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Interview with Anna-Marie Lopez, Author of The Tortilla Children

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Please welcome my special guest, artist, musician and novelist Anna-Marie Lopez. Her first novel, The Tortilla Children, has just been published by Onda Books and was inspired by her father. After turning down a scholarship to Howard Payne University, she decided to attend San Antonio College and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Later, she apprenticed in graphics and fine arts for a year with a sculptor and painter. She has worked as a graphics designer and production artist for several magazines, including Texas Monthly. In addition, she’s worked in the music industry and has also been a pen specialist, working with celebrities such as Donald Trump, Tom Hanks, and Brooke Shields. She has worked with the hungry and homeless for years. Currently, she’s hard at work on a vampire tale. At heart, though, Anne-Marie is a simple person who enjoys her privacy and quiet.Visit Anna-Marie at Annamarielopez.com.

Congratulations on the release of your first novel, The Tortilla Children. Before we talk about the book, can you tell us a little about your childhood?

I was a very quiet and shy child. The world of books became my reality; the words the stories my dreams. I could slay dragons. I could be a knight or a princess. I could have golden hair or scales. I could travel the world. My mother’s and my first language was Spanish, but we tried so hard to sound like everyone else.

On your website, you write about how your talent and creativity was thwarted as a child and how you channeled your anger and frustration into becoming a novelist and artist. Can you talk about this and the importance of encouraging children to express their imagination?

My parents just wanted me to have a comfortable life, but it seems now more than ever that money is more important than anything. There seems to be little reason to create unless it brings money or fame. We have all become lemmings. And we try so hard to please and gain attention. “Look at me” is the modern mantra. We are so afraid to “ruffle” feathers. I don’t purposely plan on ruffling feathers, but I rarely go back over what I have said or written to see if I was not pc that I don’t censor myself. Ask your child to make up a story or draw a picture. Give them a camera and send them outdoors. TURN THE DAMN TV OFF! Let them dream. Let them mispronounce or use the incorrect word.

Why do you think so often art is dismissed by adults as a ‘waste of time’?

Artists are looked upon as irresponsible and nontraditional. THANK GOD! There are far too many beige people. Someone needs to make others uncomfortable, to ask the questions that others dare not, to see and dream things that make the status quo nervous. Even Yeshua did this. Shoot me if I look like I could be on a reality TV show.

Let’s move on to your novel, The Tortilla Children. What inspired you to write it?

It took nearly one year to write The Tortilla Children. Mostly due to research, something that I enjoy very much. Plus there has been much illness around me lately.

My father is dying of Alzheimer’s. He was the most honest, hardest working person I have ever known. He, like me, never quite fit in. We are from a time that no longer is. I bought a fig tree in his honor and have it on my patio. Someday I would like to have a bit of land on which to plant it on beside the anvil. He was good at growing things — they understood him and he them. I wanted to say a few things that he could never say before and now it’s impossible. Like, I love you. A friend of mine urged me to write when I couldn’t paint. Thank you.

What was your process like while writing the novel? Do you have a disciplined schedule to write? 

I am up at 3:30-4:00 am and write until 7:00-10:00 am and then I try again in the evening.

I need quiet and it is very difficult living in a city apartment complex. I have an oatmeal shake with banana and honey everyday then two black coffees or espresso. I sit at my laptop on my dining room table instead of desk. My desk in my bedroom has a computer set up for my research. I am rather OCD and read back over what I have done. But eventually I get there. Some nights I dream things and get up and run to my laptop. I am rather reclusive. I live in the dark, especially for my next book.

How did you find Onda Books?

I was looking for a small press. Having been in the music industry I have a deep respect for independents. I needed someone that was willing to let me have some say and could make decisions quickly because I don’t know how much more time my father has and I think my mother needs something good about now. Rose, the publisher of Onda Books, is passionate about the written word and was very understanding since her father passed a few months ago. I also wanted to work with a Latino publisher with an eye on the future, and Rose does. Ebooks are here to stay.

You’re also an artist. How would you describe your style?

Strongly masculine and a bit on the primitive side. I say what I want. Constantine Bokov and Frida Kahlo. I don’t care for pretty life is not, and I can’t stand anyone that asks me to paint something to hang over their sofa. I want people to stop and look and look again as ask. I am often told after a show that I didn’t make a sale but instead ignited a lot of conversation over my paintings. I want that. We as artists should all want that.

How do you balance your work between painting and writing?

I didn’t paint much while writing this book but it was my fist book. But I managed three pieces that took me to New York City.

The book cover for The Tortilla Children features one of your paintings. Is that your protagonist? Did you paint the artwork especially for the book?

I painted it a bit over a year ago. Hmm… maybe.

What’s on the horizon for Anna-Marie Lopez?

To find a plot of land on which to grow my father’s fig tree, without upstairs neighbors.

Thanks for this interview!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.