Category Archives: Interviews

Hot Summer/ HOT HOUSE

A blackmailed Court of Appeals judge from the 9th Circuit, a French art exchange student with something to sell, and Mari E, investigator with an agenda of her own, sets another Towles jigsaw puzzle of characters, clues, motivations, and surprises in motion. 

Mari E is Marissa Ellwyn, wealthy owner of the prestigious Marissa Ellwyn Gallery, but when a former detective, her soon-to-be partner knocks, it’s on the door of her work-trailer in a seedy section of L.A.’s Fashion District. They’ve both got things to hide, but she needs back up and he has the skills. Mari is being followed by a dark grey van and has received threatening messages—obviously someone objects to her investigation, but for Mari, “The fate of my family and my heart depended on it.” 

Abernathy is investigating a college student who has died suspiciously along with the disappearances and deaths of two reporters following the case and the trail that leads to the judge. The cases are linked and as they investigate, threats come from all sides, even from Mari’s former handlers at the CIA.

Hot House moves at break-neck speed from its seemingly straightforward investigation into a shadowy mystery. Although the story is infused with humor and delightful touches like Trevor, Mari’s “Human Resources Director,” a German mastiff, the motivations of characters make for a dark and layered plot. Mari and Derek are professional and determined, mostly sticking to legal investigating techniques. Both have secret histories with the LAPD Chief of Detectives, and both think the PD did a poor job of the initial search, but it’s not until the dead coed’s secrets come to light that some of the puzzle pieces form a picture. And it isn’t pretty. 

I found Hot House thought provoking and suspenseful. I shouted  “Ah Ha!” at the end of Chapter Fifteen when a clue fell into place for me, and I realized how much fun I was having trying to solve the case. Besides the charming banter between Mari and Derek, the book challenged me. I jotted thoughts and reactions while reading: oh, crap, this goes deep, uh-oh,  hmmm-so why surveillance? What? What? And finally the shocking end—I just plain: didn’t see it coming!

Hot House is a hot book to read with a cool drink in the hammock on a hot summer’s day.

Mari E and Derek Abernathy (and Trevor) make a great investigative team in this first of the E & A Investigations Series. The next book can’t get into my hands fast enough! Hot House may have surpassed The Unseen as my favorite Towles novel. All I can say is, the books just keep getting better and better! (Don’t miss The Ridders coming this fall.)

THRILLER WRITER
LISA TOWLES

An Interview with Lisa Towles

am: Where did the inspiration for Hot House come from? 

LT: My husband gave me a character name he thought of one day (he does that sometimes) – Derek Abernathy. I told him to write the name down and put it on the top shelf of an open file on my desk (so I’d see it every day). 18 months later (LOL!) I started writing Hot House. Why that amount of time, how did my husband know that Derek Abernathy was going to be an important part of my future? That’s part of the mystery and magic of fiction writing…and marriage 🙂 

am: Like many of your protagonists, Mari Ellwyn is complicated and has something to prove and something to heal. What draws you to this type of character? 

LT: I love this intriguing assessment – prove and heal. You’re right! And when you say it in those terms, I think every good protagonist has these elements. Like real people, fictional characters can have an external face that they show the world (how they want to be seen) and a more personal side of how they authentically feel. For Mari, I think she’s trying to prove that she’s healed from her shot-in-the-line-of-duty trauma and she’s ready for prime time with a new partner. But what I think she’s still working on, in this book, is being able to trust other people, which will be an issue for her as she starts this new relationship with Derek. 

am: What defines Hot House as a Psychological thriller? 

LT: Hot House could be thought of as a psychological thriller because the story has a psychological component in it as it relates to central victim of the story: Sophie Michaud. The narrative and backstory of Sophie’s mental illness played an integral role in why she was targeted by her killer and ultimately why she died. 

am: I find your work to be like jigsaw puzzles. Bits of information need to be identified then tried in different directions to find where they fit. Eventually it all comes together. 

LT: I’ve always loved puzzles, and for people who love puzzles, they typically don’t mind the not-knowing and temporary state of confusion when it comes to crime investigation. We look for obvious clues that are visible on the surface. And whether those pan out or not, there are always underlying layers of truth that have been established to conceal a crime and its perpetrators.

am: Do you think your background in IT has you wired to think in non-linear ways? 

