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

 

 

Author Interview: Mayra Calvani

The Writing Life is very pleased to welcome the prolific and multi-talented writer, Mayra Calvani, my good friend for over ten years. Early in my writing journey, Mayra was a mentor and her kindness knows no bounds. I am proud and honored to host this talented lady today.

Mayra Calvani high resolution

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The WriterWriter’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.

Hello, Mayra!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Nonfiction/Anthology

Final book cover Latina Authors and Their Muses

Mayra, please describe what the anthology is about.

Latina Authors and Their Muses is a very dear, love project of mine which began its long journey several years ago. As you know, since you’re part of it, it is an anthology of interviews with 40 Latina authors living in the States and writing primarily in English, authors writing in various genres from literary to fantasy to paranormal to romance, and then some. It is a celebration of creativity and the artist’s soul, but it also offers savvy advice on the business of publishing and book promotion. I hope that my book will serve to inspire and inform the Latina authors of the future. One thing I should mention, though, is that while the book is especially focused on Latina writers, the topics discussed are of interest to all women writers.

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of the anthology, Mayra! I am honored to be among the talented Latina writers featured in ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’. How did you come up with the title?

The title came to me early on and in a flash, way before I actually started working on the book. I usually must have a title before I can comfortably start writing.

Why did you decide to put together this amazing anthology?

I think it’s important to bring to light the excellent books Latina authors are producing these days, as well as to showcase Hispanic American literature in general. I’d also like to inspire aspiring writers, the Latina authors of the future.

It’s a very inspirational book. What is your favorite part of writing?

Getting into the zone and immersing myself into the world of my characters. It’s an adventure.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

To stay disciplined and keep a regular writing schedule. We depend totally on ourselves to work. We don’t have a boss threatening to fire us if we don’t get the job done. Struggling with the inner critic can be very challenging at times.

Mayra, who are some of your favorite authors?

In my teens, I loved Agatha Christie and Stephen King. In college, I couldn’t get enough of Tama Janowitz’s quirky satiric books. In my late twenties and thirties, it was Anne Rice. Nowadays, my favorite author is Donna Tartt, though I have eclectic tastes and read across a wide range of genres. Lately I’ve been discovering the work of Virginia Woolf, as well as the female Gothic writers of the 19th century.  

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

All the authors I just mentioned have influenced me in various degrees. Anne Rice has probably been the most influential.

Favorite place to write?

I love to write in quiet libraries, but also in noisy cafes. My absolute favorite time to write is when I go to 3-day retreats with my local SCBWI group. It’s incredibly intense and I can get about 4,000 words a day done, which is huge for me. We go on these retreats twice a year. Mostly, though, I write in the quiet of my office, headphones to atmospheric music thunderstorm nature sounds.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know? 

Hmm…I can speak in 4 languages, one of them Turkish.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

I can’t think of anything specific, but it’s been a long, long process, with learning experiences in every step of the way. The publishing world is so dynamic, there’s always something new to learn.

So true. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Staying organized!

You are one of the most organized people I know! Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Don’t let anyone deter you from achieving your dream. Stay focused and stay persistent. If you work hard, and you want to become and author so badly that you can taste it on your tongue, you’ll get published. Of course, always keep improving your craft.

Great advice, Mayra. Website and social media links:

www.MayraCalvani.com, and I’d love to invite your readers to join my mailing list.

Connect with Mayra on the Web:

Website: www.MayraCalvani.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcalvani

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Author-Mayra-Calvani-162383023775888/

Where can we find the anthology?

On Amazon, B&N, and most online retailers. It can also be ordered from any brick & mortar bookstore.

Final book cover Latina Authors and Their Muses

What’s next for you, Mayra?

I have several. I recently terminated with an agent and I’m in search of another agent for a YA psychological thriller set in Puerto Rico in the 1970s. I’m also self-publishing a series of novels under a pen name.

On the nonfiction front, I just got an offer for a contract for another anthology titled, Born to Write: Honoring Your Gift When Your Partner Doesn’t Support Your Writing. This will be a collection of essays from different authors to be published in the spring of 2017.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about my book, Ellie!

