Book Review: Citadel by Jack Remick

June 24, 2018

In Jack Remick’s newest novel, Citadel, a complex, mind-bending, apocalyptic story, the author weaves genetic science, a Citadel of women, complete with warrior women, and valuable lessons for writers and editors into a masterpiece. Remick takes risks with this fascinating novel; it’s a story within a story within a story—a literary gem that opened my mind to casting aside limiting thoughts on genre, style, and structure; encouraged me to ponder deeper questions about what it means to be a woman today; and then forced me to ask questions of myself and of the characters in my work-in-progress. Yes, all that in one book and the writing is impeccable.

In Citadel, Remick explores relationships between men and women, and what the world could be if women were in control. Each story is relevant and timely, as many of the themes in Citadel make up today’s headlines—femicide, atrocities perpetrated against girls and women, domestic violence, misogyny, and rape culture. I was reminded of Margaret Atwood’s quote, “Why do men feel threatened by women? They’re afraid women will laugh at them. Why do women feel threatened by men? They’re afraid of being killed.”

The author introduces readers to scientists, writers, editors, publishers, and the warrior women, protectors of the women of the Citadel called daughters. The stories of Trisha, Daiva, Rose, and Clara will feel familiar, might feel uncomfortable—and that’s the point. We are challenged to think about choice, our humanity, motherhood, the relationship between men and women, and our future as a species. Throughout the book, I found myself saying, “I am her. I am them.” I love this book.

I won’t give away the story. Readers must experience Citadel for themselves. Here’s a taste,

“The way you build the world without men, you show me that there are no accidental pregnancies in the Citadel. There are no rapes. There is only a complete dedication to the altruism of birth. It boils down to this—a daughter, in a Citadel, not only chooses the kind of fetus she will carry and why she will carry it, but she chooses to perpetuate the race until the final decision is made—to continue, to let the race go extinct, or to let the Y decay and on its own cease to be.” (Y, as in the Y chromosome).

The character Trisha says it best: when you finish this novel, you won’t be the same person who started it. And that’s a good thing. Let the discussions begin.

 
Buy the book:
 

About Eleanor Parker Sapia:

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman 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, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

 

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Thoughts on Writing Novels in the Trump Era

In the summer of 2015, after the publication of my debut novel, A Decent Woman, a comment on a writing blog got my attention. It encouraged writers to focus on writing and marketing their books and refrain from sharing strong opinions and political views on social media platforms. The reasoning? So as to not alienate readers and potential readers; in essence, to limit their opinions and dialogue to discussions with friends and family. Good to know, I thought. The advice made sense to me at the time–nothing can turn a lovely dinner party into a school food fight quicker than heated debates about religion, politics, or other family members–but what about that business of writers potentially courting disaster with future book sales and alienating readers by speaking out on public forums? Was there any truth to that? I tucked that nugget away.

I kept my focus on learning the ropes of marketing a book. Little did I know marketing my novel would turn into an intense year of written interviews, podcast interviews, writing blog posts, participating in book fairs, and encouraging readers to post book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. That same year, I set up an author page on Facebook, opened a Goodreads author page and set up a Twitter account–lots of moving parts in addition to keeping up with a writing blog, interviewing fellow authors, and paying attention to my author website! And of course, I was thinking about writing a second book. A brief text exchange with my friend Wayne sparked an idea and I ran with it.

In early 2016, I began the preliminary research for my second book, as yet untitled. On June 16, 2016, Donald Trump officially announced his plan to seek the presidency. I started writing The Laments of Sister Maria Immaculada, now titled, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. From June to November October 2016, I watched the presidential campaign/sideshow on my laptop (I haven’t had cable TV since 2011). I kept writing and diligently researching the lives of nuns in 1927 Puerto Rico, the history of Old San Juan, and the little known (to me) islet of Isla de Cabras, five miles off the coast of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the ruins of a Spanish-built leprosarium remain. I kept writing and became increasingly distracted by politics. How could anyone possibly avoid it? I began to think about a writing retreat, away from home where I was buying the Washington Post on a daily basis and New York Times, when I could find a copy in my adopted West Virginia town.

