An Interview with Maria Elena – A Q&A from All Author with the Author
Q: Where have you spent your childhood? What are some of your favorite childhood memories?
A: I spent my childhood going from country to country. I was born in Cuba, but when Castro came along, we had to flee (I was nine years old). My mother went wherever she could find a steady job, so we lived in Mexico City, Nuevo Laredo, Laredo, Miami, and finally Puerto Rico. My fondest memories are in Cuba. We lived in a beach community and my parents had built for me a beautiful doll house, where I could pretend being an adult and do all the things adults did in their houses. I loved the beach and going fishing with my family. Romping around my grandfather’s farm with my cousins. Another fond memory is the violet pastilles my father used to bring us whenever he came back from a trip to Europe. And I loved dancing in a ballet production of the Magic Toyshop (La Boutique Fantastique) made for TV, as well as going to my parents’ ballet rehearsals. And, unbelievably, all of my high school years.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? How did your friends and family react to your first book?
A: I realized I wanted to be a writer at age thirteen. My high school English teacher gave us an assignment to write a short story based on a photograph of a fog-shrouded Big Ben. From then on, I was hooked and wrote several novellas. Then life took over and I had to stop, but picked it up again when I was working toward my masters. As far as my friends and family—they were very supportive. My mother, as a matter of fact, was my first ARC. She was an avid reader of everything, but she loved suspense, thrillers, and westerns the most. She was very objective and told me I had a good story to tell. So I worked hard to get it up to par. As a matter of fact, I dedicated my first novel, The Coin, to her. She was really my first reader, my first critic, and my first fan.
Q: What made you decide to finally begin writing romantic suspense novels? Why did you choose these genres?
A: I’ve been a voracious reader since I was young, and reading different genres was a seasonal thing. I was into fantasy, then science fiction, then historical, then gothic, and always, in-between, I’d always read mysteries, thrillers, and suspense. It finally dawned on me that most of the stories hovering around my brain were suspense, so I went for it. It is the most comfortable genre for me. However, I don’t want to limit myself to one particular genre throughout my writing career. That is why I wrote my short story collection (in several genres) and am currently writing my first detective novel.
Q: What is your writing kryptonite? Inversely, what is something that never fails to inspire you?
A: Interruptions—by dog, husband, phone, social media notifications, even my own brain. When I know I have something to do on a personal level, that distracts me. Having to do a ton of marketing distracts me. That’s why I don’t take my phone into the office, and I mute any notifications when I’m writing.
And, everything inspires me. There is a mystery, or a possible murder method, or a story to tell just walking around my back yard, or going to the Arboretum, or traveling, or reading, or watching a program on TV, even restaurants and new places to visit.
Q: Why do your adventure novels take place in locales across Europe and the United States?
A: Because it’s what I know. What I’m familiar with. I’ve lived (and visited multiple times) all the places where I’ve set my novels [Côte d’Azur (lived), London, California, New York (lived), so I can give my readers the flavor of the place. I can bring the setting to life and have the reader visualize it. It’s also a great tool. Locales can add to the thrill and suspense of the plot. They sometimes become a secondary character.
Q: How would you describe your extensive time as a global traveler?
A: Scary, hectic, awesome, exciting, absolutely magnificent. Learned a ton. Experienced history to the fullest. Seen incredible sceneries. Interacted with different cultures. A truly incredible learning experience.
Q: Do you have a specific routine for writing that you follow? Or do you prefer to like whenever and wherever?
A: Yes, I have a routine. First…coffee. Very important I get my double-shot espresso in the morning. Then I take a shower, get dressed as if I’m still going to work outside the home, open my music (I love movie soundtracks. They give different moods without distracting you with lyrics), and begin to write. Break for lunch. Back to writing. I stop around four-ish. I only do whenever writing when I suddenly get an idea and I must write it and develop it.
Q: What inspired your Coin/Hours duology? Of the two books “The Coin” and “The Book of Hours”, which one took longer to write?
A: The Coin inspiration came, actually, from a real life experience. I was living in France at the time, and I had taken my children for a walk in the hiking trail near the house. We stopped at a clearing and, while they were playing with a soccer ball, I sat on the ground and daydreamed. When I got up, I saw that there were several coins on the ground. That’s when the idea struck! What if…
As far as which one took longer to write, I would say The Coin. I didn’t have a computer in France, just a very primitive word processor typewriter. But I got it done. LOL.
Q: What inspired you to write “The Fish Tank”? Did you expect it to become SILVER MEDAL WINNER OF READERS’ FAVORITE 2018 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS?
A: The Fish Tank’s inspiration came from actually writing the short story bearing that title. I never really liked to tackle the short story genre because they are very difficult to write well. So I took a narrative class at university where I was forced to write short stories. I took the chance to send it to a contest at the University of Cork, Ireland, and it made finalist. So, I took some of the stories I’d written in the course, expanded and edited them, wrote new ones about my own exile, added two prequel stories, and the collection was born.
Q: What is one question you get asked a lot? What is one question you wish people would ask more and what is your answer for it?
A: The most common questions is: Where do I get my stories from? How can I keep the creative juices going? As far as what question I wish people would ask more often, I really don’t know.
Q: Who inspired the character of Gabriela Martinez in “The Coin”?
A: LOL. Me, actually. I wanted a woman who was a bit like me, who had been forged by adversity and exile.
Q: When you first start a book, do you plan out all the characters beforehand or start with a couple protagonists and add new people as the story moves along?
A: I usually know what the main characters and main secondary characters are. But, as I keep developing the plot, many times I’m surprised by new people that need their stories told.
Q: What are you currently working on? Do you plan to write another series?
A: I’m currently working on my Detective Nick Larson novel. I may make it a series, but I’m not sure. Currently, I’m only planning two novels based on his character—the story arc of Nick and Laura (not the plot) cannot be completed in one novel. I have two other novels on the back burner that I may make into a series, but I’m not saying anything about them yet.
Q: Paint us a picture of what your everyday routine looks like.
A: Breakfast. Writing. Interruption by dog. Lunch. Writing. Cook dinner. Spend quality time with my husband, read, maybe watch a bit of TV. I don’t write during the weekends.
Q: When did you join AllAuthor? What has your experience been like?
A: I joined in 2018, I believe. And it has been a great experience. You guys rock.