In Conversation With: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Bookstr got to interview Silvia Moreno-Garcia, bestselling author of ‘Mexican Gothic’, to talk about her books, writing, and representation in publishing. 

Book Culture Diverse Voices On Writing Publishing

This week, Bookstr got the chance to interview Silvia Moreno-Garcia, New York Times bestseller author of Mexican Gothicto talk about her books, writing, and representation in publishing.

 

About Silvia Moreno-Garcia: 

 

Image by Martin Dee

 

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the best-selling author of the novels Mexican GothicGods of Jade and ShadowCertain Dark ThingsUntamed Shore, and a bunch of other books. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters).

 

How would you describe your books to someone who’s never heard of them? 

Each of my books straddles a variety of different sub-genres (noir, fantasy, etc.) but tends to be very interested in characters and their interior world.

 

As a writer, what do you think comes easiest to you and what is your biggest challenge? 

I like writing dialogue. Someone once said I should try my hand and scriptwriting because of that. I’m much less interested in action sequences than in the psychology of people.

 

When writing historical fiction, how much of it is research and how much of it is taking creative liberties?

You need a little bit of both. I try to stick to certain constraints so that you don’t end up with a Ferrari in 18th century France, but I allow myself certain indulgences. Some are not obvious (there’s a mention to a soap brand in Mexican Gothic that wouldn’t have been available at the time of the novel, but my grandma washed clothes with that soap and I associated it so much with doing the washing that I kept it in) and others might be a bit easier to spot. I do try to stay true to the spirit of the time and place. For example, with Mexican Gothic when my grandfather left my grandmother they lied and didn’t tell anyone they had divorced, because my father and his siblings would have been expelled from their Catholic school. So that sense of Mexican morality in the mid-20th century, and the overwhelming expectations of women and the power of men, was baked into the story even if the specific anecdote about divorce is something that I’m telling you right now and isn’t referenced in the book.

 

 

Mexican Gothic was just optioned for a TV show! How do you feel about this and what do you hope to see in the adaptation?

Right now it’s just early days, so the first step will be to find a screenwriter or writers for the show. My conversations with the production team were about making sure it’s a diverse crew and that the casting is ethnically appropriate, so I hope to meet a lot of talented people from many different places, basically. And of course, I hope it really does get shot. Many projects don’t really wind up on the screen in the end.

 

As a horror writer, how do you feel about the new directions that artists are taking horror? 

Horror in publishing collapsed in the 1990s. The death of the Abyss Dell line was like a swan song. There hasn’t been a horror section in most bookstores for years and years. The heyday of horror paperbacks is long past. But it’s interesting to see it attempting to crawl back into the limelight a bit. It’s sadly a very disrespected category. If you tell someone you write horror, they think you’re odd. Creators my age and younger, though, don’t worry so much about genre distinctions and are gleefully embracing horror because they understand what it can do. People like Stephen Graham Jones, Nadia Bulkin, Victor LaValle, Cassandra Khaw, are exploring this space in interesting ways.

 

Was it hard to pitch your books because they center around Mexican culture? 

We had a hard time selling my books because they were set in Mexico. It was a conversation stopper, essentially. It also made it very difficult to secure translation rights and to sell anything for a movie or TV adaptation.

There was one time where I was asked if I wouldn’t mind changing the names of the characters to Anglo names (which didn’t make sense). Someone once told me my name was too long and maybe I should change that. Another person said I was not the type of writer who would ever be able to break out. You name it, I heard it.

 

 

Do you think that readers come into your books with different expectations because they are set in Mexico? How does this affect the reading experience?