In January 2017, I licked my wounds along with millions of Americans and participated in the now-historic Women’s March in Washington, DC. The political attacks and distractions from the White House began immediately and were unrelenting. I kept up with Rachel Maddow’s informative and timely blog posts for political analysis and information and watched MSNBC videos on Youtube. I learned a lot from Maddow, and for the first time in my life, I knew the names of all the key players in Washington, DC and their positions. I was paying attention. It also occurred to me how much my antagonist reminded me of Trump. A light bulb moment. What a strange and interesting twist. I zoomed in on Trump’s behavior and mannerisms, the way he speaks, and what his base sees in him.

I kept up with Twitter, Facebook, and I wrote a blog post about my experience at the Women’s March, always thinking about the advice to writers I’d read the year before: keep your opinions off social media. But how? I mused that might have been a popular opinion before the last Presidential election campaign. Before Trump became President. Before the march in Charlottesville. Before the brutal attacks on the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Before Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island of my birth, and Trump callously threw paper towel rolls at Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Before 20 shootings took place on American school campuses. Before Trump brought us to the brink of nuclear war by antagonizing Kim Jong-un. Before Trump ordered the barbaric directive to separate children from their asylum-seeking parents at US borders. Before our planet was threatened by Trump directives and decisions. Before, before, before. I’ve left out dozens and dozens of events, I know. My apologies, this is what immediately comes to mind as I write this blog post. Fill in the blanks, please.

The attacks from the Trump White House seemed endless, unrelenting, and more cruel with each passing day. Then I remembered–our country, Americans, have suffered and endured cruel directives that go back to the founding fathers. Our history is full of racism, white privilege, misogyny, bad decisions, and crazy makers. Had we learned anything? Apparently not. I was reminded of the old French saying, “The more things changes, the more they stay the same.” But I was changing–as a woman, as a proud Puerto Rican, and as an American who’d lived overseas for over 25 years. As a novelist, I was wide awake. History was repeating itself before my very eyes and I was outraged.

You see, before January 2017, I’d never marched in protest, never held a placard, and had never called my elected officials. I had voted, of course, and in my previous jobs as a refugee caseworker, Spanish language Family Support Worker, and as a counselor working in Brussels, Belgium, I’d worked with and tried my best to assist and support those less fortunate in my community. To walk hand in hand with those who were hurting and needed help—that came easily to me. I was a mom. But to be a vocal activist? To be outraged and shocked enough to say what I felt in a public forum, on social media? That didn’t come easy. I was raised to be polite, fair, and to be diplomatic, whenever possible. But I found it increasingly difficult to remain silent. I kept writing and in my continuing research, I kept digging deeper into the dark corners of religion, faith, and humanity. World events were certainly changing my work in progress. How could the story not be affected? How could I remain unchanged? As I saw it, it was imperative to remain informed, but to also strike a balance–I needed to turn away from the news in the evening and force myself to remain in my writing chair. I was losing discipline and valuable time, but with each new event in the US and abroad, I gleaned valuable research material. I felt like a literary vampire.

What I came to understand was that in many ways, art and the making of art and literature is a political act.

Among the early reviews of my first published novel, A Decent Woman, two respected writer friends called my first novel a political statement, a feminist novel. After my initial surprise and feeling so grateful for their generous book reviews, I realized the two men were absolutely correct. In the early stages of writing A Decent Woman, (and in my newbie writing mind), I’d simply set about to tell a story about the lives of women in 1900 Puerto Rico. Then I remembered. Just before the manuscript went in for the final edits, I came across documents and a book about the rounding up of prostitutes in Ponce, Puerto Rico (the setting of the novel) and about the forced sterilization of thousands of Puerto Rican women by the US government. The book had to change. I had to change. It was necessary to grow a thicker skin in the public arena and speak my truths, instead of opting to remain in the shallow end of the pool. So I wrote that book.

Interestingly enough, the same thing is happening with my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, which explores faith, religion, and the Catholic Church in 1927 Puerto Rico, with all its’ ugliness and scandals, community works and good intentions. Once again, I’ve had to dig deep, record history, and speak my truths as I discover them in my research and from my memory. I’m still reading several online newspapers and calling my elected officials. I buy newspapers and still watch Rachel Maddow during the day. I write at night like I always did, with less fear than before. The balancing act of being ‘woke’ and finishing this book is easier these days; I’m not as reactive to the news. I use it all.

In the telling of a story, writers stand, exposed and raw, for all to see. So be it.

Will President Trump and this White House stop the unrelenting attacks on Americans, on the poor and the marginalized, on our democracy? Will Trump be impeached? All that remains to be seen. We have no choice but to soldier on, persist, and resist when the need arises. And as writers, we must keep writing. Lord knows there’s a plethora of material out there for novelists these days.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and 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.

