Thursday, January 6, 2011

Interview with Victor Cass

We have recently featured a review on Victor Cass' latest novel, Telenovela, which was chosen as one of 2010 Best Reviewed Books. Now he returns to discuss what being Latina means.

1. First of all, how did you come up with this story?

I had two relationships, one after the other, with an
Argentinean-American and a Mexican-American woman, and I was struck by
their cultural differences, even though both were Latina. I also
thought it interesting, as I learned more about Latin American culture,
that there were often times of animosity between Mexicans and Guatemalans,
El Salvadorans and Nicaraguans, and Argentineans and other South
Americans, yet there was much more that they had in common to bring
them together than to keep them apart. Using the idea of a "Telenovela"
as a back story, I thought it would be interesting to create a familiar
landscape with two American women of different Latin backgrounds, bring
them together, and see how their lives would be changed by this new and
exciting friendship, especially in relationship to their own worlds and
often frustrating love lives. I made the fictitious "Telenovela" plot
line of "Sofia de Amor" loosely follow the Argentinean character's
twisted love life.

2. Was the title, Telenovela, something you decided right from the start, or did you consider others?

While Telenovela was the strongest front runner, in that is symbolized
the dramatic romance and story of the book, I also considered the
title, "Junior and Red," the two nicknames of the main characters.

3. How would you describe the blooming friendship between Lorena and Miriya? How does it differ from their other friends? Do you think they really needed each other in some way?

I think the friendship took each of them by surprise, yet the ease with
which they took to each other made it kind of a pleasant surprise. They
were so different from what each was used to, yet, at their cores, so
similar in how they believed in what they did, that there was a natural
admiration for the other, that I think each of them felt. It didn't
hurt that they had both noticed each other first, prior to ever
becoming friends, and were intrigued by each other, simply by their own
style and how they carried themselves.

In terms of how this differed from their other friends, I think Miriya
could, at times, feel disconnected from her circle of friends, because
maybe she felt misunderstood, or she was, deep down, wary of their
competitive, catty natures. I also don't think Miriya felt like she was
like her friends, which is a complex situation for any person to have
to figure out. Lorena, on the other hand, had so few friends, and was
perhaps so selective of who she let into her life, because of her own
family dynamic, relationship insecurities, or whatever.

I think that both Miriya and Lorena did need each other, even if
neither had ever known it, because they both represented a side of the
other that was hidden, repressed, or not allowed to fully bloom.

4. How would you describe Miriya's love for Arturo, and how does it
differ from her affair with Steve?

I think at one time Miriya was probably head over heels in love with
Arturo. I think that Arturo, being strong and Argentinean, reminded her
of her own beloved father. In the end, I think her love for him waned
because he was definitely NOT her father, in terms of strength of
character. By that time, however, I think Miriya slipped into the
situation a lot of women find themselves in, when they've invested a
lot of good years with someone who still hasn't "manned" up and married
them--the women fall into "in it to win it" mode, and getting their man
to change, or realize he wants to be married, etc., becomes more
important than the question, "Is this really the man I want to marry
after all?"

I think that with Steven Meztaz, Miriya got a taste of that youthful,
fresh, idealistic love again, that new couples go through. There was
also a simplistic self-assurance that Steven had--he was who he was
and wasn't trying to be anything else, unlike Arturo, who kept chasing
one big dream to the next.

5. How did Lorena's friendship with Miriya affect her relationship with
Steve, considering they did not know each other very well to begin with?

I think that Steven became a victim of Lorena's own personal morality.
I think that Lorena did have an arcane, yet culturally and religiously
understandable moral code, which in relation to her and Miriya boiled
down to, "you don't date your best friend's ex-boyfriend." Lorena had to
choose, and I feel strongly that, based upon who Lorena was, she could
never have dumped her friend, Miriya, now matter how "new" the
relationship was, for a man (read: relationship), which Lorena felt was
probably a fleeting and unreliable situation to be in. I think Lorena,
in her heart of hearts, realized that she could always have a
relationship, if not with Steven, with someone else later, but that
good friends didn't come along every day.

6. Was the ending hard to come up with? Did you consider alternate

I think every writer of a romance or "romantic story" wants to let the
girl or the guy win the object of their affection in the end. However,
as my story unfolded, I realized that getting the guy might not be such
a great thing, especially in Arturo's case. This was a story more about
the love two people could have for each other, who were friends, kind
of a deep platonic love, a "bro-mance" but for chicas.

7. Why did you have a real soap opera running in the background of this

I wanted something very cultural to be in the story, that related to
love and romance, and thought of no better representation than the
telenovela format. I also wanted it to be a real "story" as well, so
that hopefully my readers would become nearly as interested in poor
Sofia de Amor, as the story's "real" characters.

8. Did you have to watch a lot of telenovelas as research? If so, which
did you watch?

I watched bits and pieces of some, just to kind of get a "feel" for
their style and pacing, but I can't recall any titles or particular
shows. For a brief period, years ago, I got hooked on "Guiding Light"
believe it or not (even though that's an American soap opera). But
soaps and novelas really aren't my cup of tea.

9. Was writing about Latinas a bit of a challenge with being a male

I think it was, more for the cultural stuff than anything else. I'm a
good people-watcher, though, and I love women. I think that any male
writer has to have a good sense not only of themselves but of people
and has to have a healthy love and respect of women in order to be able to
write authentic female characters. If you don't "get" women, if you are
unable to have normal conversations with them, listen to them, and
really enjoy their company, their outlook on life, and how they see the
world, then it will be very difficult writing women characters for a
man. That's my opinion.

10. What do you think Latinas can learn from this story and its

Trust your instincts, both about friends and lovers. Trust in your
moral convictions, even those that were passed down through the prism
of your own Latin culture and religious faith. And definitely do not
underestimate the importance of how your relationship with your father,
good or bad, will impact your life (and get therapy if you need to).
Many of the Latinas I've known either had a non-existent father, or a
father who provided but said little and had little influence (or hands
on impact) on the day-to-day raising of their children. And others have
had the wonderful, strong, loving father who is later a hard act to
follow for would-be suitors in a Latina's life. A Latin woman's
relationship with her family, as well as the family dynamic, will have
the most important impact of any on her entire life.

11. What do you think the future has in store for today's Latina?

Today's Latina, especially in the United States, is far more educated,
intelligent, and empowered than her forebears. I think they are moving
slowly away from the stereotypical model of getting pregnant with their
boyfriends before they're married or have moved out of their parents'
house. We're seeing more Latinas graduating not only from college, but
from grad school as well. I think the biggest challenge for American
Latinas will be in raising sons, who are probably America's most
endangered commodity in "raising" their men to bring themselves up
emotionally, educationally, and financially. Too many Latin men are
falling behind in the progress of Latinos in general, while their women
are advancing. This can only spell serious trouble for the future of
Latino families, marriages, relationships, and the emotional and mental
health of the Latin community as a whole.

Thank you!


  1. Great interview. Hooray Victor!

  2. Wow, what a wonderful interview! Chica Latina, the questions are right-on! Vic, your answers are thoughtful and also right-on, especially your comments about the importance of family in a Latina's life and about how Latinas are progressing rapidly in today's American society. All in all, very enlightening and inspiring. Thanks to you both!

  3. Congratulations... check your email! Great interview btw!

  4. Just hopping by - have a great weekend! Stop by The Wormhole sometime! Happy reading!

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