When Mary Alice Walker-Lysak invited me to a talk about my novel Death under the Perseids at the Roswell Book Club, I was delighted. More so when she asked me for Cuban recipes to prepare that day. Ah, comida cubana! I chose arroz con pollo imperial style and a dessert, but never expected the wonderful surprise that awaited me at her residence.
As soon as I stepped in her beautiful house, I realized that she created the most perfect Cuban dinner. The arroz con pollo (chicken and rice cooked together) was yummy.
So were the fried plantains and the natillas (many of them!) with little Cuban flags on top. Adorable.
And then the people. That’s what I love about book clubs, the sharing of stories (literary or not), the friendships, the happy chatting…Books bring people together. And all these ladies (yes, there were only señoras in the gathering) with their good humor and kindness for each other made the evening a memorable one. They were witty. They were fun to talk to. And they had read and liked my book!
In this video, Mary Alice reads a recipe from Death under the Perseids:
Someday, I thought while savoring the natilla, I will write about a book club. Those ladies inspired me!
They asked so many insightful questions that I had to pause before answering a few of them. As usual, I had that disquieting feeling (did I really write that? Uh, I must have) about certain passages. In my books, I want to transport readers to Cuba, to offer them a probadita, a little taste of what life in my native country is like. Smells, textures, the cadence of speech, the colors of the clothes billowing in the wind…I like to think they got all that Cubanidad.
One question that I am often asked is how much of myself is in my characters. More so in Death under the Perseids, which is narrated in the first person by a Cuban-born woman named Mercedes. I was aware of the similarities (Mercedes’ voice is similar to mine since we are both Habaneras living in the US) and worked hard to separate myself from my character.
I don’t drink alcohol at all, but Mercedes is a bit borracha. She loves margaritas and medias de seda (my friend Raquelita explained everything there is to know about that Mexican cocktail). Mercedes hates reading, and I am a bookworm. But we have many traits in common, like a liking for older guys…I will leave it at that here, but I shared more with the book club members 😊.
I am so grateful for the many gifts I received that day—the conversations, the book discussion, the warmth… A gardenia-scented candle. A beautiful Nambe piece…and lots of food.
I also want to thank Pat and Carlton Walker (Mary Alice’s parents and Gary’s cousins) for attending and making me feel so welcome!
This beautiful gardenia plant (gardenias play an important role in the novel) that I will plant in the garden when spring comes.
Sometimes, that’s all an author needs to keep on writing. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and such evenings are fuel to inspiration.
Muchas gracias to Mary Alice and the Roswell Book Club!