Author Interview: Liza Treviño

Welcome to the last installment of our 2017 Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. I will take off the rest of the year to finish my second historical novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico, hopefully, by January 2018!

I began interviewing my fellow authors in 2015, and to date, it looks like I’ve interviewed 82 authors. It’s been great to meet and chat with new authors. I hope you’ll check in at the blog during summer and fall 2017 as I begin a new series of blog posts that relate to my work in progress. We’re looking forward to sharing new author interviews in 2018.

Thank you for your continued support, dear readers. Keep buying books and remember that a book review on Amazon and Goodreads means the world to all authors!

Today, I am pleased to welcome Liza Treviño to The Writing Life.

Liza Trevino_1

Liza Treviño hails from Texas, spending many of her formative years on the I-35 corridor of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.  In pursuit of adventure and a Ph.D., Liza moved to Los Angeles where she compiled a collection of short-term, low-level Hollywood jobs like script girl, producer assistant and production assistant.  Her time as a Hollywood Jane-of-all-trades gave her an insider’s view to a world most only see from the outside, providing the inspiration for creating a new breed of Latina heroine.

Welcome, Liza! What is your book’s genre?

All That Glitters is a women’s fiction novel that features a Latina heroine. There’s LA grit, Hollywood glamour and some romance mixed in for good measure.

All That Glitters Cover

Please describe what All That Glitters is about.

It follows the rags-to-riches Hollywood journey of a creative, ambitious, street smart and stunning Latina who sets her sights on making it big in Hollywood as a writer-film director in the 1980s. It’s also about the sacrifices one must make at the service of their ambitions. When is it too much? When do you take that step too far that can ultimately ruin you? How do you keep your integrity in the face of rampant sexism, misogyny and self-doubt?

How did you come up with the title?

While it’s a well-known saying, All That Glitters perfectly captured both the glitzy desires of Hollywood while also evoking the darker aspect that all is not what it seems, no matter how you might desire it.

What inspired you to write All That Glitters?

I’ve always been a reader and a writer, since I was a kid. I loved – love – all kinds of genres: horror, suspense, romance, but Jackie Collins, in particular, always held a special place in my heart. I adore her work and all Hollywood fiction. Eventually, I was re-reading one of my favourites of hers while I was in grad school in Los Angeles, and it hit me.  Where is a Latina Lucky Santangelo? I wanted to read about a badass character like Lucky Santangelo, but I wanted her to be Latina. And that’s how it started for me. I began thinking about the popular stories I liked to read and decided I was going to create those kinds of stories but put a Latina at the center of the action.  That’s definitely something I wanted to read. I couldn’t find it, so I started writing.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

There are some surface resemblances for sure: Latina, from Texas, curly hair and a penchant for curse words. On a deeper level, Alexandria Moreno and I share a ‘survivor’ mentality. But there are definite distinctions. Alex is tough and uncompromising, that is how she survives. That’s not my approach.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

My inspiration for writing this particular story and for creating Alexandria Moreno was that I wanted to read about someone like her. I didn’t see why characters like her weren’t all over the place, and I just hadn’t found them yet. When I didn’t find what I was looking for, that’s when I decided to start writing. And now, it exists.

It’s been a long journey to get All That Glitters published. Alex is out in the world for anybody and everyone who’s looking for a Latina anti-heroine. I hope to introduce readers to the unforgettable character of Alexandria Moreno. I want the reader to be surprised, upset, excited, worried and unsure of Alex, her choices and what she’s going to do next. And to see Alex as a complicated, strong woman and then you remember that she’s also a Latina to boot? Very cool!

We can’t have enough Latina heroines! What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

First, putting your butt in the chair and writing. Second hardest is making it public. It’s like walking naked in front of a crowd of strangers. And I’m no exhibitionist.

So true. What is your favorite part of writing?

