Alejandra D. Mattoni lives and works in Los Angeles. When she’s not reading, her favorite way to relax is to put up her feet and write. You can find other stuff she has written at http://www.alejandradiazmattoni.com. If you have questions about the book or anything else you think she might have an answer to, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, her twitter is @alediazmattoni.
1. How did you come up with the idea for the The Wet Woman and what was the development process like?
I was driving down to Santa Barbara about two and a half years ago when I remembered something from my childhood. I’m not sure if this actually happened, or if it was a nightmare I had, but I remember that around the time I was seven I was eavesdropping on my parents and hear them discussing a friend. They were saying he wasn’t allowed to come into the house because he had lost a huge amount of money gambling and had, in order to pay his debt, handed over his stepdaughter.
As an adult, the memory still terrified me, and in the following months I began to wonder, what happened afterwards? Was she still alive? If so, how did she get back home? How long did it take?
There was never any doubt in my mind that she survived whatever happened to her. The question was always centered on how her childhood forms her and how it affected her ability to live and love. About six months afterwards, I started writing an outline. Once the outline was done, I wrote every day for two hours before I went to work, and then would edit the book at night. In all, I revised the whole text 23 times.
2. Was there any critical or philosophical meaning behind the term “Wet Woman” as it pertained to Magda?
Yes! I’m a big reader. (On average, I read about two or three books a week.) One of my pet peeves is that female leads are either “strong women”—women who are brainy, self-possessed, resilient, and don’t show a lot of emotional range beyond tenacity and rage—or “emotion” women (that is, women who cry and despair and lament the situation) who invariably need somebody else to rescue them. I also, not surprisingly, rarely saw adult Latino/Hispanic/Mexican-American female characters as main characters within mainstream literature.
And so, one of my goals was to write a main character who was clearly, non-negotiably Latina and who showed a full range of emotions. Because I think that resilient women, women who really do survive and thrive in our culture, do so not only because of anger and a desire to survive, but by wading through rivers of tears and carried by winds of joy. Another defining goal of mine was to embody that great Frida quote, “Intenté ahogar mis penas, pero las cabronas aprendieron a nadar.” And so, in that sense, Magda is “wet” because she’s swimming alongside that which would otherwise kill her. And yes, Magda is La Mojada because she is a transgressive person, she’s crossing borders she’s not quite authorized to.
3. There seems to be a great chemistry between Magda and Mike. Ever consider adding a romantic element with these two?
Up until the 11th revision, Mike and Magda were lovers! Each time I revised, I would have a Pirandello moment. That is, my characters started talking to me, complaining about what I was making them do and why I was doing it. As I was revising, I realized that Mike (like most of the men I know in my life) wants a healthy relationship and actively seeks one. I spent a few weeks ignoring the niggling voice, but I finally realized that Mike and Magda were intimate friends, and possibly former lovers, but that he would be the one who would distance himself because, knowing her best, he would know better than to start a family with her.
4. Magda has felt that she never fit in anywhere. Why do you suppose that is?
I think her childhood experience—the brothel, the life abroad, and the negotiations/compromises she had to make in order to get back to California—has shaped her so that she is utterly foreign. I believe her siblings want to bring her back into the fold, but her experience is too different from them and none of them, including Magda, have the emotional intelligence or stability to coax her back into the family fabric.
5. Your book has a combination of crime noir and chick lit. What inspired this idea?
I struggled a lot with finding a steady, believable narrative voice that wasn’t dark or depressing. I think that one of the main traits of our culture is that we can face very dark things with laughter. We have perfected the art of black gallows humor. (Look at how festive our Day of the Dead is.) So, because of the plot and the themes, I think noir fiction was the only genre that was appropriate, but the voice demanded a chick lit element. And so, my mix of chick lit noir was born.
6. What do you hope readers will gain from you book?
Here’s the deal. Magda is crazy, but her siblings love her and as far as they can, try to accept her for who she is. Magda herself, though she has trouble living with its effects, doesn’t deny any of her history. I’d like people to notice that. Each and every character in my book could easily be the villain in any other book. They are not good people. And yet, they are human with very universal needs. I’d like people to remember that, that even villains are human beings.
7. What inspired you to be a writer?
I’m not sure it was inspiration, but instead a ceaseless need to communicate. I’ve written three other novels, but this was the first novel I decided to publish.
8. What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
There is nothing quite as pleasurable (for me) as seeing the finished product. The worst part is the solitude. Writing is mostly a one-person journey with the occasional editor/beta reader dropping in for a writerly visit. Because of this, I’d like to start a Latino network of writers. Something like a writer’s group where we would not only share and help each other with our writing, but also serve as a literary platform for each other. There is already groups out there, but they are not specifically Latino based. I’m looking to start one. (To that end, if you are a Latino writer, and want to participate, e-mail me!). I think this is why writing groups and writing buddies are vital for any writer.
9. Are you working on anything right now?
I’m writing another novel—it centers on a road trip an aunt and a niece take across California. And, I’m also starting to outline the follow up to The Wet Woman. How do the Amadors go about solidifying their empire once? There is a baby on the way—what implications does this have and what becomes of this pregnancy?
10. And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
I want a Latino boom and I want to be at the forefront of it! I am joking, of course, and of course, I’m not. There are a few Latino authors who regularly enter appear on the New York Times bestseller list, and there are a few more that have been canonized into American Literature. However, there are many so many great Latino authors currently out there who are not read and much less discussed. In my dream of dreams, I would like Latino literature to enter the mainstream consciousness in the same way the Latin American book became popular and canonized worldwide.
A review of The Wet Woman is coming up next!