 

Update From The Writing Life Blog

Greetings from The Writing Life Blog!

In January 2018, I shared a super interview with writer, Ivelisse Rodriguez, about my first book,  A Decent Woman, that includes a brief excerpt of my work-in-progress, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. Yesterday, my jaw dropped when I saw the date of my last blog post on this blog– it was October 21, 2017. Has it been that long since I last shared a blog post? As I look back on the events of the last two years, no, it’s not hard to believe!

Despite a crazy blur of a year, I’m back to blogging and setting up author interviews with new and old writer friends. I’m happy, healthy, and currently working on my second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. I hope you’ll enjoy the story as much as I do. During writing breaks, I work in my small, urban garden and enjoy the fruits of my labor as I dream of my next trip (or think about a new plot twist), and as always, I love and cheer on my beloved children from afar. They’ve been super busy with travel and work, as well. I don’t see them nearly as often as I’d like, but such is life with adult children. They are happy, which is what matters most. That’s what I tell myself when I’m not throwing a motherly pity party. 🙂

On the blog front, I’m excited to share two new author interviews:

On June 25, I welcome Mickey Brent, a long-time friend from my Brussels days, and on July 10, Ivelisse Rodriguez will join me. Ivelisse’s collection of short stories, Love War Stories, debuts the day of the interview.

I hope you’ll check back for those two fantastic interviews.

Be well and happy writing.

Eleanor

2017 International Latino Book Award Finalist – A Decent Woman

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Buenos días!

On this beautiful morning, I was humbled and happy to learn my debut novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico, is a finalist in the 2017 International Latino Book Award and Latino Literacy Now for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book. I’m beyond honored, blessed, and proud to introduce readers, through my books and book events, to Latina/o characters and to Puerto Rico, the beautiful island of my birth.

I am forever grateful to my readers and blogger friends for their continued support and friendship as I meet so many on my travels and during book events. A huge thank you to Latino Literacy Now and everyone at the International Latino Book Award organization for their untiring, brilliant work in bringing Latino literature in English and Spanish to readers in the US and around the world.

A special thank you to my children, my loves, and my family for their unending love, encouragement, and support. I am truly blessed to do what I love–tell stories from long ago. I honor my ancestors and my family, on both sides of my wonderful family, for their love and support, and for continuing to listen and tell stories at the kitchen table and around the fire for the younger generation as we did last month at a recent Sapia family reunion in Ohio. A very special time for all!

Now, I must confess. I really miss my Tuesday Author Interviews series with my fellow authors, which I began in 2014. I’m excited to begin a brand new author interview series in January 2018, and in the meantime, I am hard at work on my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. I am in love with this new story and my new characters, who are whispering their stories in my ear. I hope you will like this new story as much as I do.

I will share the complete list of the 2017 International Latino Book Award finalists as soon as I find a good link. Congratulations to all the finalists.

Be well, be safe, and enjoy your summer! ❤

Eleanor

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, is a finalist for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book in the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book also garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman 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

decent

 

Author Interview: Gabriel Valjan

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the great pleasure of chatting with my fellow authors across genres, which is always interesting. Today I’m happy to welcome Gabriel Valjan.

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing, as well as numerous short stories. He lives in Boston’s South End, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.

G Valjan

Welcome, Gabriel.

What is the genre of the book you’d like to discuss?

Corporate Citizen is the fifth book in the suspense/thriller Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing.

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Briefly describe what Corporate Citizen is about.

Bianca, our former analyst for the covert agency Rendition, is called to Boston to help clear a friend framed for a double homicide. All her Italian friends except for her boyfriend come with her. The murder investigation uncovers a drug ring for synthetic heroin, which Rendition may or may not have an interest in. Bianca continues to receive help from inside Rendition through a mysterious agent named Loki. There’s a troubled vet and a love interest and a criminal mastermind, unlike any Bianca and her gang have ever encountered.

How did you come up with the title and what inspired you to write this series?

The title is a buzzword from the business world. Corporations, like people, have ethical, legal, and social responsibilities. I am intrigued as to who is responsible when corporations commit crimes. A CEO might be the face to an organization, but decisions are far more complex when there is an obligation to shareholders and the ultimate objective is profit. What do you do when you are a citizen and your country behaves like a corporation? Bianca left Rendition because of the necessary evils she witnessed. She learns that one can never leave Rendition.

