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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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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 Nicaraguan-American writer Silvio Sirias. He’s the author two novels, Bernardo and the Virgin (Northwestern University Press, 2005) and Meet Me Under the Ceiba (Arte Público Press, 2009). This latest one garnered him the 2007 Chicano/Latino Literary Prize for Best Novel. In addition, he’s published numerous pieces of literary criticism. Sirias holds a P.h. D. in Spanish from the University of Arizona. Since 2002, Silvio resides in Panama, where he continues to write and teach at Balboa Academy. For more information on the author, visit his website at www.SilvioSirias.com.

About Bernardo and the Virgin:

In 1980, with the Sandinistas newly in power, Bernardo Martinez witnesses an extraordinary thing: an otherworldly glow about the statue of the Virgin Mary in the church where he works as sacristán. Soon the Holy Virgin appears. She tells Bernardo to forget his money problems and fear of ridicule and spread her message of peace and faith to his neighbors. Though a work of fiction, Bernardo and the Virgin is based on actual events. The visitation of the Virgin Mary at Cuapa, Nicaragua, remains one of the few such events accepted by the Catholic Church in the last sixty years.

Silvio Sirias’ sweeping novel tells many stories: that of a humble man touched by the transcendent; that same man as a devout boy denied the priesthood because of poverty; and those in his orbit, past and present. It is also the stormy epic of Nicaragua through the long Somoza years to the Sandinista revolution. Sirias’ beautiful language mixes English with Spanish and details of dusty village life with wondrous images of Catholic mysticism. His portrayal of the rich recent past of Central America resonates with the experiences of both the natives and the thriving communities of Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and other Central American putting down roots in the United States.

Thanks for being my guest today. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started writing?

I was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up there until the age of eleven. My parents then moved to Nicaragua, their country of origin. This move is, without a doubt, the most significant milestone in my life as it shaped the way I see the world. During my years in Nicaragua, I also learned that Central America is a place full of wondrous, and at times heartbreaking, stories. After graduating from high school I returned to Los Angeles to attend college. I fell in love with the study of literature and eventually received a doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona and worked as a professor of Spanish and U.S. Latino and Latina literature for several years before moving back to Nicaragua in 1999.

Ever since adolescence I’ve enjoyed writing, but I’m a late bloomer in the writing of fiction. My college training taught me how to produce literary criticism, but after meeting and conducting interviews with several Latino and Latina novelists, I saw how much fun they were having and decided to join in.

I hear you were named one of the 2010 Top Ten “New” Latino Authors to Watch by LatinoStories.Com. That’s quite an honor.

Learning the news stunned me, and then I was elated. But once the elation wore off I was humbled. I realized that I needed to work harder in my current and future efforts to be worthy of the honor.

How did Bernardo and the Virgin come about?

Beginning in my early 30s I started looking for an engrossing story through which I could also explore the history of Nicaragua in the 20th century. I met Bernardo Martinez, who was good friends with my father, in 1999, and the more I learned about his story, the more I became certain that I had finally found the perfect vehicle for the panoramic tale I had long wanted to tell.

Critics have called Bernardo and the Virgin a tale of religious mysticism. Tell us about that.

In telling the story of Bernardo Martinez, who claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to him several times in 1980, I narrated the apparitions through his point of view — and this lens is indeed out of the ordinary and highly spiritual. Whether one believes his account or not — and acceptance or disbelief became a highly politicized issue in revolutionary Nicaragua — he maintained until his dying breath that he had experienced an intimate encounter with the divine. Nicaraguans are highly religious people who easily accept the existence of mystical experiences. Long before the reports of Bernardo’s visions Nicaraguans fervently venerated Mary — fanatically so. Because of this, tens of thousands immediately accepted the news of her visit. It is this collective belief that gives the novel its mystical dimension, I think.

I hear you’re a very disciplined writer.

