Thursday, June 25, 2015

Q&A with Oscar Luis Rigiroli

Oscar Luis Rigiroli was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Professionally a chemical engineer, he worked in the industry until 2005. During this period he wrote articles about economics in several Argentine newspapers. He started his career as a writer rather recently, writes in Spanish and translates his own books into English. His areas of interest are narrative and economics. So far he has published seven books in either language, six novels and an essay on economics. His books are available in paperback editions as well as e-books.

1.       What inspired you to write Golden Legend: Lost City in the Andes?

A: The quest for lost civilizations is a romantic inclination of the human soul of all times. In our Latin America we are rich in legends and myths referring to them. El Gran Paititi is one of the most widely diffused myhts. Most of the data about its origin and alleged location are real in the sense that myths can be real .


2.       What elements did you explore in this book?

A: In the first place love, since there is a romance intertwined in the story. Then the organization of an archeological expedition with academic goals. In third place the existence of international raiders of cultural assets. Finally, a millenary group of Inca descendents whose utopia is to restore the Tawantisuyu or Inca Empire. All these elements interact in the story.


3.       What was the hardest part about writing this book?

A: as always is, the previous collection of data to make solid foundations for the plot.


4.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

A: Hopefully to realize that our Latin American History as a rich source of inspiration for telling contemporary  stories with universal interest.  Then of course, amusement.



5.       What inspired you to be a writer?

Although I am professionally an Engineer, I always had an inclination to tell stories. I love books, both reading and writing them.


6.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

A: My deep motivation to write is to express myself, as others paint, work with wood or dance. I am myself when I am writing. What I like least I finding publishers.


7.       Who are some of your favorite authors?

A.      As I read many genres, the list is diverse: Jorge Luis Borges, Ernesto Sabato, Umberto Eco, Morris West, Graham Greene, Victor Hugo, Jack London, Mario Vargas Llosa.


8.       Are you working on anything right now?

    A: Yes. I am translating from Spanish into English my novel “Enigma under the Frost” ( my first novel), then I will translate “Ordo Australis”, that is really the second part of “Golden Legend”. And I will start a novel that I will name “Ten Wings- I Ching and crime”.


9.   If your book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the role of the main character? (You can pick any actor, living or dead)

A: The main character is a lady, a Mexican archeologist. I would imagine a younger Salma Hayek playing her role ( I even mention Salma  in the book as having the perfect physique du role)


11.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

A: as said before Latino literature excels in local themes involving social or political issues, love affairs etc. My intention is to help adding a wider perspective that could attract people of other backgrounds.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Q&A with Lauren Scharhag

Lauren Scharhag is a writer of fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared most recently in The SNReview, Infectus, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry.

She is the recipient of the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award for poetry and a fellowship from Rockhurst University for fiction. She lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and three cats.

1.     What inspired you to write West Side Girl and Other Poems?

I didn’t set out to write a book of poems.  I’ve been writing seriously since I was very young, and I’ve always alternated between prose and poetry—I have long periods where I write prose almost exclusively, and periods where I write poetry almost exclusively. 

Back in 2005, I had the urge to write poetry, and I made a conscious decision that I wanted to improve my craft.  So I joined an online poetry community where I was fortunate to find a lot of people who read each other’s work and gave a lot of really great, constructive feedback. 

Working with that community, the poetry cycle lasted a good while.  I didn’t start to slow down until about 2010, and gradually returned to prose.  I think I really found my voice during that time period.  I really cultivated my poetic eye.  West Side Girl is what I consider the best of the poems that came out of that period.


2.     What are some of the themes that you explore in this book and why?

Most of the poems are biographical.  In the book description, I say I explore themes of womanhood, my family and what it’s like looking white but being Latina.  My mother is Mexican, from a very poor family.  My father is German, from a very wealthy family.  Neither side approved of the other.  My parents divorced when I was small, so I was mostly raised by my mother and her family.  Everyone lived in the same neighborhood.  My great-grandmother and grandmother lived next door to each other.  My aunt and uncle lived across the street.  For a time, my other two uncles lived in that same neighborhood.  Almost every day was like a family reunion.  So in some ways, I had all the good things that go with the big Latino family—that constant love, that loyalty and support-- not to mention the food!  A lot of the poems are about food because in my grandmother’s house, life revolved around the kitchen.  When you walked through the front door, the question was never, “How are you?” but, “Are you hungry?” 

