Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Latina Interview Uncut

On page 64 of the August issue of Latina (with Eva Mendes on the cover), there' s a brief Q&A with me about my latest novel Burn. Due to space constraints, the email interview I conducted had to be drastically edited. However, I saved the email so you can read all the interesting questions and my full answers. Just read on.
1. How does Burn feel like a departure from Black Artemis' last two books? Has the message changed? Has the female protagonist?

All Black Artemis novels have three elements: a complex female protagonist, an aspect of hip hop culture and “film noir” sensibility. What makes Jasmine – the main character in Burn – unique is that she’s very much an anti-heroine. ‘Chacha, she’s self-destructive! At the beginning of the novel, she’s committing suicide. It takes an interesting revelation for Jasmine to find the will to live and take control of her life, and that’s always one underlying message in all my books, too. So in that sense, no, it’s not different from Explicit Content or Picture Me Rollin’, but Burn does have the most ambitious – and darkest – plot and conflicted “shero” to date.
2.What kinds of broads and dudes encompass the world of this book? How would you describe the world they live in?

Graffiti writers, street walkers, bail jumpers. . . Burn is the literary equivalent of an Abel Ferrara flick for women of the hip hop generation. God, that sounds arrogant. OK, that’s what I hope it reads like. You have Jasmine Reyes – a prostitute turned bail bond agent. There’s Dr. Adriano Suárez whose God-complex reaches an all-new high… or low depending on where you stand on what he’s up to. He’s got to be my most seductive villain yet. Honestly? I’m not sure I could resist him myself. And let me not forget Felicidad Rivera, the transgender woman who hands down is the most self-actualized character in the book.

3. Burn has got a lot of elements of an old fashioned gritty New York detective story; fast talking characters, suspenseful plot. How did you come up with the setting and feel for Burn?

Wow, that’s a tremendous compliment because that’s what I was going for when I wrote it, and yet when I was finished I wondered if I hadn’t taken on more than my chops could deliver. Unlike Explicit Content and Picture Me Rollin’, Burn is the one Black Artemis novel that is actually based on my life experiences. Whoa, let me elaborate. By that I don’t mean I was ever a prostitute or a man. I’ve never done graffiti although I kind of regret that. See, how the bochinche starts. J Anyway, the idea for Burn came to me over a dozen years ago when I was working for the Vera Institute of Justice as the deputy director for two alternative-to-incarceration programs, one of which was a nonprofit bail bond agency in the South Bronx. Folks involved in the criminal justice – no matter what side of the law they’re on – have got to hustle to get what they want whether that’s to make an arrest, win a conviction or get an acquittal or at least a get-out-of-jail free card. And hustlers don’t move slowly. Hustlers always have an ace up their sleeve. New York is a city of hustlers, and as a New Yorker, I say that with an immense amount of pride.

4. There’s a lot of inside knowledge about the criminal justice system in Burn. And you once considered law before becoming a writer. Did you do any special kind of research while writing the novel?

I always do quite a bit of research in many areas when I write my novels, but for Burn most of it was focused on two areas. Even though I worked for that ATI program and understood how the bail process worked in New York City, I had to learn how a for-profit bail agency operated. I also conducted a great amount of research into graffiti subculture since that’s an important element in the novel. Having worked for quite a few social justice organizations before becoming a full-time novelist, I came to Burn with some understanding of several issues: gender identity, HIV/AIDS, immigration reform. . . you know, sometimes how much I raise in one book surprises even me.
5. If Burn were to be made into a movie...what type of film would it be..(a cross between what kinds of films), and who would play Jasmine?

Great question! Burn is my fourth book, and the most cinematic of all, I think. I see it as a cross between a John Grisham/Michael Crichton thriller and, like I said before, an Abel Ferrera or maybe even an old school Martin Scorcese flick. Updated with a strong hip hop sensibility though. A feminist King of New York. And ideally, I’d like Tia Texada in the role of Jasmine. The entire time I was writing Burn, I saw Tia as Jasmine because she shared so many personality traits as Sgt. Cruz (the character Tia played on the show Third Watch.)
6. Are there any elements of Jasmine's character in Black Artemis?

God, I hope not! She’s so self-destructive. Wait, let me backtrack and give that more thought. OK, we’re both quite feisty, unapologetically smart, pretty resourceful. Hmmm. . . the more I think of it, the more I realize we do have in common. But just in good ways, or at least I think they’re positive traits. I have no doubts some folks would disagree with me, but like Jasmine, I don’t give a rat’s ass. I insist on being happy on my own terms which is something Jasmine has to learn the hard way. And I accomplish that by working on my “stuff” so my “stuff” doesn’t work on me, LOL!

7. What's next for Black Artemis/Sofia Quintero? And what's the craziest thing that has happened to you in the last year ( re:your personal life/professional/both)?

I’m writing, writing, writing. I co-founded a multimedia production company called Sister Outsider Entertainment, you know, just taking the initiative into turning some of these novels into films. In the meantime, my creative partner Elisha Miranda and I are developing an ensemble series for the N. Sort of a Latina Sex in the City for twenty-somethings. I just published my first novel in the chica lit genre under my real name called Divas Don’t Yield, and I’m working on the second one. I have two novellas-in-progress, one for an anthology about sisters and their secrets and another for a collection of erotica by Latina authors. I eventually hope to write young adult fiction and, as Black Artemis, I’d like to break into graphic novels. And this is the year I fall in love, I can feel it.

Being a writer who lives in New York, it seems to me that something unusual happens just about everyday, LOL! I’m just always looking for striking morsels to feed my creative spirit. If I have to choose one “crazy” event that occurred over the past year, it has to be that I sat on a panel at a literary event sponsored by the New York Times that included Frank McCourt and Pete Hamill. I mean, how often does anyone writing commercial, urban fiction – let alone a Latina hip hop head from the Bronx – is invited to share the stage with such literary heavyweights? I’m ambitious and optimistic and all that, but if you would’ve told me that was going to happen to me, I would’ve said, “Yeah, and in my next life, I’ll come back as Nefertiti!”

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