Denis Johnson. The minimal form works best with stories about such weighted subject matter such as abusive fathers or delinquent parents. I’ve tried to steal an elliptical and bare bones style to match the laconic male family members.”

About what makes a good story…

“I think I’m particularly interested in trouble. Folks getting in and out of trouble. The thing within folks that creates that trouble around them. Expecially Latino males. Tom Spanbauer describes his style as dangerous writing. And I’ve tried to steal that for my stories. I think finding the trouble and putting the reader in an uncomfortable position along with the characters creates the most interest for the reader. So that’s one. I also think the language needs to mean more to the writer than the reader. That comes from my study of poetry. Tracy Daugherty told his workshop members that language is a character’s skin. I like that idea. We have to get inside of our character utilizing more and more intimate language. I guess that’s when I started using more and more mixing and switching of English and Spanish in my stories. To match the intimate language of the old folks from Colorado that influenced me and that best represent me. So that’s trouble and language. I guess the story must also be affecting. And I guess I mean that stories need to be less plot-driven and more driven by emotion. The best stories that I return to again and again are stories that give less plot and storyline but through the deep use of language and care for the main character makes me feel the most. The work has to be character driven and affecting to create a true immersible experience to compete with films and television and more visual mediums.”

What’s next for John Paul Jaramillo…

“I’m working on a follow up to my first collection of stories. I’m tentatively calling the book Huérfanos named after the nearby county I grew up around and it is more of a traditional novel rather than literary minimalism styled collection of short stories. The criticisms of my shorter stories have been a complaint on the length of the stories. We don’t spend much time with characters and within a novel I can spend that time. I can give a fuller trajectory for the characters. I jump from generation to generation in the short work but I like the idea of adding even more dimension of time within a novel. I also like the idea of following more characters. I’m also interested in creative nonfiction essays about the steel mills and steel unions of Southern Colorado. I’m also interested in turning blog posts from my writing and teaching weblog I keep into fuller essays on the subject of so-called “Spanglish” and the use of intimate language within my written work. I’m interested in writing on the representation of Latinos in popular culture and in films as well as in literature.”

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house of order

The House of Order, the first collection of composite stories by John Paul Jaramillo, presents a stark vision of American childhood and family, set in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Manito Ortiz sorts family truth from legend as broken as the steel industry and the rusting vehicles that line Spruce Street. The only access to his lost family’s story is his uncle, the unreliable Neto Ortiz.

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ImageSandra Ramos O’Briant is proud to announce the release of her first novel, The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood. She’s the author of the short stories, “Death & Taxes and…Worms” in Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery (Arte Publico, 2009), “Lana Turner Slept Here” in Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press, 2008) and “Chile Tales” inWhat Wildness is This (University of Texas Press, 2007). She was generous to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Please give her a warm welcome!

About the book:

When Alma flees with her young lover to Texas to escape an arranged marriage with a much older man, she sets in motion a drama that will put the sisters and their legacy at risk. Pilar, a 14-year-old tomboy, is offered as a replacement bride, and what follows is a sensuous courtship and marriage clouded by the curses of her husband’s former lover, Consuelo. She will stop at nothing, even the use of black magic, in her effort to destroy the Sandoval family. The Mexican-American war begins and the Americans invade Santa Fe. The sisters survive the hostilities from two important fronts-New Mexico and Texas. Their money and ancient knowledge offer some protection, but their lives are changed forever.

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Interview:

It’s a pleasure having you on The Dark Phantom Review, Sandra! Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it?

I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, an area steeped in history, but I’m not aware of much fiction written about the New Mexican women of the 19th century. There are references to the “first white woman” in Santa Fe, and most of the other period pieces (nonfiction written by men) barely mention women, or are unflattering when they do. My goal was to tell a story about women who interested me, women who bravely dealt with whatever life dished out to them. The issues confronted by the Sandoval sisters are contemporary: racism, sexual intolerance, the power of superstition, dealing with mother-in-laws.

