The Writing Life Interviews: Silvio Sirias

Welcome to Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. This morning, I have the great pleasure of chatting with Silvio Sirias.

Silvio Sirias is the award-winning author of the novels Bernardo and the VirginMeet Me Under the CeibaThe Saint of Santa Fe, and The Season of Stories.

A late bloomer in the writing of fiction, Sirias was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up there until the age of eleven, when his family moved to Granada, Nicaragua, his parents’ country of origin. He considers this move the most significant milestone in his life as it shaped his bicultural and bilingual outlook. He returned to Los Angeles to attend college. Eventually, he received his 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 returning to live in Nicaragua in 1999.

In 2010, Silvio was named one of the “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).” The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature lists him among the handful of authors who are introducing Central American themes into the U.S. literary landscape.

He moved to Panama in 2002 where he lives with his wife and their dog, three cats, and parrot.

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Welcome, Silvio.

What is the genre(s) of your books?

Most reviewers, Eleanor, list my work as literary fiction. That categorization reflects my background as a reader. I labored for many years in the academic world, teaching literature. But if I were to label my novels, I’d file them under Latino titerature as my writing is a constant exploration of our shared Latino heritage.

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Please describe what your latest novel is about.

Two ideas for Young Adult novels had been bouncing inside of my head for years. One was a story loosely based on my experiences growing up in Los Angeles around the time my parents decided to move back to Nicaragua, their homeland. The second one was the story of the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, his “discovery” of the Pacific Ocean, and his subsequent beheading. I decided to merge both ideas and have fun weaving these disparate stories together. The end result is The Season of Stories. 

I enjoyed the merging stories in The Season of Stories. How did you come up with the title?

Early on in the process I discovered that the act of storytelling would have to play a key role within the novel. Also, half of the narrative revolves around the 1961 Los Angeles Dodgers’ baseball season. Hence, The Season of Stories.

What is your favorite part of writing?

There are two stages of the process that are, by far, my favorite. The first is the research stage. That’s because it’s there that I get to “experience” the story. The second part is the revision stage. It took years, but eventually I learned to treasure the task of polishing a rough draft. The revision part has become, in my eyes, akin to working on a fun, yet demanding puzzle.

Great description of revision. I love both research and revision. Does your main character resemble you?

An easily identifiable alter ego appears in all of my novels. But only in The Season of Stories and Meet Me under the Ceiba is he a key player. That said, there is part of every novelist in their most important characters. As Gustave Flaubert said regarding his best known creation: Madame Bovary c’est moi.

I agree. What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Forcing myself to get started every morning. I tend to procrastinate until the idea that I’m wasting time becomes unbearable.

What authors have influenced you as a writer?

Whenever I’m faced with a challenge in the creation of a novel, I turn to writers who were successful at tackling similar dilemmas. In my first novel, Bernardo and the Virgin, I borrowed techniques from Juan Rulfo, a Mexican novelist, and Virgil Suárez, a Cuban-American author. But the structure of the novel was lifted directly from Julia Alvarez’s ¡Yo! in Meet Me under the Ceiba, I lifted the structure of Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez. For The Saint of Santa Fe, I borrowed several literary devices from Graham Greene and the Spanish novelist Miguel de Unamuno. And for The Season of Stories, I appropriated the structure of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter and the narrative tone of Scott O’Dell, who wrote Island of the Blue Dolphins. Does that make me a plagiarist? Not at all. I’m merely following the Aristotelian practice of imitatio, which the writers of the Renaissance embraced wholeheartedly. In other words, if writers follow great models, their own work will shine.

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Insightful answer, Silvio. You mentioned many great authors and a few personal favorites in your reply to the previous question. I found that I can’t read when writing the first draft manuscript of a novel, but of course, many favorite books remain in my subconscious. When feeling stuck or lost in a particular stage of revision, revisiting what the writer considers great works of literature can be helpful as a roadmap. 

Silvio, what do you hope readers will gain from your books?

The best compliment a reader can give me is “I really enjoyed reading that novel.” If readers experience a brief respite from the travails of everyday life while reading one of my books, then I did my job.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t be in such a rush to see your work in print. These days it’s easier to get published than at any time in human history. That makes it all the more important for writers who are serious about the craft to work as long as it takes to deliver a manuscript that’s as perfect as possible. It would be a disservice to your written legacy to publish something that’s not ready just because you can’t wait to see your name on the cover of a book. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, always put your best foot forward—and that takes a lot of work and patience.

Silvio, tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Although I’ve taught countless creative writing classes, I’ve never taken one.

Please share your website and social media links.

My website: www.silviosirias.com

My Author’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/silviofans/ (Please excuse the name; it was a gift from an overzealous friend.)

