Get the inside scoop on our upcoming authors
Authors Uncovered is an interview series where we invite visiting authors to answer some of your questions, giving you a unique opportunity to learn more about your favorite writers.
The Distance Between Us
- How did you get your first book published?
"My route to publication was very magical. After graduating from college and realizing that a degree in creative writing wasn’t going to help me to get a ‘real’ job and pay back my student loans, I became very depressed. I ended up doing a job that I hated, and I stopped writing. Three years of being miserable went by, until one night I had a nightmare, and I realized that my dream of being a writer was slipping from me. I decided to rescue it, and once I made the decision to seize my dream, things just fell into place: I enrolled in a weekend writing workshop, my teacher told me about a fellowship program for writers of color called “Emerging Voices,” I applied and got in, I met my agent through “Emerging Voices,” and she got me a book deal with Atria. I always look back on that night when I realized I was on the verge of losing my dream. I’m glad I did something about it."
- What authors inspired and/or influenced your work?
"The first author that inspired me was Sandra Cisneros when I read The House on Mango Street
when I was nineteen. In particular, it was the chapter titled “Sally,” which is about a girl who lives with an alcoholic father, like me. I connected to that story very much because there were sentences that I felt were taken straight out of my own longing:
Sally, do you sometimes wish you didn’t have to go home? Do you wish your feet would one day keep walking and take you far away from Mango Street, far away… And you could laugh, Sally. You could go to sleep and wake up and never have to think who likes and doesn’t like you. You could close your eyes and you wouldn’t have to worry what people said because you never belonged here anyway and nobody could make you sad and nobody would think you’re strange because you like to dream and dream….”
The second author who inspired me was Ayn Rand. Regardless of the author’s controversial political views, I loved her book and appreciated the lesson The Fountainhead
taught me. The story was about a young architect, Howard Roark, who constantly had to fight for his vision for the buildings that he wanted to design; not replicas of what came before, but his own original work. He had to fight for his designs because no one around him understood them. Everyone was always telling him what he should build, how he should create—by copying the old masters and doing the same thing as everyone else. He went up against society and clung to his unique vision, his art, his voice.
In The Fountainhead
I came upon a word I’d never heard before—“impervious,” which means to be unaffected by something. To not allow anything to penetrate—like criticism or pain. When I looked it up in the dictionary I knew that was a word I wanted to be defined by. I wanted to be impervious—to the scarcity of love around me, to the lack of support I encountered at home and out in the world. This book taught me that I would have to fight for the right to create the kinds of stories I wanted to write."
- Who are you currently reading?
Right now I am reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot. Last week I read Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the week before that I tried reading You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
by Sherman Alexie, but I confess I gave up after four chapters because the style wasn’t doing it for me. Before that I read The Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Next on my list is The Book of Unknown Americans
by Cristina Enriquez.
- Without knowing who they are, what would ask the next author coming to Sacramento Public Library?
"What keeps you writing?"
"How does your writing affect your personal relationships?”
- Question from recent visiting author Donia Bijan (The last days of Café Leila):
"Writing complicates my relationships with my children, my husband, and everyone around me. When I’m deep into the writing, the ‘real’ world fades away and it’s hard for me to come back to it and interact with the people around me because my mind is still caught in the world I’m writing about—that other world becomes more real to me, and this is when I know I am doing a good job with the writing. But of course, my family resents it at times. I don’t blame them. Writing isn’t a nine-to-five job where you clock in and out. Your characters never leave you, they never clock out! My husband and children try very hard to give me my space and to steer clear when I’m ‘in the zone.’ When I’m writing I am at my most happy. When I don’t write because of obligations and lack of time, I get in an awful mood and my husband will say, “Why don’t you go and do some writing? You’ll feel better after that.” He’s learned to recognize my need to create! I am terrible company when I haven’t written in a while."
Reyna Grande is the keynote speaker at the upcoming Local Author Fair, where she will talk about her book The Distance Between Us
, which is an eye-opening memoir about life before and after illegally immigrating to the United States from Mexico.
Previous Authors Uncovered
Submit a question
for an upcoming Authors Uncovered interview.