Hey everyone! Welcome back to interview monday. This week we have the amazing Kristina Perez, author of the upcoming SWEET BLACK WAVES with us.
Her book is a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde tale, coming from Imprint/Macmillan in 2018. You can add it to Goodreads here.
And without further ado, here’s the interview with Kristina!
1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?
When the words are flowing, there is no better rush. Listening to my music, being swept up in my own world, is the best feeling in the world.
2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?
My father is from Argentina and my mother is a second generation Norwegian immigrant. I grew up speaking both languages with my family and being steeped in both cultures. As a white Latina, I have had my identity questioned so many times I’ve lost count and I felt nervous about writing Latinx characters for a long time. My current WIP has my first Latinx MC and her internal thoughts are in Spanish, as mine often are, and I’m really excited about it!
3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?
Publishing, like any industry, has people who are willing to listen and learn and people who aren’t. It can be frustrating when decision-makers fall into the latter category, but I am hopeful that, overall, the needle is beginning to move in the right direction.
4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?
Books are a big part of the overall cultural production––including movies, TV shows, music etc.––and they should therefore reflect the diversity of the society in which we live. Right now, that’s not the case. Rather than being true reflections, the images that we are presented with in all forms of media are often refracted through the expectations of the dominant culture. When these images are harmful we can’t help but internalize them. The representation of Latinx characters, for the most part, still relies on stock tropes and stereotypes, which is particularly insidious in products (books or movies) marketed to kids and teens. There are some wonderful counterexamples, of course, but we have a long way to go until the representation of the Latinx community in English-language media reflects the diversity of the community itself.
5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?
In high school, I took AP Spanish Literature and was exposed for the first time in a real way to Latin American authors. I felt an affinity for magical realism that I didn’t realize I’d been missing and also developed a new understanding of my father’s experiences in Argentina. In particular, I love Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez. The poetry of Federico García Lorca and his play Yerma had a big impact on me. Also, Como agua para chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Arráncame la vida by Ángeles Mastretta are two books which I periodically reread.
6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?
I did a PhD in medieval literature, specifically Arthurian literature, so a lot of my story ideas stem from that in one way or another. I love myths and legends and I love retellings. I grew up in New York City but I’ve spent the past twenty years in Europe and Asia so a lot of my work draws on the traditions and folklore of the places I’ve lived, as well as both my heritages. It can also be a photograph or a song lyric or people-watching in cafes.
7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?
We need your stories. Don’t give up. Being an author can be a very volatile career and you need to stick to your guns. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, however, so finding like-minded writer friends is invaluable.
- Food – Grey’s Papaya hot dog with sauerkraut and ketchup
- Book – Gah! So hard. Two of the books that shaped a lot of my worldviews when I was a teen are The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
- Movie – Another tough one! Possibly The Usual Suspects. Even though I know who Keyser Söze is, the reveal gets me every time.
- Place in the World – Borneo has the most untouched natural beauty I’ve ever seen. And lots of monkeys!
- Superhero – Technically, I guess she’s a supervillain but I’ve always had a thing for Catwoman. New faves would be X-23 from Logan or Eleven from Stranger Things.
- Harry Potter house – Slytherin
Thanks so much for this lovely interview, Kristina! And we’ll see you next Monday.
Kristina Pérez is a half-Argentine, half-Norwegian native New Yorker. She’s spent the past two decades living in Europe and Asia. She holds a PhD in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge and has taught at the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal Asia, L’Officiel India, Condé Nast Traveler, CNN and the South China Morning Post, among others.
Her debut YA Fantasy, SWEET BLACK WAVES––a Tristan and Isolde retelling––will be published by Imprint/Macmillan in 2018.