LT: Such an interesting question.  Software engineering, I suppose, is a good metaphor for crime investigation. You write code to develop a new application (writing parallel: a theory), but there’s a significant amount of testing and verification in many different contexts and scenarios to ensure that it actually works (proving the theory, evidence, etc). And on the less linear side, there’s an important component of “debugging”, which is a problem-solving investigation to fix any defects and things that don’t work correctly. And I think this is where the creativity and thinking-out-of-box comes in. Why doesn’t something work as expected? What are the variables that could be playing a role? When it comes to real and fictional criminal investigations, details arise that might not readily fit into a framework you’ve created for a suspect. But often investigators feel or sense a connection that might not be visible by others (a hunch). THIS is the nonlinear part. Not sure if working in IT or just reading mysteries since I was a little girl made be interested in this. I just know the investigations are fascinating and great fun. 

am: What draws you to the thriller genre? Do you write in more than one subgenre of thriller? 

LT: I think the pace, stakes, and vibe of thrillers draws me in as a reader, and that’s what I’m pulled to write as well. My second book, Blackwater Tango, was also a psychological thriller, about a psychologist/profiler investigating a serial killer. I’ve heard from my readers (body in a lobster trap) that this was my creepiest book of all – LOL! The Ghost of Mary Prairie (2007) was very different – what I called a heartland suspense, about a 15 year old boy in rural Oklahoma investigating a ghost he encounters, which leads back to his family’s tangled past. BooksRadar is a great site that shows all of my books, with descriptions, in the order they were published: https://www.booksradar.com/towles-lisa/towles.html     

am: You have a full time IT job, how do you manage to publish two books a year? 

LT: Honestly it’s a constant struggle. Luckily I’m a night owl and I do most of my writing after 9pm and on weekends when I’m more relaxed and have time to think and reflect about my work in progress. I’ve learned that the Pomodoro Method (writing in 25 minute blasts) works well for me. But it’s a hard negotiation to consistently juggle my day job, writing new work, editing my work, and marketing/promotion. 

am: What kind of publishing team do you use? 

LT: I’ve had a wonderful experience working with Indies United Publishing House for my last two books and I’m really excited to keep going. And I’m so grateful to have an Editor who I completely trust, some smart beta readers (like you, Ana!), loving friends and family who support me, and a growing community of engaged readers who kindly provide feedback to let me know what I’m doing right, what needs refining, and what’s most important to them. After all, nothing is more important than our readers! 🙂  

am: What was your first book? 

LT: My first book (published under Lisa Polisar) was published in 2003, a suspense novel called Knee Deep about a body discovered in a mineral mine in rural New Mexico (where I lived for many years).  

am: What’s coming next? 

LT: My next publication is one of my favorite books, a political thriller called The Ridders, due for release on November 30, 2022. 

am: When will the next E &A Investigations book come out? 

LT: Book 2 in the E&A series, called Salt Island, will be released by Indies United on June 14, 2023

Don’t miss Hot House—

FIRST PRIZE WINNER of the 2022 Book Fest Awards

WINNER of the Literary Titan GOLD Award for Fiction

AVAILABLE: Amazon, B & N, Indies United Publishing House

Worth every penny!

Comments Off on Hot Summer/ HOT HOUSE

Filed under Books, Interviews, Reviews, Thrillers

America: Standing Strong

“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” —Sophocles (c.496 BCE – 406 BCE)—
one of classical Athens’s three great tragic playwrights. 

Right from the introduction to America: Standing Strong, I knew I‘d be powerfully moved by Robert J. Emery’s book. He says, “There is a worldwide upheaval coming if it’s not already here. This time, it feels different; this time, it feels dangerous. Where are the voices of common sense, reason, and compromise? There was a time when America’s two-party system, for example, worked to advance American society despite philosophical differences. Today there is endless in-fighting and political posturing between the parties that do little to advance the lives of citizens. Enough already.” Exactly—enough already!