When you finish and the ending feels right. It literally feels like a weight has lifted and the story is out of me and in the world.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

King Peso by Carmen Amato. It’s the latest installment of a series about Mexican female detective, Amelia Cruz. This was my introduction to the character and the series. Detective Amelia Cruz is a badass and complicated. She’s a lot of fun to read. The story moved along at a brisk pace, but what really set this book apart was its insider’s specificity of detail to Acapulco and the city’s surroundings. Amato took you to all corners of the region, making you feel like you are there, from the street corner taco stands to the exclusive, ‘privada’ beach communities. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jackie Collins and Joan Didion are my absolute favorites. I’m also a big fan of Carlos Fuentes, Stephen King, Carrie Fisher and Michael Crichton.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Certainly the authors I just mentioned have each influenced me a great deal. With authors like King, Crichton and Collins, I love their economy with language and the way their stories unfold and pull you along until you’ve reached the last page.  Fisher, Fuentes and Didion, their inspired and nuanced insights to the human condition make me catch my breath.  I’m also greatly influenced by film directors, especially Martin Scorsese, Kathyrn Bigelow, Bob Fosse and James Cameron. Their use of visual motifs and tone to convey personality is how I like to write. It’s the small detail, the visual punctuation that resonates with me, and I like to include those kinds of things in a story or scene.

I look to film for the same reasons you mention here. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I read and write whenever and wherever I can. I’ve moved around a lot as an adult so I’ve had the pleasure of discovering (and leaving) all kinds of nooks and crannies to hole up and read and write. I do like coffeeshops and earbuds for writing and my bed or a breezy deck for reading.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I’m lucky  – or, unlucky, depending on how you look at it – that I’ve spent my entire adult life as a writer, whether it be as an academic or in the fiction realm, so I have always spent time reading, writing, editing, revising, formatting something, whether it be papers, a dissertation or a novel. The process seems to just get more and more refined over time.

Working with a great editor who gets the story is invaluable. It’s an amazing experience to collaborate on your work with someone who sees it with new, fresh eyes.  Of course, the con aligns closely with this, too.  It can be hard to hear that words, passages or scenes you slaved over just need to go. But, it’s part of the process and, ultimately, it does make the work stronger, and it helped me become a better writer.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

The main thing is that I set out to write a story that I wanted to read. That was probably the best thing I could do in order to keep going and not give up on the project and walk away.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t give up. If you have a story you believe in and are passionate about, keep writing and finish that project. It will find its audience.

Good advice. Website and social media links?

Website: lizatrevino.com

You can learn more about All That Glitters and find my blogs that provide resources for Latino writers as well as ‘updates’ on a Brown Girl’s Burden, my ‘spirited’ Latina’s Guide to Assimilation and Rebellion.

All That Glitters Cover

Liza, where can we find your book?

Click to Buy on Amazon: All That Glitters

BarnesandNoble.com and ibooks.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a follow up to All That Glitters, I’m shopping a Christmas-time romantic comedy set in San Antonio and working on a true crime, detective story also set in San Antonio, Texas.

Thanks for visiting us today on The Writing Life, Liza. Best wishes with your writing!

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

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On Characters: I Resemble That Remark

How much do characters in novels resemble the writer and the writer’s journey?

Before and after the publication of my novel, ‘A Decent Woman’, I accepted many kind invitations for written interviews to introduce and market the book. One interview question provoked much personal introspection about my character Ana Belén, an Afro-Cuban midwife born into slavery, who lives and works as a midwife at the turn of the nineteenth century in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The interviewer, a fellow author and good friend, emailed the questions and added a smiley face after this question, “How much do you resemble the character, Ana Belén?” My long time friend knows me well, so the jig was up. A few weeks later, I sent her my responses, and wrote this next to the smiley face, “I resemble that remark in more ways than I feel comfortable owning up to at this time!”

Of course, the character of Ana is like me, in many ways. How could she not be? I created her and the world she inhabits from my imagination and a few family stories. But. I’m not a statuesque, Afro-Cuban midwife born a slave, living in Puerto Rico at the turn of the nineteenth century. I’m a five-foot tall, green eyed, Puerto Rican-born writer, currently living in West Virginia. How much could I possibly have in common with Ana?

As it turns out, we share many common traits: feistiness, courage, bluntness, loyalty, a fierce love of family with a strong commitment to protecting the rights of women and children. Was it in my genetic make up or life experience (when I was writing the book) to respond and behave in similar ways to threats, happy circumstances, and impossible challenges the way Ana did? No, not in every circumstance. Tough as nails and compassionate Ana is my heroine, but we are all survivors of something. I had a few life experiences to draw upon during the writing.