Yes. I think for someone like me, what people expect is Latino immigrant suffering stories or magic realism. They give us those two spaces and that’s it. And they come with, frankly, some very racist assumptions. Someone complained to me that Mexican Gothic didn’t have any stuff about the Day of the Dead. Well, my novel is set in August of 1950. The Day of the Dead is in November. It’s like expecting an American novel set in February to be celebrating Thanksgiving and have everyone running around with a turkey in their hands. They think everything we do can be reduced to Frida Kahlo or Coco. And when you hit them with something like Real del Monte, the mining town that was run by the British in central Mexico and which inspired Mexican Gothic, they think that a British town in Mexico is not ‘authentic.’ They want you to pepper your novel with words in Spanish, even though, if you read classics such as Madame Bovary or War and Peace, it’s not seven words in English and one word in French or Russian to ensure ‘authenticity.’ Nobody says Madame Bovary is not a French novel because it doesn’t have croissants, but people come into my books looking for seven mentions of tacos.

This is not just readers. It’s reviewers and editors who want you to be just the right bit of exotic. Because if you get too exotic then suddenly they can’t “relate” or they “don’t know how to sell your book.” It’s a bizarre tightrope dance.

 

As a writer of color who writes about characters of color in an industry that is mostly white, what would you like to see both from the industry and readers regarding diversity and inclusion in the book world? 

People need to stop boxing us in. It’s not like writers of color are incapable of writing romances or thrillers or all kinds of books, it’s just that the industry has pushed us out of some categories and into others. People also need to stop judging all books by a single book. Not every Latino writer is going to write like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. That would be like expecting every modern, new book to be like Hemingway. Can you imagine? Yet it’s what they ask of us. Often people have only read one book, they have no knowledge of the field, yet they act like experts instead of admitting their limitations. It’s fine to say “I’ve only read One Hundred Years of Solitude, so I’m not sure what Latino fiction is like.” It’s not fine to say “this book is not like One Hundred Years of Solitude, therefore it’s bad.” Again, imagine if we judged all books by white writers by, say, The Great Gatsby. That’s where we are right now with Latino writers, in my experience. It’s not a good place.

 

Can you say something about your upcoming novels?

My second crime novel, A Dangerous Eagerness will be out in the summer of 2021. It’s set against the backdrop of the repression and massacre of student protesters in Mexico City at that time by the government. And then it follows two characters on the hunt for a missing woman. The other book that is on the horizon is The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, which will be out 2022 and which is set in the 1800s in southern Mexico.

 

 

Books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia:

 

 Mexican Gothic

 

Mexican Gothic de [Silvia Moreno-Garcia]

image via amazon

 

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

 

 

Gods of jade and Shadow

 

Gods of Jade and Shadow de [Silvia Moreno-Garcia]

image via amazon

 

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

 

 

Untamed shore

 

Untamed Shore de [Silvia Moreno-Garcia]

image via amazon

 

Baja California, 1979. Viridiana spends her days watching the dead sharks piled beside the seashore, as the fishermen pull their nets. There is nothing else to do, nothing else to watch, under the harsh sun. She’s bored. Terribly bored. Yet her head is filled with dreams of Hollywood films, of romance, of a future beyond the drab town where her only option is to marry and have children.

Three wealthy American tourists arrive for the summer, and Viridiana is magnetized. She immediately becomes entwined in the glamorous foreigners’ lives. They offer excitement, and perhaps an escape from the promise of a humdrum future.

When one of them dies, Viridiana lies to protect her friends. Soon enough, someone’s asking questions, and Viridiana has some of her own about the identity of her new acquaintances. Sharks may be dangerous, but there are worse predators nearby, ready to devour a naïve young woman who is quickly being tangled in a web of deceit.

 

 

She Walks in Shadows

 

image via amazon

 

They emerge from the shadows, to claim the night …. Women from around the world delve into Lovecraftian depths, penning and illustrating a variety of Weird horrors. The pale and secretive Lavinia wanders through the woods, Asenath is a precocious teenager with an attitude, and the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Nitocris has found a new body in distant America. And do you have time to hear a word from our beloved mother Shub-Niggurath? Defiant, destructive, terrifying, and harrowing, the women in She Walks in Shadows are monsters and mothers, heroes and devourers. Observe them in all their glory. Iä! Iä!

 

Featured images via Martin Dee and npr