I’m not a zealous fan of political essays or social histories, although I’ve read a few important books in my day, and this is one of them. The book is not anything I expected when my fellow Indies United Publishing House author asked me to review. Emery has offered readers a look at our divided society, politics, COVID pandemic, racial tension and eroding trust in our government, leaving it up to us, the reader, to form our own opinions.  He punctuates his thoughts and illuminates the facts with quotations from famous authors, movies, politicians, songs,—even Forest Gump— all designed to make the reader think and to put things in perspective. Inspired by columnist David Brooks, “. . .when social trust collapses, nations fail. Can we get it back before it’s too late?” Emery counters with [Brook’s words are] “a call to arms, not with weapons or violence, but as a unified country to meet challenges head-on with honesty, truth, and facts and to roundly reject the voices of the wolves in sheep’s clothing who would lead us in the wrong direction.”                                                                                                                                            

Written with humor and straightforward “plain talk,” America: Standing Strong  explores where we are on many fronts and how we got here. Emery includes chapters on Dictators, terrorism, Anger and the Loss of Civility, Guns in America, the environment,  Conspiracies Theories & Misinformation, Technology & Social Media, along with the expected chapters on  January 6th, The 2020 Election and The Pandemic. He says, “Stay with me; it gets messier as we proceed.” He often opens a chapter with “What went wrong, and what went right.” and often ends a chapter with a call to action and a summary of the consequences of the chapter topic and a final word. In the chapter, Whatever Happened to Common Sense? it ends with this:

The final word goes to philosopher Voltaire

“What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We 

are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally 

each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.”

—Voltaire (1694 -1778)—

Writer, historian, and philosopher

Another favorite line of Emery’s is “Make of that what you will.” He isn’t proselytizing or persuading. He’s presenting the facts of our current socio-political life and inspiring us to action by telling it like it is, how it’s been (there’s nothing new under the sun, is there?) and offering steps to right some of our wrongs. As an added bonus, Emery offers a host of books and articles to reference within the text. I read several of them and made a list of many more to catch up on later. That’s because Robert J. Emery has made me a convert. 

Rather than sticking my nose into another thriller, now I’m paying attention to real life. How did this happen?  Robert  J. Emery has written a book that inspired me. The issues are complex but the intent and presentation are simple.  America: Standing Strong is fact-filled, often entertaining, and left me feeling hopeful. I highly recommend it.  “Make of that what you will.”

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

—T.S. Elliot (1888 -1965)

 

An Interview with Robert J. Emery

am:     What brought you to writing?

RJE:    I have no idea why I began writing little stories in the 5th grade, like the two pages I wrote when my dog died. I attended Catholic school and my homeroom teacher, a nun, was kind enough to read my one- and two-page stories and she encouraged me to keep writing, which I did consistently all through school and my 4 years in the Air Force. It was a fun way to amuse myself. I never gave thought to where it might lead me one day.

am:     You eventually broke in to the film industry. Tell us about that.

RJE:    It began with a small ad agency I opened in Canton, Ohio. When the first TV station came to town in the mid-sixties we got into the writing and shooting of local TV commercials. I then created a daily morning talk show which I produced and directed for that station. We were fortunate to have a regular flow of Hollywood actors as guests when they were doing summer stock at the Warren Theater in nearby Warren, Ohio. 

At some point, I began writing screenplays with no clue what I would do with them. As it turns out, some local businessmen had an interest in investing in an independent motion picture and that’s how I got my first film made. I then spent 4 decades writing, directing, and producing eight motion pictures and over 140 hours of cable network documentaries, and everything in between that had anything to do with film production.

am:     Now you’re writing books. Have you come back to your story telling roots?

RJE:    Yes. In 2006, I retired and set out to fulfill a life dream of writing books, which I never had time for during my production career. First came four non-fiction books. A NY publisher asked me if I would write on my experiences producing and directing the Starz/Encore 92-episode series, “The Director.” I followed that with my first novel, In the Realm of Eden, a science fiction story about human/alien first contact. Later, I extended the story to 562 pages, changed the name to The Autopsy of Planet Earth, and released it in two volumes via Indies United Publishing House. Next came the dystopian novel Midnight Black, also revised and expanded and released through Indies United. 

am:     Tell us about your writing process. You write in several genre.       

RJE:    I admit to being obsessive writing 6-7 hours a day every day when I can. And I’m fortunate to be able to write in any genre when a subject moves me, fiction or non-fiction, like my current book America: Standing Strong, a subject I’m passionate about. America: Standing Strong is a non-fiction examination of what Americans endured between 2015 and today, and how as a country we will come back strong.

