Most La Bloga readers know Rudy Ch. Garcia as a founding member of this blog and through his weekly posts. He is also a quasi-ex-member of the Northern Colorado Writers Workshop, holds a B.A. in writing from the University of Colorado-Denver, and works as a Denver-area bilingual elementary teacher.
But he has been toiling in the fields of literature for a while now. For example, before I knew much about Rudy, I had the pleasure of accepting his detective-fantasy story “LAX Confidential” for Latinos in Lotusland (2008). That piece displayed great wit and a wickedly cockeyed view of reality. Rudy’s next publications clearly follow this path. His Southwest fantasy “Memorabilia” won an honorable mention in a Writers Digest contest and then appeared in the anthologies Needles & Bones (2011), and Crossing the Path of Tellers (2012). He has also published other stories that blurred several genres of literary traditions: SF-fantasy, humor-fantasy-horror, and just plain fantasy (though nothing is “just plain” with Rudy).
And now readers are being treated to Rudy’s debut novel, The Closet of Discarded Dreams (Damnation Books). The publisher describes this book as follows:
A young Chicano battles insanity in a surreal world where everyone endlessly belives humankind's abandoned dreams. Except for him. Will VN vet fraggers, Lenny Bruce, a Midget Godzilla, vampires, Neanderthals, a Black leper, Marilyn Monroe, Che, and Chrisie the Bruiser prove foes or allies? When the rebellious captive discovers special powers, his desire to escape contends with empathy for the Dreampeople. But can he create his own identity and rally them to overcome the Closet's mysterious secret?
Sounds like a trip, doesn’t it? Well, I can attest that it is. I wanted to pose a few questions to Rudy about his novel as well as the writing process, and he kindly obliged.
DO: How did you come upon the idea for your novel, The Closet of Discarded Dreams?
RCG: The answer to that question is a mini-epic. I've usually skipped dream sequences in novels, rarely finding them satisfying, so when I was a member of the Northern Colorado Writers Workshop, I wondered about a world filled with people's dreams. What would it be like, how could the dreams coexist, would there be conflict or would it be a Heaven? And what if you found yourself there but you had no dream? How could you escape? Would you even want to and why? And if you were a Chicano, how would your experience be distinctive?
Then I wrote the short story that is similar to the first chapter of the novel, and NCWW mentor Ed Bryant said it was written in the vein of Borges, which inspired the chingaus out of me. Shortly thereafter, the group did a write-a-novel-in-a-month exercise, and I managed to complete the novel's first draft in 45 days. After years of polishing, it finally got published.
DO: What was the hardest part about writing it?
RCG: This fantasy novel is about the most surreal world imaginable. It's not another planet, it's another dimension where Dreampeople live in a planet-size world that's contained within a rectangular prism, like a long box. So I had to wrestle with: how oppressive would it feel to live where the horizon stretched for thousands of miles, but there was only about twenty feet of space from floor to a flat ceiling above you. And how could I convey not just the physicality but also the psychological experience to readers?
Many times while working on it, I would almost get flashbacks of barrios I lived in Texas and Colorado. How we had open skies, but not much space, and I kept connecting the low ceiling in the novel to how it felt living in the projects or in small homes not meant to hold big families. I wasn't writing a parody of a barrio, but if readers take it that way, then maybe I succeeded in conveying to them at least the oppressiveness that the Chicano in the novel suffers. Working so much on that aspect of the novel finally led to The Closet itself taking on a personality. That was a surprise to me.
DO: You've now been interviewed and done book readings for your novel. What has been the reaction to it?
RCG: I've got several reviewers, both Latino and not, who really love the book and are some of my biggest fans, already asking about a sequel. Reviewers seem consistently surprised not only about how different and loco The Closet world is, but also that the character is Chicano and has no name. I sometimes think of him as being prototypical Raza; we call ourselves so many things, are given so many labels, and historically had our Spanish or indio names taken away from us or had them Anglicized. I'm not surprised that my Chicano hero's struggle is intertwined with his search for identity, a name, and a meaning to his life in The Closet. In that sense, he's like all of nosotros.
As for readings, over fifty people turned out for the Denver debut and were more attentive than any primary class I ever taught. I'm pleased so far that my reading performance hasn't run anyone out of the room.
What I'm most interested in learning from the readings and readers is how the Anglo reader will empathize with the Chicano protagonist. And for the Latino reader, whether that character will hook them to enter The Closet and read the kind of fantasy novel that mostly only Anglos have enjoyed in fiction. In either case, I'm not done, and I don't just mean with sequels. It's long past time that Chicano writers avoided genres where Anglo writers have benefitted from large audiences. Vamos a ver, y gracias, Daniel.
[Rudy Ch. Garcia will tour So. Califas from October 10 through 15, and So. Central Texas from October 25 through 31. He is available for readings, signings, interviews and tamaladas, he says. To learn more about the novel and how to contact Rudy, go to the book’s website.]