It isn’t showing as I write this, but the files for the paperback version of Letters To The Damned have been approved and the book should become available any second.
I learned a few things that can throw a submission off so it wasn’t wasted frustration. The delay also threw some light on a couple of typos that slipped through the net, so if you already bought the Kindle version and haven’t read it yet, be sure to update first. I keep mine set on automatic update. My editor dropped the ball on that one, but I’ve been assured it won’t happen again.
This book feels more personal to me than my first one because I gave the protagonist a background based on my own personal experience. The characters in A Christmas Tale had to come from privilege to mirror the place of Scrooge in the Dickens story A Christmas Carol, but with Letters To The Damned I only needed a contrast between an American perspective and an English village. So, I drew on experience for both. I’ve visited the kind of little village in England I use for the story and could look through my character’s eyes for what was strange in the ordinary to someone who grew up in California.
When I was a young teenager, my family lived in a Los Angeles suburb called Lawndale. The junior high school they use for the opening scene in the movie La Bamba looks very much like my old school. The neighborhood was pretty evenly mixed, Mexican and white, but we weren’t really segregated. My friends were probably evenly split racially, plus one Portuguese guy. It wasn’t an issue. Most teenage males were in some form of gang, but not like in West Side Story. Nobody was fighting anybody on any level or claiming territories, they just wore colors and got up to the stupid things that teenagers do.
Those who weren’t part of a specific gang might just identify as ‘lowriders’, which had a lot to do with cultural identity through how you decorate your car. It’s something best demonstrated by Cheech Marin in the film Up In Smoke. Check the opening clip. Except for the dancing, this could be my old ‘hood. Or the van scene where he converts it.
I don’t know if it’s the same in Mexico, but in California, Mexican Americans are very aware of bloodlines and take pride in their heritage. In the film, La Bamba, Ritchie Valens’ mother comments on her heritage in a fit of temper, when she says “They don’t know who they’re dealing with! My grandfather was a full blooded Yaqui Indian!” So as an aside Cris mentions his mother’s Spanish blood. It was something someone from his background would think about, as was her devotion to Roman Catholicism.
From all this you might deduce something of my own cultural heritage, but I don’t often say much about myself in interviews or other publicity. I may draw on my experience for settings and characters, but the stories have to stand on their own, not because they’re written by a ‘diverse’ author. Yes, I use a pen name. The real one is too hard to spell.
Anyway I hope the Kindle readers have been enjoying the new book. I’m looking forward to reading the reviews, good or bad.