It’s been a while since I last posted an interview, but here we are again! This week I bring you the wonderful Samantha Mabry, who wrote “A Fierce and Subtle Poison”. I can’t wait till you get to see her answers!
If you can spare, please consider buying her book to support Samantha, and to support Latinx voices! And now to the interview (:
In this stunning debut, legends collide with reality when a boy is swept into the magical, dangerous world of a girl filled with poison.
Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the senoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.
Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.
A Fierce and Subtle Poison beautifully blends magical realism with a page-turning mystery and a dark, starcrossed romance–all delivered in lush, urgent prose.
1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?
I like the art working with words –tuning a sentence until it sings. It’s also very
rewarding to interact with readers. When I was a teenager, I loved, loved music,
and musicians and bands really mattered to me. Like, they were hugely,
profoundly important. When there’s a reader out there who feels the way about my
books that I felt about my records, it’s amazing.
2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write
many Latinx characters?
The worlds about which I write a are almost completely populated with binational,
bicultural, multinational, and/or multicultural characters because the world in
which I live is full of these types of people, myself and my family members
included. If I’m going to attempt to write authentically and reflect real life as I see
it, there’s going to be a good amount of Latinx people in my writing.
3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any
experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?
Not really, though I have had some people (not my publisher!) suggest that I use
my mother’s maiden name (Garcia) as part of my pen name to more clearly
“define” myself as Hispanic. This is missing the point! And hurtful! As if Hispanic
and Latinx people really need more people who are not Hispanic or Latinx doing
us this sort of “favor” in telling us how to define and present ourselves. Good
4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding
I teach at a community college in downtown Dallas that’s designated as a Hispanic
Serving Institution. Most of my students have roots (fresh or deep) in Spanish-
speaking or Latin American countries. Dallas (and Texas) a huge population of
Latinx people. So, obviously these people need books that feature characters like
them, and these books need to be mainstream, or else we end up with situations
like we had in Tucson where Chicanx Studies was banned on grounds that it was
exclusionary. Having these books be considered mainstream and not some diverse
token is absolutely necessary.
5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your
I’m heavily influenced by the magical realists, and I don’t try to hide this fact at
all. Many of these writers come from across Latin America or have those roots, so
yes, they come from my background in a way. I’m struck by how they use place
and how layers of history can create a certain place and influence characters,
whether those characters are aware of it or not. There’s a sense of being bound to
history, which is interesting to me, because it allows for exploration of autonomy
and choice in a story. In particular, I love The House of the Spirits by Isabel
Allende, Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Bless Me,
Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. I also love the poetry of Carmen Tafolla, Julia de
Burgos, and William Carlos Williams, who also explore issues of history and
6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?
I’m very spongy, so I draw a lot of my inspiration from other books –stories that
have stuck with me over the course of my life –and from films. For every project, I
like to have a couple of touchstone texts (for A Fierce and Subtle Poison it was
“Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The House of the Spirits by
Isabel Allende, the latter of which I mentioned above), and I try to hold these texts
in my head for inspiration in terms of plot or theme or tone. Then I launch off
those texts and do my own thing.
7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?
If you are a Latinx attempting to write about some facet of the Latinx experience,
write the truth as you remember it, have seen it, or have heard about it. Difficult
details are important to share, but only if you share them well, truthfully and with
compassion toward their source. Be truthful, but don’t be mean. Don’t stereotype.
- Hogwarts house? Griffyndor
- Favorite food? Birthday cake
- Favorite movie? Days of Heaven
- Favorite TV series? Right now: Outlander
- Favorite soap opera? Also Outlander? Although, when I was in college, I used to
- faithfully watch a soap called Passions, which was delightfully terrible and no
- longer on the air.
- Favorite place in the world? Marfa, Texas
- Favorite superhero? Wolverine
Thanks so much for the lovely interview, Samantha!
Samantha was born four days before the death of john lennon. she grew up in dallas, playing bass guitar along to vinyl records in her bedroom after school, writing fan letters to rock stars, doodling song lyrics into notebooks, and reading big, big books.
in college at southern methodist university, she majored in english literature, minored in spanish, and studied latin and classics. after that, she went on to receive a master’s degree in english from boston college.
these days, she spends as much time as possible in the west texas desert.