It’s always a great pleasure when you visit, Mayra! Best of luck with ‘Latina Authors and their Muses’ and in finding an agent for your new book. I look forward to reading it!

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican 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 a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, 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, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. 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, she 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 writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and a collection of short stories.

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

Livin’ La Vida Latina: Q&A with Eleanor Parker Sapia

Reblogged, October 7, 2015

http://livinlavidalatina.blogspot.com/2015/10/q-with-eleanor-parker-sapia.html

ellie

Historical novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia was born in Puerto Rico and raised as an Army brat in the United States, Puerto Rico, and several European cities. As a child, she could be found drawing, writing short stories, and reading Nancy Drew books sitting on a tree branch. Eleanor’s life experiences as a painter, counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker, continue to inspire her writing. Eleanor loves introducing readers to strong, courageous Caribbean and Latin American women who lead humble yet extraordinary lives in extraordinary times. Her debut historical novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico, has garnered praise and international acclaim. She is a proud member of PENAmerica and the Historical Novel Society. A Decent Woman is July 2015 Book of the Month for Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club.

Eleanor is currently writing her second historical novel titled, The Island of Goats, set in Puerto Rico, Spain, and Southern France. When Eleanor is not writing, she loves facilitating creativity groups, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago a second time. Eleanor has two loving grown children, and currently lives in wild and wonderful West Virginia.

Synopsis: A DECENT WOMAN

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older, wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change

BOOK COVER SEPT 2014 (2) (1)

  1. What inspired you to write A Decent Woman?
    I was initially inspired by a tribute I wrote on the occasion of my maternal grandmother’s 90th birthday, and by my grandmother’s stories about her midwife, Ana, who caught my mother, two aunts, and an uncle. I’ve always said Ana whispered her story in my ear. She was an Afro-Caribbean midwife of unknown origins, who my relatives said liked her rum and a cigar after every birth—a very colorful woman. Ultimately, Ana’s story was the inspiration. I wish I’d met her.

After writing the tribute for my Puerto Rican grandmother, which included stories about her childhood and adulthood on the island, I realized how much I knew about the daily lives of women in the 1900’s. Through my research, I was further inspired by the extraordinary lives of ordinary women during a complex and tempestuous time in the island’s history. There are many books written about Puerto Rican women’s experiences after leaving the island, but I wasn’t aware of any books in English with stories such as mine, about the women who stayed behind. I wrote what I wanted to read.

  1. How do Ana and Serafina relate to each other in the story?

In chapter one, midwife Ana Belén catches sixteen-year old, Serafina Martinez’ first child as a tropical storm threatens the little Martínez house. The women immediately bond, especially Serafina to Ana as her mother died in Hurricane San Ciriaco two years prior. Ana is very fond of Serafina, but she is afraid of getting too close to the young woman for many reasons: her childhood as a slave; Serafina’s young age; Ana’s place in society; and because of the secret Ana brought to Puerto Rico from Cuba twenty years before, which if discovered, could destroy all Ana has worked for.

Through sharing life experiences, despite their different places in society, and after a crime against Serafina that brings them together in an ill-conceived plan to avenge Serafina’s honor and protect her marriage, the women become close friends, close as sisters. Not only was Ana the young woman’s confidante andcomadre, midwife, they are comadres of the heart. Their friendship continues until the end of the book.

  1. What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

I explored the issues of racism, misogyny, and elitism, as well as crimes against women and abuse within marriage and relationships. I thought it was important to portray life as it was for women of all socio-economic levels—the rich and the poor, white and black, the educated and uneducated.

Women suffered abuse at the hands of men at home, in the workplace, and in the street. Women struggled to feed their children and make ends meet at home with low-paying jobs, often going hungry themselves. They fought other women, vying for male attention, which at the time, was the only way a woman could survive in the world—with a man’s protection and money. Consequently, women were pitted one against the other. In some places in the world, this continues.

And finally, the US Department of Health sterilized hundreds of Puerto Rican women (more women in later years), against their will and by not telling them what procedures were being done on them. I believe once you know a truth—and this truth, a shocking truth in our history as a colony—you must tell it. If we deny or ignore a truth, it will revisit us. I didn’t and I don’t shy away from the ugly bits of life or the past. The women of 1900 Puerto Rico needed a voice.