But there’s also the baggage that goes with being Latina—the biases, the Catholic guilt, the neuroses.  My grandparents used to call me guera and bolilla, and kids in the neighborhood used to say I wasn’t a real Mexican.  I didn’t understand what that meant until I was older.  I didn’t realize I was so white until one day, at a big neighborhood fiesta, I looked around and realized how very pale I was compared to everyone else.  It was a very rich and strange childhood. 

I also write a lot about femininity—one of the reasons I threw myself so wholly into writing during this period was because of health problems.  They were so bad, they hindered me from going to college and even holding a job.  I had to have a full hysterectomy when I was 26.  It was a relief having the physical problems mostly taken care of, but knowing you will never get to experience something so fundamentally female as being pregnant or having a child is very painful and complicated.  Between being ill and being barren, I am keenly aware of my own mortality, so there is a lot of illness and death in my poems.  Writing is the only way I have to confront these things, to make peace with them. 


3.     What was the development process like?

The poems were mostly written, in some form or other, before 2012.  A few had been published in literary magazines.  I put the poems in reverse order—the newest ones went up front, the older poems went towards the back.  That felt right to me because the poems are, essentially, memories.  So it makes sense to take the reader on a journey backward.  My husband actually took the cover photo, which is the Hereford Bull overlooking the West Bottoms, which is the area where my family lived—some of them still live there.  Of course, it’s easier now than ever to do a project like this, with self-publishing and e-books.

Now that I’ve done it, though, I wished I’d consulted with some other poets to see how they compiled their work into chapbooks and such.  I think there are some layout things I could’ve done better.  But I’ll know for next time. 


4.     What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Learning to be brave enough to tackle the hard subjects—to look at the situations honestly, and to be as objective as possible.  The poetry group really helped with that.  There were some poems that I wrote and was too scared to post because they were so personal, so revealing.  But when I shared them, people would comment on how it related to their experiences, which was very rewarding. 


5.     What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

I think one of the most important things all literature can do is convey an experience—something the reader either profoundly connects with because they’ve been through something similar, or introduces them to something very new that makes them see the world in a new way.  I hope to accomplish that with all my work.


6.     What inspired you to be a writer?

I wouldn’t say was inspired to be a writer, it’s just something I’ve always been.  For me, it’s more like a vocation, a calling.  My whole life, I’ve loved reading.  From a young age, I kept journals.  I wrote stories and poems.  When I was thirteen, I started writing for the Kansas City Star’s teen section.  That same year, I wrote my first novel (which was very awful and will never see the light of day).  I completed my second novel by the time I was seventeen (only marginally less awful).  I studied literature in high school and college.  In 2005, I wrote a script for a small independent production company here in town.  But I don’t feel like I really hit my stride till just a few years ago, where I can actually look back on some of the stuff I’ve done and feel something other than embarrassment. 


7.     What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

The worst part is everything to do with trying to sell what you wrote.  Submitting to publishers and magazines, marketing, reading negative reviews—that part’s all very stressful. 

The best thing about writing is the writing—escaping reality, playing with words, getting to live vicariously through characters and imagined situations.  Wherever I go, I’m not alone because I have a legion of characters in my head keeping me company. 


8.     Who are some of your favorite authors?

Too many to name.  Some of my favorite poets are T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, Ai, Louise Gluck and Margaret Atwood.  My favorite authors are Vladimir Nabokov, Richard Adams, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Barbara Kingsolver, George R.R. Martin, Thomas Hardy and W. Somerset Maughm. 


9.     Are you working on anything right now?

Oh, yes.  I co-author a series of scifi/fantasy novels with my best friend, Coyote Kishpaugh.  The series is called The Order of the Four Sons.  We’ve written the first four books, and just signed with a UK publisher called Kensington Gore.  Books I and II are going to be re-released this year.  Next year, Books III and IV are going to be re-released.  Coyote and I are working on the final two books, V and VI.  It’s about two ancient organizations, the Order of the Four Sons of Horus and Starry Wisdom, who have been battling for centuries for possession of a powerful artifact known as the Staff of Solomon.  Whoever has possession of the staff can rip open the very fabric of existence. 