When writing fiction, I believe one of my strengths is creating characters because of my background in writing and directing screenplays. I direct my book characters in my head the same way I did when directing actors. For me, it’s the same process. I try to give each character something that sets them apart from the others. It might be how a character looks or how they talk. In Autopsy, for example, I had one character drop the ing’s on all his spoken words. It’s something I work hard at to give readers a visual sense of who each character is. That, I believe, is the challenge each writer faces.

am: What was the inspiration behind America: Standing Strong?

America: Standing Strong came about because all the books that were coming out by investigative reporters, as good as they were, were about the previous American administration. But what about what Americans endured not only politically, but the pandemic, the racial uncertainty, the 2020 election, the Jan 6 insurrection, unemployment, healthcare, inflation? That’s what was missing from the narrative. That is why I became passionate enough about it to spend over a year writing.

am:     So what’s next? Will you write more on the troubling times we live in?

RJE:    Ahhhhh… the next one, The Diarrhea Diaries, Trump’s Tweets That Give us the Runs, began as a joke that I turned into a non-fiction book featuring 400 of Mr. Trump’s greatest insulting Tweets which gained me my share of blowback from his supporters. 

I will never live long enough to write all the stories rolling around in my head, but, I’m going to give it one hell of a try, because I love what I do.

Robert J. Emery

Robert J. Emery
www.robertjemeryauthor.com

https://amzn.to/3wXfMm8

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1148917

Comments Off on America: Standing Strong

Filed under Commentary, Indies Interviews, Interviews, Opinion, Reviews

Privilege—Power or Happiness?

Winner—Best Adult Fiction Ohio Author Project

It’s no mistake I happened upon Bharat Krishnan’s  Privilege, Book 1 of the WP Trilogy, during this time of social and political change (do I dare say upheval?) in our country and around the world. Power and politics go hand-in-hand, imbuing every aspect of society from the nabobs to the powerless masses. Privilege, an #ownvoices political thriller, takes a hard look at privilege and power in the U.S.— who holds it, how one can achieve it, and who is barred from it.  Krishnan claims politics seep into every aspect of society and believes we can’t understand each other without a firm, constant knowledge of how politics affect us. 

The story is told by several characters, foremost, Rakshan Baliga, an Indian-American working for a profitable hedge fund in New York City. His boss, Aditya Shetty, has risen into the ranks of the rich and powerful, including  acquiring the sought after WP, a drug with magical-like properties, causing consumers to be stronger, smarter, and more prosperous than mere mortals. 

WP by law is forbidden to non-whites. But Rakshan wants his share. He also wants to marry Sadiya and have a family. Rakshan has an engagement ring made containing WP and proposes. Once on her finger, she realizes he is not what she wants and breaks up with him. He is determined to win her back and comes up with a plan to steal Aditya’s WP and take over the hedge fund with the help of his best friends. With the WP he can spin a tale the world will believe and avoid arrest. His dreams will come true. That is, if he isn’t killed in the process. 

Meanwhile, Sadiya  has fallen for her best friend from childhood, Maadhini, and they travel back to India to tell her parents they are going to get married. Although Sadiya drags her feet on the revelation, the tension eases as the story’s themes shift to family and values. 

Even though he’s got his WP, things have not gone well for Rakshan, who alienates his friends in his drugged quest. He becomes involved with a congressional hearing to consider legalization of WP for all Americans and aligns with the mother of a boy murdered by the police to give testimony. The current president opposes legalization. The country is in the balance—and the story tension and pacing ratchet up. This story might have been ripped from today’s headlines. 

The peek behind closed congressional doors was realistic and chilling. Privilege makes me wonder how any real change can be made and equity for all citizens be achieved with the madness of “privilege” addling our brains. I don’t come from an immigrant experience and have had many advantages in my life. Seeing our country through the “other’s” eyes has given me new understanding and fresh resolve to help with the solution. It’s time to unify our society under an inclusive and equitable system where we all can live healthy, productive and secure lives. How many more massacres at schools can we live with? Privilege is telling us to choose.

Choose wisely.

An interview with Bharat Krishnan

am: What presidential campaigns did you work on and when? 