  1. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

As with viewing a work of art, what the viewer/reader ‘sees’ is subjective. We filter our life experiences through everything we read, hear, observe, and experience, and come to an understanding. We each take what we need and discard what we don’t need in most situations. It’s no different with books. So, it’s tough to say what I hope readers will gain from my book. However, I do hope readers who usually shy away from historical novels will see through my story that people of the past weren’t that different from us. Our ancestors dealt with the same pains, tragedies, and joys in life as we do today. Life was harder, of course, because people had few modern conveniences and fewer opportunities, especially  women, and that is still true of many people around the world today.

One reader loved that I showed how important women friendships are throughout a woman’s life. I agree. Women should continue uplifting their fellow women when they can. There’s plenty to go around.

  1. What inspired you to be a writer?

I was an exhibiting artist for over twenty-five years before discovering my passion for writing books. One day, the paint brush and canvas weren’t ‘saying’ what I wanted to convey. I began writing on the dry, painted canvas with a colored pencil. Soon, I wrote personal thoughts and quotes, on the painted images. Words appeared on the side of painted images, around the edges, until finally making their way inside the piece. It was then the little light illuminated in my brain—I needed words as well as paint to tell my stories; to express what I had in my heart and soul. I believe I inspired myself. It was then my inner world opened up, making connections where up until that point, I’d kept separate.

After a few years, writing took over, and I wrote the first draft manuscript of A Decent Woman. Looking back, however, I see my artist side revealed in how I describe settings, characters, and objects in my stories; the play or light and color and texture—that all comes from an art background. I now paint to relax, as a reminder that I am a creative person, when inspiration strikes, and when I get stuck during the writing process. Writing has become an obsession, and I am happy when I visit with my old friend, painting.

  1. What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

I love being alone in my head with my characters, and seeing where they lead me and the story. What I like least is when I must be on social media instead of writing. I understand the importance of social media to an author and love getting to know my readers, I really do, but I much prefer sitting at my writing desk. I came to writing in my late forties—I feel the urgency to get my stories to readers before it’s too late!

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?

A few of my favorites are, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Jack Remick, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Milan Kundera, and Cormac McCarthy.

  1. If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.)

I love this question! I’ve always thought A Decent Woman would make a great film. The incredible actress Viola Davis would be perfect to play adult Ana and Selma Hayak as the adult Serafina. For the younger Ana, I would love to see Lupita Nyong’o and Melanie Iglesias as young Serafina.

  1. Are you working on anything right now?

Yes, thanks for asking. I’m currently writing a novel called The Island of Goats, which begins in 1920 Puerto Rico, and moves to the pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and then to Southern France. It is the story of two young women, Magdalena and Nadya, who will meet and forge an unlikely friendship on the medieval pilgrimage route, while trying to make sense of a new world before WWII.

My first published novel, A Decent Woman will always have a special place in my heart, but I am very excited about the second book.

  1. And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

Latino literature has evolved for hundreds of years, and will continue to evolve as Latinos in the United States continue writing culturally-rich stories in Spanish and in English, or begin writing books in genres where there are few Latino writers. I’ve read comments from Latino writers who are tired of reading stories of one more Latino/a drug addict, prostitutes, or another story of coming into the United States. I say just write. Tell whatever story is in your heart.

What comes to mind when I think of the future of Latino literature is the need for more Latinos in publishing and more Latino agents, who specialize in Latino literature. It’s difficult for all writers to get published, and my personal experience was that I had an extra hurdle to get over—writing a historical novel about a diverse heroine in 1900 Puerto Rico—not easy to sell, but as it turned out, Ana’s journey has been embraced by readers. I’m glad I didn’t give up, and I still need an agent!

I’d like to think that the future of Latino literature looks bright and promising.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with your readers. Happy writing to all!

A DECENT WOMAN is available on Amazon

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

and at La Casa Azul Bookstore,143 E. 103rd Street  New York, NY 10029 (212) 426-2626 http://www.lacasaazulbookstore.com/

Website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

Author Blog: http://www.thewritinglifeeparker.wordpress.com

Twitter: @eleanorparkerwv

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=252952928&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic

New Anthology: Latina Authors And Their Muses

Latina Authors and Their Muses

Final book cover Latina Authors and Their Muses

Eleanor Parker Sapia is honored to be featured in the new anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. The anthology, which highlights 40 respected Latina authors, …”is a celebration of creativity, the writer’s life, the passionate quest for spiritual and artistic freedom.”