The story also has a fair bit of romantic eroticism which the centuries-old Sandoval diaries dealt with candidly. The Sandoval sisters were encouraged to read the diaries and learn their secrets. My research didn’t yield much information on rebellious Latinas of yore. They obeyed their fathers, brothers, husbands, and priests, so I wrote the Sandoval sisters–not exactly as firebrands–but as women who make a change toward owning their power, each in their own way, and all while living on a rough frontier at the juncture of three cultures.

When I tell people I’m from Santa Fe, their eyes light up; they’ve either visited the Land of Enchantment, or it’s on their bucket list. Growing up there, tourists were a mixed bag. The woman running through the plaza shouting that “real Indians” sat on blankets outside the historic Governor’s Palace (now a museum) was an idiot in my opinion. I played tag in the plaza near the End of the Santa Fe trail marker, and listened to viejas sitting on the park benches. They complained about all the gringos taking over the tiendas, and how expensive everything was, and that la raza should do something about it. They also told stories of the devil and witches and unholy events in the night.

The plaza is still there, but the locals don’t gather like they used to. They shop at Walmart now. In the privacy of their homes, some of them still complain about big-shot Anglos. Even though my natal family still lives there, it wasn’t until I traveled to Santa Fe with friends that I allowed myself to feel the “magic.” But I couldn’t answer my friend’s modern questions regarding identity: “Are the people here Spanish or Mexican? What are you?”

Initially, my research was to gain a better understanding of my New Mexican ancestry (Sandoval and Gallegos), but also to find the root of Northern New Mexican identity. I wanted to know why they insisted on calling themselves Spanish, and why they seemed to resent Texans, in particular.

Merchants have always loved the Santa Fe trail. The Mexican-American War was fought to gain more land, but it was also about controlling trade, and that meant controlling Santa Fe: it was the first foreign capital captured by the U.S. An unbelievable influx of men occurred, but nary a word has been written about how that affected the New Mexican women. Until now.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

The story started as stream-of-consciousness, but I very quickly needed an outline. I wanted to tell the story I had heard from childhood, about the two Anglo children whose parents died in a wagon train on the trail to Santa Fe. The spinterish Sandoval sisters adopted them. Very quickly the Sandoval sisters took over my dreams, and their adopted heirs told me about the Sisters’ influence on them in flashbacks, about what it meant to grow up with the Sandoval witches.
I sent the story off to an agent. She said that I had the makings of two, possibly three, books in my manuscript. She wanted to know more about the Sandoval sisters, too. I rewrote the story and brought the past (the flashbacks) into the present. The next generation doesn’t appear yet, but the groundwork is set for everything with which they will have to contend in the future.

How long did it take you to write the book?

Twelve years including a zillion rewrites, and lots of research. Not only did I read U.S. expansionist history–how the West was won (conquered)–but I did archival research on first person diaries and letters. I switched off from writing the novel to experimenting with short stories, many of which have been published. Go here for a complete list and links. For me, the switch between long and short form was like looking at certain art out of the corner of your eye. Images you didn’t see sometimes come to the fore. Also, short stories are hard-bodied, tight. In a novel, you can stretch.

What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Daydreaming. In my youth, daydreaming nurtured me, provided a safe haven. I’d sleep for twelve hours and even when awake escape to the safe place in my mind. Of course, I was a terrible student. Still, I managed to get into college, but my daydreaming threatened to sabotage me. I used behavior modification to break the cycle. I started by setting an arbitrary time limit on studying: for every 15 minutes of study, I’d allow myself an hour of daydreaming. I set the alarm. My roommates thought I was weird. I was. Gradually I increased the studying time while reducing the daydreaming. My GPA went up. I got into grad school. I rarely daydreamed.
In the business world, I did fairly well, but wasn’t happy. A bout of sciatica put me flat on my back. All I could do was read, listen to my mother’s stories about the Sandovals, and daydream: a return to self. My writing career had begun.

Exercise also helps. While focusing on my body and trying not to hurt myself, my mind goes to new and unexpected places.

