Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Interview With Author Claudia Guadalupe Martínez

Congratulations on the The Smell of Old Lady Perfume. Is this your first published book? The title is very catchy how did you come up with it?
This IS my first published book. I'm glad the title caught your attention; I often come up with titles before I even know what the story will be. In the story, the smell of old lady pefume is the smell of bad things. Whenever something bad happens, the protagonist's abuelita and tias show up, followed by a cloud of
perfume-- so that's what it refers to!

How was the process from manuscript to publication for The Smell of Old Lady Perfume?
I wrote the first draft of this after first moving to Chicago. Being from El Paso, I really admired Cinco Puntos. Co-publisher, Lee Byrd was one of the first people I sent it to. It wasn't ready for publication then, but Lee provided me great guidance. I joke to people that the experience was like being in a MFA program without having to pay, because I've definitely grown a lot as a writer from that first draft. I kept at it and it took a while, but I didn't give up because it was a story I really wanted to tell.

How would you present the book to the audience? Tell us about it.
It's a story about an eleven year old who worries about all the typical things kids that age do, and then has something quite dramatic happen in her life. Her father gets sick and she must also deal with that. So the story deals with growing up and loss. I also tell people it's a story about two borders-the one in El Paso, and the one between being a kid and growing up.

Is this story based on your real life?

Loosely. My dad passed away when I was eleven. This was an opportunity to finally open a dialogue about what that experience was like. The emotions are real, the people are more like inspired.

Some chapters have pictures. Are these family pictures?
The lovely girl on the back cover is my niece. There are also a couple of pictures of her and my other lovely niece inside the book. The designer did a really great job of using images that are representative, and while they are not all family pictures, I feel like they could be.

You are telling a very realistic story. There are many Chelas in classrooms around the USA. What is your message for these girls who are trying to adapt and cope to hard situations?
Amazingly it's not just girls, but also boys who seem to respond to the story. I was just in California and El Paso, and I had the opportunity to talk at several schools ranging from elementary kids to college students. I was just amazed by every person I met. I told them the same thing my father told me, that even when things seem tough if you work hard anything is possible.

What inspires you to write? What are you working on now?
I'm inspired to write by the people around me, especially my family. I am currently working on a YA book about a bakery in a neighborhood that is seeing a lot of changes.

Thanks Claudia, what are your final words for our readers at La Bloga?
I am very grateful for the opportunity to talk to La Bloga. This community has been so supportive, and I feel very blessed.

The Smell of Old Lady Perfume
Book Premiere, Chicago

When: Fri. Oct. 10, 2008 at 7:30 PM

Location: Women and Children First Book Store ( 5233 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL)

Telephone:773.769.9299 (book store)

Join Claudia for her first ever Chicago reading and to celebrate the release of her YA novel this summer.

Refreshments will be provided.

This event is FREE and open to the public.

Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Web Address

Claudia Guadalupe Martinez grew up in El Paso, Texas. She learned that letters form words from reading the subtitles of old westerns for her father who always misplaced his glasses. At age six, she already knew she wanted to create stories. Her father encouraged her to dream big and write a book or two one day. Although he passed away when Claudia was eleven, her mother, family and many others continued to encourage her writing.

She went on to receive a degree in literature from Claremont McKenna College on a full ride and later moved to Chicago to become one of the city’s youngest non-profit executives before turning her attention to the completion of her first book, The Smell of Old Lady Perfume.

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