How Readers Give Birth to Novels

These past weeks have reminded me of when I was eight months pregnant and bursting at the seams. I anticipated the child I was carrying whose gender I didn’t know yet. I also didn’t know the impact he (yes, a son) would have on my life. But friends and family were overloading me with anecdotes from their own lives, either from giving birth themselves and the various dimensions of that process, or with recommendations on planning for the child’s wellbeing and future. So young, I didn’t have a clue about what goes into raising a child to adulthood.

What has taken me back so many years to that amazing time? My novel Curva Peligrosa will be released this summer, and I’ve been working intensely with the publisher on revisions, back-cover copy, and front-cover images. As with any collaboration, there are highs and lows. I’m the one who has spent years (at least ten) giving life to this work, from its initial inception triggered by a news story I had read to the final chapter. I know the characters as well as anyone can since they are products of my imagination. I’ve given birth to them!

mexican womanYet the novel’s future once it is released remains beyond my knowledge. I can send out advance review copies to major publications. I can schedule radio and TV interviews. I can book readings at bookstores, libraries, and other venues. I can offer the novel to book clubs and arrange to visit them in person or via Skype. I can do Goodreads and Amazon giveaways and participate in numerous blog tours. But once the book launches, I have no control over how it’s received.

I can only hope that Curva, the novel’s main character, finds her way into readers’ hearts, and they will help her progress on whatever path lies ahead. Writers carry part of the burden, but readers are just as important in helping a work to flourish.


Writing as an immigrant

These past few days have reminded me that I’m an immigrant. I moved to the U.S. in 1963 from Western Canada, so I’m not from one of Trump’s maligned countries, and I’m also not Muslim. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling deeply offended by this administration’s efforts to terrorize my fellow Americans (and those hoping to become American). I fear the idiots that are forming our new president’s cabinet more than I fear terrorists, Islamic or otherwise.

When I first moved to the US clutching my green card, I felt excited about residing in a country that seemstatue-of-libertyed much worldlier and more stimulating than how I had envisioned Canada at that time. The American Dream was actually a reality then, and it was possible for someone like me, a high-school dropout and single mother of a six-year-old son, to improve her station in life. And I did. At that time, California offered college for a ridiculously low tuition, but an amount that I could afford. I couldn’t do so now. And by passing the GED, I eventually earned an AA, a BA, and two Masters degrees.

I’m sure that being an immigrant influenced me in creating Curva Peligrosa, one of the major characters in my novel Bone Songs (to be released late this summer). In the 1940s, Curva travels to Canada from Mexico on horseback via what was known as The Old North Trail, a passageway that extends from the Canadian Arctic down to the deserts of Mexico and beyond. It runs along the base of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide, following a kind of shoreline between the mountains and the plains for over three thousand miles. The Blackfoot called the trail “The Backbone of the World.”

Curva literally throws curves at the residents of Weed, a small Alberta town near where she ends up buying a farm and settling down after 20 years of travel. Curva, lusty and enchanting, offers the residents of Weed a new perspective on things that enriches their lives. They, in turn, welcome her into their midst.

However, an americano, Shirley, eager to exploit the oil reserves there, tries to buy as much land as he can (and this was before I knew anything about Donald Trump, the so-called real estate developer!) so he can obtain oil rights. Curva’s land is particularly rich in minerals, and Shirley attempts to buy her out, threatening her with deportation if she doesn’t sell because she’s in Canada illegally.

This need to belong to a community is part of the human condition, and it doesn’t have to be one of like-minded individuals. Where Curva ended up in Alberta was vastly different from where she was born. So while I recognize that there are individuals who hate America and Americans, and I realize we need to have some restrictions in place to ensure that those who do immigrate will add to the country and not detract from it, erecting artificial barriers based on religion or race has been done far too much in our (and other country’s) past. We don’t need to repeat it ad infinitum.




Does your character have dangerous curves?


My novel Curva Peligrosa will be published in 2017. That is months away, but before the manuscript is ready for final production, it has several stages to go through.

For the past month, I’ve been revising the content, based on recommendations and/or suggestions made by my publisher, Jaynie at Regal House. Her reading of the book was intensive, close, and detailed. She has given me many valuable ideas about characters, the plot, and so much more. I haven’t acted on all of her suggestions, but I have incorporated a good deal. I’m almost ready to move onto the next stage, which will include more content revisions, I’m sure, but also will focus on proofreading corrections.

The main character in this work is Curva Peligrosa, but that isn’t the name I started with. Lupita was her name originally, yet after the opening scene, when a tornado hits this small Southern Alberta town called Weed, throwing the place into turmoil, and the storm drops the main character’s outhouse into the center of town, I felt stuck. Her personality eluded me, a disappointment after my first rush of excitement in starting the narrative.

This character was born in southern Mexico, and it wasn’t until my husband and I visited Mexico City that Curva came into focus. We had booked into Las Mananitas in Cuernavaca for five nights, a town two hours by car from Mexico City. A driver picked us up from the airport and took us to our lovely destination. It was during this ride that I kept seeing the words curva peligrosa pop up on signs each time we took a curve.dangerous curves]

I asked the driver what the word meant, and he said dangerous curves. I knew then that my character’s name would be: yes, you guessed it: Curva Peligrosa.

She immediately came into view. I could visualize her. I also could hear her voice and imagine her personality. She turns out to be a charismatic larger than life (over six-foot-tall and voluptuous) woman who not only is a sharp shooter but also traveled the Old North Trail for 20 years with her horses, dog, two parrots, and a goat—a wilderness route running from Mexico to Canada that she manages to infiltrate and transcend. She also throws dangerous curves at residents of Weed, Alberta. But you’ll have to read the novel to find out more!