Yes, friends say that I’m a highly disciplined writer. That’s because when I feel I’m on to something writing feels like play, not work. But I’m not one of those supremely dedicated writers who will stay up until midnight or wake up before dawn to write. I need major blocks of time at reasonable hours; I’m talking about six to eight hours a day for months, or even years. I was fortunate to have a couple of years where I could afford to stay home and write. What a luxury! During that time, I’d work from 8 a.m. until the late afternoon, six days a week. When I’m able to take time off from my day-job I write feverishly and get a lot accomplished. But I’m back in the classroom now, which I love, to refill my bank account so that within two or three years I can stay home again to write. At present, however, I have a three-hour block in the mornings where I get as much done as I can.

How was your creative process while working on Bernardo?

The first task was to conduct the research. That’s always the most exciting part for me; it’s where I vicariously experience the story I’m preparing to write. Once I’m confident that I have most of the information I need, I sketch a general outline of all the chapters, and this includes the ending because, for the sake of my nerves, I need to know how the story ends. Then I begin to write with the help of a detailed outline of each chapter. As I write, I start each day by revising what I have written the day before. This helps my mind get back into the story. I then start a new section and write straight into the mid-afternoon. This cycle repeats itself until the rough draft is concluded. Then I will work on a chapter at a time, revising it until it is as perfect as I can get it. When I polish the last chapter I share the manuscript with my peer editors, a wonderful team that has served me faithfully.

How is this work different from your second book, Meet Me under the Ceiba?

The primary difference is in the scope of the novels. Bernardo and the Virgin explores important events in Nicaragua’s history through the lives and thoughts of characters that represent ordinary people. As a result of this exploration, the pace of the narrative is leisurely. Bernardo is more like a ballad, while Meet Me under the Ceiba, which is based on an actual murder case, has more of a rock ’n’ roll pace. The reader has to practice a little patience during the opening chapters of Bernardo, but there’s a big payoff when the stories begin to lock together.

Which novel has a closer place to your heart?

Both novels are very dear to me, Mayra, but for different reasons. Bernardo and the Virgin is my first-born, and like any parent a lot of my hopes and dreams about the legacy I hope to leave as a writer are contained within those pages. What’s more, I wrote Bernardo as a tribute to the people of Nicaragua. I am most grateful for everything they’ve taught me. On the other hand, the goal of Meet Me under the Ceiba was to write a fast-paced story with an unusual structure that would capture the reader’s attention from the onset and hold it throughout. By all accounts I’ve been fortunate enough to have succeeded in both attempts.

I’ve received feedback from many readers with ties to Nicaragua who have thanked me for writing Bernardo and the Virgin because they claim that the novel, in addition to telling Bernardo’s story, captures the essence of life in that country. And I’ve also heard from several readers of Meet Me under the Ceiba who have said that they had to read the novel in one sitting because they couldn’t put it down. Because of such positive feedback, and because the books are so different, the answer regarding which one is closer to my heart depends on the mood I’m in at a given time. I love them both, for varying reasons.

What’s the hardest part about being a novelist? The most rewarding?

The hardest part is being able to afford the time to right. People have misconceptions about the financial aspect of being a writer. But it’s not entirely their fault. For instance, in most films, as soon as a character who’s a novelist publishes his or her first book they become wealthy, get to ride in limos, and they hang out with celebrities in upscale New York restaurants while learning to elude the paparazzi. The reality is that very, very few novelists receive public acclaim or get to live off of their royalties. Many sacrifices are required to become and remain a novelist. The ideal situation, for me, would be to earn just enough to stay home and write full-time. I can do without the limos and the glamorous company. Regarding the most rewarding part, for me it’s been what I’ve learned along the journeys of each novel.

How has the publishing process been for you?

