Where Honesty Never Ends.
Hello and welcome to The Review Board. Today, we have the pleasure of bringing you an inside look at all things “Author Luis Gonzalez”. Interviewing Mr. Gonzalez today is our very own Mini Truth.
The idea of “Luz” was a very radical choice in regards to biblical story telling. Please elaborate on where the idea came from and why you felt the need to tell the story.
It’s funny you should ask that. The Catholic religion has always been a big part of my life. I’m not Mr. Pius or anything where I go to church every Sunday. I’m a cafeteria Catholic, where I pick and choose the parts of the religion I feel comfortable with. Still, I love Catholic churches and I the imagery and all the stories. I didn’t understand the full impact of this until I started writing the book. I guess I’ m always thinking about religious things, even on an unconscious level, and one day I was thinking about how different the world would be if the Bible had been told from other than the male point of view. I took that a step further and thought about how different the world would have been if God had decided to have a daughter rather than a son. All of sudden, the setting and characters came to me in a flash. Right away I knew my protagonist was going to be a young woman named Clara and the story was going to begin during a very tumultuous time in modern Cuban history. I should have known I would intertwine Cuba with the story because, like religion, Cuba is always in the forefront or in the background of my mind, especially that period of its history. The interesting parallel, which I didn’t realize until later, was that I was choosing a historical period where there was a lot of political conflict and this was similar to the time Christ was alive when the Jews were also living under a lot of political conflict. And I truly did feel the need to tell this story. At times it seemed like I was doing something sacrilegious, but that’s the guilt part of all religions. When I got past that and let my mind act freely, the story and the characters took on a life of their own. I’ve always been one to push the envelope, and this seemed like a natural extension of that.
Did you in fact grow up in Cuba? If so, what was it like there and was it vastly different than your life here in the United States?
No, I came to the United States at the age of seven. People love to say, oh, well you don’t remember much then. Quite the opposite. I had a tremendous amount of memories from Cuba, especially visual memories. And all these years later, I can still recall so many of them that it amazes even me. I guess it’s because I was acutely aware of my life having stopped in one regard and having started in another. So I clung to all these snippets of memory and visual recollections as if they were the only way to connect with that part of my life. We are talking about the late 60s, so this also was a very tumultuous period in Cuban history, especially politically. I must say, all these years later, I’m glad I was yanked from Cuba at that period in my life, for that established the hunger in me to go back to Cuba and especially to write. Even growing up I distinctly remember equating the two things. I think it began in the sixth grade. Back then, you had to do a country report and, naturally, I chose Cuba. I took the assignment so seriously that, to this day, it remains one of the things I take the most pride in. In retrospect, that’s when writing about Cuba came to life in me.
I too am of Latino-Caribbean descent. We are a very proud people; that much I know. What is the one thing that you are the proudest of in regards to being Cuban?
I am a very tenacious person, and for some reason I have always associated my tenacity with being Cuban. I think it’s because, as someone who comes from that part of the world, we are always in a state of “fighting.” We are fighting for our dignity, we are fighting for our liberty, we are fighting for our rights. We are fighting for many things all the time and you can’t fight unless you have tenacity and the ability to keep getting up no matter how many times you’ve been knocked down. Somehow, that tenacity rubbed off on me unconsciously and that’s how I define myself. Even when it comes to writing, I believe that that requires the most tenacity of all. As writers we are constantly fighting for attention, recognition, credibility, how to improve your craft, many other things. Well, if you don’t have tenacity, you better just throw in the towel. Even right now, I am still working on how to make my book better. Of course, at some point along the way you realize what you have produced is as finished as it can be, and you have reached the end of the journey. But I can’t say that yet because I’m still trying to be a better writer and still learning how to produce the best writing I can.
I know that “Luz” has another installment coming along soon. Could you share a bit about that installment with us, please?
