Monday, August 10, 2009

Interview with Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Debut novelist Raul Ramos y Sanchez has been making the rounds promoting the release of his novel America Libre and he graciously stopped by to answer a few questions. If there are any questions you'd like to ask him as well, step on up to the podium. He'll be more than happy to answer. Not only that but he's also going to give away a signed copy of his novel to one very lucky commenter.

A long-time resident of the U.S. Midwest, Cuban-born Raul Ramos y Sanchez is a founding partner of BRC Marketing, an ad agency established in 1992 with offices in Ohio and California. Besides developing a documentary for public television, Two Americas: The Legacy of our Hemisphere, he is host of — an online forum for the U.S. immigrant community.

Hi Raul. Thank you so much for visiting.

For those just tuning into your book tour, tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Raul: I think every writer begins as a reader. In fact, I don’t have any memories of learning how to read. I’ve known how for as long as I can remember. That was in Spanish, though. I do recall learning to read English. I was seven at the time and it began with the word “January” on a calendar in our apartment in the Bronx. I pronounced it “HAN-nu-a-ree.” I’m not sure at what point I decided to be a writer. I started my career in graphic design. Before long, I was writing headlines for the ads, then the body copy. Eventually, my writing was more in demand than my design skills. Looking back, I feel I’ve made a living from words. Whether it’s arranging words on a page as a designer or creating them myself, words have paid the bills in my household for most of my life. My career in fiction began about five years ago when I was able to step away from the day-to-day work at the ad agency I help found in 1992 and devote myself to projects that meant more to me personally.

This story seems to have caused some controversy. Were you worried, when you wrote this story that it would cause a negative impact or backlash?

Raul: Unfortunately the negative impact and backlash are already here. The number of hate crimes against Latinos has surged 40% since 2004. The Ku Klux Klan openly brags about the increase in its ranks thanks to the backlash against undocumented immigrants. In the last two years, several young Latinos have been brutally attacked simply because they “looked” Hispanic. What I have tried to do with AMERICA LIBRE is show the potential consequences of this xenophobia and violence.. I always intended for the premise of the novel to be provocative. A cautionary tale needs to create a worst-case scenario to be effective.

As a writer, I know how difficult this profession can be. So, what would you say has been the most rewarding part for you so far?

Raul: Hearing from readers has been the most satisfying part of being published. A writer and a reader share a unique bond. It’s something like telepathy when you think about it. A writer’s words enter the mind of the reader through the printed page and the reader enriches the narrative with their own experiences. This mind-meld goes on for hours--longer than a movie or a play and certainly longer than looking at a painting. So when I hear back from people who have read my book, I know we’ve shared thoughts for an extended time. To learn the experience was entertaining--and perhaps enlightening—is very gratifying.

When you’re in the zone and writing, is there a “must have” to keep you focused? Such as music or background noise of the TV?

Raul: I find it very difficult to write dialogue when I can hear people talking. Whether it’s folks at the office or a TV set, it disrupts the conversations going on in my head. For that reason, I usually write at home. Even then, I prefer working between 3 and 6am when it seems the whole world is quiet. This makes for some odd hours, since I still go into the office almost every day.

It’s said you can learn a lot about a person by their surroundings. What does your work area look like?

Raul: The laptop computer has liberated me from a regular work area.. The room I once used as my home office is now a catch all for correspondence and reading material. I work all over the house and change locations regularly.

What about hobbies? Do you have any other outlets besides writing?

Raul: I enjoy taking photographs and occasionally put together multi-media presentations with the photos. These are mostly of family and friends. I also play golf when I can spare the time. It’s always good to do something for which you have no talent so you can appreciate the things you do well. Golf is very good at keeping a person humble.

Tell us something about yourself no one else knows.

Gosh, it’s hard to think of something about me that my wife or family and friends don’t already know. I’m not a real mysterious guy—although sometimes I wish I was. Hey, I think I just answered your question!

What's the one question you've never been asked that you wish someone had asked you?

Raul: OK, here’s a question I’ve yet to be asked and would like to answer: Do you consider AMERICA LIBRE to be “Latino fiction?” I think there is a perception in some circles that there is a Latino literary style, almost as if it were a genre. I think AMERICA LIBRE breaks with that tradition. Although the novel’s content is very much about the Latino experience in the United States, it reads like a commercial fiction thriller. As one of the nation’s major houses, Grand Central Publishing is taking something of a risk with AMERICA LIBRE. They’re betting that both Latino and mainstream readers will find the book a compelling read. As its author, I’m doing everything I can to help GCP make this kind of cross-over novel successful. I hope Latino readers will too. It could help pave the way for other Hispanic writers to achieve wider marketplace acceptance.

That's a great question...and answer.

Thank you so much for spending your day with us.

To learn more about Raul visit him at his website

And if you want to follow along with the rest of the America Libre book tour you can find him here:

August 13
Ricardo Lori

August 14

Caridad Scordato

August 18
Charlie Vasquez
Queer Latino Musings on Literature


Terri said...

Oh something else I wanted to ask. What is your "must have" when you're writing?

Georgie said...

It is just as important for fiction writers as well as non-fiction writers to both introduce and "educate" readers regarding the real-life issues that affect people -- who may not look like them. As such, it is our job as writers to open up these windows, so that readers might have a look inside a world that perhaps they have never really seen up close.

And, it certainly sounds as if you've done that with your book.

I wish you much continued success.

Teresa said...

Re: reaching out to mainstream readers... I'm in complete agreement. We must do everything and more to share culture, language, and life experiences with ALL others.

Trying my best,

Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...

Georgie, I am honored by your comments and appreciate your support in using fiction to broaden cultural horizons. It's easy to be judgmental and cold when you are insulated from the humanity of those who are different. Art is the lie which tells a bigger truth. And that truth is that we all share the same dreams and feel the same pain. Understanding that, makes all of us better human beings.

Teresa, I know you are indeed doing your best to raise the hopes and aspirations on many in the Latino community while informing those who are not Latinos about our culture. I'm very proud of our personal connection and a big fan of your efforts.

Terri, you ask what is my "must have" when writing ... usually it's a deadline. I enjoy keeping busy and draw energy from what other people might consider pressure. My wife knows I'm usually only grumpy when I don't have enough to do.

Silvia said...

Great interview Terri! It's been such a blast to know a little bit more about you Raul.

I love when you said that every writer begins as a reader, I don't remember how I learn to read either, I just started doing it and it has been one of my passions since.

Raul, have you consider write in a different genre? if you have which one?

Mayra Calvani said...

You get up at 3am to write? Wow, that's commitment!

Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...

Silvia, I have written a yet-unpublished novel titled THE SKINNY YEARS which is a coming of age story set in 1960s Miami. It's loosely based on a Cuban family I grew up with and is very different than AMERICA LIBRE. I have several other book concepts tucked away including a science fiction romance about an alien anthropoligist who falls in love with a woman from earth while doing "undercover" research.

Mayra, my wife believes my sleep patterns indicate an ancestry from a planet with a very different length of day.

Terri, your questions have provoked some very interesting comments. Thanks for hosting me on your blog and thanks to all of you who commented!

Erin Quinn said...

Raul, this sounds like a great book. My husband is first generation American and our family is a mix of Irish/Mexican. (Things tend to run in a little in our house, to say the least). I've seen the ugly backlash first hand directed at my family. I've never understood why there is so much prejudice, but I hold hope that one day it will be a thing of the past. I wish you the best of luck with this release!

Terri said...

Thank you again, Raul for stopping by. I enjoyed getting to know you and look forward to your book.

And, Congratulations to Silvia. She is the lucky winner of your book America Libre!!



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