Hasta la Vista, Lola!

Author Misa Ramirez talks about her latest chick-lit mystery

By Mayra Calvani
Published on LatinoLA: January 26, 2010

Hasta la Vista, Lola!

It's my pleasure to have as my guest chick-lit mystery author Misa Ramirez. Her second book, Hasta la Vista, Lola! just came out by Minotaur Books and Misa is touring the blogosphere to promote it. She was kind enough to answer my interview questions, which I hope you'll enjoy.

Q: Welcome to LatinoLA, Misa, and congrats on the release of your second novel. Why don't you start by telling us a bit about it?

A: Mayra, thanks for having me here today! I'd love to tell you about Lola Cruz and her adventures. Hasta la Vista, Lola! is the second book in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series from St. Martin's Minotaur. It follows Dolores (Lola) Cruz as she faces her own death. Intriguing?! Definitely. Turns out there was an identity theft and a murder, and now Lola has to unravel the pieces of the mystery before someone else (maybe her) ends up dead.

There's one thing that I'm asked (and sometimes not asked verbally, but with raised eyebrows) as a writer of a Latina mystery series. Bet you can't guess what the question is. I'll give you a hint. I'm not Latina. In fact, I say in my bio that I'm proud to be Latina-by-marriage.

So, the question is... drum roll...

"Why do you write a Latina character, and how did you manage to make her so authentic?"

The short answer is: "I'm a writer, of course, so it all comes so easily! Why not a Latina?"

That's a complete lie (the part about it coming easy, not the part about me being a writer). Writing is hard work, and it's true that you have to write about what you know. But, as I've already stated, I'm not Latina. I'm a white girl from California now living in Texas. But I married a Latino man (almost 20 years married now) and I've learned so much about his culture through the years of our relationship so I do know Lola. I know her from the outside looking in. I know her though my children's eyes. I know her through my husband and his family. His parents lived with us for several years, his sister is one of my best friends and is the sister I never had, and so many elements of the Mexican culture speak to me. So I write this series and write Lola because there is so much beauty in the Mexican culture and it truly speaks to me.

When we had children, it became even more important that we find ways to bring that culture into our American lives, to show the kids the culture that is part of their history, and for them to embrace that part of them. When the character of Lola Cruz (given name Dolores) came to me, it felt right because in so many ways I felt that this family that I'd created in my mind represented so many things I wanted to emphasize about the Mexican culture for my kids. The family, the faith, the language, the food... But I also wanted to show how these elements can be balanced within an American life.

Lola balances (or struggles to balance) life with the cultural and familial expectations placed on her with the her own passions and desires which stem from living as an American. I was particularly careful and conscious not to slip into stereotypes, and when people comment that my characters are so authentic and non-stereotypical, I take great pride in that!

Q: Are you a full-time writer or do you have another job?

A: I'm lucky enough to write full time (as of a year and a half ago). Prior to that, I taught middle and high school, most recently with At-Risk kids. Pregnant teens, gang members, teen parents, kids who don't fit in the system for one reason or another. I do miss it, but am thrilled to be able to write for a (meager) living.

Q: Have you ever suffered from writer's block?

A: I don't suffer from writer's block, but sometimes the process takes a lot longer than I'd like it to. I have to process through difficulties in plot or character development, and there are times when it doesn't come easily! Sleepless nights, my mind mulling over story problems...it comes with the job. Or at least that's what I tell myself!

Q: What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

A: Well, a month ago I would have said going for a long walk. Now I'll have to rethink that and discover a new means of unleashing my creativity. I had knee surgery and was told to cease and desist from walking for exercise. No impact exercise is what I need, so I think I'll take up bike riding and hope that creativity can be found on two wheels.

Q: What authors or type of books do you read for fun?

A: I'm big into women's fiction (in fact that's what I'm writing when not immersed in Lola's adventures or the middle grade series I'm developing). I love magical realism. One of my favorite authors is Alice Hoffman. I love the whimsy of stories that stretch reality slightly, and that's the type of story I'm currently writing.

Q: Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

A: My personal website is http://misaramirez.com

I'm so proud to be part of a collaborative website called http://chasingheroes.com. We examine, profile, and highlight heroes, with an emphasis on hero archetypes. We're also venturing into villains. It's a cool site, so much fun to work on, and has tons of information for readers and writers. Stop by and say hi!

Q: Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

A: Quiz Girl is the middle grade series I mentioned. It's for girls, ages 7-11-ish. It's a ton of fun and is looking for a home right now. I'm also working on a women's fiction novel about how a group of women come to define family. It's got the magic realism that I love and has been both challenging and rewarding to write. Right now it's still untitled (I'm searching for just that perfect title!), but I'll keep you posted.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

A: I imagine myself as the tortoise in the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady. It is taking time, but Lola will find her audience and the series will grow. It takes a village to raise a book series. What I hope is that people are intrigued enough by the excerpts on my website, and by the awesome reviews for both books, that they will go out and give Lola a read. I can't wait to get to work every morning and spend time with these amazing characters, and I know readers will feel the same.

Thanks, Mayra!

About Mayra Calvani:
Mayra Calvani is the author of 8 books for children and adults. She hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Author's website

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