What authors or type of books do you read for fun?

I’ve always read broadly: literary fiction, scifi, fantasy, chicklit, historical, dystopian, nonfiction, memoir. I’ve even read Westerns. I prefer female protagonists. In the historical genre, I cut a swath through kings and queens, and pretty much like more exotic locations now. I’m a great admirer of Castañeda, Sandra Cisneros, Margaret Atwood, Antonia Fraser, Olivas, Jill Smolinski. Anne Rice and Isabel Allende were huge influences. Go to my Goodreads page for a list of books I’ve read and a giveaway of the Sandoval Sisters.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

All of the above. www.thesandovalsisters.com will give you more information about the book and my bio. My blog is eclectic and everything social media experts say not to do. It focuses on what is important in my life at the moment–could be fidelity in marriage, earthquakes, or pubic hair nostalgia. The posts are short. I try to write it in a creative and interesting way, but I don’t offer how to’s: www.bloodmother.com

Why Bloodmother?

My next book will be a vampire story. It’s almost complete and I’m switching off between it, the next in the Sandoval sisters series, and short stories.

Thank you, Sandra! Best of luck with your book!

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Janelle Meraz Hooper is an Anglo-Hispanic writer who was born in Oklahoma; she now lives in Washington State. An award-winning author, her books are character-driven and lean heavily on the lives and challenges of women. She has been awarded the 2002 Bold Media Book Award for Fiction, the 1999 Surrey Writing Contest 1st Place for Fiction, and was also a finalist at the 2004 Oklahoma Book Awards. Her books include A Three-Turtle Summer, As Brown As I Want: The Indianhead Diaries, Custer and His Naked Ladies, Bears in the Hibiscus, and Free-Pecan Pie and Other Chick Stories.

Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it?

Photo by Bonnie King

My latest published book (2010) is Bears in the Hibiscus, a humorous romance about a woman in her late thirties starting over. This is the first book I’ve written that isn’t based on my family. I’m sure they breathed a sigh of relief when I emailed them to say I’d finally stopped writing about them!

I wrote the book because so many of my friends are starting over. Some of the for the third and fourth time. Love isn’t just for the young. It’s for all ages, just with different challenges.

Are you a full-time writer or do you have another job?

I’m a full-time writer.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I work with an outline. I’ve tried it both ways but the outline method works the best for me. For me, the main difference is it’s faster!

Do you use index cards to plot your book?

No. I do everything on the computer.

How long did it take you to write the book?

I wrote this one in a year. In 2011, I wrote two books, one was a romance, the other a literary novella. Neither one is published yet.

What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

I like to go places where I can people-watch. When I was a child in Oklahoma, on summer nights it was too hot to sleep. It was a popular past time to go downtown, buy an ice cream cone, then sit in the car and watch the people go by. Lawton was great for people-watching. The streets were full of Indians, cowboys, Hispanics, blacks, and Asians, and more. An awful lot of them were our friends. I’ve never forgotten those nights. Many of those people are in my Turtle Trilogy (A Three-Turtle Summer, As Brown As I Want: The Indianhead Diaries, and Custer and His Naked Ladies).

How was your experience in looking for a publisher?

Well, not good. I sent out my first novel to agents and publishers right after 9-11-2001 and most of my manuscripts were sent back unopened. Someone said they were afraid of bombs. I finally self-published in 2002.

What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

I’d advise them to carefully watch everything I do—and do the opposite!

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

The best way for me to sell a book is at a book event. I have to put the book in a potential reader’s hand. The next best way is on Facebook. My Facebook readers are very faithful. I have blogs and websites that get a lot of hits but I have no way of knowing if any of them result in sales.

Share with us some writing tips!

I have a section on writing tips for students on my web page. My favorites are:

Exercise! Writing is exhausting work. Having enough stamina to do that one extra rewrite can make the difference between success and failure.