Enjoy an excerpt from Eleanor:

“In many descriptive passages in the book, I see where my painterly eye took over. Knowing the ins and outs of painting, and understanding the necessary patience and discipline helped me with writing—like already speaking the local language when you visit a new country. Building layers, focusing on details, always the details, and highlighting the nuances, light, and dark parts in a painting, are a lot like writing.”

The ebook version debuted September 25th, 2015 through Twilight Times Books. The paperback version will be available in December 2015.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA

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 social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A Decent Woman is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Barnes & Noble for Nook and in paperback.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-decent-woman-eleanor-parker-sapia/1121258236?ean=9781620154007

La Casa Azul Bookstore    143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029         info.lacasaazul@gmail.com

http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

@eleanorparkerwv

http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia

Author Night at La Casa Azul Bookstore

 

Book reading at La Casa Azul

Eleanor will be reading from her historical novel, A Decent Woman and signing copies of the book at La Casa Azul Bookstore on Friday, October 2, 6-8 pm.

La Casa Azul Bookstore  *  143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029  *    info.lacasaazul@gmail.com

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA

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 social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A Decent Woman is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Barnes & Noble for Nook and in paperback.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-decent-woman-eleanor-parker-sapia/1121258236?ean=9781620154007

La Casa Azul Bookstore    143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029         info.lacasaazul@gmail.com

http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

@eleanorparkerwv

http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia

Author Interview: Vanessa Garcia

I’m excited to welcome the multi-talented Vanessa Garcia to The Writing Life.

Vanessa was born in the Cuban satellite city of Miami, to Cuban parents.
 
Vanessa Garcia
Her plays have been produced in Edinburgh, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles, among other cities. These include The Cuban Spring (a full-length, Carbonell Award nominee for Best New Play, 2015). The Crocodile’s Bite (a short, included in numerous anthologies such as Smith & Kraus’ Best Ten Minute Plays of 2016; City Theatre’s National Short Playwriting Award Anthology, as a finalist; and the Writer’s Digest annual award anthology). And, her most recent play, Grace, Sponsored by Monteverde.
 
Vanessa’s visual art has been exhibited around the United States and the Caribbean.
 
As a journalist, feature writer, and essayist, her pieces have appeared in the LA Times, The Miami Herald, The Washington Post, The Southern Humanities Review, The Art Basel Magazine, The Rumpus, and numerous other publications. She’s also a Huffington Post Blogger.
White Light is her first novel. She is currently at work on a memoir entitled My Cuban Routes.

Welcome, Vanessa!

Please describe what ‘White Light is’ about.
My book is, at its core, about a young woman navigating the world and coming into her own. The circumstances are particular, of course. She’s a Cuban-American visual artist, about to make it in the art world, when her complicated father dies suddenly. And, just as suddenly, she has to come to terms with loss and creation, that double drive. She’ll either break, or break through. I won’t tell you what happens, so you can find out when you read the book 😉
 
How did you come up with the title?
For a long time, the working title for the book was called Dyeing – playing both upon death and dye (color). But that didn’t seem representative, was too depressing. This book is intense, but it’s optimistic, I think. At some point, in the writing, my character figured out that the “white” at the center of the book, the white that she had thought was as black as mourning was quite the opposite – it wasn’t a void of color, but too much color, the entire spectrum. The central character’s journey is basically taking apart the strands of color that make up “white light,” trying to understand these strands, one by one. That’s why it was so important to me that there be actual bits of color in the book. In the third section, each chapter begins with a color.
 
