Saturday, August 03, 2013

Interview with the Historical Fiction Book Club


Interviewer is Candy Little of the Historical Fiction Book Club:

Are you a reader/writer? 

I was an avid reader before I wrote The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood, and remain one, although when I'm actively writing it's difficult for me to read books of a similar genre. Fortunately, there are no other historical fiction novels dealing with this time period and area of the U.S. I think that will soon change.

What are your fondest memories of reading? 


My childhood was lonely in New Mexico and the winters were long and cold. Our adobe home was heated by a free-standing gas appliance in the back of the house, so no warmth reached my room up front. Mom got a little portable electric heater which we put on a chair next to my bed. I read by the light of its toasty red beam late into the night and was transported to another world. I lost all sense of physical boundaries, of time and discomfort, and fought sleep. Even after the book ended, I walked around in a dream, still captured by its spell. Writing The Sandoval Sisters did much the same thing. The characters spoke to me, weaved their magic behind my eyes while I was making grocery lists or carpooling.

What are some of your favorite authors and books? 

I don't limit myself to one genre, but in the historical fiction category I prefer a variety of settings and time periods. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley is nonfiction, but a huge influence. I own every book written by Antonia Fraser. Anne Rice's A Cry to Heaven and Feast of All Saints.

If you could describe what writing/reading means to you, how would you do so? 

Writing is a declaration of independence for me. It's an acceptance of the gluttonous fantasist which not only nourished my youth, but threatened to carry me off permanently. There were times when I questioned my sanity back then, only I put it in plainer terms, “What's wrong with me?” 

In those days I dreamt symphonies and technicolor adventures where I vanquished my fears (the enemy of creativity) and was loved and appreciated. That dream world was so real that I slept for 14 hours or longer, so important to me that when I was forced to go to school it was as if I sleepwalked through the halls, and barely noticed the stares or heard the jibes. Yeah, I was bullied (see the author's writing on Bullying here here and here.) 

In college, I used behavior modification to reduce my fantasy life. Fifteen minutes of study would net me forty-five minutes of daydreaming. Gradually, the ratio was reversed, until the day arrived when I daydreamed no more. Instead, I set goals and met them with a ferocity that had never been present in my life. I established a successful business, married and had children. Thank goodness I still read and took classes: anthropology, oceanography, astronomy, marine biology. 

After listening to my mom tell the story of our maternal ancestors, the Sandovals, I signed up for an Introduction to Fiction class at UCLA. Fantasies reentered my life; I put out the welcome mat for them. Woohoo! Only now I write them down, give them structure, and share them with readers all over the world.

Which book do you think was best adapted into a movie? Why? 

Two movies pop into mind, not so much for the sameness of book to movie, but for how the movie organized the material: The English Patient was a complicated book in terms of time jumps. The cinematic adaptation made those transitions seamlessly. I enjoyed both the book and film, but I'm glad I saw the movie first. The Hunger Games was a page turner, but I felt the movie developed character better. Been a while, but The Name of the Rose was made into an accessible movie.

Why do you like to read/write historical novels? 

I'm a lifelong learner, and while my high school history teacher bemoaned my lack of devotion to history (in the classroom), historical novels have sparked my curiosity for more history, and I've gone on to research the “facts” on my own. I've also developed preferences for how I like time periods and settings and wars and such to be written. I don't like the facts thrust at me in an intrusive fashion.

Write your favorite quote and explain why you picked it? 

Two quotes at the beginning of The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood:

Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.
Willa Cather

Memories play a huge role in my novel, and in my life. As Oratoria says on the first page, “Which are the more true, the memories then or those simmered over time?”

No Statue of Liberty ever greeted our arrival in this country...we did not, in fact, come to the United States at all. The United States came to us.

Luis Valdez

American Progress, John Gast, 1872

In my research, before I had even decided to write a novel, I was trying to find an answer to why cultural and ethnic antagonisms existed in Santa Fe, to why I had been bullied. So, I read some history and learned more about New Mexico and America than I'd ever imagined. But my goal was not to indict anyone, just to understand. There is a worldview expressed by the Sandoval sisters and it's been shaped by my experience and what my research revealed.

Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself? Are you married? Any kids? Where do you live? 


I'm married and we raised two sons. We have a happy empty nest in Los Angeles that we've filled with a dog, a cat, and two quarrelsome parakeets.

Congratulations on your awards, Sandra!


The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood
Best Historical Fiction and Best First Book.