Listen- Are you listening? Really listening? I used to be a big talker at parties. Then I figured out that I’d be better off if I listened more. I listen not only to what people say but how they say it. Also, listen to the sounds around you. Listen to the sounds a prom dress makes when it dances across the floor. Listen to the different sounds the leaves in the trees make in the different seasons. Listen to the sounds of children playing.
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Read. Everything- Well…almost everything. Let’s stay in the deep end of the IQ and morality pool. Remember that old computer saying: Garbage in, garbage out!

The best tool a writer can have is self-discipline. ‘Nuff said.

In college, an English instructor told me that I’d be a good writer someday when “I’d lived enough”. My first two novels are about my childhood. All I gained by waiting was perspective.

What authors or type of books do you read for fun?

I have a lot of interests so I like to read books on American Native history, marine science, archaeology, geology, interior design, biographies, etc.

Do you think a critique group is essential for a writer?

Yes, if you can find a good one. My definition of a good critique group is one that is nurturing and sociable. I seldom get out. When I do, I want to have a good time! Most of the serious critiquing goes on through email the next day.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yes. My main ones are:
www.JanelleMerazHooper.com
A site I started for local indie authors: www.NorthwestAuthors.org
A blog: http://JanelleMerazHooper.blogspot.com
Social networks include Facebook and National Society of Hispanic Professionals.

Do you have another novel on the works?

I have a new light romance, Boogie, Boots & Cherry Pie, but it isn’t published yet. I imagine it won’t be out until September. I’ve turned it in to my publisher but it is in a long queue. He’s putting it on Kindle for me to begin with. The paperback will come later. (All of my other books are available on Kindle and paperback.)

Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Right now, I’m writing a one-man show for a Hollywood actor (Rudy Ramos) on Geronimo. It’s a very different take on the Chiricahua Apache. I’ve been interested in him since childhood. It is so different I haven’t had the nerve to show it to anyone yet, not even my husband.

I’m holding on to a literary novella titled The Welfare Resort because I thinking of expanding it into a novel.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

Anyone who has read my Turtle Trilogy will realize I’ve had a very unusual life as an Anglo-Hispanic. To the first part, I was never white enough to fit in. To the second part, I was never brown enough to be really accepted. But to be fair, my Hispanic mother’s side of the family was very sociable and loved to play cards till all hours of the night and ballroom dance. I was just a nerdy little kid sitting on the floor of the living room reading a stack of library books. I didn’t play cribbage. I didn’t dance. I didn’t tell funny stories. But oh, how I loved them. Especially the women. They were the inspiration for my Turtle Trilogy.

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Award-winning, first-time novelist Marisel Vera pens an honest, heart-felt, often sad tale of an idealistic, naïve Puerto Rican girl named Felicidad who goes to America to be with the man she loves.

The story, told from an author omniscient point of view, begins in the early 1940’s in the Puerto Rican countryside and ends about ten years later in Chicago. It follows Felicidad’s life from the time she’s a young jíbara living in appalling poverty in the mountains to the time she gets married and moves to America.

Young Felicidad lives in a tiny shack with her parents and siblings. Her father works in the fields and can barely support them. At times, Felicidad must be happy with only one meal a day. Their living conditions are so deplorable, she must tie her locks in a bun so that flying roaches in the latrine will not make a nest in her hair. Her sister dies because they can’t afford medical care. But worst of all, her mother is losing her mind. Unable to face the situation they’re in, one day her mother climbs naked onto the roof. The priest, of course, says she’s possessed by the devil.

Then Felicidad is sent to another town to live with her uncle and his wife, who own a panaderia. Though her uncle is kind and quiet most of the times, her aunt finds every opportunity to criticize Felicidad and treat her like a servant. Felicidad, naïve and good-natured, does her best to put up with her. She slaves in the panaderia and remains submissive, but she dreams of a prince who will love her and ‘rescue’ her one day. Years pass and Felicidad doesn’t hear a word from her family. She misses them terribly and would like nothing more than to visit them, but she wonders if the feeling is reciprocated and, afraid of rejection by her own flesh and blood, she stays away from them.