Vanessa Garcia book cover
What is the reason you wrote this book?
The impetus for this book was my father’s death. This book, although it is absolutely fiction, was also a way for me to work through my situation at the time. When people die, you begin to understand love. You begin to understand what people are made of, what connects us, destroys us, tears us from each other. It’s only when people die that you see life in all it’s fullness, and when someone close to you dies, you see that very abruptly, very much in a haze, a kind of cartoonish blurt of life. It lasts about nine months, this explosion. I remember reading that in Joan Didion’s book The Year Of Magical Thinking –  how it takes nine months to lose someone (or suffer that loss). How it takes the same amount of time to mourn and lose than it takes to make. That makes so much sense for this book – I was creating the book as I was losing my father. But my character was also making art as she was losing her own father. They are different fathers – one is fiction and one is real, but the drives and the overall impulses are the same.
What is your favorite part of writing?
I feel really alive when I’m writing. That feeling of working on something that you think is important, of waking up every morning, eager to get to the computer. It’s the best. Those mornings when you want to skip the teeth-brushing and hit the keys, when your mind is fully engaged in what you are writing, that’s when you know you’re onto something; that obsession, that need to bring it out into the world.
 
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
Sticking with something (a manuscript) when you’ve lived with it for so long that you begin to lose faith in its significance. Riding through those layers of revision is key. You have to keep reminding yourself why it matters, why you’re doing it.
 
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I loved reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, that book really got me moving (my mind, my writing), as did Dana Spiotta. I love Nicholson Baker too. Borges and Cabrera Infante.
 
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
I was very young when I read Reinaldo Arenas and he changed my life. I read his book The Assault when I was about fifteen and it was just that: an assault. It was like: BOOM. I read James Salter’s The Light Years very closely after Arenas, I remember, and I thought: wow, you can do that…You can write a paragraph like that at the beginning of a novel, about the water, about sailing, about the cold cutting you, and what it’s really about is a relationship. You make blueprints; that’s what you do at the beginning of a book – the blueprints a reader follows. I remember learning so much from those books.
 
Favorite place to write?
I like to change places. I like to move around from café to café throughout the day. I have my favorite spots in LA and my favorite spots in Miami, and I move around among them. I also like to write when I travel. I love writing in airports. I think that the idea of changing space and environment changes your writing. It makes you feel agile. It forces you outside your default settings.  
 
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
When I was 22, I backpacked across Europe. That’s not the surprising part. The surprising part is that I did it with my 80-year-old grandfather. It was life-sculpting, that trip.
 
Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?
I learned that my editor is amazing. Rosalie Morales Kearns, who runs Shade Mountain Press is spectacular. She took my book on when others wouldn’t. She took on a novel with color in it, a novel that required licensing of images (I have Matisses and Picasso’s in the book) and she did it with faith. I learned that it matters to connect with your publisher and your editor, that the book has to matter to both of you. Her passion and integrity as a publisher is astounding. I really count myself blessed in that regard.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
I wrote every single day from 6am (sometimes 5am) to 9am. Before the phone started ringing and the emails started coming in, before the rest of the world got to work, I was at work. Those quiet hours were of utmost importance to this book.
Any advice for writers looking to get published?
Stick with it. It’s a long, winding, bumpy, gravel-filled, sometimes tunnel-like road — but there’s light at the end of the tunnel if you keep trotting. If you really, really want it, keep trotting.
Website?
Where can we find your book?
Best place to buy it is from the publisher: http://www.shademountainpress.com/vanessagarcia.php
It’s also available at bookstores. Some of those include Books & Books in Miami; Skylight Books in LA; and La Casa Azul in New York City.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on (wrapping up) a memoir about my relationship to Cuba called My Cuban Routes. Selling that is next. I’m also developing a play called Grace, Sponsored by Monteverde. And have a couple of other projects in the pipeline – other plays, articles, and a new novel is also brewing in the brain.
Thanks for a super interview, Vanessa. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. Best wishes with White Light and all your creative endeavors. I’m looking forward to meeting you at La Casa Azul Bookstore on October 2 for our book readings!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

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 social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

Website [s]: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

Blog: http://www.thewritinglifeeparker.wordpress.com

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia

Twitter: @eleanorparkerwv

A Decent Woman is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Barnes & Noble for Nook and in paperback.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-decent-woman-eleanor-parker-sapia/1121258236?ean=9781620154007

La Casa Azul Bookstore    143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029         info.lacasaazul@gmail.com

A Creative Journey: Nature, Nurture, or Genes?

