A former assistant to reknown literary agent Julie Castiglia, Jamie Martinez Wood is the author of several books in the young adult and nonfiction categories, including The Enchanted Diary, Como Te Llamas, Baby? and A to Z of Latino Americans: Latino Writers and Journalists, for which she recently won the 2008 International Latino Book Awards for Best Reference Book.
Congratulations on the award and thanks for this interview, Jaime. Why don't you begin by teling us about your latest young adult novel, Rogelia's House of Magic?
My latest book, Rogelia's House of Magic, is about three very different 15-year-old girls who learn about friendship and magic from a curandera, or spiritual healer. My inspiration for this novel comes from my desire to express to teens the need for a mentor whom they can trust and respect, as well as the importance of friendships and a strong belief in oneself. I wanted to convey that magic is real, not fantasy, and accessible through a relationship with the world, trusting in this connection (intuition) and conviction to your dreams.
How was your creative process while writing this novel?
I began Rogelia's House of Magic with an outline that morphed as the characters revealed the direction they wanted to take the plot. The storyline was a combination of three different aspects of my early life, represented by the three main characters. Because of the fact that there were three points of view, I needed to practice detachment from these teen experiences to present an omniscient arc rather than becoming bogged down in one character.
What type of writer are you – the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?
I prefer to experience prior to writing. My writing is largely an expression, interpretation, and healing process, with an eagle eye view of my relationships, beliefs, and life's events. I work through the stories I have told myself of my life through the pages of my books so that I can feel at peace, in acceptance, pleased, and excited about the life I have created.
As a writer, what scares you the most?
The thing that scares me the most about writing is that I will never actualize a strong, clear writer's voice. This fear is underlined by worry that I'll appear so far-fetched to become marginalized, an easy target for ridicule or hatred based on others' fear of the subjects I explore. Or that an editor or critic will say something that will change what I say to be more "marketable" or "mainstream" and I'll sell out. But I'm learning to be more courageous than anxious.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
The writing themes I feel most passionate about are women empowerment, a deep love and connection to nature, our innate ability to create magic (i.e., the events of our lives), and exploration of Latino culture and relationships.
Are you a disciplined writer?
I'm not a disciplined writer in the traditional sense. I tend toward writing in spurts. Since I write based on experience, if I've been playing it safe, not risking, or living small or half asleep, writing is difficult, almost painful, because there is no muse to inspire me. On this same line, sometimes I seek a peace that wreaks havoc with novels that require conflict, which is every good novel. And sometimes I'm afraid of what the silence will bring and so I avoid writing. But when I'm in the zone, I'm writing constantly, at stoplights, in the grocery store, at my kids' soccer matches, out to dinner with my husband, the movies with friends, family birthday parties, whenever. I balance this with journaling in my diary whenever possible.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
The writer's advice I focus on today is that your characters should be able to convince others of their point of view. This of course, comes back around to conviction. However, over the past eight years I've received a slew of advice on writing and publishing from my friends and historical romance veterans, Kathleen Givens and Amanda Scott, as well as my literary agent, Julie Castiglia.
My upcoming project is a woman's fiction called The Making of a Xicana Goddess that follows Eva Ramirez, an overachieving corporate executive, Abigail Moreno-Smith, a neurotic artist-mother, and Moonstone O'Grady, their Crone mentor, who uses women's magic to reveal and heal the childhood traumas that prevent Eva and Abby from obtaining the one thing they truly want: contentment and self-acceptance.
Do you have a website where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Thanks for this interview, Jamie!