Written on: June 24, 2017
by Elisa Coleclough
Hello Celia, good morning, and welcome to our blog www.elicoleclough.com
First of all, thank you very much for your time. Let us introduce you to our readers: you are a writer, and PhD researcher at the Centre for Culture, Communication & Research of Veracruz University. Moreover, we have fallen in love with your historical novels with strong women as main characters such as: Hollywood era el Cielo (2014), Las Mujeres de la Tormenta (2012), Leona (2010), No me Alcanzara la Vida (2008), Adictas a la Insurgencia (2007).
E.C. We would like to know more about your motivation to write historical novels about female Mexican leaders, how do you choose who you are going to write about? What is appealing about a character so that they become the center of a book?
C.D.It is a pleasure to participate in your blog and talk about my books. As a child I would write short stories, poems and even short novels, but I started writing my first novel after I finished my major in literature at the Universidad de Guadalajara. Back then, I started as researcher on the XIX century history. This was the time when I first fell in love with the characters that I was researching about. For example, colonel Miguel Cruz-Aedo, who was poet and a writer in favor of Mexican liberalism. I was drawn by his personality, his courage, his boldness in speech against the church abuses. I also fell in love with his romantic poems, and if I could travel back in time I would have stopped his tragic death in Durango in 1859. This research was my thesis and also was how my first novel “No me alcanzará la vida” was “born” and then got published in 2008. Later in the Independence bicentenary eve, I started looking into the story of women who participated in the Independence. I found many interesting female leaders, but I was captivated by one of them, Leona Vicario. So I wrote “Leona”, published in 2010. I also wrote about the other characters I had come to find in my research, you will read about them in “Adictas a la Insurgencia” This book was published the same year, and it is about those women whose only felony was to fight for their freedom and their human rights, some were convicted to jail or to hang to death. Living in Veracruz, I realized the influence of the African culture in our society, I researched about those African-Mexican women who had been condemned by the inquisition to the pyre. I ran into local legends about their customs and ways of healing with herbs, and balms. So it was how I got inspiration for “Las Mujeres de la Tormenta” , narrating 5 centuries of women history in Veracruz. At last but not least I ran into Lupe Vélez, a Mexican actress in the 1940’s who became famous in Hollywood. That is how “Hollywood era el cielo” is all about Lupe’s life. I can highlight that my novels are an effort to tell the stories of those characters that might have been forgotten with the years, though were relevant back in their days. The way I see it is that women achievements are either put aside in history and regarded as minor or they are over depicted as demi-goddesses so far away from reality. I try to depict women realism, so that we all can relate at some point with the character of the books.
E.C.When writing a novel there is a lot of research going on, can you recall what has surprised you the most your characters? (something you did not know but clearly made an impression on you)
C.D.Each novel has been the result of a thorough investigation in different sources. Actually, all of them have had something that has surprised me. For example, “Leona” it surprises me all the books she read, how she could lead a life all by herself in the XVIII century, how she could travel on foot such long distances all of this taken into account that she was brought up in wealthy family. How she grew that tenacity and willingness to defy the status quo, but above all it surprised me that I was not taught all of these things in elementary school when we learn about our national history. On the other side, about the Afro Mexican women from Veracruz I was surprised by their resiliency. I also love the way they cured with herbs and balms, how they did “magical” simple things such as spell for their husbands not to beat them, it is kind of moving to know about their lives and sufferings and how they overcame their hardships. And finally, about Lupe Vélez that she became sort of a role model for the Latin teenagers in USA, to have become lover of handsome Gary Cooper and to have married to Johnny Weissmuller, an icon and sex-symbol of that time, known for having played the first Tarzan on screen.
E.C.Do you have a favorite character of all your novels? With whom do you feel most identified?
C.D.Each one of my heroines has something about me, a lot about me actually. At some points I feel closer to some tan to others, but they are my inspiration to keep on going. When confronted with certain situations, I say to myself “Lupe would not allow anyone to talk to her like this” or “Leona would definitely sort this situation out”
E.C.In a nutshell, what would be 3 personality traits that share all your characters?
C.D.They are bold, they dare to face the world and question about the roles society imposed them and also their own personal limitations, mostly because of their genre.
E.C.Have you considered writing a novel based on an indigenous character?
C.D.I had not thought about it, but it is quite possible actually.
E.C.Our readers might be from any different places in the world, what would you say to get them motivated to read about Mexican historical novels?
C.D.It is important to know the roles and relevance women have played in Mexican history. To know that, just like other women around the globe, we have sought our rightful place in society and history since centuries ago. To know more about our heritage which we share with all the other women in the world.
E.C.It seems that nowadays, women take a more active and relevant role in economy, politics and social life, especially in Latin America, how you do feel about women evolution through our female leaders?
C.D.In my opinion women have always participated actively but they have been “invisible” to the eyes of history. Moreover, we have been told that it is up to now that our role in society, politics and economic life has become more relevant, but history tells us otherwise, we have always played important roles. On the other hand, it is very important that we can occupy a central role in all society fields, however, it has come to some great expense, by leaving aside some “feminine” aspects. In powerful positions we tend to follow men’s example instead of integrating ourselves and embracing our diversity with own emotions, feeling, family and morality. Some women nevertheless have achieved the perfect balance between motherhood, family and power and spotlight, I totally admire them.
E.C.Do you have any plans about having your novels translated into other languages, or sold in other Latin-American countries?
C.D.I would love to. For the time being I have not set my efforts in doing so, and I regret it. I have a very demanding academic life at the University which takes up most of my time. This has prevented me from finding an international agent for my novels.
E.C.We have learnt a lot about you, your novels, motivation, characters. We definitely love to read about women who fight for their dreams, passions, profession, lovers, family and country. They, just like ourselves, are totally perfectible and real but try to leave their mark for a better world. Thank you again Celia for your time and sharing, we look forward to having other interviews in the future.
C.D. Thank you, it has been a pleasure and I will be happy to sit down again for another chat.
Eli & Friends