I am very proud to present an interview with Lambda-Award Winner Erik Orrantia. Some of you may not know but the Lamda Award is the most prestigious literary award in gay fiction. Erik won in 2010 for his novel Normal Miguel, in the category of Gay Romance. I have read the novel and highly recommend it.
1. How did you get your start writing gay fiction and/or erotica?
Hi Nathan. First of all, let me thank you for the opportunity to share. You’re an incredibly successful author and I look forward to reading all of your work (alone and with a box of tissues nearby).
(Nathan: Thank you, Erik. That means a lot coming from an Award Winner such as yourself.)
As far back as I can remember in school, my English teachers lauded my writing. Back then, I found putting thoughts on paper as easy as expressing them verbally. Now the challenge is to always improve my writing by adding style, clarity, and depth. Despite my early success, I never had any major writing ambitions...until I studied for a year in Mexico. The goal that year (1997) was to earn a bilingual teaching credential, but a multitude of unexpected discoveries in that country also flipped a switch inside me. My eyes were opened to a new world and to my own blatant ignorance about a country so close to the United States yet so unfamiliar. I thought there was a story to tell.
Now, I haven’t written a book you would strictly call erotica, though I won’t rule it out for the future. I like erotica as much as the next guy in the (sex) club. I do, however, include sex and sexuality in my writing as I deem fit. Let me put it this way: I think sex is an important part of life and has its uncensored place in the real telling of the human condition. My first book, Normal Miguel (Cheyenne Publishing, 2010), the Lambda Literary Award winner for gay romance in 2010, is the story of Miguel, a gay teacher who performs a year of student-teaching in the rural hills of Puebla. As he discovers the nuances of his career, he also learns to balance his professional life with his personal one, including clandestine flings with a few locals and, finally, a more steady relationship with the candy store owner.
The theme of my most recent release, The Equinox Convergence (Etopia Press, 2011), reveals other sides of Mexico—the primitive yet spiritual life of the indigenous tribes, and the brutally violent world of drug trafficking in which decent, usually likeable people become ensnared. Though the sexual content in this novel is minimal, those looking for it will not be disappointed by Taxi Rojo, the story of a handful of gays living in the turbulent border city of Tijuana. This one is scheduled for release in February of 2012 by Cheyenne Publishing.
2. What inspires you?
If you’ve read any of the blog posts on my website (http://erikorrantia.com), you’ll have a more thorough understanding of my inspiration. Of course, I’ve been inspired by every author I’ve ever read, including John Steinbeck, Amy Tan, Victor Banis (a gay literary legend), and even the rags-to-riches J.K. Rowling. It’s impossible to name them all—everyone has a unique style, something to share, and something to teach.
In addition to the world of amazing writers out there, I’m also inspired by the unintended lessons the people and things around me constantly and unwittingly teach: the eternally jubilant vendor of chile-laced suckers and Chiclets on the street corner, my boisterous and streetwise mother-in-law, the solemnity of a graveyard, the plight of a one-legged seagull. Somehow I think that the true wisdom of the universe is paradoxically both simple and easily forgotten. We’re constantly sent reminders; whether or not we listen to them is another issue altogether. Those reminders I choose to listen to also end up inspiring me.
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
I hope to get rich. (Just kidding—if the average reader knew what my colleagues and I make on book sales, we’d surely earn their sympathy.) So, until that happens, I hope more than anything to impart a story, share a discovery, make someone laugh and cry, impact thought and emotion, and maybe even inspire somebody. I had always held a deep respect for multilingual folks and published authors. Then someone told me, “The people you respect are the people you wish to emulate.” Well, now I’m a bilingual, published author. (Guess I’ll need to recalibrate my sights.)
4. If you had to choose, which one of your novels do you like the most and why?
Ouch...that’s like asking a mother which is her favorite child. (It’s usually the gay one, of course.) Though I truly love both Normal Miguel and the upcoming Taxi Rojo, I think that The Equinox Convergence deserves much more attention than it’s been given. Each of the novels deals with such different aspects of humanity and Mexico. The Equinox Convergence touches on themes so sensationalized in the media but rarely reported to profundity. The story is both suspenseful and culturally illuminating. Beyond simple headlines, it takes a reader to the gory reality of the drug trade and the insightful, earthly practices of the modern-day indigenous. I think it’s a good read.
5. If you had a message for your readers and fans, what would it be?
In a recent post (“Seeing Past the Blur”) on my website, I included one of my favorite quotes from John Marin: “I would suggest that sometime you take your two eyes along with you and leave your intellect at home.” To me, I try to keep this in mind in my life as an author but also as just some guy. There is so much to notice, both good and bad, that we often pass by without seeing. Take a walk, look at something from a different angle, try a new genre, read a different author, open up your senses.
And one little thing specifically about literature: the world of communication is so much different these days. Almost every author you read is just a click away. We love to hear from readers, we appreciate comments and suggestions, we like to know you enjoyed something, we’re happy to explain things that might be confusing, we want to write better. Communicate with us, write reviews, check out websites, share our names with someone you know, meet us. Authors love to write and we also love to interact with the world outside our computer rooms.
End of Interview.
Nathan: Erik Orrantia, everyone!
Erik's books are available on Amazon, among other places.
Now, for the Q & A session.