Intimate Conversation with Gwendolyn Zepeda
Gwendolyn Zepeda began her writing career on the Web in 1997 and has won praise and awards for her short stories, poetry, and children’s books. Her first novel, Houston, We Have a Problema was critically acclaimed for its wit and upbeat story. Booklist calls Zepeda’s latest novel, Lone Star Legend (Grand Central Publishing, 2010) “fresh and smart” and Publishers Weekly says she “gives readers a funny and smart heroine that readers will easily pull for.”
Ella: What makes you powerful as a person and a writer? Who are your mentors?I am of mixed ethnicity (father Latino, mom white) so right off the bat that prepared me to see more than one perspective in any given situation. And I’ve lived a lot of lives – I’ve been an inner-city “at-risk” youth and a housewife, an artist and a mother, a college student on full scholarship and a country bumpkin in a mobile home. So I’ve packed a lot of experience into my years so far, and I feel like my family taught me to use that experience well. My mentors have always been my dad, various bosses at the corporate day jobs I’ve worked, and women in my community who run non-profits and raise strong families.
Ella: Finish this sentence- My writing offers the following legacy to future readers… My writing offers future readers an accurate depiction of the women around me and how they live their lives today. When readers look back on novels of the 2000s, they’ll see a lot of books about what women wanted – fantasies in which we’re famous and rich and we score fabulous men. And when they read my books, they’ll see how not (yet) famous, not (yet) rich women worked with what they had to get closer to those goals.
Ella: Introduce us to your book, Lone Star Legend, and the main characters. Sandy Saavedra, the main character in Lone Star Legend, is the first woman in her family to attend college, and she’s earned a B.A. in Journalism that she wants to put to good use, writing positive stories about her people. That becomes difficult when the news site she works for is purchased by an organization that specializes in “snarky” gossip blogs broken down by various cultures. There’s “Don’t Call Me Sassy” for African Americans, “Banana Nation” for Asian Americans, and “Nacho Papi’s Web Site,” the site for which Sandy is expected to produce content about Latino celebrities.
Sandy gets grief from her boyfriend, who thinks Nacho Papi is trash and she’s too good to write for it, and from her mom, who thinks Sandy’s makeup and hairstyle are more important than her writing credentials. So she vents about the two of them in her secret, anonymous blog, where she’s sure they’ll never see it.
But nothing is private on the Internet, as Sandy will soon find out. A wise old man teaches her another lesson: that once a crab starts to climb out of the bucket, all the other crabs will try to pull her back down. Can Sandy deal with other writers writing snarky gossip about her? And can she pull free of the claws and get out of the bucket once and for all?
Ella: Take us inside Lone Star Legend. What are two major events taking place? In Lone Star Legend, Sandy is becoming a celebrity. Her audience loves her and wants to know more about her, her friends and family pay her more respect, and she gets a lot of perks. With all that, however, comes a loss of privacy, anti-fans who hate her, and professional jealousy. So Sandy has a rocky road, learning to deal with that.
At the same time, Sandy finds Tio Jaime, a grandfatherly figure who connects her to her past and helps her find peace within herself. On the one hand, Sandy wants to share Tio Jaime with her audience. On the other hand, she has to protect him from the negative aspects of fame when she barely knows how to deal with them, herself.
Ella: What do you want readers to gain from your book?The obvious lessons are that people need to be mindful of what they put online, and that fame isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. But I hope readers also see that Sandy makes a difference in strangers’ lives with her honest, thoughtful writing. Despite all the drama that goes down on the Internet, it’s still a way to connect people who wouldn’t have been able to find each other before. I hope that if readers are considering sharing their stories on the Internet, this book will inspire them to go ahead and do that.
Ella: How can our readers reach you online? Readers can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and my official author site by searching for my full name, Gwendolyn Zepeda. They can also see me sharing my stories on http://www.gwenworld.com/