BK: I started my career with the Obama campaign way back in June 2007. Over the next decade, I traveled the country not just on his campaign but also managing local campaigns across the country, from school board and city council to state legislature. I’ve worked in just about every geographic region of the country, from Los Angeles to Louisiana to Virginia to New Hampshire.

am: What kind of educational background prepares you for this work?

BK: I have my BA in political science, with a certificate in political campaign management which is something my alma matter, American University, specialized in. I later got my MBA at Louisiana State University. Going there and working in places like Wichita, Kansas, I found how much state schools like LSU and Wichita State relied on foreign students who also worked at the schools as grad assistants.

am: How has your education and experience influenced this trilogy?

BK: My knowledge of politics seeped into every aspect of the trilogy, from how presidential campaigns really work on a practical level (i.e., what staffers do) to some legal stuff (i.e., book three has a super PAC in it).

am: Did you have a foursome of friends from school and childhood like Rakshan?

BK: Rakshan and his buddies are based on me and my three childhood friends. I put aspects of me and my life into each one of the five characters: Rakshan, Abhinav, Krish, Ash, and Ravi.

am: When did your family come to the US? How are the characters’ experiences like yours or your family’s?  

BK: I really wanted to highlight the first-generation Indian-American experience, and also call out the differences and similarities. Most of Rakshan’s friends grew up here, but you still have Krish who came to the US only later in life. There’s no homogenous experience and I wanted to show that. For myself, my family came to the U.S. when I was about two years old.

am: What are your views on immigration?

BK: We need to do more to encourage immigration. Especially since Trump’s election, people are now afraid to come here and it’s a damn shame we’ve nurtured that type of environment. There’s a long history of immigrants coming here for their education and staying, and to the extent we can encourage that with a more relaxed visa policy, the better.

am: Will we find out what happens to Rakshan, Sandiya and Maadhini?

BK: All three of these characters get an ending that makes sense for them! Everything will be clear by the end of the trilogy.

am: What do you hope readers will take away from Privilege?

BK: I use a story telling device I created myself called STOP. It stands for Story, Theme, Origin, and Plot. I try to sum up all my novels’ stories in one or two sentences, and for the trilogy I’d say it’s this: Power and Happiness are two separate things, and you have to choose which one you want.

am: Where are we going in the next two books? Will there be any happiness?

BK: Book one was just about New York, but in Book two we go to D.C. and India, and in Book three you’ll go to Belize and Guatemala as well! And yes! There is happiness, but it takes big, bold choices and it doesn’t always look the way we expect.

am: What else would you like to say to readers?

BK: I try to make the through-line in my novels radical emotional honesty, with politics always sprinkled in, because everything is political in my opinion. I’m very proud of Privilege for winning “Best Adult Fiction” in Ohio last year, and I hope you have a chance to check it out and my other stuff at www.bharatkrishnan.com.


Bharat calls himself a professional storyteller and amateur cook. After 10 years of working in politics, he’s tried to explain how the country went from Barack Obama to Donald Trump by writing Confessions of a Campaign Manager. Then he wrote Oasis, a desert-fantasy novel that examined what makes a family and how refugees should be treated. Now the WP Trilogy. Looks like he’s on a roll with themes of immigration, equity and power! If you enjoyed reading House of Cards, you’ll enjoy Privilege.

“Krishnan has created a genre-bending ride that reimagines how we tell stories about class in America. A must read. “

– Reeshi Ray, Author of One Nation Under Gods

Comments Off on Privilege—Power or Happiness?

Filed under Indies Interviews, Interviews, Reviews, Thrillers

The Joy of Aging

Author Dana Rodney rejoins Building a Better Story with more thoughts on getting older. Here’s her story. ~AnaM

 

Unknown-1

Author Dana Rodney: Before

Just kidding, aging isn’t a joy, you just don’t have any choice. Like they say, getting old ain’t for sissies. I’m sure there are some advantages to growing older: grandchildren, more free time, discounts. But if we’re being brutally honest, the negatives outweigh the positives. So instead of wringing my brain to come up with a list of the joys of aging, how about a list called:

Weird and Unexpected Things About Aging:

OIP.M30SMSHZXbtcdJEQRU7yjAAAAA

And After

 

#1-  You don’t look as good but it’s a relief.