And I share tutorials on writing on my YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCjZH11xFwpjb6Hn1tzianYQ

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Where can we find your books?

All are available on Amazon. 

What’s next for you?

Like you, Eleanor, I’m a peregrino. We’ve both walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, and you well know what a powerful experience that is. At the moment, I’m writing a novel that weaves a medieval pilgrimage with a contemporary one. It’s still untitled and it has taken a lot of effort to get the narrative to take off. But it’s in full flight now and I hope to have a rough draft completed before June of 2017.

El Camino was indeed a powerful, unforgettable experience for myself and my then-teenage children. I kept a daily journal on my walk, and of course, my experiences will feature in a future novel I have in mind. How could they not, right? Good for you, fellow peregrino!

Thank you, Silvio, for chatting with us today. It was a pleasure getting to know more about you and your books. All the best!

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

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Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Priceless Value of Keeping a Journal

@eleanorparkerwv #latina #writer #amediting #amwriting #historicalfiction #novel #publisher #booktrope

That’s about the gist of it today. Eleanor Parker from West Virginia (not originally) is a Latina writer who is editing her first book-an historical fiction novel that will be published by Booktrope this summer. #adecentwoman Wouldn’t that be cool to use that hashtag!

I’ve used Twitter for a couple of years and until this week, I had never used a hashtag in my life. In my defense, I was writing a book. I see that #eyeroll. Although I was doing my part to create and maintain my author platform on many social media sites, I didn’t know how to use hashtags. I thought it was some fad that would wear off eventually. Wrong. I’ve found out how very useful these little hashtags are! They get me to where I want to be and allow me to communicate with people who are doing the same thing-editing and writing. It’s awesome.

Earlier in the week, I watched a very informative YouTube video from Writer.ly.com about using Twitter and it opened up a whole new world for me. I know it’s old news to you, but I’m genuinely excited. I forced myself to log off after the tutorial because I’ve been known to search for videos of angry cats, people’s reactions and behavior to being slung into the atmosphere on amusement park thrill rides, and of course, videos of twin babies discovering each other for the first time. I could spend hours on that site. So, I went back to Twitter to use what I’d learned and it was fun. I discovered lists and created one list, but it didn’t work. I’ll have to tend to that later. This morning I composed a tweet about something dumb I did this week and ended it with #brainfart. Perfect.

One of my favorite authors, Joyce Carol Oates is on Twitter. I had a lovely morning catching up with the author. She tweeted about keeping a journal and her comments prompted my decision to keep a journal again. My memory isn’t what it used to be…who am I kidding, my friends will tell you that I have a bad memory for people’s names, book titles, movie titles and dates. Forget dates. I know. I’m an historical fiction writer, how can that be, right? Well, I’m telling you the truth. If I don’t write it down, it’s lost. I will remember the story, the location, what the weather was like, who wore what and said what, but the day and time? Not going to happen. My good friends will tell you that I don’t remember their birthday. My brain cannot and refuses to retain that type of information. You’ll hear from me when your birthday pops up on my Facebook page.

Today I’m editing and tonight, I’m ordering a big, beautiful, hardback, non-lined journal. I kept a diary as a teenager. It was a small diary with a tye-dyed cover. I kept it until my mother found my sister’s journal (okay, I told my mom where it was hidden) and I promptly threw it away. I remember it was trash day. I stuffed my diary into an athletic sock and pushed it deep into the outdoor trash can.

A couple of years after my mother passed away (1992), I moved to Belgium with my then-husband and two young children. It was a perfect time to begin a journal. I’d lived in Europe as an Army brat, but this was a whole different ball of wax. I was an Army wife and member of a new community, a very active community of Americans, Brits and Belgians. We became family, as you do when thousands of miles separate you from your loved ones back home, and many of us still keep in contact today. On Facebook, of course. We remained in Brussels for 13 years. I kept a journal of our travels, adventures, my life as an ex-pat, a working artist, and as a mom. I have kept those lovely journals.

When my children and I returned to the United States in 2006, I stopped writing in my journal. I had a divorce to deal with, I worked full-time and went back to school. I don’t think I could bear reading about that difficult time in my life, but it so happens that I’m writing my second book, another historical fiction novel, Finding Gracia on El Camino. The story of a recently divorced woman who finds her grandmother’s journals that chronicle her walk on El Camino, the medieval pilgrimage walk from Roncesvalles, France to Santiago de Compostela. My kids and I walked El Camino one month after my marital separation. I kept a daily journal on our two-week walk. Thank God, I did.

Perhaps I will regret not keeping a journal during that time in my life as my new book unfolds and takes shape. My sister and good friends, however, have long and good memories. If I need to tap into that moment in time as a writer, they will help me and it won’t take me long to access the feelings and emotions that seem to reside just beneath the surface.