Recently we locked Deborah Rodriguez, author of The House on Carnaval Street, in a padded room and yelled questions at her through an intercom. Okay, some of that isn’t true, but the author and question bit are. And most of her adventures are usually crazier than that anyway.
Here’s how it all went:
Deborah, can you tell us about your new book, The House on Carnaval Street, in 65 words or less?
The House on Carnaval Street is a very personal, funny, and sometimes terrifying account of my journey from Afghanistan to Mexico via California. It is a story of loss, love, and reinvention. It’s about how I learned to love myself, warts and all. In the magic of Mexico, I begin to build a life I didn’t know was possible — a life on my own terms.
That’s quite some journey. And what prompted you to want to tell this story?
The idea came to me while I was in a panic after moving to my little Mexican home, where I was trying to adjust to a very different life. After my sewer sprang a very big, very smelly leak into my bedroom closet, I decided that the tales from the house on Carnaval Street could be entertaining, and the book was born.
Some people look to their well of inspiration; you sought out the sewer leak in the closet… So was writing it a long process?
Starting at the moment my sewer sprang a leak in June 2011, it took me about eight months to get the book proposal together. I never rush this process – it’s the most important 8000 words you can write. In April 2012 the proposal was ready to be presented to the publisher, and was sold. I started working on the book straight away. From that point, the final draft was submitted April 2013 and published June 2014. It was a solid three years from start to finish.
This is your third book and second memoir — do you feel there is a particular reason you’re drawn to memoirs?
I have always lived a bit of an unconventional life (sometimes good and sometimes not so good). There are many times when I find myself going through something and swear I’m reading from a movie script, when I can’t even believe what’s happening around me. Life is art and drama is always happening. I guess I could be considered a little bit of a drama queen. I just always keep my eyes open so that I can see the funny in most situations.
A good way to be! So do you keep journals or rely on your memory for the details?
I have a habit of writing everything down. It may be just a word that jogs my memory for an entire story. I am that girlfriend at the restaurant who hears or sees something funny and halts everything to write it down. I get out my phone and make a fast note. As a child, I had my closet full of handwritten journals.
Whereas nowadays you prefer to fill your closets with sewerage. So, what’s your typical day like – do you have a writing routine?
I’m not sure there is anything routine about my days. I own a little spa in Mexico so I always have a full plate. I have always thought of myself as an odd bird when it comes to writing.
An odd bird huh? Care to elaborate with a bullet list where each bullet begins with “I”?
Things I know about writing and myself:
- I cannot write at night and I cannot write in the morning. I am a late morning/mid-day writer.
- I can only sit still for four hours max at a time.
- I can write with one glass of wine, not two.
- I have to write in air conditioning and I cannot have any sound around me at all – a place with no distractions.
- I cannot be inspired by a looking out a window.
- I have to talk it out first. I process my thoughts when I talk. Storytelling is my gift and I have to work at writing it down. My trick is to have a great writing partner who I can tell my stories to and with whom I bounce ideas back and forth. I have to say it before I can write it.
Thanks for that – very enlightening! So what’s next for you?
I have two projects that I am currently working on. One is part two of The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul (fiction) and the other is a non-fiction story that I can’t talk about yet. But will be a very moving and powerful personal story.
Hashtag intrigued. So what’s your advice for others who would love to be a full-time writer like yourself one day?
Well, I have kept my day job. Just saying. But seriously, the most important thing is always believe in your work, and if that means having a “normal” job to support your work, then that is what you need to do.
So true. And finally, what would identify as your writing superpower?
Living life to the fullest has been my inspiration, so I guess I have to say that’s my superpower. And, of course, my wonderful supportive family!
To read more about Deborah’s eye-opening adventures, get yourself a copy of The House on Carnaval Street from all good bookstores or via her website.