Independently, I am working on a vampire trilogy based on my short story, “Our Miss Engel.”  I’ve also signed with Kensington Gore on that.

Otherwise, the year is young.  I’ve written some poems and short stories.  I never know where my imagination will take me.



10.  And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

I think the US has become very cognizant in the past decade or so that ethnic literature has been ignored in favor of the traditional Western canon—not just Latino, but other world literature.  I was finally able to finish up my degree a few years ago and it was something that my professors talked a lot about.  They made sure to include in their curriculums books by Latino authors, as well as African, Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern authors.  I think that’s an important, positive step, not just for writers but for readers too.  Technology keeps making the world smaller, and we should be more aware of other artistic and cultural identities.  Books are a window into other people and places. 

For Latinos specifically, I think it’s a very good time to be a Latino in the US.  Our voice is being heard and recognized like never before.  Other ethnic groups are interested in learning about our traditions.  I’m old enough to remember when being Mexican and speaking Spanish was very exotic.  When my parents got divorced, my mother remarried to my stepfather, who is white.  We moved into his house in what, at the time, was a rural, white community north of Kansas City.  In that small town, we couldn’t find things like corn husks, peppers or cumin.  We had to go back to the city whenever we wanted those things.  When my grandparents came to see me in a school play, all the white kids stared at them because they were so small and dark, because they spoke Spanish.  When I said in class that my favorite food was tamales, no one knew what that was.  Now, Mexican food is hardly considered ethnic, in the way that Italian food is no longer considered ethnic.    

In the long run, I’m curious to see how deeply assimilated we will ultimately become in the US.  A hundred years ago, Italians and other ethnic groups were considered foreign and exotic but have become mostly integrated into the culture.  I wonder if that’s what will happen with us, or if we will maintain a separate niche.
For more info, visit

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Prepare to feel and cry. Waypoint 90 offers an in-depth look at the power of redemption through love; a story of passion and romance, of political intrigue and suspense, of friendship and loyalty where the sea plays a pivotal role, drawing the characters, each in their own way, to the Florida Keys to fulfill their destinies. Michael Bean leaves his high-pressured, high profile life and unhappy marriage for a simple life fishing and chartering. After a successful escape from Castro's Cuba, Diana de la Vega brings her son to the place closest to her old life and her jailed husband, caught during his own escape attempt. Diana's son finds a father figure in Michael. And Michael and Diana find each other. Meanwhile, Diana's husband is offered an unexpected chance to escape his island prison. However, Diana must ask Michael's help to send a boat for the man she both dreads and longs to see. Caught in the Mariel boatlift, events rock the characters as the sea unleashes its fury and demands the ultimate sacrifice. A bittersweet epilogue brings readers gently to the shore.

Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 2 stars


Review: Story revolves around a boy named Johnny and his upbringing in the Florida Keys. Water seemed to have been an obsession for him, a calling really.

The story had a slow, uninspiring start for me, even though the language seemed to have an enriching ode to the sea. I suspect that this started off as a screenplay because not only did it have a cast of characters listed before the prologue (you almost never see that in a book,) but it also somewhat read like screenplay with its pedestrian schematic.

Basically, this is a fishermen's tale with the entanglement of love--love for a woman, love for your parents, love for the water.

For me, the story could've been an interesting read, but it just didn't quite make it there.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Q&A with Simon Vincent

Simon Vincent is the pen name of Angel Vicente Fernandez, Jr. who was born in Cuba in 1951.He is the author of  two novels, Waypoint 90-In the Chambers of The Sea, his first novel published in 2003, and "The Weight of Sin" his second novel soon to be published. He has also published a collection of his poetry under the title "Sea Lust".  He edited and published,Memorias De Un Taquigrafo, his late fathers memoirs, in 1993.Following his family exile from Cuba in 1960, Angel lived in New York City, Austin, Texas and Miami, Florida. Angel attended the University of Texas at Austin earning a B.A. in Government in 1973. For over twenty five years he was devoted to a career in International Banking and Finance.At present he is working on another novel "Sea of Glass" and seeking an agent and publisher.