Mostly, not looking young sucks, but there’s an unexpected advantage to it; you’ve worried about your looks and been judged for it all your life (especially women.) Suddenly you’ve lost them…and it’s a perverse relief. You don’t have to stress about it anymore. Game over. Sure, you still have to be presentable and put in a little effort… but admit it, no one’s looking.

#2-  Whatever you’re gonna do you’ve already done.

OIP.U0etKaTPLv9znooTBlzTmwHaKM

By the time you’re 60, you’ve built your career (or not,) you’ve had a family (or not,) you’ve achieved—or not achieved. At this point you can just accept it. Probably not gonna change the status quo at this point. Like baking a cake. You have one chance to get it right. If it collapses a little in the middle, you can’t go back and fix it. Spread some frosting on top and enjoy the party.

#3-  You don’t care what people think.

You’re not trying to fit in anymore or be like someone else. You’ve become who you are through decades of trial and error and making millions of choices that you can’t undo. You are who you are, might as well stand behind your work.

#4-  Death doesn’t scare you. 

By the time you’re a senior citizen, you’ve seen, experienced, tasted it all. You’re just going through the motions again and again. like re-reading a favorite book, it’s enjoyable, but there are no surprises. Maybe you’re secretly curious about death; it’s the only surprise left. The final adventure awaits!

quotes_oscar_wilde_text_only_black_background_quote_desktop_1680x1050_wallpaper-342283.png

#5-  You inadvertently become a mindfulness practitioner.

Retirement is an interesting experiment. Your whole life you’ve been pushed to succeed, produce, make money, then overnight your world paradigm shifts. It takes a while to convince your frantic mind you don’t need to be anywhere, there are no pressing deadlines, you can sleep in. But when your mind finally accepts it, what a naughty joy it is to sit for thirty minutes drinking coffee at noon and watch the hummingbirds.

Well, okay…maybe there are some joys to aging after all.

OIP.xButcg4mwLOA-HjWRGeN3wAAAA.jpeg

An interview with Dana Rodney:

AM~ How did you start writing?

DR~ I started writing in 2017 after I retired from a career in the design industry. Seeking inspiration, I wandered into a free writing class in my hometown in the Napa Valley, California. One of the writing exercises I did inspired me, and I just kept writing. A year later, I had a novel finished titled,  THE BUTTERFLY WING, a story which explores Napa Valley history. It is soon to be published, and I will be offering some excerpts from the book in the “Writing” section of my website

AM~ I had the opportunity to be one of your early readers and loved The Butterfly Wing. Are you continuing to  write period pieces?

DR~ Yes, but the time is the future. I am currently working on a new novel on the subject of climate change titled- THE ECSTASY OF ICE, which chronicles the last year in the life of Anuk, the last polar bear on planet earth, in her first-person point of view. 

AM~ Tell me about your background. What else have you done?

DR~I am also a lettering artist. I started doing calligraphy in the 80’s when it was an artsy- craftsy trend. Thirty years later I picked up my dip pen again and started creating  calligraphy art incorporating Asian-inspired shapes, original watercolor washes and the words of the mystics like Buddha and Rumi. 

AM~ It sounds like words are important to you.

 DR~I guess I just love words. Take a look my calligraphy art on the “Modern Calligraphy” tab in the navigation bar of my website

AM~What message do you have for readers?

DR~ Please join my writing journey.  My BLOG  is a fascinating selection of issues that have inspired my books such as climate change, women’s empowerment, history and the natural world. I always am interested in what readers have to add to the discussion. You can also check out my Instagram, Facebook  and twitter platforms for photos of new calligraphy and posts about my ongoing creative journey. I would be tickled pink if  I  could send you a page or two from one of my novels every month. Your comments would be welcome. Click here to join my list: DanaRodney.com

Unknown-2

Dana Rodney: Now

2 Comments

Filed under Aging, Autobiographical Writing, Interviews

Lentil Soup

Sisters Born, Sisters Found is not just an anthology of women writing about theirs sisters. The book acts as mysterious force unifying the sisterhood of women for readers and authors alike. The sister found. Last night one of my “sisters” recounted her experience: while lunching in the hospital cafeteria—her husband was in for a procedure—she entertained herself reading Sisters Born, Sisters Found. The two women at the next table, sisters it turned out, eyed my friend. “Is that a book about sisters?” one asked. “We always look for stories about sisters. They’re what we and our friends read.” In my own experience, I can’t keep enough copies on hand when I go to writer’s events. I’m flocked by my writing sisters to buy copies.

