Jonisha Rios is a graduate of American Musical and Dramatic Academy and the University of Connecticut. She is an award-winning actress and the writer and solo performer of the critically acclaimed one-woman-show Nude in New York. In November of 2007, Lions Gate released her first written feature film A Wonderful Christmas: Feliz Navidad. Jonisha is in pre-production for both her comedy DVD’s Blame it on Rios and The Curse of the Blue Panties and she will be starring in a pilot set to shoot this year for a major TV network. She also produced the award-winning short film Racket, co-wrote, and produced the award- winning short film Sweet Tooth. She also wrote and starred in the award-winning short film Saved by the Pole.
In Curse of the Blue Vagina and Other Stories, Rios adapts her favorite plays into two fun novellas and a collection of monologues inspired by live interviews and conversations with women from all walks of life. Here is what she shared about the collection, her writing process, advice to other writers and more.
¡Que lo disfruten!
Hola Jonisha! Gracias for accepting this interview.
Bueno, let’s start with the conception of the book as such. How difficult was to adapt a play into a narrative format?
It was definitely a process adapting my plays into narrative form. For me dialogue is king so when I started the book adaptation, I went from writing short action descriptions with witty character dialogue in my plays, to having to delve deeper and create the details that lead a character to think and speak the way they do. It was a tremendous experience.
To watch a video of her book party, click here
You did it very well because I felt as if I were right there, in the middle of things. Is Cassandra based on a real person or a composite…or just a figment of your imagination?
Cassandra is a figment of my imagination and yet so much of what she experiences I can relate to. It was fun going on this journey because I got to explore what she would do in situations that are all too familiar for many women in relationships today. I always like a character that just tells it like it is, which I do as Jonisha at times, but not as freely as these characters too. They have no filter. It’s a blast being that blunt, at least on paper lol.
We all have a little Cassandra inside, que no? Of all the stories, do you have a favorite scene, one that you really enjoy writing?
I really enjoy writing short monologues. I seem to channel characters that have something to say and when I let that character speak through my pen or the computer, the end result always fascinates me. There are so many pieces in the last part of the book titled “Exposed” that I had great time writing. All it takes is me meeting someone and listening to him or her for about three minutes before I hear their voice reciting something that only they have the magic to share. And so I’m looking forward to the production that is to follow this book.
All your readers are looking forward to the production, too! Padrisimo! Now, what was the most challenging story to write?
Nude in New York was tough because it was based on a real experience. Living with my aunt as she battled ovarian cancer. She was so strong and so inspirational and when telling this story, although of course it is exaggerated and comical to some degree, it was hard to be that open. I tend to like to hide behind my fun characters and let them do the type of talking that I don’t have the courage to do myself at times. With this particular story that wasn’t the case. It was all me, fully exposed. In a way I always write from my heart whether it’s fictional or something real, it’s important for me to give a voice to pain, humor, or pretty much any emotion that I need to release. There is no planning, I just go.
You let the muse take over! And it works very well. Bueno, I see most of your narratives are cuentos de poder, stories or empowerment. Was it your original intention?
I never set out to create empowering stories initially. You see when I first start writing, my goal is usually to get away from the craziness of my life and just sit down and find a way to channel my energy in a way that makes me feel creative or makes me laugh. Thing is something magical always happens. The stories take over and in the end they are empowering. I think we as women go through a lot, there’s a lot that is expected of us and I truly believe that all we really want is to be loved for who we are-every part of us- the good, bad, ugly and creative. The feminine voice is finally emerging in a big way. So being vulnerable in my writing is the key. It’s refreshing and we are starting to wake up to the idea that maybe the love we so desire is something we emanate from within. My stories speak to that.
El amor viene de adentro. I love that concept. When you write, do you get your inspiration in images or words?
All of it just depends on the moment. Inspirations for me can be anything from a song, to certain key phrases, to even something that pisses me off. Also meeting new people who just have a unique way of seeing the world always gives me a bit of a thrill. It’s fascinating for me. Recently I did a reading of my play with ten fabulous ladies and when I heard them read my words I couldn’t wait to get home and tailor the pieces even more to fit them each. I love my sisters out there.
I think we all should have a circle of sisters in writing. And how difficult (or easy) is to combine your careers of writer, actress and comedian?
Now that I have a little boy, it’s really hard! I mean I don’t sleep and I have to prioritize. I want to be out there more and yet lately the question is how can I serve and create in a big way without sacrificing time with my son. And the answer is, keep writing, set aside one day a week to meet with the girls and just take at least one bubble bath a week. Take time for you and you will know how to combine your talents in a way that works.
Excellent advice! I really like the idea of a relaxing bubble bath between stories. What is your writing process like?
I don’t really have a process per say but I do have a schedule. That is what I would say is super important to creating anything. If I could put words to what I do to write, I would say that pretty much anything inspires me to create so I guess that is what my process could be – to let the inspiration lead the way. On another note, when I don’t schedule my writing time – then it becomes a hobby that I do here and there. Thing is, if you want a career that pays you need to take your art seriously and create a concrete day to day routine. Once you set that up, the process unfolds and it could be anything. Some days I dance, and play music before I write, so long as I know when I’m writing—that is all that matters.
It’s a discipline thing! Any other piece of advice for aspiring actors/ writers?
Be clear on what you are called to do and what you are meant to do. Some people want to create to become famous and if that is your thing, own it and be consistent. I have been called to write and for a long time I wanted to do everything but that. Thing is I realized writing came easily for me when everything else I pursued always seemed like such a struggle. Once I surrendered to my genuine talent (and yes we all have many talents) that is when things started to flow for me. Also, as I said above, stick to a schedule, use any excuse to carve out some time to write or do what you are called to do. And most importantly, don’t wait for anyone to “make you”. You do the work, do it well, and believe me they will come to you.
Muchas gracias, Jonisha! Y lots of luck with all your projects! Adelante!
To buy Curse of the Blue Vagina and Other Stories in Amazon, click here