Currently, he lives in Miami where he fishes and writes, not always in that order. For more info, visit

1.       What inspired you to write Waypoint 90 in the Chambers of the Sea?

Waypoint was actually my second novel, my new book The Weight of Sin was started first but I did not have the craft for that story as it is more intricate with more characters and a stronger plot. Waypoint came to me like a Mozart Symphony all in one thought that I kicked around for a few weeks and then began to write it. It is very autobiographical and has a simple plot. It’s a love triangle with a twist.



2.       How would you describe Johnny's character and how did he evolve in the story?

Johnny is an integral part of the novel. He is the link between the three main protagonists. At the pivotal age of 12, he is deprived of his father due to his country's political upheaval.  He finds himself living in the Florida Keys with his adoring mother in a life filled with the wonders of the sea, daily swims with his mother, and time to hone his fishing skills.


3.       What is the relationship between Johnny and Michael?

Johnny’s imagination is captured by a local fishing legend that starts out as his idol and, in time, becomes his mentor and surrogate father.  When he meets the boy, Michael begins by taking him under his wing, teaching him about the sea, about life and about fishing.  A bond begins to build as their friendship intensifies. The boy introduces Michael to his mother after building him up in her mind as a paragon of male virtues, a highly skilled and famous captain.



4.       What's the significance of Waypoint?

Waypoint is a navigational term used to name the point to which the LORAN (Long Range Navigation) devices now mostly replaced by GPS, are directed to a specific location. Waypoints are assigned to a location that is loaded into the GPS or LORAN and the device computes a route that is then shown on a screen telling the person steering the boat or driving a car where to go. On the Ocean it is shown by way of points on a compass as there are no streets or signs. In my story Waypoint 90 is the assigned destination point to the port of Mariel, Cuba.



5.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

That perfect love always demands the ultimate sacrifice. And that it redeems all who embrace love with honesty and passion.



6.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

I love the act of telling my stories and building my characters. Sometimes I develop my characters and sometimes they tell me where to go by their actions. My favorite part about writing is the actual sitting down and writing which is the hardest to most people. But as a voracious reader since my early days I enjoy losing myself in a written story and in the story I make up as I write.  To me the hardest thing about being a writer is marketing your work to readers. I hope and pray to land a literary agent like the legendary Hemingway had his Max Perkins, I long for an agent so that I can dedicate my time to writing.



7.       Who are some of your favorite authors?

Hemingway, Garcia-Marquez, Nelson Demille, Jack London, Jules Verne, Barbara Kingsolver, Jumpha Lahiri, Isabel Allende, Sandra Cisneros, Shakespeare, and on and on I love them all.



8.       Are you working on anything right now?

I just finished my second novel, The Weight of Sin.

Written in my usual highly visual style, The Weight of Sin is a story of two people, a man and woman from totally different countries and backgrounds that circumstances beyond their control steer them to begin a life of terrorism and violence.  As each strives to reach their zenith in mayhem and horror they have to flee for their lives.

From Peru, the ancient land of the mighty Incas, comes a woman of mixed breed. As bloody as her ancestors, she carries the mark of death wherever she goes.

From America comes a new brand of terrorist. A disillusioned soul who has lost the two people that he loved most. Turning to a cause he doesn't truly understand to free his homeland, he becomes a heartless killer and revolutionary. Ultimately they are both forced into hiding to save their horrific lives.

In the mountains of South America these two people, sinners alike, two lost souls meet in the highlands and find each other and redemption with the help of a priest whose own background is not without sin.

But an FBI agent will not rest until she brings one to justice and find closure to her own sinful life.



9.       If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of Johnny and Michael? (Actors can be ANYONE, living or dead.)

Johnny would be played by a young Scott Baio type, Tyler Posey from Maid in Manhattan. A young Mario Lopez type.

I wrote Michael with a 60ish Robert Redford in mind, since I started writing it when he was that age. Today I would see Kevin Costner, William Hurt, Pierce Brosnan, Don Johnson, and a young Harrison Ford.




10.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

I recently read that Latino Literature by Latino writers in English is one of the fastest growing segments in literature. When I started writing I picked a penname of Simon Vincent, which are my baptismal name of Simon and my middle name of Vicente. But if I were starting out today I would use my real name of Angel V. Fernandez, Jr. because of the growing acceptance of Latino Writers. The future looks great. Recent Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Diaz and the late Oscar Hijuelos and best-selling authors, Isabel Allende and Sandra Cisneros have shown that we belong.