Graciela Limón was born in East Los Angeles where her parents settled after immigration from Mexico. Limón attended public and Catholic schools in the neighborhood and went on to gain an undergraduate (B.A.) degree, followed by an M.A. (Mexico) and Ph.D. (UCLA). All of her studies and research have been in Latin American and U.S. Latina/o Literature. She has been an activist in Chicano work as well as in the areas of gender and women’s affairs. Limón has published nine novels, all of which deal with a Latina and Trans Border experience.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy. When did you start writing and what got you into writing novels?
I’ve been a professor of literature (novels and short stories) during all of my professional life, so writing has always been a part of that fabric. However, there is a difference between then and now. The writing demanded of any academic is by nature critical, fact-based, with strict rules as to its format and content. I did this as long as was necessary for me to conform to the rules demanded by that world of academia. However, as a young person I had always cradled a dream of becoming a novelist, and it wasn’t until I had achieved my professor’s rank that I remembered that dream. It was then that I turned to the challenge of writing a novel. After all, I had been a professor of the very best novels written by the very best authors, so I could honestly say that I had been taught by the very best. It was then that I began my first effort in fiction. It took me three years to write that novel (In Search of Bernabé), followed by the bigger struggle to find a publisher. It was a huge challenge, but despite the many disappointments, I did it. After that I’ve written and had published nine novels.
What is your book about?
The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy is the story of a woman told from age eight years to its end when she is fifty-two years old. Hers is a tale that begins with a crime and ends with its prosecution. In between these two critical moments of her story, the reader follows Ximena Godoy’s path through the Revolution in Mexico, followed by the terrible times that bring the Spanish Influenza, Repatriation, the days of Prohibition along with unbridled life in Juárez, Mexico. Throughout those years, Ximena Godoy grows, loves, achieves, stumbles, grieves and finds her identity only to succumb to the insurmountable flaws that are part of her nature.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
Yes! I believe that I can point to two main hurdles. The first was finding the confidence that I was a real writer and not just fooling myself. This is a fear that still haunts me, but when I find myself caving in, I remind myself that others (publishers, editors, readers) have thought my stuff good enough to read. My second hurdle was the one that I think most writers encounter, and that is finding a publisher. Related to this search is the avalanche of really painful rejections. At first I kept those rejection slips, some written thoughtfully, others just massed produced. Later on, I found that hanging on to those rejections only made me even shakier, so I got rid of the things. However, to be honest, rejection still hurts even though it’s less frequent. Now rejection comes in the form of negative critiques.
What was your inspiration for The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy?
My inspiration has two sides. The first is the disappointing number of weak portrayals of our Latinas found not only in fiction but in film as well. Aren’t you tired of coming across the passive, silent, obedient Latina? And what is astounding is that this portrayal many times comes from the pen of some of our best authors! So in my case, this has become a “reverse” inspiration in that I want to present a Latina that is definitely not the praying and timid woman in a world where only men make the difference.
The second side of my inspiration for Ximena Godoy has been the example of the many women who have entered my life. These have been strong, intelligent, outspoken and – yes – even willful, stubborn, women who nonetheless are loving and lovable. So I suppose that my Ximena Godoy is a product of this two-sided inspiration.
Who is your target audience? I like to think that my audience is a wide one composed of the different segments of our society: women, men, and people on the young side. But down deep in my heart, I write my novels, in this case The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy, aimed at our thinking, intelligent and ambitious Latinas. I’ve been for many years a professor on the university level, and I find nothing so promising as our young women who are intelligent and brave in a way that I, in my generation, never was. This is my target audience.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
In some ways, The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy is a cautionary tale because despite my great love and respect for my character, I see just how flawed a human being she is. She is intelligent, resourceful, and resilient, yet she surrenders to passions – demons — that lead her to dreadful and irreversible choices. I do believe my readers will put down the book after finishing it and be torn by conflicting emotions. Ximena Godoy can be loved yet be a great disappointment as a human being.
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
Ah! The painful moment! The hour of truth! My Muse is both Nurturer and Trickster, and when in this last mode she causes me much turmoil. I know that she giggles at my struggles, and she pushes me as far as she knows I can be pushed. At that moment, she relents and allows the words to flow. What do I do when she’s in her Trickster mode? I have nothing else but to play her painful game and wait until the dryness passes, knowing that what follows will be rich and worth the ache.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book? How do you define success?
May I combine these two questions since I find them so related? I celebrate the completion of a book with friends over glasses of champagne because even if my novel goes down in the annals of literature at best as mediocre, at least it has been completed. Which then leads me to my definition of ‘success’. When my Muse turns Nurturer and helps me give life to the story that is buried in my breast so that it does not remain trapped in the dark, this is my definition of success. It is success because the story is told, because others will know of it, because my characters have become flesh, now inhabit our world and dwell among us. It is success because my new novel is one of a kind, and I have had the privilege of telling its story.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
Please visit me at www.gracielalimon.co
Also please reach me at http://authorcentral.amazon.com
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