Reblogged from Tiffani Burnett-Velez’ blog, THIS WRITER’S LIFE blog https://tiffaniburnettvelez.wordpress.com

“Creativity is a DNA imperative. It is impossible for us to not be creative. We make things by nature.” – James Navé

I love reading and writing stories about intrepid souls with unshakable confidence; those characters who pursue their dreams, passions, and adventures despite crazy odds, challenges, and inner demons. Many writers learn and perfect the craft of writing with little regard to the critics, naysayers, and the dreaded, interior censor, which sounds a lot like me.

A writer continues the creative journey for years, amidst myriad rejections from literary agents, a few disappointed readers, and publishers they never hear back from. She digs deep into emotional, mental, and spiritual wells, while perfecting the craft of writing, discovering her voice, and finally accessing the dark place where a golden vein hid from her until three in the morning. And at that exact moment, she ran out of coffee. That really happened. I drove to Sheetz in my pajamas, bought supplies, and wrote furiously until the sun came up. A writer, despite all the odds, challenges ahead, obstacles in front, and yes, lurking inner demons, toils night and day for years, and finally hits the perfect vein—the one they believe and pray will bleed gold for their story.

So which vein did I pierce when I wrote A Decent Woman, my historical novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico? The veins I unconsciously tapped into were my life as a Puerto Rican-born woman, blessed with two rich heritages, Puerto Rican and Polish-Russian, and my maternal grandmother’s veins, which flowed with rich, colorful stories about growing up in Puerto Rico—the same blood that flows in me.

I knew my grandmother’s stories by heart, and the character who stood out the most was her midwife, Ana, an Afro-Caribbean woman who smoked a cigar and enjoyed a shot of rum after every birth. This formidable woman caught my mother, two aunts, and my uncle, and through the stories the women in my family told me, Ana seemed larger than life. But there wasn’t a lot of information about Ana, so in my story, Ana Belén became a tall, gritty but kind, Afro-Cuban midwife, born into slavery. But who did I think I was writing and inhabiting the body, mind, and soul of a black woman in colonial Puerto Rico? Would readers believe this story written by a white, five foot tall woman with green eyes, who’d only ever been a ‘slave’ to her children during soccer and football season? I’m fluent in Spanish and I still travel to Puerto Rico to visit my family, but could I tell Ana’s story?

As a budding writer, I had two things going for me—inexperience and naivety—it never occurred to me that I couldn’t write this story. Ana was a great character and I knew dozens of colorful family stories. In addition to my grandmother’s life blood and stories flowing through my veins, I’d worked as a Spanish language social worker and refugee case worker, a counselor, and one of the staff members of a residential treatment center/school for children. I knew what pain and struggle looked like and I felt the pain of my clients on a daily basis. I also had a love of the mystical and magical world we live in, and a damn good imagination, so I forged ahead, finished the novel, and four years later, it went to layout.

Then something and unexpected happened. One of the early readers of A Decent Woman, an African-American woman, called me. She loved the book and during our first phone conversation, she shared her surprising discovery with a hearty laugh—I wasn’t black. I laughed with her because I’d thought that might eventually come up. We laughed a good bit, and I asked my new friend what she thought of Ana.

She replied, “You wrote a beautiful character.  I love the story.”

What a beautiful gift my friend gave me that day. I was relieved and encouraged by what I’d heard—A Decent Woman was a believable story and I’d reached a reader on a deep, emotional level. That is what we want for ourselves as writers and as readers—we want to reach others and we want to be moved. Yes, I researched the history of Puerto Rico for years, but a ton of historical information isn’t an historical novel. I had to become Ana with all the information I’d gleaned from research. Her blood had to flow with mine, and it did. It still does. She is a character I will never forget.

I encourage you to tap into your life experiences as you write. Take risks. Think of your cultural background, learn about and understand other cultures if travel is not possible, and reach deep to find empathy and compassion for others. Pain is pain no matter where we look or what era we decide to write about, but the story and characters must be believable, or the reader will sense something is off, and possibly close the book. And Lord knows, we don’t want that.

I offer my deepest thanks, Tiffani Burnett-Velez for this wonderful opportunity to share my thoughts with you today.

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut historical novel. She is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M