One day, a handsome man walks into the panaderia and Felicidad is swept off her feet. Aníbal Acevedo, a man of the world as far as women go, is taken by Felicidad’s innocent beauty. To everyone’s shock, a few days later, he asks her to marry him. Felicidad is ecstatic, filled with idealistic illusions of happiness, but is Aníbal capable of fulfilling his dreams, when he has another woman waiting for him in Chicago?

Marisel Vera’s prose flows beautifully. In a skillful, often blunt manner, she paints a painfully realistic picture of the jíbaro. In a way, Felicidad’s story is a Cinderella story but with an unusual twist. The two protagonists, Felicidad and Aníbal, come to live through the pages, each one so very distinctive from the other. It is especially fascinating to be inside Aníbal’s mind and see the world from his perspective, a brutal contrast to Felicidad. Their love story is bitter sweet. But most of all, the author gives us a powerfully sad glimpse of the jíbaro in the 1950’s in Chicago, their difficult lives and tribulations, the prejudice they had to confront. Vera is definitely a new Latina voice to be reckoned with, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

IF I BRING YOU ROSES
By Marisel Vera
Grand Central Publishing
http://www.HachetteBookGroup.com
ISBN-10: 0446571539
ISBN-13: 978-0446571531
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 351
Price: $13.99/$15.50 in Canada
General Fiction

Visit the author’s website at http://www.mariselvera.com/

Purchase from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/If-I-Bring-You-Roses/dp/0446571539

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David Pérez was born and raised in the South Bronx in New York City of parents of Puerto Rican descent. Growing up in the Millbrook Houses in the 1960s and navigating his way through Catholic school comprise much of the storyline for his memoir Wow! (11B Press, 2011). David has written hundreds of published articles for newspapers and magazines and is also a skilled editor. As an actor, he has appeared on stage, film and commercial print. He currently lives in Taos, New Mexico with his wife, poet Veronica Golos, and is the father of two adult children, Belinda and Jase.

Thanks for this interview, David! Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it?

Wow! is a memoir of a smart, funny and somewhat naïve Puerto Rican boy (me) growing up in the South Bronx in the 1960s, living in the projects and navigating his way through a Catholic elementary school populated by a trio of desperadoes known as the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

Wow! is not the typical “boy grows up in ghetto, survives despite drugs and violence” story. This childhood reads like an adventure tale with David and his somewhat wacky friends: Julio’s constant queries in Religion class (“What if you only steal bubble gum?”), and Chino’s challenges to authority (“I ain’t afraid of no Brothers of any heart!”). David’s brother George is worried about junkies stealing boxes of potato chips in broad daylight. Mom loves the Funk &Wagnell’s Encyclopedia. Dad has just discovered credit.

I called my book a “memoirito” because of its novella length (128 pages). Its episodic writing style also reminded me of the telenovelas that Latinos watch, or those popular pocket paperback novelas in Spanish with illustrations. Wow! has illustrations too, done by my brother George Pérez, an internationally acclaimed comic book artist. He drew the cover as well.

As far as inspiration goes, I’ve always been a storyteller, whether as an activist journalist, writer or actor—and especially as a father. Seeing my kids become adults so quickly made me think of my own growing up, how cool it would be if I could capture each moment as if with a pause button. Reviewing my coming-of-age eventually resulted in my memoir.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

It was a little of both, actually. My process began several years ago at an Ashram in upstate New York. Reminiscing on what an eventful life I’ve had, I took out a little notepad and began jotting down names of family and childhood friends, names of streets in my neighborhood, memorable events like first dates, each entry only a few words long. I filled several pages and only got to high school!

Months later I took an entry, for instance St. Luke’s or running track, and just free wrote whatever popped to mind. And that’s how Wow! sprang to life. Eventually, I made chapter outlines and began pulling the narrative together. Thus the writing became more structured, more focused, with intent.

How long did it take you to write the book?