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What do you do when you are a citizen and your country behaves like a corporation? This is a question many Americans are asking themselves right about now.

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

Yes and No. Bianca may resemble my younger self, when I was more logical than Mr. Spock. Like her, I acted that way as a coping and defense mechanism. With age, I allowed myself to relax. Where we differ is gender and I do hope that I was successful in putting across a woman’s perspective.

Is Bianca in all five novels?

Bianca is in all 5 novels. The graphic above depicts the book in chronological order.

1: Roma, Underground takes place in Rome. Bianca is enticed to participate in a sting to capture thieves stealing cultural artifacts from the city’s underground. A real group of amateur archaeologists are mapping the city beneath Rome and I let my imagination run with that idea.

2: Wasp’s Nest. Bianca returns to Boston under the pretense of helping a contact within Rendition, but she is fearful of the growing intimacy between her and Dante. I tried to showcase lesser known parts of Boston. The inspiration behind this outing was what if someone disrupted the pharmaceutical industry, particularly cancer research, with an invention that did away with chemotherapy and radiation.

3: Threading the Needle. Bianca and her gang tackle political terrorism in Milan. The inspiration here was what the Italians call The Years of Lead, which was a series of terrorist attacks from 1969 to 1984. The height of terror culminated in the kidnapping and murder of Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Speculation exists as to who funded and directed far-right groups to destroy the Communist Party in Italy.

4: Turning To Stone. Bianca is caught between the Camorra and the Sicilian mafia in Naples. The Sicilians are hatching a plan to destabilize the world currency market to their advantage. The Fiscal Crisis of 2007 provided the basis for this novel.

5: Corporate Citizen. Bianca is back in Boston to help a friend framed for murder.

Each of my novels includes the first chapter of the next one in the The Roma Series. Book 6, Crunch City, is situated in London and it will explore (or explode) the extent of surveillance. Bianca has a new and formidable nemesis at Rendition, but she also has an unexpected ally at her side. She’ll have to make a decision on her relationship with Dante.

Thanks for including the brief synopses. What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I worry whether I have seeded the story with just enough clues so that it is not predictable. Am I too obvious? Was I too obscure? The reader is a god, who must be appeased, and yet should still be surprised with the creation. It’s kind of like looking at a platypus and scratching your head. There’s logic to the design.

Great questions to ask during the writing process. Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

My characters have a life of their own. When I write it is like meeting old friends. I’ve been fortunate to have a collaborative relationship with my publisher. I have a say in the editing process and in cover-art design. I believe the first sentence of A Tale of Two Cities describes today’s authors and publishers. Indie publishers have proven they can put quality out there in the market. The Big Five and literary agents are not necessarily gatekeepers for taste and talent. Self-publishing, while not new, is a hit or miss. Amazon has created both the markets and the platform. Readers are feasting and authors are like matchstick children hoping for a kind soul and a sale.

I found myself nodding at your answers above. What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Walter Tevis’s Mockingbird. In a post-apocalyptic future where machines do everything and reading is illegal, an android named Bob Spofforth runs the world — and he is suicidal. Another character, Paul, is a conformist who teaches himself how to read. He falls in love with Mary Lou, a rebel who lives in a zoo. This is not Humanity versus the Machines story. Knowledge has slipped away. Watching Paul learn and then teach Mary Lou how to read is a reminder of why we read and why we are human. Tevis will reduce you to tears.

Another book for my reading list, thank you. Who are some of your favorite authors?

Tough question. Margaret Atwood. Jane Austen. Louise Brooks. Raymond Chandler. Eduardo Galeano. William Faulkner. Dashiell Hammett. Dorothy Johnson. E.J. Levy. Gabriel García Márquez. William Maxwell. Carson McCullers. Flannery O’ Connor. Victor Hugo. E.B. White. Richard Yates.

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

Dashiell Hammett and William Faulkner. Though these two writers polar opposites in style, they worked language in ways I envy. If you research Gertrude Stein, you’ll discover that it was Hammett — not Hemingway — who was responsible for the spare minimalistic style. Hemingway learned his craft from journalism (being shot at is excellent motivation for brevity) and reading Hammett. Faulkner – read his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (557 words) – and ask yourself this, Is not compassion first and foremost a necessity to being a better human being and a great writer? His novels are challenging but rewarding.

