Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pop Culture Nerd & Mariposa

I'm kind of a pop culture nerd. This will come as no surprise to anyone who already knows me, but it definitely played an important part of the writing of my first novel. And I've been thinking about that, and realized I should say something about it.

So my husband has been essentially writing fan fiction for my novel, Mariposa. He didn't think I told the guys' story properly, and is writing that, as well as creating something new. It's really not bad, although I'm going to have to help him edit it, a lot. (Which I will admit I'm not exactly looking forward to....editing anyone's work sucks but editing someone else's work in your universe... ick.)

I find this equal parts exciting and flattering and uncomfortable at times. I love that he wants to expand the story, and I agree with him and others that there is room for more to tell about Meg's world. To do that, I'm supposed to be finishing Orpheus & the Butterfly this summer, and I'm close, but it has hit a stalling point lately-- and I'm mostly okay with that. (I promise I'll finish it soon. I just need to work out a tricky scene or two).

Isn't it cool? If you've read the novel,
you know what this is....
But the discussions I've been having with him about the story as a result of his work in progress have reminded me of some things I wanted to say about the writing of the book itself. It really was a love-letter to San Antonio, which I miss very much. And I think, according to several of the reviews I've seen that mention this specifically, that love comes across in the descriptions of the city. Many people have remarked how they want to visit San Antonio because of my book (I'll take my commission in small unmarked bills, thank you, city tourism board). There's a reference to several of my favorite restaurants, including one with an amazing Mexican bakery. And when I was telling someone the other day about a house we've been looking at to buy in San Antonio, I told her "it's right down the street from the koi pond that Meg visits" and a sparkle lit in her eyes at the thought of getting to live next to that. (Me too, for the record.)

The snow globe that appears in the novel was one that I used to own and wish I could find a new version of, but sadly, it's a hard to find item. It played "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and my son dropped it.... I suppose that's one way to free someone...

One of the points in the book is that Demetrio temporarily swipes a book called Caballero, by Jovita Gonzalez. I put the book in my book for a couple of reasons, and I'm thinking it deserves a little attention here. If you read Caballero after reading mine, you would get a little more out of both books. It's not just dropped in there randomly-- it actually adds to the story to know about Gonzalez' work.

I read Caballero when I was in grad school and I loved it. There are these rich descriptive passages in the novel, and I wanted to do that same thing with my writing. It's also part of Demetrio's exploration of his heritage, which he shares with Amelinda. This was not always clear to everyone as a point of the book. Yes, it's a quest-motif and a ghost story. But it is also about the journey the characters experience through cultures. The history is crucial to what makes Demetrio who he is, and Amelinda, and even Meg, eventually. Those stories will be told, and are a blend of Spanish history and the way San Antonio is made up of multiple cultures that work nicely together.

Without telling too much about it, I think Caballero is a novel that a good many people would really enjoy reading, I think. It has never gotten the acclaim I think it deserves, mostly seeming relegated to grad school reading lists. It's a historic romance, and fans of that genre would quite like it, I think. It's a little like Gone With the Wind for the Spanish colonial peon system in Texas, but it also has a bit of a Romeo & Juliet vibe. Not magical, like my stuff, but I think my ghost-sections have the touch of history to them, as well as that rich description.  My writing is not "sparse" and clean, like Hemingway. I like some adjectives, baby. As did Gonzalez.

Another important detail of my novel is the ghost stories, which are all but one based on real hauntings in San Antonio (I won't tell you which one I totally made up. But if you guess, I'll fess up). An early editor discussion was when one of my editors said he felt like the "side" stories with the ghosts (spoilers at the links, though....like Sallie White and Ollie and even Martha) were distracting to the main narrative of the story. And a friend who reviewed it said at first she thought so, too, but when she kept reading, she realized that they are a major part of what's actually going on.

I'll admit: It's not a particularly linear story. I get that, and it was on purpose. The side-quests are crucial in Meg's journey because they both show her who she is and what kind of dangers await her if she doesn't figure out why she's "still here." And they are also one of the places that future stories are likely to go (as well as where Lady in Blue ties in, too...) I really love them, and there was no question in my mind that they were going to be deleted.*

Anyway, to make the point of this post clearer, my novel is intended to be in the same genre as Chocolat, by Joanne Harris, or Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. It's a little intended to be like Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire stories but less punchy, and definitely less sexy. I also love Sean Stewart's works, Galveston & Mockingbird, and I was hoping that the novel fell into a similar pattern of magic realism. Finally, and I specifically mention his work, Charles DeLint's brilliant Newford stories, where his city is so powerfully drawn that it's not a setting but another character.

So if you liked my book, and you haven't read the above books, you should go grab them, or get them from your library. If you love the above books, and haven't read my book, I think I can humbly suggest you might enjoy mine, too.

So there you have it... my love of pop culture and magical realism means that Mariposa, as well as everything I write, will be loaded down with these kinds of references. I hope it's part of the fun for you as a reader to find them, and I'll keep pointing out the sources of them if you're interested.

*I did, however, delete something like 40,000 words of excessive description. You're welcome. :) 

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