Cinco de Mayo is not about Mexico gaining independence. Instead, it commemorates the defeat of the French in an underdog victory during the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. It is celebrated to appreciate the Mexican culture and heritage.
Unfortunately, in many parts of the United States, commercialism has reduced it to a day of drinking and high jinks.
You can learn more about the Battle of Puebla here. *
Readers, I’m thrilled to share my interview with Calla Devlin. We were in a San Francisco writing group together over 12 years ago. She’s worked hard at her craft, balancing marriage, children, and full-time jobs. She is a testament to staying focused and true to one’s art and she shares her lessons here.
Kismet: First of all, I want to say, I am really looking forward to reading your novel. The book description (due out in Fall 2016) reads: Tell Me Something Real tells the story of three beautiful blond sisters who travel with their mother into Mexico so she can receive alternative cancer treatments for her leukemia, all the while remaining completely unaware that an illness far more insidious than cancer poisons their home, and that their world will shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal. I remember when we were in the Kicking Muses writing group together in San Francisco (over 12 years ago!) and here you are, on the brink of getting a novel published!
Calla Devlin: That writing group was so valuable to me. I did share several chapters of this novel with the group, and I published a few chapters as stand-alone stories in anthologies and literary journals. Writing this book was a long process. It started out as a collection of linked stories and then a book that explored the characters as adults. Ultimately, I needed to narrow the focus of the novel to a single protagonist and the events that unfolded one summer.
Kismet: Did you ever doubt yourself or get tired of the storyline? I know many writers, including myself, doubt our stories time to time. How do you get over that?
Calla Devlin: I wrote several complete drafts of this novel. Originally, it started out as a collection of linked stories with chapters told from various points-of-view–six in all. This novel changed so much with every draft and i discovered myself and my voice in the process. But it was a very labor intensive process, and when you’re balancing being a mom and working full time and writing drafts of a novel, doubting yourself is inevitable. While it was a struggle at times, I am very fortunate to have a champion of a literary agent, who encouraged me every step of the way. Also, being in writing groups also kept me motivated and committed.
Writing is a solitary and fearless act. We sit alone before the computer and dare ourselves to be original and honest with our stories. Hesitation and doubt are a part of the process, but I truly believe that each and every one of us has a story to tell, whether written or spoken. And when we are able to share our stories, it is such a gift.
Kismet: You have two beautiful daughters of your own. Are you often inspired by mother/daughter relationships?
Calla Devlin: The mother-daughter relationship is so defining and complex, and I’m inspired by the interconnectedness of that relationship. I began Tell Me Something Real before I had children, and it was just a short story. While writing it, I had had my first daughter, then I lost my mother-in-law to cancer. She was very important to me and very much a mother figure. Then I had my second daughter. Becoming a mother and grief shaped the way I approached the book, and my sympathies for the various characters evolved over time. Because I write YA, I approach the material from the daughter’s point-of-view, and the myriad ways in which daughters need their mother’s support and approval—and what happens when that is somehow compromised. Also, the novel is as much about the sister relationship as the mother-daughter relationship.
Kismet: What do you hope your readers will feel or how will they be changed after reading your work?
Calla Devlin: Tell Me Something Real is very much about resilience and a character who learns to trust herself and claim her voice. I, of course, want readers to feel connected to my characters, but I also hope readers are inspired to share their own stories.
Kismet: Tell us what your writing process is. Do you have a strict schedule and process (where, when, how do you write)?
Calla Devlin: I’ve always balanced writing with work, and also with my family. I try to carve out writing time when I can. I don’t write every day, but I’m engaged with my writing every day. I read a great deal, which I think is an essential part of my process. There are weeks when I’ll write in every spare minute, and others when I write for just a couple of days. I cherish opportunities to take writing retreats.
Kismet: You’ve been published many times in many distinguished journals. Do you have advice for writers who write for the love of it, but also hope to get published?
Calla Devlin: If you love writing, write! I feel such joy when I am immersed in a novel and connected to my characters. I encourage everyone who loves writing to do just that—write for the joy of it. There are so many excellent literary journals in print and online. I read as many as I can and I think it’s important to submit to journals that share a similar editorial vision and voice. It is about finding a home for your work, which means that the journal is kindred. If you connect with a journal, it’s great to tell the editor why you’re submitting there and how you see your work being consistent with their publication. It requires reading and research, but the process is a wonderful one.
Calla Devlin’s website: http://www.calladevlin.com/
Calla’s debut novel is coming in the Fall of 2016 from Atheneum Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.