Because I had already published books of an academic nature, I was familiar with the world of publishers. As a writer of fiction, I’ve had nice experiences with Northwestern University Press, the publishers of Bernardo and the Virgin, and with Arte Público Press, who published Meet Me under the Ceiba. With Bernardo the road got a bit bumpy when there was a delay during a crucial promotion period, and then the editorial team that strongly supported the novel left to work with other publishers. Because of these problems, which were beyond anyone’s control, when Bernardo and the Virgin was released it went under the radar, barely getting noticed. But that’s all part of the game. Also, I confess that at the onset of my career as a novelist I was naive, believing that publishers would do all the promotion. But after learning that it was in my interest to become actively involved in this part of the business I’ve worked diligently to explore the ways I have within my means to promote my work. This is something every author needs to learn, so a writer may as well become good at it and enjoy the challenge.

What kind of themes do you like exploring?

It depends on the novel. Critics have described Bernardo and the Virgin as an “epic” account of Nicaragua in the latter half of the 20th century. And because of the broad canvas of this narrative, I had the opportunity to explore every theme that possesses me: politics, history, religion, spirituality, family, war, immigration, biculturalism, the shifting traditions, superstitions, death, and so forth. Meet Me Under the Ceiba allowed me to delve into the heart of an actual murder and then explore what’s good traits, if any, such a horrendous act can bring out in us. My third novel, The Saint of Santa Fe, deals with the disappearance of Father Hector Gallego, a young Colombian priest who accepted an assignment in the then faraway mountains of Veraguas, in Panama. He was confronted with a campesino population that lived as indentured servants, and he did what was necessary to change their lives. Sadly, however, in the process of liberating his parishioners, he offended the landed gentry as well as General Omar Torrijos, the country’s strongman before General Manuel Antonio Noriega, and this cost the priest his life. I wrote The Saint of Santa Fe to better grasp the recent history and culture of Panama, my new homeland.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve completed a third novel, but I need three to four months where I can devote myself exclusively to revising the manuscript as it’s not quite ready to send off to the publishers. The story is based on an actual event in Panama, in 1971, concerning the disappearance of a priest, a noble person, who upset the status quo in a remote mountain community. I also have a collection of essays that I will soon start circulating among publishers. In the meantime I continue to write essays and I’m researching topics with an eye toward possible future novels.

Thanks for the wonderful interview, Silvio!

This is the first stop in Silvio Sirias’ virtual tour with Condor Book Tours. Don’t miss his other stops in the during the next two weeks. To see the full schedule, visit Condor Book Tours.

Live chats with the author!

There will be two live chats with Silvio at the author chat salon at Condor: http://condorbooktours.com/index.php?pr=Author_Chat_Salon

The first will be on Friday June 11th from 7-8pm EST and will be for questions from the readers of the blogs hosting from June 7-11

The second will be on Friday June 18th from 7-8pm EST and will be for the questions from the readers of the blogs hosting from June 14-18.

Support your independent bookstores by purchasing Sirias’ novels from Dulce Bread and Bookshop.

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My guest today is young author Estevan Vega, whose third novel, ARSON, will soon be released by Tate Publishing. Estevan has been my guest before in the past and it’s a thrill to have him here again.

Congrats on the release on yet another novel, Estevan! What is your writing schedule like and how do you juggle it with your studies?

Thanks, Mayra. Yeah, it took a crazy long time to get here, but ARSON is finally gonna get out to the world. The release date is set for May 4, so mark your calendar. It’s funny you should ask about my writing schedule, especially because I don’t really have one. Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. I write when I can and sometimes that’s not always as much as I should be doing. It gets sorta complicated with school and a life and right now, promotion ARSON. So, yeah, that’s my excuse for not writing as much as I should. As far as juggling, I’m becoming quite skilled. Well, kinda.

What do your teen peers think of your career path and early success? Do you think it has inspired them?

When I was in high school, many of the kids saw my publishing a book as a reason to make a stupid joke at my expense. It was lame, but I did go to an all-guy school, so it somewhat comes with the territory. It’s better in college, though. Kids tend to see it as more of an accomplishment than they did a few years ago. So that’s cool. I think they do see it as something to aspire to, yeah. The kids who write anyway.

To what do you attribute your dream of becoming published? Not many teens are focused on ‘getting published’ the way you were.