 

And if not for this lovely anthology, how would I have come to cross paths with the author of Lentil Soup, (page 11) Maria de Lourdes Victoria?

 

-2

Maria is a writer, teacher and social justice activist   from the Pacific Northwest whose award-winning  novels have yet to be translated to English from her native Spanish. She authors bi-lingual children’s stories and writes articles in English for various social justice publications. She says of her writing career, “I always wrote, but I became an author when I decided to write a book for my sons. I wanted them to be proud of their Mexican heritage. I also wanted an excuse to spend life in Mexico in the company of my father who was an amazing human being.”

Find her at: www.mariadelourdesvictoria.com

 139 

Ana: I’ve reread Lentil Soup and again, it’s brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful story! I wish I could read your novels, but I’m just not that fluent in Spanish, and I didn’t find translations on Amazon. Have you been translated?

Maria: Unfortunately my novels have not been translated into English (yet.) I am looking to sell the foreign rights to a smart (smile) editor who is willing to take a chance on three manuscripts that have been warmly received in the Spanish-speaking world. I cannot afford the translations. Translation is an art and I have deep respect for good, literary translators.

139

Ana: Your hometown is beautiful Veracruz, Mexico. When and how did you come to divide your life between Seattle and California?

Maria: My adventure in the USA began when I was seventeen years old. I came as a foreign exchange student to Seattle to learn English. While I was here, in high school, I met my husband. We married when I was nineteen and he was twenty-four, and yes, we are still happily married. But much as I tried, he would not move back with me to Veracruz. He is rooted in the Pacific Northwest and I can’t get him to go to California even! Move forward 37 years and we now have five beautiful grandchildren (such a gift!) who all live in California. They are the real reason I live in both states, back and forth I go, enjoying the wine country in the winter and spring months, and the glorious summers and falls in Seattle. And when I cannot stand it any longer I travel south to visit my beloved Mexico, my jarochos, palm tree, sugar cane, mangoes, parroquia coffee and danzon in the zocalo. 

139

Ana: I enjoyed parroquia coffee to the sounds of marimba in Veracruz. Do you still have an extended family there?

Maria: Yes, all my family, except two sisters, live in Mexico. I have siblings in Monterrey, Veracruz and Cuernavaca.

139

Ana: How did your family come to live in Mexico? Is your family history similar to the family histories of your protagonists in Los hijos del mar?

-4

Maria: Los hijos del mar is the story of my ancestors, going back to the mid 1800’s. My mother’s side of the family came from Spain and made a living in the coffee bean industry. My father’s family came from a small town in Veracruz called Catemaco (yes, where they have the yearly annual conference of national witches) and they fished in the lagoon and had a pharmacy. My grandfather went to Mexico City, got his degree as a pharmacist, and when he graduated he went back to Catemaco, picked up his family and moved to the “big city” of Veracruz, where he started his own pharmacy. This is where the story of Los hijos del mar begins. 

139

 Ana: In your story, Lentil Soup, you identify several family members including your sister, but there’s scant mention of the rest of your immediate family. Was your sister your principle caregiver? How many years apart are you? Can you expand on your relationship a bit?

 

-1

Maria: When I was two years old our mother died and left our father a widow with six children. The car accident that took my mother’s life also left my father incapacitated, so the children were distributed among family members. Eventually we were reunited, but in the meantime [we] developed a close relationship, which has lasted until this day.

The sister in this story (I have six) was my playmate and my rock  during this time of loss. The principal caregiver was actually our oldest sister, Pilar, and to her I dedicated my second novel Mas alla de la justicia (Beyond Justice). 

-3

139

Ana: As an ESL teacher and a struggling student of Spanish, I know how hard it is to become fluent writing in a foreign language. I’m impressed with your ability to write in English, but which language do you primarily write in? Is there an advantage to one over the other?

