Today, I’m posting an interview that I was supposed to post a month ago, with Jose Iriarte. (I didn’t save the post correctly, apparently, and it didn’t go into the queue. Oops.)
Jose is a new writer–he’s been publishing short stories since 2013, netting sales to markets like Strange Horizons. He has a section on his website titled More about me than any reasonable person would want to know which includes that “he spends way too much time online.” Don’t we all. Don’t we all.
1. You got your first paying magazine rejection at 13 — me, too! Which magazine and how did that experience go?
My first rejection was from Dragon, which I’m sure you remember was an RPG-focused magazine from TSR. It was actually a revise-and-resubmit from its then-editor, Roger Moore, which I was ridiculously excited about. I did revise and resub, and got back a personal rejection saying it just didn’t work. I think I recall reading that Moore made a point of being encouraging to young writers. I can’t recall if I mentioned my age in my submission, but I’m guessing it had to be obvious! In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing this piece didn’t sell, because I cribbed heavily from stuff I’d read in comic books, not being really well-versed at the time in what was homage, what was paraphrasing, and what was outright plagiarism!
I had no idea, at the time, how magazines worked and how long turnarounds were. I didn’t know if they’d tell me they were buying the piece, send me money, or if it would just show up in the magazine, followed by a check at some later point. (Did I even know they paid? I assume so.) So as the months dragged on with no reply, I’d race to the Waldenbooks in the mall at the beginning of every month to grab the latest issue, and flip through it desperately searching for my name.
Spanish is my first language, but I learned English at a very young age, shortly after I started kindergarten. The vast majority of my reading and other media consumption is in English. So I generally think in English, unless I am specifically speaking or writing in Spanish. I have occasionally deliberately borrowed from Spanish sentence structure as a way to make alien characters speak English and yet sound slightly off. Beyond that, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an influence, but if so it’s subtle enough that I can’t really point to it myself.
On a non-language level, I do make a point of writing Latino characters into a lot of my fiction, usually as protagonists, and of peppering in Spanish. (I could go on and on about that, but that’s really a discussion in and of itself.)
My first love after picture books was Hardy Boys books. I owned all the original blue hardcover books and also the Detective Handbook. (Can you tell I have completionist tendencies?) Maybe fifteen years or so ago I saw that somebody was publishing new books in the series, so I bought the first, and Iola was killed in the very first book! I was like, What the hell?! One of my daughters brought home a Hardy Boys graphic novel from the library once, and I flipped through it, but again it seemed way edgier than I remembered.
The worst shock to my system I ever encountered was in a novel about people fighting against the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, where one of the protagonists was raped and killed by a Ton-Ton Macoute operative. (To provide extra motivation for the male hero, natch.) The scene was graphic and lovingly detailed, nothing left to implication, no ominous scene-break. I’ve never run into anything quite like it again. It did kind of traumatize me, because I was an extremely sensitive kid and also reasons. Unfortunately, my parents and I didn’t really have the kind of relationship where I could come to them to talk about what I’d read or what had disturbed me. I was of an age where I was quick to see flaws in myself (I’m not sure that’s over, to be honest) and I figured if anything it reflected poorly on me for having chosen to read this book. And boy this got dark fast.