Yes, well, what I find most interesting about this installment, which is something that I did not at all plan, is that the story ends in a very similar period in history as when it began. That is to say, the story starts in 1994 when there is a lot of political and economic conflict taking place in Cuba. This time in the story, seven years later, there is a lot of conflict going on again, only now in another country—ours. I was very pleased with the way I was able to link these two events creatively so that they are organic to the story. The last chapter of the book is something I’m very proud of.
Personally, I lived quite a long time in South Florida, which is the mecca for all things Cuban. I also enjoyed that cultural experience quite a lot. What do you believe, if anything at all, is the difference between living in Florida and being Latino, and living in California as a Latino?
There is a huge difference. If I had grown up Latino in Florida, I would have felt like part of the mainstream, the majority. I would have constantly been surrounded by all things Cuban and been a natural part of the fabric of that community. But in the Los Angeles where I grew up, which is a very different Los Angeles from today, I felt what it means to be a minority and to have a sense of isolation. I felt what it means to be called Mexican and Wetback. People didn’t even know what Cuba was. They only knew one type of Latino. People think the racism we have today is ugly and demoralizing, but it was much uglier back then. Today all you get called is illegal. Back then, it was your ethnic identity that would be torn to shreds and spit upon. But that’s where my tenacity kicked in. All of these unpleasant experiences growing up did not make me ashamed of my Cuban heritage, in fact, quite the opposite. I believe it was because of all the ugly racism that took place back then, and it wasn’t even called racism back then, that I was shaped into the person I am today, a person I am very comfortable being.
Random Question #1: Name your childhood hero. Please tell us why that person was your hero.
Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island. In fact, Gilligan was so much my hero that I would pretend my name was Bobby Denver. It happened when we first came to this country and the show was my first introduction to American culture. During those early years you try to assimilate and fit in as best you can and, to me, Gilligan was the epitome of everything I loved about my new life here. Even seeing the show on a color television made viewing it a truly rich experience. That island the castaways were stuck on was a magical place for me, and Gilligan embodied all the humor and magic about it. He was all things America to me and, during those early years, America was a very magical place.
What has life as an author taught you?
Not to give up. Ever. Ever. The more I write, the more I love writing, and the longer I’m away from writing, whatever the reason, the more I realize how much I love it and that it’s what I want to be doing. Of course, this doesn’t mean there aren’t times when you want to pull your hair out and you read what you’ve written and it seems like complete crap, but again, tenacity.
Random Question #2: What is your zodiac sign and do you think it plays any part in your personality?
I am a Taurus, and in my case it definitely plays a part in my personality. A Taurus is probably best known for being stubborn and rebellious, of which I’m both, but we are also very loyal, dependable and practical. As a Taurus I am always there for a friend in need. But a Taurus hates change and, when he makes up his mind to do something his way, that’s how he’ll do it. That describes me to a tee.
If you could give advice to an aspiring author, what would it be and why?
Don’t write! Choose a different career! No, seriously, mentor with someone you trust and feel comfortable with and don’t be afraid to take criticism. This is a great time to be a writer. Technology has made it possible for anyone to be an author. The downside? Everyone is an author. So how do you compete with that? How do you stand out and have someone take you seriously? How do you float above the noise? It’s a major challenge. Understand that these days the marketing and self-promotion are going to be just as important, if not as all-consuming, as the writing itself. You have to learn how to strike a balance between these things and to juggle your time wisely, all the while making sure the writing does not suffer. Finally, after a long time has gone by, go back and read your own writing. If any part of it excites you and impresses you and gives you a sense of pride for having written this, then that is all the reason to continue.
Random Question #3: Dog person, cat person or none? Why?
It’s funny, I am neither, but I am both. I find cats intriguing because they’re so aloof, but I like the way dogs are loving and outgoing. We actually have a Labrador-Retriever right now that is a wonderful dog. I never actually wanted a dog, it was given as a Christmas present to my youngest daughter. But truth is, a dog is a lot of work and, rather than be walking it, I would rather be writing.
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