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An Interview with Maria Deira


(For the second in my ongoing series, I am pleased to post this interview with the charming and talented mariadeira. If you haven't had a chance to read Maria's story in last week's Strange Horizons , "Finisterre," you can here.)
Maria Deira lives in Oregon where she works as a library specialist at her local public library. There, she also translates materials for the city and interprets for the Spanish-speaking patrons. Her fiction has or will appear in Strange Horizons, Brain Harvest, Kaleidotrope, Verb Noire, Coyote Wild, and The Café Irreal.
You've said that you've been writing seriously and subbing your work since 2004. Is writing something you always wanted to do? Why the decision to "get serious"?
Yep, writing is something I've always wanted to do. I took a lot of creative writing courses as an undergrad—I even considered pursuing an MFA at one point, but I chose to work in my community instead. I continued writing, and the job I held during that time inspired a lot of good stories. When I started working at the library, I had more time to write so that's when I decided to get serious and really focus on subbing my short fiction. I didn't want to write in a vacuum. I wanted people to read my work. 
Could you tell us about your work habits? Every writer is different, so when crafting a story can you describe the process from initial idea to final draft?
Sometimes a phrase or image gets stuck in my mind and I'll jot it down and a story will grow from there. Once I'm started, I might do an outline, but usually I just write the story from beginning to end in one sitting. There are times when the story seems clunky, when my writing just isn't flowing and I can only write bits at a time. When that happens, it's because the story's boring me, it's broken, so I'll delete it or I'll start over. Usually, the revision process takes me the longest.
Has being bi-lingual influenced your fiction? If so, how?
Definitely. I include Spanish and Spanglish in much of my fiction, and someday I'd like to have the skill to write a story completely in Spanish. But for now, I'm afraid I come at it from a second-generation, working class Hispanic-American perspective, so Spanish only peppers the language of my stories.
You've said you're really into Spanglish. Tell us about that.
My parents (my mother is Mexican-American, my father is from northern Spain) are native Spanish speakers, so I grew up speaking their language as well as English. Like many bilingual households, my family switched words from one language to another, all within the same sentence. "You need to do it with ganas," my mom might say when I didn't want to practice piano. "It's in the cajón," my sister would say. "Ask tu mamá," my dad would say. I guess this is the nature of language, it evolves according to the needs and preferences of those who speak it. With Spanglish, it's as though all the cultures who make me who I am are intertwining, working together to create something new and dynamic. When I hear Spanglish, it's personal, and it just feels alive to me. I believe it adds some life to my stories when I include it.
Your first story in Strange Horizons, "The First Time We Met," concerns Hector and Elena. Elena's kiss, or rather her saliva, has the power to heal, but Hector has wounds that run deeper than her healing touch can alleviate it seems. What inspired you to write this story?
I have lupus, an autoimmune disorder. When I was at my sickest, overwhelmed by pain and fatigue, I  began to think about healing a lot. I had medication to treat the symptoms but there wasn't anything that could cure my lupus. My Mexican grandmother used to tell me stories about curanderas, or healers. So now, being sick, I thought, wouldn't it be great if this were true? That some woman could rub her hot hands over my body and I'd be healed? I decided I wanted to write a story about healing, about the person who could heal because I imagined that would be a very stressful, draining gift to have. Instead of her hands, it would be her saliva that healed people. Very early on, the story was written entirely from Elena's perspective. Then I realized that I'd rather see her from the point of view of the person who loves her the most, through Hector, who's just a regular person with his own unseen wounds. 
When crafting a story, what aspect do you find the easiest? The hardest?
Plotting the story and developing the characters seem to be the easiest. You know, coming up with an idea and a character and fleshing them out a bit. Technique you can learn, but the execution—the style and pacing of the story, the phrasing and balance of the prose, writing an ending that's both inevitable and unexpected—that's tough for me. 

Who are some of your favorite writers or literary influences?
Aimee Bender, Haruki Murakami, Dashiell Hammett, Nikolai Gogol, Octavia Butler, John Varley, Jack Vance, Dostoyevsky, Groucho Marx, Gilbert Hernandez, Rutu Modan (her graphic novel Jamilti & Other Stories is one of the best short story collections I've ever read), Sherman Alexie, and Bernardo Atxaga.
What are your other interests? Hobbies, etc?
Well, let's see. Right now I'm enjoying summer insects, glossy magazines, American vaudeville, and fairytales; listening to Roxy Music, Brazilian Girls, the Slits, and Bad Brains; collecting 3/4-sleeve cardigans and learning how to make mixed drinks. I've been getting caught up with the new Doctor Who, which makes me happy just thinking about it. I'm definitely not romantic, but I like watching movies from the 1950s, especially romantic comedies starring Sophia Loren and Doris Day. What I like the most about these films is the sound quality. The music, the effects, the dialogue—there's just something distinct and pleasant about it. 
Where would you like to see yourself as a writer in five years?
I hope to have an agent and my novel completed.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 19th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
Great stuff, Marshall and Maria :)

And now I know someone else who likes Roxy Music :)
Aug. 19th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jon! ;-)
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
I'm from El Paso, and grew up with Spanglish....of course, sometimes the vocabularies didn't match, but we usually managed to work around that.
Aug. 19th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading, Jeannette! As I believe you know, the closest I've been to El Paso is a Marty Robbins' song. Texas is an awfully big state. ;o)
Aug. 19th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
And El Paso is closer to California than Austin...so no big surprise. ;o)
Aug. 19th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Didn't know that. I wonder if anyone ever did actually Waltz Across Texas. I mean anyone besides Ernest Tubb. ;o)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jaime! Yes, I was a big Roxy Music fan too. I always seemed to like Brit bands better. Started with The Beatles and continued through the second British invasion.
Aug. 19th, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
That was interesting. I'm a process hound, so the parts about her process fascinated me. Thanks for drawing that out. Also the question about the healing story which was a twist on her own experiences. So true. That's how I write as well.
Aug. 19th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, I'm always interested in how a writer approaches the writing process. Though mine tends to change from story to story. Thanks for reading, Oz.
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
Nice job, Marshall and Maria. :-) I think it's interesting that she recognizes when she's working on something that's broken, and that's she's actually willing to use the delete key. A lot of writers seem to make a habit of sticking with projects no matter what.
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Thanks, Kurt!

...she recognizes when she's working on something that's broken, and that's she's actually willing to use the delete key.

I guess we'll never get to see those, but Maria's SH story, "The First Time We Met," certainly isn't one of them. I really like this one. :D
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
BTW, Megan’s treehouse in your novel made me think of the SSF pic you made for this series. ;-)
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:24 am (UTC)
I do have a thing for treehouses. :-)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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