Well, when I was in fifth grade I couldn’t stand writing or reading, for that matter. If it weren’t for my father’s guidance and “push” I probably wouldn’t have done it. I mean, yeah, I thought an author’s life is all fame and money, but once I started writing, I realized how far-off I was with that theory, and I still am doing it. I’m not sure why I decided to stick with writing longer than any other thing, but I have, and now, no matter how hard it gets, I’m always brought back to it. It’s like a part of me that won’t let me go.

How has your writing evolved since your first book came out at age fifteen?

Oh, it’s definitely evolved. I look back and read pages of Servant of the Realm and go, ‘man, did I write that?’ But it’s all part of the growing process. I can’t expect to write like a twenty-one year old when I’m fifteen. But there are hints of things to come within those pages, and that’s cool, to sorta watch my progression between each book. It’s definitely taken some time, but the journey is all worth it.

Do you do character profiles before sitting down to craft your fiction?

Not really. I just sit down and start creating a character. Depending on which book I’m writing, the characters tend to have different themes running through each of them, and sometimes they cross over depending on what I’m trying to say with each story. The characters tend to just sorta create themselves as the story goes, with me making changes here and there. It’s fun to watch them progress from page one until the end.

What was the most dificult aspect of writing ARSON? The most fun?

I had the most fun and the most difficulty writing ARSON, to be honest. I love the story more than anything I’ve written. And I can think of several reasons why, but the thing about ARSON is that it took the longest to get out there to the public. I mean, I got the concept in the fall of 2006 and it’s finally coming out nearly four years later. Both Servant of the Realm and The Sacred Sin took about three years. So, I’ve spent so much time on this thing, trying to get everything perfect, you know. The most fun was writing the story arc between Arson and Emery. I just fell in love with these characters. Watching their story unfold was so cool. The most difficult part was probably choosing how it was going to begin and end. I changed both ends of the book several times, asking people for opinions and choosing which ideas I thought would fit the story best.

How do you celebrate a new contract?

When I got the contract for ARSON I was a little shocked. I had been e-mailing the publisher back and forth about the manuscript and he seemed interested but didn’t really want to budge on anything. Then out of left field he sends me a contract. I was, like, whoa! I didn’t think he was that interested. So I called my dad and we celebrated over the phone, since I was at school. It was a great feeling.

What would you say to young people who dream of becoming published authors?

Don’t let that dream die. Critics will scare you. The current book market will scare you. Your own family and friends might scare you, but if it’s in your blood to write, then write.

Thanks, Estevan, and best of luck with your book!

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I’ve had the chance to interview some great authors these past two weeks. Here are the links:

Interview with Raul Ramos y Sanchez, author of AMERICA LIBRE

Interview with TV producer Anjanette Delgado, author of THE HEARTBREAK PILL

Interview with author & poet Daniel Olivas

Interview with Belinda Acosta, YA author of Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz

Intervieww with Margaret Mascarenhas, author of The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

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I have some exciting news to share. There’s a new hot spot for Latino authors to promote their work: Bronzeword Latino Authors. Run by award-winning author Jo Ann Hernandez, this new site is aimed at spreading the work and accomplishments of Hispanic authors worldwide. Jo Ann will be offering various promotional services, including virtual book tours. Here to talk about her new endeveour and the Latino book market is Jo Ann herself.

Thanks for stopping by, Jo Ann. Your new site for Latino authors sounds exciting. Tell us about it.

BronzeWord Latino Authors opens on May 18th with the Top Ten Days of Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo. Leave a comment to be eligible to win a book.

What used to be BronzeWord’s Blog has moved and is thriving on BronzeWord Latino Authors at http://authorslatino.com/wordpress.

Come and read about your Latino/a authors and their accomplishments. Learn about contests, the publishing world, and about agents/editors. BronzeWord Latino Authors is a wealth of information to assist you in achieving your publishing goals.
We celebrate the Top Ten Days of different Latino/a authors with ten days of interviews/book reviews/articles by the author. We are creating the first ever Latino Virtual Book Tour. Latino/a bloggers are going to be highlighted every Saturday on BronzeWord Latino Authors. Blog Carnivals are in sight just down the road.