My book took about seven years to complete. I wrote it in spurts because there’s so much else in my life that I enjoy doing—spending time with family, going for hikes, acting in community theater, and other freelance writing and editing gig that I regularly get. So by necessity Wow! had to grow organically. My process also included sending sample chapters out to magazines, going to writing workshops for group critique (a must for all writers), and doing public readings, which I enjoy immensely.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Prior to Wow!, my main writing had been journalism, which I still do. This is a field where you don’t have time for writer’s block. You have deadlines to meet, other assignments waiting to be done. Journalism also requires that you get to the point quickly and concisely, and that’s similar to all writing—at least it should be.

That said, I did have moments with my book when I stared at a blank page for hours, or when I just couldn’t get beyond a first sentence. I struggle with beginnings a lot. It’s important, I feel, to draw the reader in quickly, to get them hooked into your story right off the bat. But since I had no deadlines beckoning, my writing blocks would kick in big time.

In addition, this was about my life. Given my primary training, this was much harder to write than some article about another person or event. Plus I didn’t have a word limit; there was nothing I couldn’t write. I could follow my writing plan or chuck it all together—which I once did, only to find myself frantically combing my computer to retrieve my original chapter outline. No question: Wow! was a challenge to complete. It was fun, yes, but definitely a lesson in how to keep your eyes on the prize.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

Publishing has been interesting; I did tons of research about the various options. I started off by submitting directly to small and mid-sized presses, rather than seeking an agent. There are plenty of quality presses that don’t require an agent, Graywolf and Algonquin, for instance. Anyway, my manuscript was accepted by a small press two weeks after I submitted it; pretty incredible, I thought, and quite the confidence builder! Then I got other “we’re interested” bites from noteworthy presses.

As I was deciding what to do, I met with my brother George at his home in Orlando, Florida to discuss the cover and interior illustrations. He wondered if I should just publish it myself to “make most of the money and maintain all artistic control.” It was an option I was also considering, especially since I wanted to keep the book’s price at $10, a hard thing for a traditional press to accept since they would make little money—and me even less.

Soon afterwards, a friend of mine who’s into the film business discussed with me the idea of starting a press, and having Wow! be their launch book. As she put it, Wow! had cinematic elements well suited to the entertainment goals of her company, 11B Productions. We discussed terms and cemented a deal. Thus began 11B Press. I’m very pleased with my decision.

In terms of advice, the main thing I can offer is that you should explore each and every possibility, and then find out what works for you. At the same time, keep yourself open to the unforeseen and the unexpected. Seek out other writers and immerse yourself in the creative community as much as possible; many doors can open that way.

But all in all, keep things in balance. At a recent “21st Century Publishing” panel held in Taos, New Mexico (where I currently live), I emphasized that everyone has to seek his and her own journey. Why do you want to write? How important is a book to you, really? What other creative things give you pleasure?

Everything boils down to being true to yourself. It sounds metaphysical but it’s true.

What authors or type of books do you read for fun?

I read many different types of books, and since I work part-time at Moby Dickens Bookshop in Taos (25 years in business as an independent bookstore) my reading list is totally out of control. I like books on politics and the economy (the more left the better), science fiction, humor, mystery, world history, science, new age, and memoir. Within this vast list of genres, authors I’ve enjoyed include Arthur Clarke, Chris Hedges, Michael Pollen, Graham Hancock, Elizabeth George, Naomi Klein, Vine Deloria, David Sedaris, and Michio Kaku. Recommended Taos authors include Summer Wood, Veronica Golos, John Nichols, and Frank Waters.

Among the many Latino authors I admire are Eduardo Galeano, Junot Diaz, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Cristina Garcia, Juan Flores, Julia Alvarez, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Esmeralda Santiago, Abraham Rodriguez, playwright Jose Rivera, and almost all Latino spoken word and slam poets.

Not every book I seek out to read is fun. Yet even when a book is difficult to read because it exposes realities like war and violence and suffering, I still get a keen sense of fulfillment in feeling my worldview expand, in simply knowing. I get a rush out of truth, and good writing always does that to me, no matter what its content.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

I only have a website, which is www.davidperezwow.com. There you can hear audio clips from Wow!, find samples of my other writing, and learn of my editing experience, among other goodies.

