Thursday, November 29, 2012

Interview with Chiquís Barrón

As an after-treat, here is a Q&A with the author of Café Dulcet, Chiquís Barrón.


1) What was the inspiration for this story?

The inspiration for Café Dulcet is somewhat multifaceted. Initially, the intention was simply to draw on the parallels between the labor-intensive processes that a coffee bean goes through (from cultivation, harvesting, processing, roasting, grinding and brewing) before it makes its way into cups throughout the world, and the similarly challenging yet necessary growth and development that people go through in order to find their unique flavor and purpose in life.

As I continued to delve into the plot and storyline, however, I realized that a lot of what I was writing was in fact coming from my own personal struggles in search of self-identity, friendship, love and self-purpose. Through both Nena and Ramona's experiences and coming of age, I think I tried to appease many of the inconsistencies and contradictions that I experienced growing up in the geographically, politically and culturally unique setting of Nogales, AZ. It became about stressing the importance of finding ourselves and embracing all the different factors that make us who we are: from our ethnic and genetic backgrounds; to our physical environments and the people around us; to our inevitable life struggles.

2) How did you come up with the title?

I wanted the title to reflect the same kind of heterogeneous and multicultural feel of the coffee beans and people that I was describing in the story. "Café Dulcet" seemed to capture that multilingual feel with hints of Spanish, English and even French. "Dulcet" also seemed particularly fitting since it describes something sweet and soothing that can be experienced through various bodily senses, just like coffee, which appeals equally to the sense of taste, smell, sight and feel.

3) Was Ximena inspired by anyone you know? What about Doña Pilar?

I can confidently say that all of the characters in Café Dulcet, including Ximena and Doña Pilar, are a fictionalized composite of several people I've come across throughout my life. And, of course, there's also a bit of me in each and everyone of them. It is interesting to hear readers tell me that they recognize or identify someone they know in real life with a particular character. Doña Lupita is a big one. I think the connection they make is really a reflection of the universality of certain character-types. Regardless of contextual differences, we all typically know someone who shares enough characteristics with a particular character.

4) What was your writing process like?

Because I have a full-time day job, my writing routine usually takes place early in the morning before I head to work and late in the evening before I go to bed. Although I did not formally write an outline for Café Dulcet, I did keep a somewhat organized set of notes with thoughts, plot ideas, coffee facts and character details. My creative process was really a blend between a loosely defined storyline in the back of my mind and unpredictable ideas, dialogues and plot twists that arise from stream-of-consciousness writing.

5) What was the publishing process like.

Very educational! Throughout my exchanges with both literary agents and publishers, I have had the opportunity to better understand the publishing business. After talking to several agents, editors and other publishing insiders, I decided to self-publish Café Dulcet because it afforded me the creative freedom that I was looking for with the project.

6) What are you doing to promote this book?

Readings, interviews, book giveaways, book festivals, art fairs, blogging and (the biggest leap for me) being more diligent about keeping up with my social network accounts.

7) What are some of your favorite books?

I enjoy reading a wide range of books from classic literature, to autobiographical and historical, to modern day chick/chica lit. I love reading books that are both enlightening and descriptive of a people and their culture while at the same time depicting and celebrating the humor and lightheartedness of life. Some of my favorite authors include Ángeles Mastretta, Isabel Allende, Caridad Bravo Adams, Benito Pérez Galdós and, of course, Esmeralda Santiago, Sandra Cisneros and Reyna Grande.

8) We feel we must ask this: What is your favorite coffee blend?

Trader Joe's has an organic coffee blend that combines spicy Peruvian beans along with mild Mexican beans for a coffee blend that has complex aroma, medium body and a delicious flavor. This blend is currently at the top of my list.

9) Are there any other books in the works?

Yes, two in fact! The first is a novel which (among other things) looks at mental health and the Latino community. The other is a collection of literary narrative, interviews and fine art photography that portrays the lives and images of the U.S.-Mexico border as experienced firsthand by its people. The goal of this second book is to counteract some of the creative deception that has traditionally been used in media and political rhetoric to paint an inaccurate or incomplete picture of our border communities.

10) Do you feel there is a message young Latinas can get from this book? If so, what?

Absolutely. After almost 12 years of working in mental and behavioral health research with Latinas, particularly substance abusing Latina women and adolescents, I know what it looks like when someone feels lost and disconnected from the people, customs and environment around them. I have seen what a broken or an incomplete sense of self can do to a person’s effect and behavior and their ability to make healthy decisions about themselves, their bodies and their lives. I feel that Café Dulcet can serve as a touchstone for young Latinas who are still struggling to find themselves and their place in the world. It can help encourage them to continue discovering, appreciating and embracing all the different flavors and elements that make them unique.

Thank you! We look forward to more news and stories from you!

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