Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Interview with Author/Illustrator Xavier Garza

Rene Colato Laínez

Congratulations for your new bilingual book CHARRO CLAUD AND THE TEJAS KID. This is a great Christmas story. Can you tell us about it?

Charro CLaus and the Tejas Kid is basically the story of Santa's Mexican cousin. He is helped by his nephew Vincent to deliver presents to each and every child that lives on both sides of the US/Mexico border.

Where did you get the idea for Charro Claus?

I didn’t even know that Santa Claus had a Mexican cousin till the day when I was with my father at the grocery store in my hometown of Rio Grande City. Children could have their picture taken with Santa Claus, so I stood in line with the rest of the kids. As I got closer to Santa, however, I noticed right away that something wasn’t right. Why was Santa Claus sitting in a horse-drawn wagon instead of his magical sleigh? He was also dressed in a very strange manner, even stranger than his usual red-and-white outfit. Even though he was wearing his traditional red jacket and trousers, those trousers were tucked neatly into black cowboy boots attached to a pair of oversized silver spurs. A grand serape decorated in the colors of the Mexican flag was draped across his left shoulder, and an oversized mariachi hat rested on his head. He certainly didn’t look like any Santa Claus that I had ever seen. I grabbed my father’s hand and told him in no uncertain terms that this man was an imposter! My father turned to me and smiled. It was then that he uttered the words that served as the inspiration for this book.

“No mijo, it’s true. This isn’t Santa Claus,” he answered me, “but he is his Mexican cousin.”

“Santa Claus has a Mexican cousin?” I asked. How could this be? How was it possible? Who was this Mexican Santa Claus? Where did he come from? Did he deliver presents to all the children of the world too? My father left all these questions unanswered. Earlier works by such people as Lalo Guerrero, and Richard Reyes also served as inspirations for this book.

As an author illustrator, what comes first the images or the text?

It varies, most of the time it is the text, but not always. Sometimes I come up with sketches for stories, and build a tale around them.

How was the process from manuscript to publication for CHARRO CLAUS AND THE TEJAS KID?

The process took two years. I spent about 10 moths developing the story together with Lee Byrd at Cinco Puntos Press. After that, it took about 7 months to get all the illustrations put together. After that I handed everything together and their graphic designer went to work. 7 months later the book was in my hands.

You use vibrant colors in your art, what is your technique? Do you work on canvas?

I work with acrylic on paper. I especially like working on two page spreads. Some of the imagery is lost when the text is added, but I fell its worth it due to the dramatic effect that it creates. I know that children loves bright, vibrant art, so I use those type of colors in all my work. Comic books were also a big influence on my art.

Growing up in the Texas/ Mexican border, you must have great memories. Are your memories reflected in your books?

All my books are based on childhood memories. Creepy Creatures and other Cucuys is based on stories that I grew up hearing from my grandparents. Lucha Libre is based on my fond memories of such greats as El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras. Juan and the Chupacabras is based on some of the trouble my cousin Bobby and I would get into as kids. Charro Claus is based on a combining of memories from my childhood.

What is your favorite Christmas book? Christmas song?

My favorite book is the Polar Express. As far as songs they would have to be Pancho Claus by Lalo Guerrero and also the song Feliz Navidad.

What are you working now? What are the titles of your future books?

I have a new book being put out by Arte Publico that I wrote and illustrated. The book is titled Zulema and the Witch Owl, and it is the story of Zulema Ortiz, a girl that is so mean she gets kicked out of the girlscouts for throwing rocks at anybody that wouldn't buy her cookies. Her grandmother warns her that she had best change her ways, or The Witch Owl that will come and steal her away. I am also working on a sequel to my Cucuys book, plus a new picture book titled La Llorona versus the Donkey Lady.

Thanks Xavier, what are your final words for our readers at La Bloga?

I would like to tell your readers to take their stories and write them down. Each and every person has at minimum one truly great story, but these stories are lost because we don't put them down on paper. For younger kids interested in being authors I tell them to write, write, write, and read, read, read. The more you read and write, the better you get!

Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, author and luche libre aficionado Xavier Garza is a prolific author, artist, and storyteller whose work focuses primarily on his experiences growing up in the small border town of Rio Grande City. Garza has exhibited his art and performed his stories in venues throughout Texas, Arizona and the state of Washington. Garza lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Irma and their young son Vincent.

He published his first book, Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys (Arte Publico Press), in 2004. Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask was released in Spring 2005 and quickly became a hit among children and lucha libre fans. Lucha Libre won an Honor Book, Américas Award and a STARRED REVIEW from Críticas Magazine.

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