La famila awaits you. BronzeWord Latino Authors: the clearinghouse for all things Latino/a Literature.

The first Latino Virtual Book Tour is becoming an opportunity. I am seeking Latino/a bloggers who are interested in hosting a Latino/a author one day per month. Send me your email address and I’ll send you a letter with the details about being a host. However my letter is long. I’m a novelist and don’t know how to write short. The letter is long because I want you to know all the possibilities. But really other than hosting the author, letting your readers know, and passing your link on to the next blog, there’s not much to do. Please check it out. You would be making history.

What compelled you to start such a site?

With BronzeWord Latino Authors, I want to create a level playing field for every writer who has a manuscript to sell. If you have a question, ask it. If you have a problem with your writing, present it. If you need editing assistance, send your pages. If you want to know where to find the best agent to query and how to query, look on BronzeWord Latino Authors for the answers. Latino/a authors are treated with respect and honored for the great wonders they are creating. Here everyone can say what is really on their mind. We state our dreams, and we encourage each of us to obtain them. 

How is the Latino book market at the moment?

Everything you read tells you that the Latino book market is great. It is if you take into account that white people are writing our stories. That mystery writers (my favorite genre to read so can’t comment on other kinds) have more and more Latino/a sidekicks with thick mustaches and gaudy suits, and if they happen to make their Latino character the main protagonist, they are either half-something else or not connected to their roots. NYC say they are publishing many books by Latinos/as yet those books are about migrant or gang related stories. Latino/a authors have to go to small presses or university presses to write something that represents our growing middle-class audiences.

Also everyone desperately needs to speak to the issue of how buying our books produces a major difference. The dollar bill speaks loudly. Think Coke vs. Pepsi. Only when we buy our Latino/a author’s books will NYC understand that we want books about us by our own about our lives in all the manifestations our lives and ethnicity come in. They cannot box us into a generalization and expect us to spend our money on how they perceive us.

Each of us can make a difference. It’s a cruel world out there for a Latino/a writer. Don’t be fool by what NYC prints. Only you can make the difference. BronzeWord Latino Authors can put the information out there for you to read, and it is up to you to make NYC notice what we really want. Who we are. What we’re worth. 

How can readers follow you? Are you on Twitter or Facebook?

Join me on twitter: @LatinoBookNews @BronzeWord
Friend me on Facebook as BronzeWord
Subscribe to BronzeWord Latino Authors by RSS feed or by email. http://authorslatino.com/wordpress

Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Do you know that search engines make the difference between a blog being noticed or ignored? How? By the number of comments people make on the blog. The search engines count comments. The more comments there are on a blog the more certain that a search engine will bring up that blog on the search results page. If the blog doesn’t show up on the search results page, it will never be noticed, viewed, or ranked. Whenever you visit a blog or website and you enjoy reading it, I’m glad, but make a comment even if it’s only hello. Your comments will make a major difference in the existence of that blog. Your comments will make an enormous impact on the knowledge that Latinos/as exist and are thriving. Your comments are what count, really count.

Please comment. Please subscribe. Please join. Please buy.

Thanks, Jo Ann, and good luck with your new site!

 

–Mayra Calvani, www.MayraCalvani.com

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03My guest today is Misa Ramirez, author of Living the Vida Lola. Misa’s work combines elements of humor, romance and mystery. In this interview, she talks about her inspiration for the novel, her busy schedule, and her future projects.

Thanks for being here today, Misa. After reading your book, I was surprised to find out that you’re not Latina by birth, but by marriage. How did you come to idendity so well with Latinas? 

