Interview with Kristina Perez, author of SWEET BLACK WAVES

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.

7512686Kristina 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.

Advertisements

Interview with Lizz Huerta

It’s another Monday, and this time, we’re interviewing author Lizz Huerta!

Thanks for being such an awesome person, and thank you for the interview. Let’s get right to it!

1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

I love the act of writing, of disappearing into a story, of the characters taking me over. I get completely invested in what I’m writing and am swallowed by it. I pace while figuring things out. I laugh, I cry. Writing infuses my being in a way that is impossible to find somewhere else. I’m thrilled when others relate to and enjoy my work but the real love is in the act of writing and creating itself.

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

I had a good writing teacher once tell me that good fiction is good gossip. And stories in my family tend to spread like wildfire. I can mention something to my sister in the morning and that afternoon my grandma in Mexico will be gossiping about it to someone in her village and a cousin from the ranch will send me a message about it. My Mexi-Rican is made of storytellers, gossips, myth-keepers. When we get together (pretty often as we all live near each other) we try to out-story each other, layering tales, flaws, the stories grow with each telling. I learned how to write from my family, not because they’re writers but because they know how to engage with story, build tension, add humor. My cradle tales were filled with warnings about greed and flawed characters.. The bruja-ish magical realism I tend to write in is because that’s the world I experienced. Ghost stories, stories about cursed ancestors, the kidnapping of my grandmother. These were normal to me, I was taught to witness and experience the world in multiple layers.

Almost all of my characters are latinx. I write for myself and therefore for us, our community.. All of my writing is a love letter to my family, living and ancestral, sometimes tough love but always love.

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

I’ve had a few annoying conversations with folks who have told me that it’ll be easy to publish because I’m brown. Ha. Ha ha. I publish mostly in small journals and anthologies and have had really good experiences. A couple of times parts of my stories or characters confused editors because they were unaware of the cultural context but it was cleared up easily. A lot of the places where I’ve submitted and published my work have had editors of color who are looking for writer of color, so that has helped a lot too. We’ll see what it looks like when I start trying to sell my short story collection and fantasy novel. But I have faith in my writing, the stories that choose me as their teller..

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

It is vital, necessary, huge. I grew up as a voracious reader in the eighties and nineties and I never saw myself in the stories I loved. Whenever I imagined myself into these tales I had to change everything about myself, my skin color, my hair, my heritage. When you don’t see yourself, or only see negative portrayals of you/your community, it plants a seed that you don’t matter. Invisibility hurts. I remember in ninth grade when we read “the House on Mango Street’ By Sandra Cisneros I was pissed. I went to my English teacher, a Latina, and I threw the book on her desk and said “I didn’t know we were allowed to write about ourselves.” I had never seen anyone even close to me in the books I’d known. That beautiful English teacher, she hugged me and then took me a bookstore and bought me an armful books of Latin American lit; Garcia-Marquez, Isabel Allende. I forget who else. But that’s when I started thinking that my stories, the stories of my family mattered.

I’ve done a solid amount of work with a local literary non-profit, teaching creative writing workshops in local high schools and shelters. We’re in San Diego so there is a significant latinx student population. I love them, I see that they are SO much braver than I was at their age; they’re browner, queerer, more political. Then I look at their bookshelves and there is SUCH a lack of diversity. Where do they see themselves? How can they know the stories they are living are worthy, important and interesting if they aren’t reflected in the books on their shelves? We need our stories, to sustain us, to remind us of how incredible we are, in the struggles, the laughter, the wildness and contemplation. Our ancestors survived some shit, we are proof and our survival and thriving is the greatest gift we can give to those who came before us.

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

I was a lonely, isolated kid because of the religion I grew up in. I wasn’t allowed to have friends outside our church so the characters in books became my friends. I was crazy about Laura Ingalls Wilder books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the Babysitter’s Club series. I loved these books and the characters in them. I was obsessed with immigration books, covered wagon books, Ellis Island tales. I think a part of me was seeking out books that in small ways, showed me immigrants and pioneers. I was looking for fragments or reminders of my my own family story but I never really found them. My favorite-favorite books were the Emily of New Moon books by L.M. Montgomery. Emily was the character I related to most because she was a writer and an outsider and most of all, she had this bruja sense to her living, an imagination that saw beyond the world as it was. I’ve been writing since I was a young kid, in those early days the books I read inspired me, then my teen writing was angsty poetry based on Tori Amos lyrics, then I came back to fiction in my early twenties.

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

Inspiration shows up for me in the wildest of places. The scent of a pool hall, a song from my Tijuana party days, my dreams. I write down my dreams each morning and the seeds for a ton of my short stories have started in Dreaming, it’s my sacred place. I follow my curiosity. Sometimes it goes nowhere, sometimes I’m surprised at what comes out. I also mine my own history. I’m pretty non-traditional,  a community college dropout. I work in skilled labor, but still on construction sites. I spent a lot of my twenties traveling, living in Mexico, hustling my way into experiences that have shaped me. Saying yes to adventures that had the family elders praying for me. I screwed up a lot and I’m glad I did. It taught me to forgive myself and when I write I come to flawed characters with empathy and love.

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

There isn’t one path or one way to be a writer. There are plenty of people out there telling how to do it. Listen to them and learn what you can, then do it your own way. Sometimes magic happens. Trust that is can happen to you. Read, write, observe, listen, daydream, ask. Follow your curiosity. Find a community of other Latinx/POC writers, online or IRL and BUILD your community. Support writers of color, buy their books, share their writing. Let yourself have bad days, because there will be PLENTY of bad days; days when you think you’re a terrible writer, days of jealousy, days of desperation, days of fear. Have your bad day(s) then keep going. Forgive yourself, forgive the mistakes and missteps you will make along the path and do better. Writing, storytelling is a sacred act. We are the keepers of Story, the creators and passers down of wisdom, warning, history, imagination, possibility,love. Take breaks for self-care. Learn that sometimes the dark places are necessary, but when you come back from them, you bring something with you.Surrender is just that, letting go and allowing. You’re better than you realize. Go offline. Journal. Acknowledge and honor the progress you make. At night, before you fall asleep remind yourself of the little daily accomplishments: Today I sent out a story, Today I edited a sentence to make it stronger, Today I changed a file name to make it easier to find. The little victories and satisfactions add up. This is a long game, take care of yourself and play well. Take what you want, if anything, from this advice then do it your own way.

  • Food: grandma’s shrimp tacos
  • Book: Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint
  • Place in the world: the hammock hanging from the Jacaranda tree at my childhood home
  • Superhero: my ancestors
  • Harry Potter house: Slytherin, I want to speak parseltongue
11108667-10154009856047908-5779296206170313322-n_orig
Lizz Huerta is working class Mex-Rican writer living in San Diego. She writers bruja-mythic fiction. Her work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Portland Review, Lumina, Duende, The Miami Rail, Rabble Lit and other journals She is currently finishing up a short story collection and fantasy novel informed by pre-contact mesomerican mythology. You can follow her on twitter @lizzhuerta