Is not compassion first and foremost a necessity to being a better human being and a great writer? Great question. For me, the answer is yes. I’m off to Google Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I have an MA in Medieval Studies. 

Gabriel, what is your favorite part of writing?

The beauty of a series is I have a cast of characters and each one has a personality and quirks. Corporate is a long, hard look at Bianca and what makes her tick. I enjoyed those moments when she surprised me with something she said or did. Bianca is guarded and she allows herself some vulnerability when she meets Nick.

G Valjan book

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write in my bedroom, where one or two cats stare at me and count keystrokes. I like reading in bed.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

The Roma Series is classified as genre fiction, but I hope that readers see each novel as an exploration of friendship and love, that what matters most in life is how we treat each other. Each novel takes place in a different city because I want readers to see how Europeans see the world, and how an American deals with a different mindset. I ask questions about culture and society throughout the Series. Do you work to live, or live to work?

I like the idea of offering readers an opportunity to see the world through different lenses. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

It depends on the definition of success. Sales have not made me a household name, but I have developed a small following. Social media has allowed me to meet other writers and for them to know me. If ‘success’ is word of mouth, then I would say other writers, established and struggling, know that I am a supportive and encouraging person. It costs nothing to be kind and positive. I think what I have done ‘right’ is be myself and let my name stand for something. I go to readings to support others, I tweet to get the word out on writers I know, and I’ll write reviews. The best community for me has been other writers.

I agree with your definition of success. I met you through your generous tweets of my book, so I can attest to your support of other writers.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped with your books?

It’s hard to tell because I believe everything is cumulative. The problem is you don’t know what will work. I have had mixed feelings about PR firms. They are expensive and I think they are figuring it out along with the rest of us. It’s been a learning experience.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Read and learn from the writers you enjoy. Take apart; analyze what you admire. Be consistent, persistent, and tenacious about improving your skills. Set aside your ego and write because you have a story to tell. Respect your reader’s emotions, intellect, and their time. To paraphrase Carver, your job is to capture the heartbeat and the ‘human noise.’

Well said. Website and social media links?

Web: www.gabrielvaljan.com

Twitter: @GValjan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Gabriel-Valjan-291400997547203/ 

Where can we find your book?

Amazon Author page: http://amzn.to/2pORYMH

WGP: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/gabriel-valjan/

What’s next for you, Gabriel?

Winter Goose Publishing will release the first book of another series in late 2017. The Company Files: The Good Man is what I would call historical noir. The story takes place in 1948 Vienna and it’s the early days of the American intelligence community. Jack Marshall is asked to find former Nazis in Germany’s atomic program before the Russians do. Someone is killing them and Jack has to put a stop to it. For touchstones for the writing, think of Joseph Kanon, Phillip Kerr or John Le Carré, and yet different.

Vienna and the American intelligence community. We will have to chat about that another time! Thank you for visiting today, Gabriel. All the best to you. 

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 1920 Puerto Rico.

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

 

Author Interview: Daniel Cubias

Welcome to our Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I am pleased to welcome Daniel Cubias, and zombies.

Daniel Cubias is a writer whose award-winning fiction has been published in numerous literary journals. He is also the author of the novel “Barrio Imbroglio,” and he contributes frequently to the Huffington Post.

Daniel’s latest novel, “Zombie President,” is a black comedy about the twisted conflux of politics, journalism, and American culture.

Cubias author pic

Welcome, Daniel.

What is your book’s genre?

Horror-comedy

Please describe what your black comedy Zombie President is about.

A defeated presidential candidate comes back from the dead to take the White House by force — and to win the country’s heart in the process.

Samuel Tilden never won the presidency when he was alive, but now that he’s a rampaging ghoul, the American people are enthralled with the power and tenacity of his undead army. Fawning media coverage ensures that the zombies’ bloody march to Washington D.C. goes unchecked. Meanwhile, an ambitious television reporter, a small-town sheriff, and a scientist with a dark secret join forces with a trio of backbiting teenagers to fight for their country.

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Sounds like a intriguing, wild ride. How did you come up with the title?

Let’s just say that the title lent itself.

What inspired you to write this book?

My co-author, Kristan Ginther, asked me, “Has there every been a story about a zombie running for president?” I had to admit that, no, there had never been a story quite like that.

Does your main character resemble you?

I am not a zombie, so I’m going to say no.

Good point. What do you hope readers will gain from Zombie President?

