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Inspiration Friday: Gwen Zepeda

Gwen, wheeling and dealing her next book!

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Gwendolyn Zepeda, author of the entertaining and endearing novel, Houston, We Have a Problema. I loved the book so much that I asked her if she would share some insight into her creative process.

If you have ever thought about fiction writing, Gwen offers some great inspiration!

  1. Which song, TV show or movie titles best personifies your writing style? Oh my god, I don’t know. What a funny question! I wonder how often people give the answer they wish was true, but not the answer that really is true? Because that’s what I’m going to do now: I wish my writing style was personified by the animated series Home Movies – funny but not necessarily screamingly funny, and insightful but not hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-message, and intelligent yet still crass. And… not yet very well known. Heh.
  1. In the book, Jessica looks to a plastic Virgin Mary as somewhat of a guide. What inspired that? Can you share a personal story about when you were superstitious about something? I know people who project their superstitions onto inanimate objects, and people who purchase plastic saints in hopes of using them to change their circumstances. So why not combine the two, right? I don’t have any particular personal stories. I mean, I’m kind of superstitious in general, but nothing dramatic ever happens. For instance, I have little patience for poor driving and a short temper on the road. So, sometimes, in order to keep myself from flipping out with road rage, I’ll tell myself that the guy who just cut in front of me without signaling, who is now driving 20 mph in the fast lane, might secretly be sent by God to keep me from arriving at my destination too early. Because, like… I don’t know, maybe if I get to my exit too early, I’ll have a wreck. You know? Basically, I try to take little annoyances in stride by telling myself that they’re meant to be. Calvinism as a coping mechanism, sort of.

3. What was your favorite chapter to write for this book? Which was most difficult? My favorite was when Jessica and her date get to her apartment and discover the awkward situation waiting for her there. (No spoilers, right?) When I started writing that chapter, I had no idea how her situation would be resolved, so it felt like I was living the moment with her and it gave me goosebumps.
Most difficult chapter was the one near the end where she has to call someone and apologize. Again, I had no idea what she’d say, but living through that with her wasn’t awkward in a funny way – just awkward.

4. If there was one message you want to drive home with your book, what is it? That you have to take charge of your life, or you’ll end up feeling miserable and hopeless.

5. Will you share your writing ritual? Sure. I turn on some music – either on the laptop or the MP3 player – and make sure I have a big glass of water next to me. I like to have some laundry or cooking going on in the background – something that gives me an excuse to get up and walk around every half hour or so. I try to type until I can’t think of what to type next. Then I get up and walk around until the idea loosens up in my head.

Boring, huh? J

6. How about writing advice for bloggers, wannabe authors, journalers or students? If you want to publish a book, you have to sit down and write it. Don’t expect someone to appear magically and offer you money to publish a collection of every little piece that you’ve already written. That seems to be a common fantasy – that a writer will get “recognized” or rewarded just for writing clever stuff in an informal setting. And that happens way less often than people want to believe.
But publishers want to see that you can finish a book, and the only way to show them that is by finishing one. All that said, I would encourage fledgling writers to go ahead and blog and write those little pieces. They’re the best way to find your voice and your audience.
7. What was the last crafty thing you did or made? I stenciled some birds onto nine small canvasses to go above my fireplace:
And that was a long time ago, and I’m a little sad about that fact. I keep wanting to make jewelry, then not having or not taking the time to sit down and get it done.

8. Would you consider a sequel for Jessica, if not, what is your next book about? I would definitely consider a sequel for Jessica and, in fact, already know everything that would happen in it. But my next book is already written. It’s about Dominga “Sandy” Saavedra, who isn’t like Jessica at all. She’s a young journalist in Austin, proud of scoring her first real writing job at an online newspaper for Latinos. But then that site gets bought out by a gossip blog conglomerate, and Sandy has to come to terms with what it means to become an “entertainment writer” and online celebrity. It’s called Lone Star Legend and comes out in 2010.

9. This is your first novel. What did you learn about yourself during the process? That I have way more capacity for endurance than I previously believed.
10. Why do you think it is important for people to read novels?

Two reasons: Either to learn about people different from themselves, or to read about people like themselves and therefore feel less alone in the world.

About the book: From Publishers Weekly
For single Houston gal Jessica Luna, deciding what she really wants involves searching for signs and sage advice from a fortune-teller in Zepeda’s snazzy first novel (after short story collection To the Last Man I Slept With and All the Jerks Just Like Him). The superstitious Latina becomes devoted to Madame Hortensia, a psychic with questionable abilities (but a good heart) after three eerie predictions come true. So it’s with Hortensia’s help that Jessica hopes to overcome her professional, personal and romantic woes. Jessica has a B.A. in art history yet unhappily toils for an insurance firm, is torn between two men—one a sexy but flaky artist, the other a rich but snobby businessman—and believes her parents may be on the verge of divorce. Jessica’s evolution from self-uncertainty to self-empowerment is amusingly charted, and Zepeda’s take on the popular fascination with good luck charms, horoscopes, psychics and unreliable predictions is laced with rueful zeal. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kathy 🙂

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