A.   I am thrilled that you feel I did justice to the Mexican culture and to Latinas!  In a lot of ways, I do feel that Lola Cruz is my ‘alter ego’ if I were a Latina.  I think it comes from being so involved with my husband’s family for so long.  We’ve been married for 19 years.  Various members of his family have lived with us at different times, including his parents.  They have always been a dynamic family with so many strong personalities, yet their culture has always been a subtle part of who they are and how they live.  That’s what I wanted to capture through the characters in my book.  Not every Latino’s experience is the same.  Not everyone thinks the same, has the same sensibility of cultural values or expectations, but they each embody some elements of the culture.  I really wanted to have Lola be an American who was also Latina.  I wanted her to balance all the different parts of who she is, all the while being true to herself.  I think my approach, and being “Latina by marriage” made me super aware of not falling into stereotypes, as well.  None of my husband’s family are ‘stereotypical’ Latinos.  They are all complex, multi-cultural individuals and I’ve learned so much from them.  I love the culture and my husband and wanted to write something that in some way represented who my children are on some level, as well.

When did you start writing? Do you have another job besides writing?

I wrote in college, but got a little more serious when I first started teaching middle school.  But then I had children and writing took a backseat.  I came at it again after my 5th baby was born and I needed an outlet.  I’d had the good fortune of having a children’s book published and kept working toward getting another one published.  But the magic wasn’t happening.  I was writing to prompts and Lola was born.  Her family came next, and pretty soon the whole book was pouring out of me. 

Of course then I went back and rewrote it SO many times, working in more character development and adding plot points.   I also went back to teaching which left little time for writing.  But I persevered, landed the most awesome agent ever, and Living the Vida Lola was published by St. Martin’s Minotaur!  Now I’m writing full-time, dabbling in some part time teaching, and loving my new career.

What compelled you to write Lola’s story? 

Like I mentioned above, I really wanted to tell a story about someone like my own children.  I wanted to capture the bi-cultural aspects of my husband.  And I wanted to write a fun, sassy, strong, smart woman who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted most of all–a career as a writer–oh, no!  That’s me!–a career as a detective. 

I love Lola and her family.  They really are real to me! 

Describe to us a regular writing day in Misa Ramirez’s life. Are you a disciplined writer?

 

Unfortunately I’m not disciplined enough.  Since our recent move to Texas (from California), I’ve jumped into some community work.  It’s taking more of my time than I’d anticipated!  But I’m definitely the type of person who will just keep working.  In fact, I probably work better under a little pressure. 

The typical day:  Wake up; Wake up children (6 year old takes 15 minutes minimum to get out of bed!); supervise the kids’ breakfast and drink coffee (me, not the kids); make their lunches if they are running late, or supervise their lunch-making if they’re not (I believe in teaching them how to do things for themselves!); take them all to school; go for a walk (or do yoga on Thursdays); come home, clean up, chores (never-ending), and go into office to begin working (this is assuming there is nothing child related or community activist related on the calendar for the day); write, drink more coffee, tea, or water; eat something carby (argh!); pick up kids from school; help with homework; check email and do miscellaneous tasks on the kitchen laptop computer as time allows; do sports, piano, guitar lesson runs; dinner; reading to kids; playtime (if there’s time); bed for the kids; watch a recorded or Netflix show if one is available, read, or back to the computer.  Next day, begin again. 

More detail than you wanted, right?!

What’s in the horizon? 

Book 2 in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series is in production.  I believe it will be released in winter 2010.  No date yet, and no title yet!   Beyond that, I have books 3 and 4 in the works, a proposal for another series–this one about a curandera, am working on a middle grade proposal, and am doing some freelancing.   I also am a columnist at www.romancingtheblog.com, and co-operate http://chasingheroes.com, a very cool website all about hero archetypes (and heroine archetypes) and so much more.  Always something in the works!

Anything else you’d like to tell readers? 

Thank you for having me, Mayra!   And thanks to those of you who’ve read Living the Vida Lola.  It’s hit the local (Dallas-Fort Worth area) bestseller’s list and I’m thrilled that so many people are loving Lola! 

Visit my website at : http://misaramirez.com for contest information and more...

Thanks, Misa, and good luck with your work!

 

Read my review of Living the Vida Lola.

 

–Mayra Calvani, www.MayraCalvani.com

 

 

 

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