Author Interview – Sarah Martinez

Monday, August 12, 2013

What inspired you to write your first book? My first book was all about a boy who was born in Argentina in the 1970s. Since I started dancing the Argentine Tango and reading about the country and its culture, I found out what an interesting place it was. The history is exciting and there are some awful parts as well but so much to learn from all of it. These are people have all-night bookstores and this rich literary tradition producing writers like the well-known Julio Cortazar and Jorge Luis Borges plus these fun weird ones like Roberto Arlt.

There is also a dialect they call Lunfardo which seemed very novel when I first learned about it. History is evident in everything from their architecture to their dances to the many languages that are spoken and beyond.

I used the main character to explore some of the more fascinating aspects of that culture and history and also used the setting as an excuse to rewind my life and see what I might have done differently if I had made different choices as a young person.

That was my first book, so mostly it was a big excuse to fantasize and do research!

Who or what influenced your writing once you began? Since I have been writing forever–even if early on I had no intent to publish–I have always been thoughtful about what other writers were doing, about what I liked and what I wanted to see and didn’t. A few things that are important to me come through in my writing. I don’t think I am wholly original, but I do like to think I don’t fit any specific mold that is easily categorized—at least this is what I am shooting for.

Labels bother me a great deal. I know they are important for various reasons, but something I continue to play with is the sense that people are always looking for ways to put each other in boxes, close the lid and stop being thoughtful about each other. I loved how the erotic activity in Anne Rice’s books had no labels at all. And since there were no labels there was no judgment. The freedom I found in these books and the example was very liberating in ways that went way past sexual topics.

There are authors I admire who I use as examples to keep me motivated and moving forward, or who have shown by their example that following a different path can be fun. Junot Diaz and Marco Vassi are two who are just outrageous and seem to go outside what I am comfortable reading so I try to do the same as a writer.

Since I have been working on promotion I have answered this question in so many different ways. I feel like I have mentioned Priscilla Long at least a hundred times in the last week alone. Her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor contains the instructions and techniques I still work with and continue to try to improve. I have posted two reviews of that book on my website as well as Amazon and goodreads so I won’t go into everything here, but that book went a long way to showing me what was possible. Anyone who has worked with her or read that book will see the influence in the way I worked my sentences, the fragments I used and the way I used language in general.

With or without her I would be writing, but I doubt I would have all the tools that I use this early in my career. Finding that book saved me quite a bit of time, and her friendship and especially the specific encouragement she gave me when Sex and Death was in a very early stage meant a great deal. At that time I was worried that I wasn’t “literary enough” I wanted to be respected as a literary writer with a literary book. At the same time, I wanted to write all sorts of fun sexy stuff and ask all the great questions that erotic literature does. I wanted to make points, and make whoopee at the same time, but I had not found hardly any other writers who had done what I was trying to do. I wanted to know if what I was doing was even working.

She read my early pages which, yes, still needed lots of work, and said, “Absolutely this is literary!” I could have cried.

The label doesn’t matter, what mattered was the validation and encouragement. She told me that what I was doing was worth working on.

Along those same lines, Leslie Fiedler’s book, Love and Death in the American Novel is where I got the title. An editor I worked with mentioned that the topics I was working in my book reminded her of what he said in his book about what men are doing were literature. I read that book and was blown away. Here was someone with the book smarts to say what I wanted to and went even farther.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? Balance, and keeping on even when I don’t have the energy for it. When I am writing the first draft, and mostly through the second as well, I am all energy, loud music, contemplation and living inside this world I have created. Then comes the time to look at what I have and start working on those places that don’t make sense, that confuse the reader, that need to come out or be reworked. I use a different sort of energy for this and it is often hard to give up the fun of starting something new to buckle down and just work.

I also tend to rework the last stage of a piece to death. I could have been stuck in editorial mode forever if we had no had to launch the book in September. So once I get in a certain mode it is hard to switch out of it, even when that is required.

Balance seems to be a challenge for me in everything.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? Wow, there is so much! What didn’t it teach me? That I could finish and let the book go, that I am a perfectionist even though I never come close to perfection, that my writing process is valid and a good one, that I am on the right track.

This book taught me that putting in the hours will eventually lead to finishing. That the editorial process is frightening, painful, rewarding and can even be creative. I got one of my best scenes from discussions I was having with my editor. I learned that if I am stuck I can work on everything else and come back to what I couldn’t figure out and more than likely I will have a solution.

How did you come up with the title? Leslie Fiedler’s book, Love and Death in the American Novel is where I got the title. An editor I worked with mentioned that the topics I was working in my book reminded her of what he said in his book about what male writers are doing in literature. I read that book and was blown away. Here was someone with the book smarts to say what I wanted and back it up and he went even farther than I was even considering.

Can you tell us about your main character? Vivianna writes erotic novels, mainly for gay men. Before her father died he was a very well respected author. He disapproved of her work and her choices; she was disappointed in him as a father and a husband. When he died she was still angry with him and after he died this only got worse. Through her I was venting anger with my father and working through a lot of questions I had about myself and my need to judge what I write and what others are doing. I made her very strong and dominant to see how far I could push that as well.

She gets to be the voice of rage. I had all these thoughts to myself, about whether or not I was writing erotica or literary fiction. And she became the voice asking me, does it matter?

Vivianna blazes her own trail, but eventually has to make sure she is on the right path. Her anger has become a part of who she is and how she deals with the world. Vivi will eventually have to deal with her grief and anger with her father in order to move forward in her life, her relationships, and her work.

I wanted a female protagonist who was not centered around a romantic relationship, as if cementing that means somehow we are home free. All the way through the book she is a woman who has a career, friendships, an internal life—emotion and her work is an important part of who she is. The relationships she has with the men in her life are important and she learns a great deal from them, but they do not have the power to save her from herself.

Vivianna Post is the family anomaly. Daughter of a Pulitzer Prize winner and an academic, she has never quite fit her parents’ expectations as a free-spirited erotica writer.

When Vivianna encounters the award-winning author Jasper Caldwell at a nightclub, all she wants is to blame him for blowing off her brother at a writers’ conference the year before and possibly causing his suicide. But as the night—and then the weeks—wear on, Vivianna finds herself drawn to Jasper in ways she cannot understand.

When their differences—literary and sexual—threaten to pull Vivianna and Jasper apart, Jasper rediscovers Alejandro, an old friend who just might have the power to complete them both in every way.

Using quotes and references to classic erotic and literary icons, Sex and Death in the American Novel is on one level an unconventional romance and on another a discussion of the merits of erotic literature.

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Genre – Literary Erotica

Rating – X

More details about the author

Connect with Sarah Martinez on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.mywildskies.com/

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