Do you have another novel on the works?

Wow II—The High School Years!

Thanks, David, and best wishes in your writing career!

About the book:

Wow!
128 pages
$10.00 print version
$3.99 Kindle ebook

Click on the cover below to get your copy!

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Please welcome my special guest, award-winning Cuban playwright and novelist Teresa Dovalpage. She’s here today to talk about her novel, Habanera.

Teresa has a Ph.D. in Latin American Literature and is the author of five novels, three in Spanish and two in English, and a collection of short stories in Spanish. Her plays has been staged in Chicago by Aguijon Theater and in small theaters in Miami. Her articles, reviews and short stories have appeared in Rosebud, Latino Today, Afro-Hispanic Review, Baquiana, La Peregrina, Letras Femeninas, El Nuevo Herald and other publications. She currently works as a freelancer for The Taos News and the bilingual paper Mas New Mexico. Visit her website at www.dovalpage.com.

Teresa presently lives in Taos, New Mexico, where she teaches Spanish and Spanish Literature at UNM-Taos. Her blog in Spanish, that complements her narrative workshop, is http://dovalpage.wordpress.com/ and her blog in English, where some of her articles are posted, is http://teredovalpage.wordpress.com.

Q: Thanks for this interview, Teresa! When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?

A: Thank you, chica! Now that I think of it, I probably decided to become a writer when I was a teenager. I grew up in Havana during the 80’s and entertainment options were quite limited then—camping out in rustic settings or going to Saturday night parties. I was never the cheez boom bah type (in fact, I was a nerd) and was afraid of snakes so I stayed home in the company of books. After reading thousands of pages, there came a time when I thought, “Hey, I bet I can write one too.” And I began to write…some really awful stories, according to my mother.

Q: Did anyone in your family write or have creative interests?

A: My grandfather used to have long conversations with himself and he often wrote them down. He transcribed them carefully, in dialogues between two characters “Yo” and “Mí mismo” (I and Myself). I don’t know if this counts as creativity, though… I tried to depict a few of his eccentricities in Ponciano, the main character’s grandfather in my novel Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family.

Q: Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?

A: While I lived in Cuba I didn’t think there would be any opportunity for me to publish my books so I just keep writing for the love of it, por amor al arte. But I knew I would eventually leave the island, which happened in 1996. Once I came to “La Yuma,” as we call the United States, it was quite a smooth road. I didn’t even have an agent when I began, just sent the manuscript of A Girl like Che Guevara to as many publishing houses as I could think of. “Someone is going to pick it up, someday,” I figured.

Q: Did you have any mentors?

A: Pues claro! There are two writers that I greatly admire and consider my mentors, mis maestras. One is Lorraine Lopez, author of The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters and a finalist of the 2010 PEN /Faulkner Award. I always learn a lot about plot development and structure from reading her books. And my fellow Cuban Ana Cabrera Vivanco, currently living in Spain and author of Las Horas del Alma, a brilliant novel that I expect to see translated into English soon.

Q: Let’s talk now about your novel, Habanera, which has garnered some rave reviews. What is it about and what was your inspiration for it?

A: It started as a memoir, but at a given moment I realized I had reinvented history too much. After some prodding from my mother, who called me a liar among other things, I decided to turn it into fiction. It is loosely based on my own family, though I added many events that never happened in reality. (There was no ghost at home, at least that I knew of.) But the characters are inspired in my parents and grandparents who were—and are—a weird and motley crew.

Q: Habanera combines quirky humor with compelling drama. How do you decide when to incorporate humor in this type of novel? Is it a conscious decision or does it come natural?

A: Well, some things that people find funny were never intended to be humorous at all, hehehe…

Q: One of the reviewers wrote: “Dovalpage is a master of quirky, loveable characters, and emotionally resonant narrative.” How do you create your characters and make them genuine? How do you make your prose shine with emotion?

