Backyard Volcano and Other Mysteries of the Heart, a short story anthology, was conceived in a dreamlike world hovering between wakefulness and deep sleep. The main story that gives the book its name, Backyard Volcano, first appeared in my consciousness as a poem. It was so full of detail that I turned it into a short story. The characters kept gnawing at my meditative time until I finally let the characters “show me the way” and it became a novella.
The inspiration for Behind the Murals, one of the stories, sprang directly from a dream where a Mexican muralist painted frescoes on all the walls of his house, save for one wall on the patio. It’s also a ghost story.
I savor those ideas that bubble up from my unconscious mind. I’ve learned to trust my daydreaming or dreamlike meditative states – that’s where creativity is born. Some people call it intuition.
Even Einstein wrote: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Writing is about both. We should nourish the intuitive mind for creativity and use the servant to guide the discipline to complete the stories in written form.
Do you write every day to a schedule, or do you write in bursts and sprees?
I work at my writing every day. Half of that work, however, is devoted to marketing, promotion, and preparing PowerPoint presentations for book clubs and other audiences. An author must also have a social media platform. These necessary efforts take time. I try to write my fiction when I am fresh rested, yet alert for the best results. The marketing side, though also requiring creativity, is usually left to periods of the day where I need a break from writing. In essence, I write every day, except when I travel – then I take a much needed break to recharge.
Give us an idea of your writing method. First draft by hand or by computer? Do you outline or improvise?
My first draft is always in my head – the entire draft!! It emerges slowly on paper with a very sketchy plot. I spend time describing the characters a bit. As I write, the characters take on a life of their own and persuade me to improvise. I listen to them because that’s where creativity lies.
What are your four or five (or ten) favorite books?
- Day of the Jackal – Frederick Forsyth - when I first read that book, it blew me away!
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald - I love the clear, crisp writing style and the allegory of a young America.
- Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece on the stream of consciousness.
- The Garden of Forking Paths – a short story by Jorge Luis Borges is the perfect short story, especially when you think of the period in literature Borges wrote it, not to mention that he was in Argentina and blind, to boot.
- That Demon Life – Lowell Mick White – I’ve learned more from that book than any other. That’s where I’ve learned how to handle dialogue, except that I still have much to learn! It’s very different in plot and characters, voice, etc. from my work, but White handles dialogue brilliantly.
- The General in his Labyrinth – Gabriel García Márquez and his use of magical realism.
If you could be any character in a work of literature, who would you be?
Superwoman! Especially after Gal Gadot acted in the latest film.
We're interested in your next creative endeavor—would you like to share some information about it?
Join my husband and me in Spain! I’ll be doing research for my next mystery thriller. But that’s genre. But it’s so much fun to write mysteries!
In a more literary vein, I have another novella and short story anthology in my mind. The main story is about a little girl and her grandfather, who teaches her to play the piano. In the room where he holds her lessons, there is a huge chandelier. The old man dies, but the little girl still sees him, talks to him and plays the piano with him. Others can hear the accomplished piano concertos, but if they come into the room, suddenly the dynamic crescendos drop to a beginner’s level with the child sitting alone pecking at the keys. She grows up, goes to college and returns home to discover …ah, you’ll have to wait until I write it to find out more. And I hope Alamo Bay Press will be interested in publishing it!!
Then I’m also developing a novel in my mind about a woman born and raised in Mexico, who leaves her country to come to the U.S. After three decades away, she returns home to the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico to discover the bittersweet changes of the town and its inhabitants.
All these projects will take me about four years out.