profile-pic (1)Puerto Rican author Eleanor Parker Sapia is touring the blogosphere to promote her debut historical novel, A Decent Woman. She’s here today to talk about the inspiration behind her story, as well as her writing process. Let’s give her a warm welcome!

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself? 

Thanks for having me at Blogger News. I’m a Puerto Rican-born, full time writer, and the author of the debut historical novel, A Decent Woman. I write stories that introduce readers to Latin American and Caribbean characters with stories set in the Caribbean and in Spain. I’m represented and published by Booktrope Publishing. I currently live in Berkeley County, West Virginia, and I’m the mother of two young adult children who live in Northern Virginia and Amsterdam, Holland. I was an exhibiting painter for twenty five years before discovering my passion for writing books, and I paint and exhibit my pieces between books. I love reading, traveling, photography, writing with a fountain pen, and being near the ocean.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

A Decent Woman is set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, which is my hometown and where I spent many happy years as a child and young adult. It’s the story of Ana Belén, an Afro-Cuban midwife born into slavery, who struggles to survive in male-dominated Puerto Rico as male doctors enter the birthing room for the first time.  A Decent Woman is the provocative story of women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

I was inspired to write this book by my Puerto Rican grandmother’s stories of her Afro-Caribbean midwife, Ana, who caught my mother, two aunts, and my uncle. I hadn’t read any novels about Afro-Caribbean midwives, so I wrote one! The complex lives of women in colonial Puerto Rico fascinated me, and I was inspired by my interviews with daughters of Puerto Rican women born in that era.

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?  How long it took to write and edit. 

I’m most definitely a writer who experiences before writing, as I came to writing in my late forties. I’ve had a lifetime of wonderful experiences as an Army brat, ex-Army/NATO wife, and because of my Puerto Rican, Russian, and Polish heritage. I tap into many years of working in social services in the US and in Belgium, which is why I prefer writing about women who live on the fringes of society, and those who’ve met challenges head on with little money, education, and few opportunities. I leave the writing of royals and daughters of rich land owners to other historical authors who write wonderful books I enjoy reading.

PUBLISHED BOOK COVER (front)I wrote the first draft of A Decent Woman in six months. The words came quickly, however the editing and research took nearly four years. Six months before the book was published, I met my current editor, Ally Bishop, and my proofreader, Audrey Maddox. I was incredibly fortunate to meet these talented women when I did. They helped turn my draft manuscript into a proper novel.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

Those are great examples! My best ideas have recently come from having conversations with new friends.  For example, just last month a friend told me about a leper colony in Carville, Louisiana I’d never heard of. Through research, I discovered there was a leper settlement on a tiny islet off the coast of Puerto Rico called Isla de Cabras, Island of Goats. I was immediately intrigued as I was struggling with one of my two protagonists in my second historical novel. I asked my friend if he would ever write that story, and when he said no, I was thrilled. If I’d not answered his emails because I was busy writing, I would still be searching for a new storyline for my protagonist. The link to Puerto Rico was pure and lovely synchronicity at work.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

Muses can be fickle, and at times mine acts like a petulant child. When she refuses to cooperate, I placate her by walking my dog, gardening, or driving to my river property to sit with nature. My muse isn’t often difficult, so I’m happy to oblige her with a new experience.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

With A Decent Woman, I wrote nonstop, and researched as I edited the story. I’m finding myself editing as I write the first draft of The Island of Goats, which feels right for this book, and I’m researching as I go along.  I’m a late night/early morning writer, and have been known to stop writing when the sun comes up.

Who are your favorite authors?

Among my favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Arundhati Roy, and Milan Kundera.  At the moment my favorite writer is master storyteller, Jack Remick, writing mentor to many, including myself. It took me a month to read his award-winning novel, Gabriela and the Widow because I found myself stopping in awe at every beautiful passage and incredible description. I finally read the book a second time for pleasure. I’ve learned a lot about writing from the writing blog Jack shares with his writer friend, Robert Ray—each blog post is like taking a course in writing and the art of storytelling.

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

I’m currently writing my second historical novel, The Island of Goats, set in 1920 Puerto Rico and Spain, which could be out in early 2016. It’s the story of two women with secrets who meet on the medieval pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the Way of St. James, as they search for forgiveness and grace in a new world. I’m very excited about this new book. A sequel to A Decent Woman called Mistress of Coffee is also in the works.

I love connecting with my readers, so I encourage them to visit my website to learn more about me and my books.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here! 

My pleasure, Blogger News! Thanks for having me!



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