First, my hope is that readers find it funny. But there are more than a few references to our political process, which will provoke, enlighten or infuriate the reader, depending on his/her viewpoint.

It sounds intriguing and timely.

What is your favorite part of writing?

The second draft. The tyranny of the blank page (i.e., the first draft) is behind you, and now you can concentrate on what the story is really about. Successive drafts aren’t as enjoyable because you begin seeing the flaws that eat away at your very soul.

Great description of successive drafts. I’m at that point with my second book–the eating away at my soul part–where I have to battle doubt.

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

If you don’t rewrite a passage, it most likely is not as good as it could be. If you rewrite it too much, you most likely sap all its energy and kill whatever made it interesting in the first place. Finding that balance is crucial.

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

“The Langoliers” by Stephen King. I’m a big King fan, but I had missed that one. I’m very happy that I dug it out, because it has all the elements of what he does best.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Leyner, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King.

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

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Leyner, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. Each possesses a unique voice, which I find inspiring.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write in one place (at my computer) and read everywhere. So favoritism doesn’t come into it.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I stopped listening to the radio years ago. That’s because my phone’s music library contains almost 8,000 songs, so I just listen to that.

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

The writing process is a constant surprise, and not always in a good way, because every story is different. As for the publishing process, this is only my second novel, so I’m still learning, and as such, everything about it surprises me.

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

My best choice was working with my co-author. She’s brilliant.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

I gave myself an overly aggressive deadline. This didn’t inspire me to write faster. All it did was stress me out. So I’m going to lighten up on the self-imposed timelines in the future.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

At some point in your writing career, you need third-party validation. If you’re convinced that you’re a genius, but the only people who agree with you are your spouse and your mom, you might be overestimating yourself. Get feedback from impartial readers, fellow writers, and editors. It’s the best way to learn what’s working and what’s not.

Good advice. Website and social media links?

I’m at:

http://www.danielcubias.com

http://hispanicfanatic.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-cubias/

https://www.facebook.com/daniel.cubias

Twitter: @DanCubias

Email: hispanicf@gmail.com

Where can we find your book?

“Zombie President” is now available: http://amzn.to/2nzJJFG

Daniel, what’s next for you?

I’m working on the sequel to my first novel “Barrio Imbroglio.” So far I have a title, a basic plot, and the first sentence. That’s a good place to start.

Indeed it is. I wish you the best with your books and work in progress. Thanks for chatting with me today, David.

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 1920 Puerto Rico.

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

Author Interview: Manuel A. Meléndez

Welcome to our Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I am very pleased to welcome Manuel A. Meléndez. 

Manuel A. Meléndez is a Puerto Rican writer, who was born on the island and raised in East Harlem, N.Y.  He is the author of two mystery/supernatural novels, WHEN ANGELS FALL, and BATTLE FOR A SOUL, five poetry books, OBSERVATIONS THROUGH POETRY, VOICES FROM MY SOUL, THE BEAUTY AFTER THE STORM, MEDITATING WITH POETRY, and SEARCHING FOR MYSELF.  Two collection of Christmas short stories, NEW YORK CHRISTMAS TALES, VOL. I and II, and IN THE SHADOWS OF NEW YORK: TWO NOVELETTES.  The novel WHEN ANGELS FALL, was voted by The LatinoAuthors.com as the Best Novel of 2013, while BATTLE FOR A SOUL was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards for Mystery Novels.  His short story A KILLER AMONG US was published by Akashi Books in SAN JUAN NOIR anthology.

New Manuel Melendez

Welcome, Manuel!

Which book are we chatting about today, and what is the genre?

The book I would like to talk about is a collection of supernatural/mystery short stories I’m currently working on called “Wicked Remains”. The supernatural genre is one of my favorite genres not only to write, but to read, as well.

Please describe what “Wicked Remains” is about.

The collection is an assortment of tales, from the typical old fashioned werewolf and vampires stories, to the demons who invade your dreams, turning them into nightmares.  And then, to the twisted, criminally insane killers.

Thanks for sending the illustration by Henry Simon, which will appear in your short story collection.

Manuel Melendez photo

How did you come up with the title?

I played with many different angles to come up with a title I felt was able to capture the many themes of the book and its eclectic collection of stories.  “Wicked Remnants” is what haunts you after the nightmare.

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

Yes, many of my characters have some of my DNA twisted somewhere in their personalities.  You can’t help it.  I’m sure many writers use their own experiences, pain, laughter, and tears to blend into their fictional creations.