Along with a few positive traits, I share a couple negative traits with Ana, such as stubbornness, sensitivity to unfair criticism, impulsiveness, and at times, short-sightedness, especially when I think I’m right. In my story, Ana is forging a path in a difficult, new world; a world I was discovering and exploring through writing, research, and my imagination. A bit or a lot of ourselves is bound to emerge in our characters, but it was only after the book was published that I realized how closely related our journeys were and where they overlapped.

For the rest of 2015, I journaled about that question, and like the author of ‘The Artist’s Way’, Julia Cameron says, after the midway point of journaling three pages in longhand, the truth came out: I’d been working through stuff while writing Ana and Serafina’s stories, even the men’s stories, and I hadn’t realized it. Here’s what I discovered.

In 2010, I pulled out the draft manuscript I’d begun in 2005. After two years of a difficult separation and divorce, a few more years of working in an entirely new field, having my heart broken, and finally, moving to a new state, I was ready to write again. My world had been continually rocked with so many unknowns that it made my head spin during that time and even now as I think back to what we went through as a family. Between 2006 and 2010, questions plagued me at every turn: What will turning 50 look and feel like? Will we be safe and will I find work? Where will I live? Can I support myself while writing full time, and if not, what the hell will I do to make that happen? Will anyone hire a fifty-year old woman with an old resume? Should I go back to school and find a new career? Are my kids okay? Will I find love after divorce? Will this book ever be published?

I survived and so did my kids. We’ve grown and flourished where we were planted, but it was a tough road. My kids graduated from college, found good jobs, and in 2011, I bought an old house in West Virginia. At the next fork in the road, I gave up sending out resumes that I knew would never be answered—I would write full time, which was a huge gamble and risk for someone living on a small budget. The decison was made. I sat down to write and soon discovered Ana’s story had to change. I had learned many valuable lessons and developed new skill sets, more than I’d ever dreamed possible, that had enriched my life as a woman and mother. The original Ana was merely a skeleton of the woman she was meant to be; it was time to put meat on those bones. I rewrote the story, worked with two editors, and sent out the manuscript. The book was finally published by Booktrope Editions in February 2015.

Ana’s journey of learning to read and write, and moving from La Playa to Ponce when male doctors entered the birthing room for the first time, threatening her livelihood, were born only after I was reborn. It makes perfect sense–I had gone back to school and moved from Virginia to West Virginia. What I did not realize until after the book was published was that Ana embodied everything I’d needed during the difficult years after marital separation and divorce: a protector, a loyal friend, an advocate, a mom. Serafina, the young, motherless widow in the story was me, a motherless child, as my beautiful mother had passed away in 1992, and I missed her terribly. The characters I created, my heroines, mimic and embody the internal and external life struggles I experienced and helped me through a difficult time. All my characters gave me the courage, guts, and tenacity I needed during the writing and publishing journeys, and later with marketing the book, which continues today. I might not have all the answers, but I am leaps and bounds ahead in my journey.

Writing ‘A Decent Woman’ was a journey and as it turns out, a quest toward wholeness. I believe in starting your journey, whatever it might be, from where you are standing, and I believe in paying attention along the way.

Fast forward. I am currently writing a second novel called ‘The Lament of Sister María Inmaculada’, featuring a young Puerto Rican nun, an old Franciscan friar from Spain, and a young Protestant minister sent to Puerto Rico from the United States in 1920. The characters, most definitely from different worlds, find themselves living and trying to work together on a barren islet, The Island of Goats. It is a challenging, joyful, gut-wrenching, and empowering story to write, set in a new, unknown world to me, and I am loving the process. And I am including male point of view in a story for the first time.

A new, unknown world…is it really?

We shall see. I am excited of what I’ll learn and discover through these new characters, and already, I have discovered something amazing: I didn’t think it was possible to love a new character as much as I love Ana Belén, but I do. Her name is Sister María Inmaculada.

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’.

http://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia-ebook/dp/B00TUP47W