A: In this case, I copied most of the characters from reality so creating “genuine” characters was relatively easy. After all, I knew the models well… As for the emotion part, I try to give as many details as I can, to get inside the characters’ heads and let hem do the talking.

Q: What was your writing process like while working on Habanera? Was it difficult to go back in time and relive that experience?

A: Since I started it as a memoir the writing process was like keeping a journal backwards. I wrote down a series of episodes as they came to my memory (the unfortunate event with the Christmas pig at home, the visits to the cemetery…) But when I decided to turn it into a novel I changed the timeframe, from the 80’s to the 90’s, so I had to go back and rewrite some scenes… In general it was fun to relive my childhood experiences. I could see for the first time how quirky it really was.

Q: Tell us what the revision process is like for you. Do you edit as you write or do you edit later?

A: Both. I edit as I write and when I finish the manuscript, I have someone read the final draft too, particularly when it is in English. Ay, these pesky prepositions! My husband Gary has been very helpful in that respect.

Q: How was your road to publication?

A: It hasn’t been too difficult. After my first novel in English, A Girl like Che Guevara, was published by Soho Press, I had three more novels (in Spanish) published—Posesas de La Habana Posesas de La Habana, (Crazy Ladies of Havana, PurePlay Press, 2004), Muerte de un murciano en la Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana) that was a runner-up for the Herralde Award in 2006 and El Difunto Fidel (The Late Fidel) that won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009. It was a little more complicated to find a home for a collection of short stories in Spanish, Por culpa de Candela and other stories, but I finally did. And then came Habanera

Q: What do you love most about the writer’s life?

A: The fact that I can write at home when I feel like it, surrounded by my cats and dogs…And wearing my moo-moo, though I only do that when my husband isn’t around. And most importantly, to hear from the readers, to get the personal feedback that makes all the butt-hours spent in front of the computer worthy. There is a fan of Cuban Literature in Spain who has created a website called La Biblioteca Cubana de Barbarito (Barbarito’s Cuban Library). When I get a message from him or from another reader, I feel in seventh heaven…

Q: What Latina authors have inspired you?

A: Many of them! But I want to mention Elena Avila, who sadly passed away last March. She wrote Woman Who Glows in the Dark, a national bestseller about curanderismo, and several beautiful plays. I used Woman Who Glows in the Dark as a textbook in my Santeria and Curanderismo class at the University of New Mexico and it inspired me to write a book on that topic, 101 Questions to a Curandera, that I am presently co-authoring with an eight-generation curandera, Patricia Padilla. The only thing I regret is not having been able to meet Elena in person.

Q: Did you establish a connection with other Latina writers when you started writing? How important do you think is a supportive community for budding writers?

A: Bueno, we have a very supportive and active community in NuncaSolas! I also have a wonderful circle of Latina writers and we trade first drafts and give each other advice. It is an invaluable help.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

A: Don’t store rejection letters… I have heard that some writers do it but can’t imagine anything more depressing, plus it seems like bad Feng Shui. And above all, keep writing!

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Latina author Thelma Reyna’s first poetry book (a chapbook) is on advance sale now. BREATH & BONE is one of the very few poetry books written by a Latina in the latest round of new releases by the venerable Kentucky publisher, Finishing Line Press. The number of copies they publish in late April (the release date) will depend totally on how many copies are ordered during this advance sale period. That will also determine how many author copies the author will receive as “payment” for the book.

Please support this author’s sales campaign and order a copy now! Price is $12. Order at http://www.finishinglinepress.com/NewReleasesandForthcomingTitles.htm .

Feel free to spread the word. The deadline is March 2.

About Thelma Reyna:

Thelma T. Reyna is author of The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories, which was a Finalist in the 2010 National Best Books Award/Short Stories Literature competition by USA Book News. Her stories, poems, essays, book reviews, and other non-fiction have been published in literary and academic journals, textbooks, anthologies, blogs, and in regional media for over 30 years.

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