Maria: When I first arrived in this country I could not ask for a glass of water. But then I fell in love and had the right motivation to learn quickly. I know it is easier to be published in English, and yet my heart whispers the stories in Spanish. So I listen. Sometimes it is a real struggle, for example, my second novel, Beyond Justice set in Seattle, with all English speaking characters, about the judicial system in the USA, that was a real challenge— especially my Afro-American character, Rhonda. How to convey her beautiful culture and persona and be true to her slang in Spanish??? It was not easy…

139
Ana: Language is culture-bound and I wonder if your work is more Latin or more North American depending on the language you write in. I tasted a distinct flavor of Latin America in your bi-lingual children’s books. Do you consider yourself a Mexican author, a “left coast” author or something in between? Do you have any thoughts on language and culture?

Maria: I consider myself an author who writes primarily in Spanish and sometimes in English. My work gets labeled (maybe for cataloging purposes?) and I am often amused by the way I am described—Latina author, Mexican author, Chicano author, Spanish author, Hispanic author, etc, etc.

Here is a little poem I wrote one day when I was asked, yet again, if my parents were missionaries in Mexico.

 

I am an author

 

I am an author.

I am a woman author.

I am Mexican woman author.

I am a Mexican woman author who is blond.

I am also an American.

 

Yes, there are Mexicans who are Americans.

Yes, there are Mexicans who are blond.

Yes, there are Mexican women authors who are blond,

like me.

I am not what you see but what I write.

I am my words.

I am an author.

 

 139

Ana: Reading Lentil Soup, I’m reminded of  Laura Esquivel’s Como Agua Para Chocolate for the strong connection between food and family. In your story and that book, food takes on near magical properties. Is this a cultural tradition in Mexican families and literature? Do you use food as a theme or metaphor in much of your work? How?

Maria: I am not sure I can generalize about Mexican literature and food, but I can say that most Mexican people take great pride in their own, regional cuisine. As you know Mexico is an incredibly diverse country. Each state has its own regional dress, music, cuisine, we have over 69 official languages! Veracruz alone is an amazingly diverse state. I am a jarocha, for example, which is to say I am from the port of Veracruz. But to answer your question, I think if you are writing about close-knit families in any given society (like Laura Esquivel’s De La Garza family in a Mexican ranch or Jane Austin’s landed gentry in England), the rituals around food are key elements of the story. The third novel which I am now finishing is a historical novel set in Oaxaca. It would be a sin, I think, not to include the traditional foods of Oaxaca in that story. So be ready for a literary feast!

139

Ana: You are a member of the Latino Bar Association and write articles on social justice. What do you write about and where might readers find your articles?

Maria: I consider myself a “recovered litigator” (smile) I no longer practice law, but I write about it. A lot. Readers may find my work on my blog and also on some journals, like the Seattle Journal for Social Justice or Conversations Across Borders

139

Ana: Everyone should read Cien Anos de Solidad (One Hundred Years of Solitude,) in my opinion. What Latin writers are your favorites and what book has influenced you the most? Who should everyone read? 

Maria: I have a huge list! Yes, I always said that Gabo (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) was my boyfriend, but my favorite book of his (in Spanish) is Love in the Time of Cholera (not the movie). Other authors in my library: Gabriela Mistral, Rosa Montero, Isabel Allende, Roberto Bolanos, Alejo Carpentier, Julio Cortazar, Romulo Gallegos, Jose Samargo, Ibarguengoita, Vargas Lloza, Maria Duenas, Galeano, Rosario Ferre, Rosario Castellanos, Adelia Prado, Teresa Calderon.

I am happy to say that we started the reading clubs inSpanish at the King County Public Libraries in Seattle. Maybe this could happen in the Bay area? Maybe this is already happening? I want to know!

139

Ana: What else do you think readers want to know?

Maria: That I consider the time they take away from their busy lives to read my work a true GIFT. And this is why I try to give them my best effort. 

139

I invite you to accept Maria de Lourdes Victoria’s gift of Lentil Soup and the joy as Maria and her sister “once again seal our pact: lentils in exchange for perpetual love, and not just any love but real love, Amor de los Buenos.”

 

Please be sure to check out the next post in our blog tour:

Monday, Feb. 23: Paige Adams Strickland interviewed by Vicki Batman http://vickibatman.blogspot.com

Laughing face Veracruz Classic period

Laughing face Veracruz Classic Period

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Interviews