So true; it’s hard for most writers to not weave something personal into their character or story. What inspired you to write this collection?

Even though the majority of my writing involves poetry and novels, short stories have always been the format I’m most drawn to.  The challenge of creating rich tales complete with conflicts has always fascinated me.  I believe to quickly deliver the full arc of the story to the reader makes you a better novelist…and poet, as well.

I agree with you. What is your favorite part of writing?

Taking a deep breath, having an idea that will launch a story and give it flight, and then allowing the voices to take over your creativity. Then just let it flow. Forget the basic concepts of grammar, spelling, run-on sentences—just write and write non-stop.  Those voices are not going to stop because you want to refer to your reference books…that comes later. At the beginning it is all freestyle. It’s like a street fight with no rules or referee!

That’s a great description! I research my book idea for a few months, write furiously for six months, and then the rewrites and deeper research begin, which can take up to two years. The first few months are very exciting.

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

Coming up with something new, something that has never been done or written about.  Which seems impossible, but creatively makes you dig deeper, or soar higher, it’s there you just have to find it or expose it.

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

Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes”, the first of a trilogy.  I’m a big Stephen King’s fan, and the interesting thing about this book is that it is unlike most of his books, which are supernatural. This one is strictly a detective story with a team of three very diverse characters.  Very enjoyable, not one of his best, but still a good read.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Too many to put on paper, but obviously Edgar Allan Poe must lead the parade.  Followed by Stephen King, Piri Thomas, Pete Hamill, James Clavell, Frank Herbert, Vicente Blasco Ibañez, to name a few.

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

Edgar Allan Poe for introducing to me the short story format.  Stephen King for teaching me how to developedbelievable characters, and Piri Thomas for allowing me to dream at the age of 13 that Puerto Ricans from El Barrio could be writers, as well.

Puerto Rican writer Esmeralda Santiago inspired me to try my hand at writing after I read the now-classic memoir, “When I Was Puerto Rican”. Like you, I love Stephen King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

Any place I get inspired, but my favorite places are the subway trains, parks, and a place that I discovered to be a beacon to my creativity, underneath the elevated tracks of the subway line in my neighborhood.  I need the chaos and noises of the city. If you put me in a quiet place, like up in the country, my voices refused to speak!

I find it so interesting where people write and find inspiration. I need total silence in the country for my voices to be heard.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Two of my favorite things are drawing/painting and cooking.  The activities allow me to relax and think about the plots or characters I’m working on, and it’s a form of meditation.

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

Writing can be very liberated. Through my writing, I have an outlet for my emotions; regardless if they are happy, sad, angry, or even mean-spirited.  The publishing process is too much of a business that I’d rather not get involved in, but it’s also part of the game. I need to work a bit more on the publishing process. One thing for sure, do your research before signing anything, and especially do your work before agreeing with promises, that may be broken and not fulfilled.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

To be entertained.  To be moved, to be afraid, and sometimes to be informed about things they never knew. Lessons may be learned through stories.

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

The writing part is actually the easiest. Somehow the plots, characters and situations come pretty easy and are extremely rewarding.  The marketing aspect is what I need to work on, especially being a shy person who’d rather let his words on paper be his voice.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

Well, it’s not so much what didn’t work, but more of what I need to do to make it work, and that’s to be more involved and let people know I’m here with a lot of stories and poems to share.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

First work on that story, and don’t be lazy.  Revise that book as much as it needs to be revised.  Get an excellent editor, not a friend, but a real editor, who is not afraid to tell you what works on the story and what doesn’t.  If you write 400 pages, don’t be afraid to cut down as many pages as you need to cut.  Don’t fall in love with a whole paragraph or even a sentence, or a character because if it doesn’t move the story, but rather slows it down, you need to delete it. After your book went through every cycle, and it’s the best thing you have written, then it’s time get it out there.

Good advice.

Website and social media links?

www.manuel-melendez.com

Manuel A. Melendez’s Books on Facebook

Where can we find your book, Manuel?

Amazon.com, or feel free to contact me if you’d like an autographed copy.

What’s next for you?

For the second time, I’m doing the 30-30 Poetry challenge.

I’m also working on two novels, one is a supernatural tale and the other one a more crime/human drama.  And, I have two other stories, which I wrote about 20 years ago that must be revisited.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Manuel. I wish you continued success 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 1920 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com